I had a strange realisation as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and saw a meme shared by a green anarchist friend. This meme was very simple; it said” “we do not lick people” yes we do!” on a white background.
I laughed when I saw it and continued to scroll through the environmental articles that dominate my social media stream (and escalate my existential crisis). But then it occurred to me that this is actually one of the most primal and contradictory positions of this culture.
Licking is a very primal mammalian display of affection. My dogs lick me and my cat licks me. Lemurs lick each other in grooming as signs of affection and solidarity. Bears lick each other. In fact, would you believe, humans lick each other! (I’ll go into detail on the last example later).
Psychologically speaking, in our oral stage of psychosexual development, the mouth is one of our primary ways of forging object relations (relationships to other “things” in the world). Babies explore the world through their mouths, while their bodies are still not yet ready to navigate the world in other ways. This is basically the first thing we learn (or at least one of the) and yet we seemingly deny this part of our being.
A personal experience from last month – I have just finished (assuming no fails and need to repeat) a degree in social psychology and philosophy, and in the week after my last exam, I went on a little 4 day trip on my own. I traveled to where I would be staying by public transport and on my first bus saw something fantastic. A mother was sat with her (I’m guessing) 6 year old daughter. The daughter licks the hand rail, with her mum immediately telling her not to do it. With no deeper explanation that “we do not lick the bus hand rail”, the daughter then licks the window (with a similarly poor explanation of why not to do so). After this (and about 30 seconds of contemplation), the little girl then decides to lick her mothers face (much to my personal amusement). As an anarchist psychology nerd, I loved seeing this, as developmentally this child is testing the socially normative boundaries presented to her with such glee and energy, I am hopeful of anarchic wildness being retained in her. (I could delve into my intentional manipulations in language in this paragraph over the ideological social categories I used and didn’t use in specific sections of the account, but I’ll leave that for you to think about and maybe think about how it occurs in this culture – when is a daughter a daughter and when are they a little girl?).
The act of licking appears to hold enormous moral weight in this culture, but yet it remains such a primal aspect of our being.
Maybe your sceptical to the moral weight it does hold. If this is the case, I challenge you to find any state official (preferably a white male, as we all know how much they love to not overstep boundaries of others) and lick their face. (I would suggest you run immediately afterwards, as to not do so might have consequences for you).
But heres the thing, licking also remains a basic element of our expressions of love. When we kiss passionately (frenchly) tongues interlock as a mutual form of primary attachment and pleasure. When we fuck we lick each others bodies in foreplay and during. Sex is, if you are a boring psychology geek and love Lacan, the closest we ever get to being unmediated by the symbolic register and reach a pure connection with the natural, animal, primal, organic real. The tongue is a huge aspect of the act of having sex. Sex is a huge aspect of love – it is “making love”.
My point isn’t that we should all get freaky and down on each other in free love orgies, with bodies interlocking in the sensual passionate bliss that can only be expressed through our genitals. I mean, if you want to do that (and have consenting partners who also wish to partake in the exchange) then please go ahead; fuck away. Free love and sexual freedom have long been anarchist pursuits and I am by no means wishing to detract from their importance; this just isn’t the focus of this article.
My point is this – this culture forces us to reject and repress our most basic instincts of love and affection. This culture forces us to deny knowing the world in some of the most basically animalistic and authentic ways. I’m not suggesting we should start to lick each other randomly, though again please do if the act is mutually desired. But we should question the moralities and systems of oppression within this culture that seek to deny us of our own authentic autonomy with the world.
We are animals.
We derive pleasure, knowledge and love through all factions of our bodies.
Our bodies are our being in the world.
Our tongues are a point of connection, through taste, touch and the act of speech.
Just be careful not to get tongue-tied 😉