We read love in the glance, in the smile, in the grace of movement. The body speaks the soul’s language. The soul expresses life’s yearning. With the light of unbounded expressiveness.
Even in the most egocentric thirst for pleasure, the body of the Other is something much more than an object of desire. It is the signifier of the desire. What is signified, even if unconsciously, is only life. The longed-for body articulates the desire as a promise, but the principle of desire goes beyond the body of the Other. And that is why “the pleasure of women”—the pleasure promised by female beauty—is a pleasure “that has no limit.”
The signifier of desire arises in the “space” of beauty. The language of bodily beauty, in a first phase, and the language of dress. When the reciprocity of desire transcends the relativity of language, the nakedness is self-evident, the shedding of clothing. Then the whole body is a glance and a smile, and a rhythm of grace, an immediacy of desire, for the fullness of relation, the fullness of life.
Nakedness is never totally completed, the absence of clothing is not enough to achieve nakedness, or to live it. Nakedness is a progressive pursuit of the always indeterminate transformation of the signifiers, a transformation of the languages in which the principle of desire clothes itself. A ceaseless interweaving of the language of vision and the language of touch, from the intoxication of the call to the ecstasy of participation. …
There is an erotic nakedness, and there is an aggressive nakedness. The latter violates the relationship, destroying it by placing it on the level of “exchange.” It is the nakedness that is offered as an impersonal object of pleasure, outside the bounds of relation, of mutual self-offering. To satisfy a fleeting need, or the self-regarding reassurance of the ego as a desired object. It is the commercialized nakedness of pornography, the cold exploitation of sex. “It is light revealing as lightning” (cf. Luke 10:18).
Erotic nakedness is only self-offering. It is not contrived, it is spontaneous. Like the light in the beloved glance and smile. To reveal the renunciation of the last resistance of self-defense, which is shame. Shame is the natural defense against the egocentric demand of the Other. I defend myself with dress, I wear clothing to preserve my subjectivity: that I should not be exposed to gaze like an impersonal object of pleasure.
When love approaches the wonder of mutual self-renunciation and self-offering, there is no shame, because there is no defense or fear. Then the whole body speaks the language of the glance, of the smile, of the rhythm of grace. The whole human being becomes “wholly light and wholly face and wholly eye—a good given, and a perfect gift received.” It is offered without resistance or reserve. And the final disarming of self-giving attires itself in the language of revelatory nakedness. …
Erotic nakedness is never totally completed, because it is the language of self-emptying. The casting aside of clothes is not enough to accomplish nakedness. Nakedness must clothe itself in the language of self-giving and self-offering. In the boundless eloquence of the ceaseless surprises of the relation.