Eroticism (Georges Bataille)  

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"Eroticism ... is assenting to life up to the point of death." [...] --Eroticism, Georges Bataille

"That nauseous, rank and heaving matter, frightful to look upon, a ferment of life, teeming with worms, grubs and eggs, is at the bottom of the decisive reactions we call nausea, disgust or repugnance."

"...In essence, the domain of eroticism is the domain of violence, of violation... The most violent thing of all for us is death which jerks us out of a tenacious obsession with the lastingness of our discontinuous being. We blench at the thought that the separate individuality within us must be suddenly snuffed out... We cannot imagine the transition from one state to another one basically unlike it without picturing the violence done to the being called into existence through discontinuity. Not only do we find in the uneasy transitions of organisms engaged in reproduction the same basic violence which in physical eroticism leaves us gasping, but we also catch the inner meaning of that violence. What does physical eroticism signify if not a violation of the very being of its practitioners -- a violation bordering on death, bordering on murder?"

On how shame begat eroticism

"En vérité, il s'agit de temps qui durèrent des centaines de milliers d'années : ces interminables millénaires correspondent à la mue dans laquelle l'homme se dégagea de l'animalité première. II en sortit en travaillant, en comprenant qu'il mourait et en glissant de la sexualité sans honte a la sexualité honteuse, dont l'érotisme découla."


"Traces of work appear in the Lower Paleolithic era and the earliest burial we know of goes back to the Middle Paleolithic. Of course we are talking about eras which lasted hundreds of thousands of years according to our present calculation; these interminable millenia correspond with man's slow shaking-off of his original animal nature. He emerged from it by working, by understanding his own mortality and by moving imperceptibly from unashamed sexuality to sexuality with shame, which gave birth to eroticism..." --Erotism: Death and Sensuality

Related e



L'Érotisme (1957) is a book by Georges Bataille by Les Éditions de Minuit in Paris. The subject of the book is eroticism and its relation to transgression and the continuity/discontinuity of life. The text is best-known for connecting sex and death.


Translation history

It was translated as Eroticism [sic] by Mary Dalwood and published by Marion Boyars in 1962, and later published by City Lights Bookstore under the title Erotism: Death and Sensuality (1986). It was published as a Penguin modern classic in 2012.

On the Khajuraho monuments

"De nombreux temples de l'Inde nous rappellent solennellement l'obscénité enfouie au fond de notre cœur." (English: "Numerous Indian temples solemnly remind us of the obscenity buried deep in our hearts.", and in a footnote, see Max-Pol Fouchet, L'Art Amoureux des Indes, Lausanne, La Guilde du Livre, 1957, 4"

Table of contents from Mary Dalwood's translation

Eroticism in inner experience

inner experience

The link between taboos and death

Taboos related to reproduction

Affinities between reproduction and death


Murder, hunting and war

Murder and sacrifice

From religious sacrifice to eroticism

Sexual plethora and death

Transgression in marriage and in orgy


The object of desire : prostitution


Kinsey, the underworld and work

De Sade's sovereign man

De Sade and the normal man

The enigma of incest

Mysticism and sensuality

Sanctity, eroticism and solitude

A preface to 'Madame Edwarda'.

Full text[1]

See also

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