Sexual excess is an antithetical idea, one that denotes both liberated pleasure and contemptible transgression. Therefore, it is also an idea that rests on the assumption of boundaries and an insatiable desire, one that needs to move beyond normative parameters in order to achieve pleasure. Whether it is the uncontainable physical sensations, the decision to avoid the “talk” with children, or even the inability to construct emotions into words, the notion of excess spawns from the inevitable interconnection of morality with modern sexuality. Such an interconnection emotionally enables desire to push the limits while granting shame the capacity to retain normative boundaries. Therefore, whether it is Sigmund Freud’s idea that excess is surplus stimulation or Leo Bersani’s contention that excess is a structure-shattering experience, both rely on the otherness of sexuality. Upon analysis of both their work, it is clear that the concept of excess has the ability to overcome shame through the otherness of sexuality.
It is of particular interest to look at sexuality in relation to the modern daily life. What may seem abnormal and even abject in daily life is constitutive in human sexuality. It goes beyond normal functioning, rationality, and purposefulness, making sexuality inherently excessive. The discrepancy between the sexual and daily life connotes the otherness of sexuality. Freud mentions this in Three Essays on The Theory of Sexuality in his contention that perversion should be used a term of reproach: “no healthy person, it appears, can fail to make some addition that might be called perverse to the normal sexual aim.” Although he may have been focusing on the abnormal particularities in normal sexual life, this idea expounds to the general abnormality and otherness of sexuality. The sexual’s oppositional quality to daily life in its excess and abject qualities make one’s ego-libido centre on the otherness of sexuality.
The concept of excess is rich, multivalent, and essentially ambiguous. It is not by chance that when Freud set out to charter new territories of the psyche that he gave such weight to notions of excess-of-excitation. Indeed, excess carries the sense of the obscure, the abstruse, that exceeds any regular frame imposed on it. It also has positive and negative connotations. Positive excess points towards plenitude, freedom, and exuberance. Negative excess points toward glut, surfeit, and wastefulness. Such a play between positive and negative excess illustrate the strife between desire and shame. While excess may be intoxicatingly exhilarating, it simultaneously may be repulsive and reprehensible.
Freud’s writings suffuse with such notions of excess. The traumatic sense of excess stimuli in infantile sexuality, the repressed buildup of sexual energy, the unbearable drive charge manifested in symptoms and perversions, moral anguish and emotional perplexity because of committed sexual excesses, hysteria as the melodramatic...