In order to constitute a specific sexual relationship with the desired other one must, inevitably, follow certain steps in an established order so as to achieve the desired intimacy. Heterosexual seduction is encoded into certain behavioral codes that, if given that there is a minimal sense of attraction, and if performed correctly (no pun intended) could directly achieve successfully the convergence of bodies. A success of a conquered territory of sorts.
As elemental and natural as it may seem, we cannot forget that which is involved into the investment of a prospective sexual relationship and how seduction serves as a kind of violent transgression, which would be embraced or scorned depending on the other. In his book The Fragile Absolute, Slavok Zizek elaborates on this
There is a somewhat analogous situation with regard to the heterosexual seduction procedure in our Politically Correct times: the two sets, the set of PC behavior and the set of seduction, do not actually intersect anywhere; that is, there is no seduction which is not in a way an "incorrect" intrusion or harassment — at some point, one has to expose oneself and "make a pass." So does this mean that every seduction is incorrect harassment through and through? No, and that is the catch: when you make a pass, you expose yourself to the Other (the potential partner), and she decides retroactively, by her reaction, whether what you have just done was harassment or a successful act of seduction — and there is no way to tell in advance what her reaction will be. This is why assertive women often despise "weak" men — because they fear to expose themselves, to take the necessary risk. And perhaps this is even more true in our PC times: are not PC prohibitions rules which, in one way or another, are to be violated in the seduction process? Is not the seducer’s art to accomplish this violation properly — so that afterwards, by its acceptance, its harassing aspect will be retroactively cancelled? (Zizek 2000).
Precisely as Zizek points out, the exposure of oneself in the act seduction is a crucial, risky procedure. I divide this journey into three key moments present in this negotiation which are; the establishment of attraction, the promise of pleasure/concrete seduction, and finally, the moment of the sexual act, the fulfillment of the promise (the climax). I use three songs by the Brooklyn-based band Tv on the Radio to illustrate this complex process and interpret each of these songs as a significant part of a coherent set of steps each present in the establishment of a sexual relationship.
“Wolf Like Me” present in the 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain illustrates from the beginning a blatant exposure from the self to the other, with an intense irreverence and almost violent approach in the visualization of the other, this is where the first encounter with desire occurs. The song skips the politically-correct friend/acquaintance relationship and, from the beginning, fixes the boundaries of seduction, opens this terrain to build its stage with its initial proposition “Say, say my playmate/ won’t you lay hands on me/mirror my malady/transfer my tragedy” (1-4). We can see in these first lines how there is an immediate transformation in the closeness of the relation, and how, the need for contact serves not only as a satisfaction of desire but as a treatment for the absent, the transference of tragedy by the filling of the void.
There is a transformation taking place not only in regards to the relation of these two subjects but also of the desirer himself, who ‘s desire and void of it produces changes so intense in him that they show on the body itself, assuming a physical representation through-out the song. This can be seen in the repeated chorus with the following lines “My mind has changed my body’s frame but god I like it/ My heart’s aflame my body’s strained but god I like it.” (15-16).
In order to contextualize this first appearance of desire and the consideration of its fulfillment, we are given, charmingly, the construction of the wolf/little red riding hood metaphor, which not only plays with the relations of power that are being alluded to (Strong vs. Weak/ Girl vs. Men/Wolf (a animalization we will also see in Wear you Out) . The song, fast paced and rushing, is able to show a sense of violent tension with the self and the dealing of the abrupt emergence of desire, where the only possible eventual reconciliation with these irresistible sudden needs would be achieved with the transgression of the other into the field that is being constructed by the singer.
When Tunde Adebimpe sings “When the moon is round and full/ Gonna teach you tricks that will blow your mongrel mind” (21-22) he constructs the stage where this seduction is presented where its presence is justified as well as his animal needs. This is illustrated by the presence of the full moon, which in popular culture, transforms the man into the werewolf. It is during this time where the self can transform and show with no qualms the overwhelming presence of attraction and desire towards the other.
The pace of the melody which has been forceful and fast, slows down its tempo towards the middle-end of the song in which Adebimpe sings
Dream me oh dreamer Down to the floor Open my hands and let them Weave onto yours Feel me, completer Down to my core Open my heart and let it Bleed onto yours (32-39)
After the precise construction of the scenery, this break of rhythm represent to me a playful persuasion, the luring of the other into the animal territory of desire, where the possibility of the union of the bodies is presented in all its sultry, poetic glory. This is represented with the following lines “Open my hands and let them/ weave onto yours” (34-35) and “Open my heart and let it/ bleed onto yours”(38-39) both of them physical representations of the potentiality of the union, inviting the other to merge so that his desire becomes one.
The end of the song shows how when this transgression is achieved there is a transformation of these two subjects into the roles of seduction that are being alluded to metaphorically from the beginning of the song. Wolf Like Me ends with the following lines:
Writhing under your riding hood Tell your grandma and your mama too It's true We're howling forever. (53-56)
“We’re howling forever” implies an acceptance of the other into the game of seduction that is being proposed, it is an establishment of the desiring entity, the first clear initial achievement.
