The discussions certainly can't be faulted for lack of probity; the directness with which the riddles of sexual dynamics is discussed is astonishing even by today's standards. Questions such as "What do you think about when you masturbate?" alternate with exchanges concerning the ability and desirability of falling asleep after sex with the penis still inside the vagina, and what one might say at the moment of climax.
One of the most interesting discussions, for me, was the fifth, in which Max Ernst took part. Early in the session, after some surprising remarks on the orgasm of women, he asserts that his own orgasm precedes ejaculation by "perhaps a few seconds", and meets the incredulity expressed by saying that here was one of the critical problems of existence, the need to locate and experience the most propitious moment by living more consciously. Later on, the conversation turns to the relation between surrealism and optimism, with one of the participants, Raymond Queneau, expressing dismay at the others' hope at discovering the woman that could take the role of an ultimate destiny. Ernst finds this attitude indicative of "bourgeois skepticism" and accuses Queneau of contradictory attitudes in his simul- taneous support of surrealism in the abstract and denial of the possibility of the kind of love that Ernst and Breton envisioned. Breton ends the session with a meditation on physical beauty that takes the other participants to task for the Christianish conceptions on the irrelevance of appearance; the contemplation of woman's physical beauty was paramount. This too is surrealism.
One of the oppositions that the surrealists believed would at some perspective cease to be perceived as contradictory, that of materialism and idealism, is explored in an exchange between Breton and Queneau. Breton asks if Queneau gave creedence to the theory that the rubbing of a sheet on the sexual organ during sleep could produce orgasm, to which Queneau replied in the affirmative. One can imagine the sense of finality that must have been apparent in Breton's verdict, "Materialism." Ernst adds emphasis: "Anti-surrealist." The dream pierced the hegemony of the outer world by creating the dynamics of experience. Positivism was the great enemy. Love became the meeting ground between the the materialist domain of sex and the ideational territory of the dream. This love that transcended any purely materialist conception was uncomfortably close in its resemblance to religion, where the dividing line between the servitude of blind faith and the joy of total investment in the being of another is indistinct. Breton's lament that love is the greatest despair because of the prospect of the extinguishment of the self, and that, moreover, this depersonalization is to be actively pursued, is not linked to any explor- ation of the deeper questions of identity. Breton evidently did not place much credence in the idea of love as a galvanizer of identity. Love is diametrically opposed to freedom in the surrealist view, at least in some senses. But this state is to be preferred because it replaces the feeling of "being free for no good reason" with a sense of elevating purpose.
The surrealists' attitude to homosexuality has been the subject of much discussion and debate. Specifically, their repudiation of male homo- sexuality while at the same time maintaining a positive attitude toward lesbianism hs been seen as a major flaw in the sexual philosophy of the group. One exchange sheds some light on this problem. Breton is asked about sexual contact between men that does not involve sodomy; is this still homo- sexual? Breton answers that this is an embryonic form of homosexuality between men but that male homosexuality is necessarily linked to sodomy. One could draw the conclusion that Breton's objection is based on an aversion to the idea of passive anal intercourse on the part of the man. And yet, Breton is sympathetic to anal intercourse with women. This fuzziness is not delved into any more deeply, unfortunately.
For me, these discussions describe a new dimension to the surrealist enterprise in general and their experience of sexuality in particular. It is amazing to observe surrealism being articulated in the dialectic of the I and thou, in real conversation, a perspective that evinces a vitality rarely if ever equalled in the movement's other manifestations. These con- versations give new impetus to the exploration of the difficult and mag- nificent worlds that surrealism was the first to conquer.