Off Color Humor -or- The Grotesque Body

History of Sexual Dreams -or- Taste of Off Color Humor

Humor has always provided a way to navigate stressful situations, relieve tension and create a positive mood. George Vaillant Ego Mechanisms of Defense sees humor as a mature form of coping and defense mechanism. There are many types of off color humor, one prevalent form is known as "blue comedy" or ribaldry, which can be traced back to the Arisistophanes a comic playwright and contemporary of Socrates. Many dreams sent to the International Institute for Dream Research speak the language of off color humor in soft pornography and the burlesque aspects of sexuality. Many of the dreams read much like the vignettes in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) ribald humor which tests the moral boundaries and community standards of erotic communication in public. (Watch one vignette) Many US and Hollywood films have been censored (Motion Picture Production Code) because they trespassed against the taste and guidelines for public audience viewing.

The work of Michel Foucault, especially History of Sexuality has significance in terms of the History of Sexual Dreams. Writing such a history of sexuality, has not been undertaken from a dream research perspective. Foucault in volume three of  The History of Sexuality: Care of Self turns to Artemidorus Interpretation of Dreams to understand the meanings of sexual dreams during ancient Greek-Roman times. In modern times Freud's Interpretation of Dreams provided the background for the modern sensibility of sexual dreams. Freud believed that little had mythologically changed about sexuality in the last 2000 years since ancient Greek/Roman times. For Foucault however, historical changes of sexual conceptions from the ancient Greeks and Romans to early Christian literature could be traced. Unfortunately Foucault passed on before he completed his fourth volume of the History of Sexuality Confessions of the Flesh dealing with Christian conceptions of sexuality which remains unpublished.

Many dreams have been sent to the IIDR since 1996, the thematics includes all the poetic vicissitudes of Eros. In The Rhetoric of Sexuality and the Literature of the French Renaissance, Lawrence Kritzman discusses the dream as literary vehicle to explore the fictive space of lovers, where the world of desire, love and sex are played out. In the rhetoric of the dream of love and sexuality, an inner dialogue between lovers of words, images and behaviours are acted out onto the dream stage. In the Petrarchan tradition the inner moral struggle of erotic virtues and vices are played out and given voice on the inner silver screen of our dreams. One interpretation posted at the IIDR website Confessions of a Porn Addict illustrates the conflict.    

In this context, one literary theory that explains many dreams received by the IIDR is Mikhail Bakhtin's Rabelais and his World a study of Francois Rabelais that develops the poetic concept of grotesque realism. One of the recurring patterns found in dreams is the grotesque body which acts as a poetic stereotype for the battle of the sexes, often having tragic consequences for the theatrical history of the dream of love. While Bakhtin sees the comic blue comedy and subversive power of sexuality in what Europeans and (South Americans) call "carnival" and what North Americans call Mardi Gras, there is also a dark side that perverts and kills the dream of love. This dark emotional aspect of the grotesque sexual body focuses on the feelings of disgust. We can find this dark disgusting side of communities discussed in Martha C. Nussbaum's Hiding from Humanity. From a literary perspective Eugene Sue Mysteries of Paris already provided us with a film noir description of the 19th century French sensibility of sexuality in society. Frederico Fellini's film La Dolce Vita provided an Italian perspective. Woody Allen's film Celebrity was an attempt to re-work La Dolce Vita from an American/New York perspective. Dreams that are posted at the IIDR website that discuss the rhetoric of sexuality and the grotesque body include;

1. The Female Nude -or- Mysteries of Paris    

2. Rape -or- Victims of Misogyny  

3. Gender Ideology in the Mirror

4. Anatomy of Disgust -or- Once Upon a Dream

5. Feminist Criticism -or- The Mysteries of Dallas

6. Celluloid Closet in the Gay Global Village

7. The Holy Prostitute

It is possible to imagine and trace a decadent cultural geneology of sexual dreams of the grotesque body back to the beginnings of civilization. The grotesque body then becomes the failed dream of love's sublime cultural body. Said another way, the dark vulgar and obscene language of the grotesque body dominates the cultural language and landscape of the dream. A collective aesthetic pattern of the failure of the art of loving can be seen in many dreams, I have labeled one of these failed dream of love patterns "The Ex-Files -or- Divorce Culture". We are also witness to obscene and vulgar language and fantasies in the IIDR interpretation Nine Dirty Words




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