After this has been achieved, we step into the second phase of seduction, the actual physical seduction which is the theme of Wear You Out, a song present in the 2004 album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. The tempo of this song is not as desperate as that of Wolf Like Me, since there is already an establishment of the other as part of the desiring entity. From the beginning of the song we are exposed to a subject which is completely captured by the physical need of the other, Adebimpe starts clear and with no hidden intensions
I can barely move For want of room And I'm forgettin' to breathe But the sight of you Has me instantly Remember my needs (1-6)
It is the physical awareness of the other that is causing the sense of suffocation that is being alluded to, desire has been transferred from an open space into a closed one. And there is a sense of spatial awareness throughout the song, now that the two subjects are located in a close, intimate room, which makes the need for physical contact even more urgent, as if these walls would close in if this tension is kept.
There are two central themes gravitating in this song. One is the overwhelming presence of the bodies in this detailed closed space and the other is how this space serves as the platform for the blatant, direct promise of pleasure. The space is constructed from the beginning, lines like “Oh the lights spin/ And the beat breaks in/ And I’m smelling your sweet(…)” (7-9) are able to show the heightened awareness of the space and how the body of the other is able to dominate both the presence and the space where these two subjects are. Every physical aspect of the desired other is heightened by its location. The presence, the smell, the movements are all heightened to a point of exhaltation. Once this has been established we arrive to the climax of the song, the place of enunciation that blatantly expose all his desire and sense of self, what it is that is being offered, the actual promise of pleasure. Adebimpe sings:
Well here I am Just a man Is this light flattering? Did you notice my crown of feathers And check out my vital vibrant comb? Oh puff chest out and play strong Grab you by the hair and pull you along Or do I just talk to you And tell you what I really Really really want to do (30-39)
The subject is presented unapologetically, naked (literally and metaphorically) of inhibitions, again aware of the space with the question “Is this light flattering?” (32). And at the same time carrying out a palpable sense of domination of both the territory and the other which is being desired “Oh puff chest out and play strong/ Grab you by the hair and pull you along” (35-36). The domination that is being alluded to exerts a sense of power over the original object of seduction. The line “And check out my vital vibrant comb” (34) could inevitably refer to the phallus of the subject and how, as Zizek explains, this is an external element that inserts power. Zizek explains that in order to insert power one must accept this alienation. The fact that this power occurs for something that is outside yourself. Lacan’s conclusion is that in the symbolic sexual economy phallus functions the same way. The best way to imagine phallus is not, as the innermost center of your body there where in the moment of orgasm the identity is established. On the contrary, the phallus is something which metaphorically and literally sticks out of your body, something which represents an excess which doesn’t fit into your body. The original stages of phallus reside in the external moment which de-centers you, you are alienated in it, but at the same time, you can insert sexual power through accepting this de-centering. It is once the subject presents himself “Well here I am” (30) and assuming his dominating role that he can finally have the power to be able to be completely explicit about the fantasy he has formulated and achieve the wanted contact.
We return to the spatial awareness in the song with the lines “Lets pursue this argument in darkness/ Curtains drawn, limbs entwined” (51-52) it is here where the promise of pleasure is presented, that which has been referenced since the title, the original intention and purpose of the song, elaborated in the conclusion “Let me wear you out, let me make you mine.” (58).
Finally, we have come to the climax of the sexual relationship. It is impossible to deny the victorious tone in the melody of the song “Lover’s Day” included in TV on the Radio’s 2008 album Dear Science. The entire song is set in a crescendo in which every line tries to out-do the other. From the beginning we can see that we have arrived to the point where the tension has to be released: “Oh but the longing is terrible/ A wanton heart under attack/ I wanna love you all the way off/ I wanna break your back.” (1-4) We can see in this song the overwhelming presence of the body and, more importantly the treatment of them, through the touch the tension or restrictions have been liberated.
Colour of all that's hysterical. Travels along your bones. Just to be near you suckin your skin. Not gonna leave you alone. (5-9)
The intention is clear. Once the desire has been carefully introduced and established in the last two songs, this one only anticipates what is going to happen upon contact. There is an obvious idealization of this moment “We could build an engine/ Out of all your rising stars/ Tear apart the apart” There is not a single sense of doubt in the potentiality of this moment and the boundaries it will break. It describes the potentiality present in the fulfillment of desire, the orgasm itself:
I hunger for you like a cannibal. Not gonna let you run. I'm gonna take you. I'm gonna shake you. I'm gonna make you cum. Swear to God it'll get so hot it'll melt our faces off. Then we can see the you the me beyond mirrors outside clock. Held naked in the light. Held gently, held tight (26-42).
There is such a blatant sense of hope irradiating through every line of this song which not only serve to illustrate the actual moment of ecstatic enjoyment, but also illustrate how, once achieved, the boundaries are physically and metaphorically shattered. The walls are smashed, the bed is broken, the floors are crashed and the neighbors have called the cops. The consequences are minimal compared to what is being experienced and it is safe to say that there is an obvious anthem quality to the nature of this song (accentuated by the yuxtaposition of the angelic chorus trailing off towards the end). From the melody to the lyrics, it illustrates the tension released, contained in the two previous songs where the desire was still unresolved. It concludes with:
Yes here of course there are miracles. Under your sighs and moans. I'm Gonna take you. I'm Gonna take you. I'm Gonna take you home (56-60).
This ending perfectly illustrated the full circle achieved after going through the various steps apropos the establishment of the sexual relationship. “Wolf Like Me”, “Wear you out” and “Lover’s day” are all essential to this construction and are fed and influenced by each other to create a coherent chain of events. Even if the songs are chronologically out of order and are separated each by a space of two years, it is incredible how well adapted they turn into a coherent narrative of the self who desires, of the self who has finally conquered the territory, who has, as “Lover’s Day” concludes, taken the other home.