Quill R. Kukla: “I invite you to take care of the end of our sexual and romantic relationship”


How did you become interested in the language of sexual communication?

Quill R. Kukla : Debates about the language of consent dominate philosophical reflections. Ethical scholars and language philosophers are obsessed with agreement and denial in the act of speaking: namely, partner abuse, forced sex, and, of course, rape. As a result, our perception of sexual freedom of action is distorted and limited. So I became interested in speech before, during and after sex. In one of my works, That’s what she said: Sexual negotiation language (2018) I examine negotiations within sexual experiences. We use speech to answer many questions: do we want sex? What kind of relationships do we want? What activities do they include? What do we like and what do we not like? What are our limits and limitations? When do we want it to stop? Language can translate curiosity, repulsion, establish interest, disinterest, and it stimulates tension through sexual intimacy. But language, in addition to consent, is absent in many respects, except in polyamorous and “deviant” communities (“kinker”).

“A relationship that ends evokes a negative perception of the previous relationship” Quill R. Kukla

How are these communities an exception?

In such contexts, it is clearly stated that there must be explicit and careful negotiation between the partners. Not just about initiating a sexual relationship, but also about the form of the relationship itself: how to initiate it and how to get out of it. These conversations are essential for a safe, comfortable, consensual experience and for exploring one’s own desires. In BDSM interactions (acronym for ” bondage [et discipline]dominion [et soumission]sado-masochism “), for example, participants generally agree to establish a vocabulary for” emergency stop “(sure words ») prior to any activity of a sexual nature, in order to complete a review on the spot, immediately and without the need to argue when certain words are said. The language allows control over the flow of the report.

How can we draw inspiration from this communication in relationships that you describe as conventional (vanilla)?

“Vanilla”, that is, more traditional, relationships could benefit from this rich discourse on sexual negotiation. Having the ability to communicate throughout the report is not something that is reserved for unconventional conditions. An “emergency stop” vocabulary would give anyone the opportunity to explore their desires, the realization of which would otherwise be dangerous or potentially unpleasant.

How did you come to think of the duration of relationships?

The use of vocabulary and practice will depend on the relationship, especially on its duration. We are less likely to explore the limits of our pleasure in a very short relationship or during a one-night stand ; on the other hand, a longer relationship opens up this possibility of play.A shorter story does not allow so much, although it can be valuable, exciting in its own terms.

“This reasoning takes its toll: it keeps people in unhealthy or boring relationships, and it prevents us from appreciating and pursuing shorter relationships.” Quill R. Kukla

Which language tells us about the duration of love relationships ?

“Where is our story going? Is a question that often arises in the couple. This expression is revealing because it suggests a temporality but also a direction. After a while, a love affair must reach a state of inertia. In order to think about this, the concept of “relational escalator” – a concept invented in 2012 by the author Amy Gahranunder his pseudonymAggie Sez Turns out to be interesting. This idea, which is deeply rooted in our culture, sees romantic relationships as having a predetermined direction that leads us to increased intimacy: we “exist together”, we commit to monogamy, we move together, we raise money and then get married, have children and own a home. Once this climax is reached, the relationship must remain static, and even more so it must last until death.

What happens if you want to get off the escalator or just stop running?

It’s very simple: the only resort is to fall ! It’s enough to miss a step, to go down the escalator and find yourself facing a failed relationship. Relationships are perceived as truly eternal. Their duration is the ultimate goal. Consequently, their finality announces failure.

Socially speaking, a separation is inevitably a failure?

Exactly. Because we behave like stories never end: we see separations as inherently tragic. We have all heard the expression “their marriage was a failure”. But the only thing the term “error” seems to mean is finality. The relationship is considered a waste of time if it does not last … until death. And since this ending is tragic, we take the opportunity to add a tragically disgusting behavior.

A separation would therefore not only be tragic in language but also in our attitude?

Absolutely, this dramatic behavior, stemming from the tragedy of separation, is amplified by films, novels, operas … Our language reveals a reasoning that is closely linked to social norms and institutions founded around marriage. A relationship that ends thus induces a negative perception of the previous relationship. So we allow ourselves to treat our partner in a hateful way. It is almost socially required. When we talk about our exes, it’s common to describe an abominable person … It’s part of the ritual. And then we often try at all costs to get a relationship to last because its duration is a sign of success. Its longevity is a measure of success. That is why one desperately tries to “save one’s marriage”: to revive it at all costs so that it retains its value. And that reasoning works both ways: it keeps people in unhealthy or boring relationships, and it keeps us from appreciating and pursuing shorter relationships. There is no tradition that will respectfully and honorably maintain the value of a relationship that is over.

“Like life, a relationship comes to a natural end rather than a rupture that disproves its value” Quill R. Kukla

In one of your essays, you use a striking analogy: death.

It is beneficial and interesting to get into another area to reflect on our love stories. My knowledge of bioethics, a field that also involves great vulnerability and deep intimacy, proves useful in our reflections. Life knows a finality; it ends in death. But our inevitable death does not mean that our lives are failures. ! But before the “hospice and palliative care movements” of the 1960s, neither doctors nor health care providers were concerned about death; they left the patients. Death was beyond their means. A nurse by name Cicely Saunders revolutionized the health sector by perceiving death as a necessary element of life, and which is an integral part of it, medically speaking. The movement gave rise to the concept of a “good death” (“good death”). A notion that marked an important turning point in our representation of death and in the development of palliative care: for the first time, it required dying, and not the immediate cessation of it. Since death is inevitable, as it is a fact and not a tragedy, it is a medical success to accompany the death of an individual with dignity. Bioethical research therefore offers us a powerful model that naturally applies to separations. ONE well separation would minimize the pain and would neglect the tragic dimension of relational finality. Like life, a relationship comes to a natural end rather than a breakup that disproves its value. After all, even a long-term relationship ends with death, so it will never be forever.

Once finitude is accepted, what alternative models of the romantic relationship do you propose?

We should perceive conditions as natural to have a beginning, a middle and an end. It is not a matter of imposing a unique narrative. Some are longer than others: some end in death. And even within such relationships, the separation must be done in a proper way. Every love story should have a unique but limited time form that has its own ending.

How do these reflections affect your current work?

I am currently working on a book on the subject of pornography and more generally on the sex industry. I draw on my ideas of timeliness to reflect on this contractual, almost legalistic model of sexuality. In pornography, there is an explicit agreement before intercourse. I am interested in the potential manifestation of self-determination in these rigid contexts. In this industry, sex takes place in the short term, but at the same time, pornography simulates soulmate mythology. This cinematic domain touches on two extremes: the formal cold in the short term and the romantic ideal, which is part of the long term. But is there a middle ground? Is it possible to build a positive and healthy relationship within the framework of such contractual and time constraints?

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