La Petite Mort

sex and ego death

La Petite Mort by Darrel Perkins

La petite mort, French for ‘the little death,’ is a metaphor for orgasm. More widely, it can refer to the spiritual release that comes with orgasm or to a short period of melancholy or transcendence as a result of the expenditure of the ‘life force,’ the feeling whereof is caused by the release of oxytocin in the brain after the occurrence of the orgasm. The term does not only apply to sexual experiences.

Literary critic Roland Barthes spoke of la petite mort as the chief objective of reading literature. He metaphorically used the concept to describe the feeling one should get when experiencing any great literature. It can also be used when some undesired thing has happened to a person and has affected them so much that ‘a part of them dies inside.’

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