One morning in early May, 1948, Michel Foucault woke up and found himself in a room he had never seen before. Through the miasma of his hangover, he noticed several things simultaneously. A floral patterned armchair sat in the corner, a vase of flowers stood on the nightstand, and out the window was a green, manicured lawn. But Michel was not taken in for a minute by the unassuming objects that surrounded him. The floral patterns on the chair were all too perfect to be unintentional. The flowers in the vase were too cautiously muted not to have been calculated. Their sweet smell almost covered the institutional stench, but not quite; the smell of lysol wafted through the crack under the door, lodging itself at the back of his tongue and refusing to leave. Michel knew where he was; he knew the feel of it too well to be fooled by the floral upholstery. He was in the psychiatric ward again.
He got up from his bed with some effort, noticing as he did so that his benefactors had taken the care to put him to bed in his own nightclothes. Stacked in a neat pile on the end of his nightstand were his university books. He turned to the middle of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, but he found that he could not concentrate on it. His throat was sore, his stomach hurt, and there was a throbbing pain behind his left eye as if he’d been socked in the face. He wanted a glass of water, but he had a sneaking suspicion that the door to his room was locked. Sure enough, when he tried it, it would not budge. The bastards. He kicked at it savagely, the only effect of which was to send a sharp pain throbbing in his big toe. He paced the room, back and forth, then sat down again on the edge of the bed and put his head in his hands.
What had happened last night? The images came back to him in bits and pieces, unfocused as if the person photographing them had been drunk (which, indeed, he had been). The alcohol, the drugs, the boys-the air last night had been thick with the scent of sin. Michel remembered the strong arms of one of the men from the brothel. He remembered searing pain, in his head and in his soul. Then nothing. A terrifying numbness, as if nothing mattered anymore.
He sat in this position, his scattered memories echoing in the cavern of his mind, for several minutes, before a knock on the door interrupted his brooding. “Monsieur Foucault? This is Doctor Poulenc. May I come in?”
“Come in,” he called, straightening himself up.
There was a clicking sound as the man undid the lock and let himself into the little room. Michel noticed immediately how well-formed this doctor was-his thick, dark eyebrows, his jaunty smile. For some reason, this above all infuriated Michel. What a wicked sense of humor fate had, that in the depths of Michel’s struggle with his homosexuality, this man had come to taunt him with his beauty!
Doctor Poulenc smiled amiably, took a seat in the chair, and took out a notebook and a pen. Michel looked at him suspiciously from his seat on the bed and did not say anything.
“How are you feeling?” the man asked.
“Fine,” said Michel through gritted teeth.
“If I were you I’d be pretty shaken up by what happened last night.” The doctor was still smiling. What was behind that smile, Michel wondered? What was he trying to hide? “The fight at the nightclub, the suicide threat, the drug overdose…”
“My notes say you called your father in the middle of the night and told him you were going to take your own life.”
Guilt churned in Michel’s stomach. Had he really done that, in the depths of his anger and hopelessness? He wanted to ask the doctor more about it, but he stopped himself. He did not want to let Doctor Poulenc see any sign of weakness. “Why do you care?” He lashed out.
“I get paid to care,” was Doctor Poulenc’s curt response. Michel was surprised by his honesty. It made his ears perk up, in spite of himself. Still, he doubted his own instincts. Is this just a ploy, he wondered, to get me to trust him? “But I do want to help you,” Poulenc continued. “I don’t know how I can convince you of that, but I do.”
“What can you tell me that I don’t already know, Doctor Poulenc?” Michel’s voice was dripping with bitter irony. “You think you’re smart because you read some Freud in grad school? Well guess what? So have I. I already know what’s wrong with me.”
Doctor Poulenc simply looked at him, his smile impossible to see through. “In that case, why don’t you tell me what you think your diagnosis should be?”
Michel looked at the doctor with narrowed eyes. “Existential hopelessness,” he offered, then waited for the doctor to ask him to explain.
On cue, Doctor Poulenc asked, “Can you elaborate on that?”
Michel smirked. “My very being condemns me,” he began. “I am one of the doomed men. Lusting after forbidden flesh. You understand, doctor? Homosexuality is not my vice, it’s not my addiction, it is the identity that sums me up, that categorizes kızılay escort bayan me mercilessly as one of society’s Others.”
