‘Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about.’ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (2006: 56). Discuss in relation to the politics of pleasure in Michel Houellebecq’s Les Particules élémentaires (2008).
This essay investigates the nature of pleasure in a society saturated by global capitalist consumption, with reference to Michel Houellebecq’s Les Particules élémentaires. It also interrogates the insidious means by which pleasure is increasingly used as a mechanism of capitalist control. This essay analyses oral pleasure, both sexual and alimentary, together with Houellebecq’s clear gender divide – which indicates the possibility of resistance to the dominant sexual paradigm. Žižek’s distinction between perversion and hysteria furthers the discussion, along with Angela Carter’s notion of the ‘mythic versions of women’ encapsulated in moral fairy tales. Ultimately, capitalist consumption has become inextricably intertwined with our conception of pleasure: this essay analyses a novel that both submits to and rejects this paradigm shift.