If the human reality is a social reality, society is human only as a set of Desires mutually desiring one another as Desires.
Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit
In the chorus of the Wonder Girls’ 2008 hit single, “Nobody”, the South Korean girl group sings, “I want nobody, nobody but you.” The pop song is simply a rehashing of the typical narrative of a girl who wants nobody else for herself but a particular person.
Apart from the poppy dance tune and its being Korean (since the younger generations here practically feed on Korean soap operas), it is perhaps this rearticulation of the fantasy of “true love” – the romantic prospect of finding your one true love – that promised the song’s popularity here in the Philippines. What it represents for the collective imagination of the people is an escape from the hardships and sufferings of social reality.
Alongside the song’s popularity is a pun on its lyrics that has been circulating for some time already. In this version of the song, the chorus is changed from “I want nobody, nobody but you” to “I want your body, your body not you,” the point being it’s not really love – chaste, romantic, and spiritual – but raw, dirty, physical sex that drives such romantic longings. This opposition between the superficial condition of being in love and purely instinctual bodily needs can be summed up in the crude line of a friend: “it’s just your loins.”
Desire, however, is not simply the effect of our natural bodily functions. In Lacanian psychoanalytic discourse, all of us become estranged from the materiality of our biological needs the moment we enter into the symbolic order of language, law and social conventions. We are forced to recognize the desires of those around us and to express our own wishes only through language. And it is through our subjection to this order that we learn to keep our place in relation to others. We must no longer pee just anywhere. We are already compelled to urinate in the comfort room.
Material sexuality, therefore, has little to do with the formation of our loins’ cravings. Our desires, likewise, are never naturally our own. In the song, it is not really just the “I” or “my loins” who wants “you” or, in the vulgarized version, “your body.” These wants are made through fantasies that are structured by culture and ideology. These desires are always mediated by the symbolic order and cannot function without relying on some fantastic scenario.
Hence, the cynical charge that the romantic discourse of yearning for “true love” is simply a screen that conceals an underlying desire for “natural” instinctual sexual enjoyment is itself constitutive of a fantasy that is caught up in the commodification of sexuality in our era of late capitalism. As Slavoj Žižek writes, “It is only through fantasy that the subject is constituted as desiring: through fantasy, we learn how to desire.” ■