Jack’s Naughty Bits: J.G. Ballard, Crash

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Jack's Naughty Bits

you saw the movie; I hope you didn’t. Crash the movie is dreck; Crash the novel is
pure butter. Written in 1973, Ballard’s novel traces the psychopathology of a modern world we are still emerging
into. It’s as if he sat the adolescent version of late-century Western culture on his therapist’s couch and
flawlessly predicted the neuroses of its adulthood. Through Ballard we see that the merging of technology
and eros always involves a prosthetic interface, some augmentation or externalization of the body, be it an
automobile or a computer monitor, through which we are forced to cathect in order to feel our own bodies.
This is fetish in its true sense: the need for an external trigger, a gateway to the self that exists outside of
the self. Desire emerges in a circuit, a passage, a trip, giving extra meaning to the word “drive.” If the
threat of technology is that we become ever more onanistic, the greater threat is that we become onanists
alienated from the very selves that are meant to give us pleasure.


This is the world already inhabited by the characters of Crash. Each is the victim, willing
or not, of a series of car wrecks, and their individual and collective libidos grow increasingly dependent on
the automobile, and the collision of automobiles, to facilitate their sexual response. In the scene below, in
the backseat of a paraplegic crash-victim’s specially-equipped vehicle, Ballard’s protagonist realizes that his
old set of erotic triggers have been replaced by a new. We, meanwhile, get a window on the fallout of a full-bore technofetish.

* * *

From Crash by J.G. Ballard

She lifted her left foot so that the leg brace rested against my knee. In the inner surface of her thigh
the straps formed marked impressions, troughs of reddened skin hollowed out in the form of buckles and
clasps. As I unshackled the left leg brace and ran my fingers along the deep buckle groove, the corrugated
skin felt hot and tender, more exciting than the membrane of a vagina. This depraved orifice, the
invagination of a sexual organ still in the embryonic stages of its evolution, reminded me of the wounds on
my own body . . . These were the templates for new genital organs, the molds of sexual possibilities yet to
be created in a hundred experimental car crashes . . .


As she sat passively in my arms . . .
the nominal junction points of the sexual act — breast and penis, anus and vulva, nipple and clitoris — failed
to provide any excitement for us.


As she began to explore [the small scars below my left collar bone] with her lips I for the first
time felt my penis thickening . . . As she stroked my penis I moved my hand from her pubis to the scars
on her thighs, feeling the tender causeways driven through her flesh by the handbrake of the car in which
she had crashed . . . I explored the scars on her thighs and arms, feeling for the wound areas under her left
breast as she in turn explored mine, deciphering together these codes of sexuality made possible by our two
car crashes.


My first orgasm, within the deep wound on her thigh, jolted my semen along this channel,
irrigating its corrugated ditch . . . For the first time I felt no trace of pity for this crippled woman . . .

© J. G. Ballard