To Michel’s surprise, Doctor Poulenc’s first response was laughter, a wheezing, hearty laugh that echoed around the walls of the little room. “Quite the speech, Monsieur Foucault. How many times have you rehearsed it?”
“Shut up,” Michel shot back at him.
“Do you seriously expect me to believe that you fall for that bullshit? You think you’re smarter than everybody else around you, right?”
“I know I’m smarter than everyone else around me,” Michel responded.
“Top of your class at university, reads philosophy for fun? Then you tell me, do you really believe your homosexuality predestines you for some kind of existential hell? That’s not Sartre, that’s Calvin.”
He was right, of course. Michel was loath to disagree with a well-argued claim. But he did not feel like giving in just yet. “You’re a very smooth talker,” he observed.
“I’ve been told.”
“All your words-do they usually work for you? Do they usually get your patients to do what you want them to do?”
“I’m not trying to control you-” the doctor began, but Michel cut him off, getting steamed.
“All your diagnoses, your pills…don’t think I don’t know what they’re doing. They’re all just…techniques of control. They’re straightjackets. Designed to keep men like me in line. Tell me, does it get you off, having that kind of power?”
Doctor Poulenc sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Monsieur Foucault, I don’t think you are as powerless as you seem to believe you are. No, before you start to argue, hear me out. Yes, there are many poor unfortunates that our system abandons-we put them away out of sight in asylums and straitjackets and forget about them. But you are not one of those people, and you know why? Because your father is rich. There it is, plain and simple. I’m getting paid a pretty penny to convince you not to kill yourself, and I don’t want to fuck it up.”
Capitalism to the rescue, thought Michel bleakly. Why did this doctor have to be so goddamn well-spoken? Michel was at a loss for what to say. He was so used to being a step ahead of anyone else he conversed with, but this doctor put him on the defensive in the conversation. It was unnerving, and Michel was furious with himself that the only retort that came to his lips was a bitter, biting, “What would you know about it?”
The doctor gave Michel a significant look. “More than you might think.”
Michel jerked his gaze up and looked at Doctor Poulenc-really looked at him-for the first time. So that was it. This doctor was like him. He knew what it was like to have sex on the margins, the thrill and guilt and erotics of the red light district. And in a startling show of vulnerability, he had bared his secret for Michel, perhaps out of the hope that it would help him reach him. Well, it had worked. He had piqued Michel’s interest enough that Michel looked him in the eye for the first time. “Alright then,” he said, “You tell me: how else am I supposed to feel?”
The doctor smiled that same impenetrable smile. “You can feel however you feel. Guilt? Anger? Resentment? I’ve been there. Still am sometimes. But all of life isn’t just a system designed to control us. There’s pleasure in there; there’s fulfillment; there’s even the possibility for change. You already know that.”
Doctor Poulenc’s words, so calculatedly candid, undid some part of Michel that had barricaded itself away, the part that dared to admit to himself how lonely he was. Michel put his head in his hands. “You must think I’m pretty pathetic,” he said in a low voice.
“I don’t think that,” Doctor Poulenc assured him.
Michel clenched his fists, trying to hold back tears. “I don’t…” he began, “I don’t want to hurt myself, not really.”
“That’s a good start.”
“But sometimes I do, you know? I can be a bit of a masochist.”
“Not all pain is bad pain,” the doctor observed.
Michel was suddenly overtaken by the desire to confess-a perverse pride in his own depravity, a thrill in speaking the words aloud, in provoking the doctor. “You know what I pay for when I go to the brothels? I pay men to beat me. Whip me. Choke me, you name it.” He said the words with biting dramatic flourish, scanning Doctor Poulenc as he did so for the telltale signs of shock. The doctor, however, seemed distressingly unfazed. His ever-present smile remained the same.
“Well, does that make you happy?”
Michel was taken aback by the doctor’s query. He had expected him to admonish him for his perversions, suggest a cure, or at the very least offer some kind of psychoanalytic interpretation. Instead, the doctor had asked Michel something he had never considered before. Did it make him happy? The masochism gave him pleasure, certainly; it sated some deep thirst within him. But happiness? What happiness could there be in such a shameful fetish? kolej escort bayan “Maybe for a moment,” he admitted, “but there is so much guilt…” He hung his head.
“I understand,” said the doctor.
