Apr 25, 2022

Sexualities finite and infinite

59 and 60 of Carse's Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility (p. 82-4 of my copy):


Because finite, or veiled, sexuality is one or another struggle which its participants mean to win, it is oriented toward moments, outcomes, final scenes. [Consider the prominence of the cumshot in porn.] Like all finite play it proceeds largely by deception. Sexual desires are usually not directly announced but concealed under a series of feints, gestures, styles of dress, and showy behavior. Seductions are staged, scripted, costumed. Certain responses are sought, plots are developed. In skillful seductions delays are employed, special circumstances and settings are arranged.

Seductions are designed to come to an end. Time runs out. The play is finished. All that remains is recollection, the memory of a moment, and perhaps a longing for its repetition. Seductions cannot be repeated. Once one has won or lost in a particular finite game, the game cannot be played over.

Moments once reached cannot be reached again. Lovers often sustain vivid reminders of extraordinary moments, but they are reminded at the same time of their impotence in recreating them. The appetite for novelty in lovemaking – new positions, the use of drugs, exotic surroundings, additional partners, is only a search for new moments that can live on only in recollection.

As with all finite play, the goal of veiled sexuality is to bring itself to an end.


By contrast, infinite players have no interest in seduction or in restricting the freedom of another to one's own boundaries of play. Infinite players recognize choice in all aspects of sexuality. They may see in themselves and in others, for example, the infant's desire to compete for the mother, but they also see that there is neither physiological nor societal destiny in sexual patterns. Who chooses to compete with another can also choose to play with another.

Sexuality is not a bounded phenomenon but a horizonal phenomenon for infinite players. One can never say, therefore, that an infinite player is homosexual, or heterosexual, or celibate, or adulterous, or faithful – because each of these definitions has to do with boundaries, with circumscribed areas and styles of play. Infinite players do not play within sexual boundaries, but with sexual boundaries. They are concerned not with power but with vision.

In their sexual play they suffer others, allow them to be as they are. Suffering others, they open themselves. Open, they learn about others and about themselves. Learning, they grow. What they learn is not about sexuality, but how to be more concretely and originally themselves, to be the genius of their own actions, to be whole.

Moving therefore from an original center, the sexual engagements of infinite players have no standards, no ideals, no marks of success or failure. Neither orgasm nor conception is a goal in their play, although either may be part of the play.