My email spam folder grows larger by leaps and bounds; now it takes only a day or two for it to reach the two hundred mark. I enter with hip waders on and quickly skim the subject titles before deleting them, because every now and then a bona fide communication gets stuck in there and I want to fetch it. Otherwise, I’d rather not in go there at all, thank you very much.
But this process allows me to keep track of spam trends, and in recent months there’s been a very disturbing one. Oh yes, the messages from distressed daughters of deceased minor imaginary third-world officials wanting my help (“Beloved one”) to liberate some money are still in there, as well as the canceled e-bay accounts I never had, notices from pseudo-banks, all sorts of stuff about mortgages, and rhapsodies on the benefits of green tea. Oh, and of course, the major ones: buying drugs, sex in general, and a thousand creative varieties of penile enhancement in particular.
But I’m not talking about those. I’ve grown used to those. No, I’m talking about ads for incest. Or, rather, I would assume–since I’m not clicking on them and never will click on them–ads for websites that feature photos of what purport to be incest.
The titles of the emails–which I will not reproduce here–are very graphic and changeable, but they always refer to incest in one of various forms. And I find this development to be exceedingly puzzling because, at least as far as I know, incest is not a source of titillation for most people, but rather a turnoff.
Freud may indeed have felt that some sort of incestuous feeling underlay human sexual motivation, but way underneath, so far underneath that it was turned into something else. Most of us experience revulsion at the very thought.
The fact that spammers have decided that graphic representations of incest would appeal to people is not a good sign. What does it mean? In reminds me of those attempts to serve esoteric foods to revive the faded palates of royals who’ve eaten too many delicacies in their lives and are bored, bored, bored: tongues of hummingbirds, monkey brains, that sort of thing. Whether these culinary stories are apocryphal or not doesn’t matter; it’s the principle that I’m talking about, and that is the fact that the spammers are trying to appeal to the jaded palates of people who’ve grown used to ordinary pornography and find it lacking in pizzazz.
And this reminds me–as do so many things, it turns out–of the work of Milan Kundera, especially the last chapter of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, entitled “The Border.” The border to which Kundera refers is manifold, but part of it concerns the line where rampant and indiscriminate sexuality (either in the name of hedonism or the name of liberation) becomes stripped of meaning and depth–and in fact, in the end, of sensation itself.
The spammers have crossed the border, I’m afraid.