“You know, there’s a difference between masochism and self-abuse. You don’t have to hate yourself to enjoy a little pain every once in a while.” Doctor Poulenc took off his glasses and rubbed them on his shirt. He fidgeted in his seat and began to say something but seemed to stop himself before the words could leave his lips. He looked at Michel-looked into him, as if attempting to read something buried deep behind his face. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision. Looking straight at Michel with cool intensity, he said the words: “If you like, I can show you.”
“Sh-show me what?” Michel stammered. Was Doctor Poulenc suggesting what he thought he was suggesting?
Doctor Poulenc was still looking at him, the intensity behind his eyes unwavering. “I can show you a happy masochism, Michel. If you want. If you let me.” He looked down. “It’s your choice.”
Michel’s heart fluttered as he began to imagine the possibilities of what he and the beautiful doctor might do together. A happy masochism. The phrase seemed counterintuitive. Images of whips and manacles flitted through Michel’s mind, setting his heartbeat racing. “Why would you do that for me?”
“If I’m being honest, I have my own selfish motives,” Doctor Poulenc smiled. “You’re a beautiful man, Michel, I’m sure you know.”
Michel was flattered. “That’s quite a compliment coming from you!” He liked this arrangement; it put him and the doctor on somewhat equal footing. They both wanted something from each other, and they each had what the other wanted.
The doctor was collecting his things as if to leave. “Take some time, Michel,” he said. “Get some rest. Heal. Do some reading. And if you’d still like to take me up on my offer, you can give me a call. I’m in the phone book. Gérard Poulenc.”
“Okay,” said Michel. He smiled wryly. “Tell me, in what psychiatry book do you find this rather unorthodox treatment? Maybe I’ll give it a read.”
Doctor Poulenc grinned. “Let’s just say we’re going a little off book.”
Michel spent the rest of the week in the merciful solitude of his little room in the psychiatric ward. He made the most out of the respite it offered him from the constant pressures of his university classmates. He read through the books on his nightstand voraciously, then he requested that more books be sent over from his dormitory. All the while, Doctor Poulenc’s offer lingered in the background of his thoughts. He gave himself a full week before he called the doctor, per his instructions, but there was never any doubt in his mind that he wanted to say yes. To displace his desires onto the image of Doctor Poulenc was a much more freeing alternative to shoving them away into the dusty alleyways and dark corners of the nightclubs.
And so it was that Michel found himself on Doctor Poulenc’s doorstep the following Saturday, wearing a sleek navy blue jacket he had picked out expressly for the occasion. His look tonight was calculated. The jacket framed his slim, supple figure. He had combed his hair and parted it neatly down the middle, and he had slipped his horn-rimmed glasses over his eyes, even though in truth he only really needed them for reading. To his delight, Doctor Poulenc ushered him in with a broad smile, observing, “You clean up nicely!”
Michel looked around the apartment and decided that it was exactly the kind of apartment he would have expected the doctor to have. It was bright and warm, and the walls were covered in messy bookshelves. Good, he thought. Messy bookshelves means he must read the books often. Michel walked over to one of the shelves and examined the titles. He was in the H’s-an impressive array of titles, from Hegel to Heideger to Herder. “I see you’re a fan of German philosophy,” he observed.
“It’s a hobby of mine,” Doctor Poulenc smiled.
“The Herder looks well worn,” Michel commented, flipping through the book and looking at the comments the doctor had scribbled in the margins.
“Ah yes, my nemesis,” the doctor responded. “What a brilliant asshole that Herder was.”
“That I can agree with!” Michel shut the book and turned to face the doctor, his hands clasped behind his back. He knew how to flirt-the coy glances, the steady eye contact, the subtle touches of the shoulder. He had done it often with other boys growing up, and he was quite adept at it. But somehow the game of flirtation seemed unnatural with Doctor Poulenc. Moreover, it seemed unnecessary. They both knew full well what the purpose of Michel’s visit was. “Well, Doctor Poulenc,” he asked, “what’s next?”
“You know you can call me Gérard if you want,” the doctor offered. “At this point, I think it’s safe to assume we can cut the formalities. Unless, of course”-his eyes maltepe escort bayan flashed mischievously-“you like calling me by my title.”
Michel blushed. “I…well…maybe a little. How did you know?”
“Empathy,” the doctor responded. “If I were in your position, I’d find the power differential arousing. Sit with me.” He took a seat on the couch of the little living room, and Michel took a seat next to him. “Now, I want to have an interaction with you that we both enjoy. In order to do that, I need you to be candid with me about what you like and what you don’t like. Do you understand what I mean?”
