“they will recycle her back into a new body and she will come back again”

Here is the problem that Lessing pursued with such dedication: how to desire a man, as a woman, without desiring your own subjugation. Despite the emphatic heteronormativity of the lines above, heterosexuality is not neutral here; it is extremely dangerous for everyone involved. The way Lessing writes the vaginal orgasm, it’s as if the vagina were “dissolving” the penis in the acid bath of its furious “generalized sensation”. At the same time as she puts dick on a pedestal, she disdains the phallic logic of the “powerful” orgasm. The “real female orgasm”, described here as basically lacking in any substantive physical content, could just as easily be not having an orgasm at all. For a start, it seems to originate in the man’s desire rather than the woman’s. The supposed heart of the heterosexual-industrial complex, the moment of penetration, is here a kind of cosmic obliteration, a turning-away.

Penetration is one of the primary vectors of male supremacy in its various forms – what and who can be penetrated and what and who can legitimately do the penetrating. The penis is a ubiquitous tool of war: the crypto-corporate assault on social reproduction in DRC; ‘corrective rapes’ of gay women in South Africa; systematic rape by cops of gay revolutionaries during US civil rights struggles. Lessing wants to decommission the dick-as-weapon, and she wants to make pleasure do the work of undoing. Her valorization of penetration is pretty close to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin’s problematization of it: “remarkably it is not the man who is considered possessed in intercourse, even though he (his penis) is buried inside another human being”. In the whirlpool of the vagina, who is being taken and who is taking and what is being taken from them are all confused.

Read More | “Lessons from Lessing: the terrifying truth the 94-year-old radical author left us with” | Hannah Black | Dazed Digital