Adulation, Complicity And Defiance In Sex

At bottom, we want to have sex because we are descendants of people who did, and not of people who didn’t. Why organisms began to reproduce sexually in the first place is a surprisingly complex question into which we shall not venture; and in any case, it was sufficiently long ago not to matter.

As if genetic programming were not enough, however, we have since dreamt up half a dozen Adulatory ideologies to reinforce what hardly needs reinforcing. (As the old joke had it, we thought we had discovered sex in 1968, whereas in fact our parents discovered it in 1941.) Such attempts to urge water downhill may be regarded as defensive manoeuvres, against parents, superiors or one’s own conscience. For it is immediately obvious to any thoughtful person that human sexuality violates the Practical Imperative; it is all about using other people as tools. Objectification, as the feminists call it – pretending, as they do, that this is always done only to and never by women.

In no particular order, we may mention the hydraulic theory, that semen accumulates indefinitely and exerts a pressure that must be released (rather in the manner of the safety valve on a steam engine) lest bad things happen. It may be noted that this theory is a direct contradiction of what most human cultures have believed, namely that a man’s lifetime supply of Vital Bodily Fluids is limited. As far as I understand human physiology, all these cultures have been simply wrong; although in return the hydraulic theory has sometimes been pushed too far, transposed into the psychic realm, and used to model aggression as well as justifying sexual predation. The end product of this may be encouragement, as with the Captain of Vogons, “to sublimate the normal aggressive instincts into acts of senseless violence”. Funnily enough, the medievals believed the hydraulic theory for women but not for men, see the essay in my Part “Getting Medieval”.

Related to this concern for bodily health is the theory of sex as a form of physical culture, indoor athletics. The valetudinarian Germans, in particular, sometimes seem to be having sex purely in order to keep fit, rather than keeping fit in order to enhance sex. This is all very well if both sides accept that they are sparring-partners, less attractive if the other party has greater expectations.

This overlaps on the idea of sex as adventure. This uses what is probably legacy programming from our migration out of Africa, using the positive value attached to exploration in most human cultures to justify exploration of other people’s spouses and other enterprises about which we are not absolutely sure in our secret hearts – or else we would not be needing the extra encouragement. One step on from this is sex as collecting.

Sex may also be adulated as a social cement, by those who would like us to imitate the bonobos, possibly because they are unlikely to get laid otherwise than as a social handshake. Larry Niven postulated inter-species alien sex as a kind of formal diplomacy, which leads us to wonder what goes on at UN parties. All this is predicated on the notion that sex makes us feel benevolent towards other people, which is by no means self-evident; the human yearning to become bonobos does not factor in the extent to which human sex is also about dominance, as with our closer cousins the chimps. The only way sex is ever going to act as social cement in Homo sapiens is if it is used to structure hierarchy beneath the alpha.

Finally we may mention the ideologies of sex as a form of personal integration, which goes back, via the Alchymical Marriage, at least as far as Aristophanes. Personally, I find the notion that we only want to fuck NN. because (s)he is “the lost other half of ourselves” profoundly depressing in its narcissism. If sex is not a meeting with the mysterious Other, what good is it?

One step on from sex as self-help is sex as alleged mystical experience, about which I have nothing to say, other than to wonder whether all the romantic, erotic and new-religious writers who inflict their purple prose on us (the earth moves, forsooth) have actually experienced anything of the sort, or whether they are making it all up. The predatory aspect of this is that having sex with someone for the sake of personal integration, to raise Kundalini or even for the sake of the Beatific Vision, is treating them as an It rather than as a Thou, just as much as having sex with them for all the other bad reasons.

Complicity here means making hypocritical compromises with the predatory nature of our sexuality. The notion of limited Vital Bodily Fluids may here represent a reaction against the hydraulic theory, and an attempt at social control. Whenever men thought that frequent ejaculation would, by tapping their finite masculine resources, perceptibly feminise them, we may regard them as being motivated by the desire to retain their masculinity rather than by any real scepticism of the way they are controlled by the blind striving of the will-to-live, as manifested most clearly in predatory sexuality.