“I think I do.”
“Say I beat you with a belt,” Doctor Poulenc began. Michel’s heart fluttered. “And say you like it,” he continued. “I want to know that. Then maybe I use a cane and you don’t like it-I want to know that as well.”
“Okay.” Michel was enthralled by the liberating effect of the doctor’s candor. To speak of sex not as a secret to be confessed but as an activity to be deliberated was entirely new. Michel was used to whispering his desires into anonymity, or at the very least speaking them as one might say a forbidden magic word. To talk about sex with ease, as if it were no more transgressive than any other everyday activity, seemed the ultimate transgression.
“Let’s lean into the power difference a little,” the doctor was saying. “You’ll answer me with ‘yes, sir.’ Sound good?”
“Yes, sir!” Michel responded with enthusiasm.
“Very good. Now, I know you like pain. What kind?”
“What do you mean,” Michel asked, then added, almost as an afterthought, “sir?”
“Do you like sharp pain or dull pain? Short pain or sustained pain?”
Michel considered this. “All of it,” he decided. “I want to feel all of it.”
The doctor smiled, a wide smile of real pleasure. “You’re giving me a wonderful gift, Michel. You know that, right?” He reached out a hand and ran his thumb down the side of Michel’s face, feeling the outline of the bones and muscles underneath. Michel savored the feeling of his steady, nimble fingers. “Your body is a gift,” the doctor whispered. With two hands, he removed Michel’s glasses and set them down on the coffee table.
Doctor Poulenc held Michel’s head in his hands and kissed him. It was a deep, full kiss. In form, it was no different than the many other kisses Michel had shared with men before, but in substance, it was entirely new. Michel felt the desire emanating through the doctor’s lips, the possessive way they curled around his own lips. He felt the doctor’s hands grasp his head, holding it in place exactly where he wanted it. With one kiss, Doctor Poulenc had taken Michel for himself, and he had made Michel want to give himself away entirely.
The doctor’s hands were greedy. He ran them across the lines and angles of Michel’s body, grasping each part as if to consume it. Michel’s shoulders, his neck, his legs, his chest, his groin-Doctor Poulenc colonized all of Michel’s body with each decisive squeeze. With one swift, seamless motion, he removed Michel’s jacket and began unbuttoning his shirt. Michel moaned in assent as he felt the doctor’s hands snake up and down his chest under his shirt. Then, a sharp pain as the doctor slapped him on the chest. Yes, he thought, yes! It has begun. “You like it when I hit you there,” the doctor observed.
“Yes,” Michel breathed.
He felt the doctor’s hands twist around his hair, jerking his head back. “Yes what?”
“Yes, sir,” Michel murmured. Doctor Poulenc grunted in approval. Still maintaining a firm grasp on Michel’s hair, he made him stand up and bade him to strip. Michel obeyed readily, removing his shoes, trousers, and underthings for the doctor, who immediately began feeling up his smooth, supple skin. Michel reached for Doctor Poulenc’s shirt, but before he could begin unbuttoning it, the doctor slapped his hands away.
“Put your hands behind your back. I get to do the touching. Sound good?”
The doctor continued to run his hands over every inch of Michel’s body, and as he did so, his touch became progressively rougher. He grasped Michel’s arms more tightly, and he jerked his hair back more forcefully with every stroke. As the doctor’s squeezes transformed gradually into pinches, Michel began to feel overtaken by the familiar thrill of giving into the pain, losing himself in the doctor’s sadistic whims.
“Sit down on the couch, legs apart,” Doctor Poulenc ordered in a level voice.
“Yes, sir,” Michel responded, obeying the command immediately. His pulse raced as he thought of the vulnerability of this position, the soft, fleshy inner thighs it exposed, the erection it framed.
The doctor brought over a small suitcase from the corner of the room and from it produced a short crop with a leather tip. He ran it over Michel’s thighs with precise, deliberate pressure, passing over each imperfection as if consecrating it. Michel could feel a steady power emanating from the doctor’s hand through the crop; his skin tingled at the specter of pain that its presence conjured. Michel wondered, enraptured, when the real pain would come. When would the doctor bring the instrument down on Michel’s thigh? The anticipation of it hung thick in the air that Michel and the doctor breathed.