Life is always a product of the decomposition of life–Bataille
In the film Y Tu Mama Tambien we see the many faces of sexuality but even more so we see the shadow the vector of sex: death. The brief synopsis of the film: set against a political background which I do not plan to get into in this post except to say the two teenagers come from different backgrounds; one working class and the other bourgeois upper class. The two teenagers Julio and Tenoch are in that period of life that verges between the juxtaposition between children and adults. The teenagers meet an older attractive woman from Spain which they flirt with not expecting anything in return but telling her they are going on a road trip to a beach in Mexico called Boca del Cielo (which again becomes important later on). Later in the film the Spanish woman Luisa (Maribel Verdu) after receiving a drunken call from her husband stating he has slept with another woman, Luisa decides to take the trip to Heaven’s Mouth (Boca del Cielo) with the two teenagers.
Heaven’s Mouth is at first just a utopic vision of the two teenagers, which has strong parallels with Heaven itself. During the road trip we see images of Mexico that for the attentive watcher of images will notice that there are no illusionary romantic embellishments but instead dilapitated shantytowns and poverty stricken people who maintain their traditional lives (the “queen” in the street with the pink dress).
The sexuality in the movie is very poignant and begins at the opening scene when both Julio and Tenoch are shown to be having sexual intercourse with their girlfriends (girlfriends are leaving to Italy). The sex is again not glorified but instead shown for what it is for Julio and Tenoch: masturbation with another person. We begin to see this idea of loss and leaving or death as the girlfriends head on a plane to Italy.
Luisa is an attractive force in the movie and often seems to be a conduit for the homoerotic friendship between Julio and Tenoch. She even states in anger at some point in the film that what they really want is to, “to fuck each other.” Throughout the film we see Luisa crying which leads us to believe she is grieving her husband’s infidelity and her loss. In an erotic scene between Tenoch and Luisa we see Tenoch enter her hotel room in just a towel in order to get soap. Luisa tells him to drop his towel and masturbate in front of her. Her desire is exactly what makes the scene invoke Eros the primordial god who brought the universe into existence. Primordial desire saturates this scene, sexuality as a primordial force which has close ties with Thanatos because of the destructive and violent aspect of sexuality as such.
The thing that makes this movie quite different and quite erotic is the nature of the eroticism. Georges Bataille wrote in his book Eroticism, “the female partner in eroticism was seen as the victim, the male as the sacrificer, both during the consummation losing themselves in the continuity established by the first destructive act.” (18) This of course brings us to one of the most written about subjects regarding any Latino studies and this is masculinity and patriarchy. Here Isabel Allende writes an exemplary passage to describe what we are after, “Since when has a man not beaten his wife? If he doesn’t beat her, it’s either because he doesn’t love her or because he isn’t a real man…” Even in the novel by Junot Diaz describing how Dominican men are the epitome of the stereotypical “players” and if you are not suave with the ladies then you are surely not Dominican.
Moving back to Bataille because he is so central to the idea of eroticism and death, or sex and death. For Bataille eroticism is important because it is exactly what makes us a species like no other. We have transgressed beyond nature in our sexuality because in the beginning we are aware of the finitude of life: we will die. Our awareness of the sex act which of course is surrounded by taboos, is created in order to ensure a functioning society, or to have an exchange value. Women were exchanged as value, as gifts. Sexual gratification (the kind without a symbolic structure) loses value for a functioning society. Women as exchange value in older societies set up prohibitions which when transgressed became erotic.
Now to the movie. Luisa transgresses the taboo of age, and not only age but the entire patriarchal idea of woman as an exchange value, but instead she is the object that sets in motion the transgression; she becomes the “never good enough” mother that Winnicott would mention. She is never enough, never complete because she fucks the other. In the final sexual scene Tenoch and Julio embrace and finally kiss while Luisa is on her knees pleasuring them both at the same time. This transgression which is done so subtly because the scene ends just when it begins is the inevitable outcome of the prohibition placed on homoerotic behavior. This behavior is foreshadowed early on when we see the two boys in the shower snapping towels, or masturbating on the diving board. This ends the friendship and not only this it ends the polymorphous ways of childhood. All homoerotic behavior takes on symbolic mandates in which it becomes strictly forbidden (unless you want to be called ‘queen’ alluding to another scene in which they discuss another friend who became ‘a straight up queen’).
Finally we find out that Luisa has died; she had cancer all along and she took this trip to end her life. The movie is a perfect set up and masterfully weaves the narrative of ending, death, sexuality and Latino culture (masculinity and femininity).