Sacred virginity and cultic purity might seem to be tackling sexuality head-on, but in reality are devices to achieve other ends, some of which may be equally predatory. The celibate priest, for example, has at best exchanged sexual for economic predation. Meanwhile, some disciplines that appear to be denying sexual release are intent only on making it more fun later.

Many people have been of the opinion that sex is a powerful force that needs to be “harnessed”. Something that we harness, however, is still used to attain human goals, and the question then becomes whether the goals of a harnessed sexuality are really so very much superior to the goals of an unharnessed sexuality. If the aim is a stable social hierarchy for the purpose of begetting new individuals destined only for servitude to their parents’ economic, social and emotional ends, then I remain resolutely unimpressed by the ethical level thus exhibited.

The greatest tool of Complicity is the identification of sex with “love”, which means that you get to do whatever you want, however predatory, dishonest and cruel, provided that you can call it by the name of the L Word. “I’m only doing it because I love you, darling”. This move paralyzes resistance, in the same way as certain creatures paralyze their prey with venom in order to dine upon them at leisure, and in humans may also disarm the opposition of bystanders. All propositions about the identity of sex and love are strategising.

The sentimentalisation of childish “innocence” is partly Denial, which as mentioned above is a form of complicity, but also contains an element of Defiance. We used to laugh at our parents for awarding the term innocence (the opposite of guilt or harmfulness) to ignorance of what used to be called “the facts of life”; but if sexuality is essentially predatory, and universal predation disguised as love is indeed the central fact of human life, then their position has something to commend it. There is indeed something non-guilty or non-harmful about a child who has not yet become as proficient as an adult at sexually objectifying others, employing them as masturbation substitutes, ranking them by sexual attractiveness and mining them for attention and resources.

Moreover, the years before puberty are the principal or even the only time in which a human being is concerned mainly with learning the world for its own sake. Marilyn French has written about the constriction of horizon that comes with sexual maturation as if it only applies to girl-children, but of course it is actually universal. For this reason, anyone who values interest in the world for its own sake ought by rights to harbour a certain scepticism about sexuality.

The postwar generations were too quick to condemn their ancestors for the generally fictitious offence of a revulsion against sex. This merely assumed, without demonstrating, that there was no good reason for such a revulsion. On the other hand, the question is similarly begged by those who have condemned sex because it is something we have in common with the animals. The concealed major premise here is that we ought not to have anything in common with the animals, but it is hard to understand what we would be without any such commonality.

Defiers have found sex “absurd”, and absurdity is subjective and inarguable. One recalls the legendary London clubman, who, after having been introduced to sex in late middle age, remarked: “The posture is undignified, the procedure ridiculous, and the expense damnable.” The same subjective inarguability may pertain also to those who find sex “disgusting”, providing that this is a real somatic reaction and not mere verbal social one-upmanship, as it was among the matrons of my youth, whose favourite adjective this was. I would say something about those who claim that sex is “degrading”, if only I knew what they meant.

It is certainly difficult to contradict a woman who feels that sex means being controlled by a man, though we ought to point out that men can feel just the same way, and both sexes can equally well resent, in the manner of Origen, being controlled by their own biology. Similarly, both genders may not unreasonably see sex as tying them into social hierarchies of husbands and wives, parents and children, and both may wish to be free of this in much the same way as a wage-slave might want to run his own business. In Late Antiquity, sacred virginity was actually a banner of social revolution, opposing the lineage strategies of the wealthy and denying the propertyhood of women, children and other subalterns. Just as women may decide that sex chains them to the kitchen and the cradle, men may decide that sex with women is the chief cause of rivalry and violence between men (abetted by the women with their “Let’s you and him fight”) and that fraternity and peace therefore require chastity.

The Greeks saw sexual desire as a form of madness, at least when it became passionate. The difference is that we have now made separate words for sex as wildly dysfunctional obsession, classifying certain sexual patterns among the addictions; this serves to deny that all sex partakes of the nature of a wildly dysfunctional obsession and a neurochemical addiction. Such denial may be an error. Philo of Alexandria saw virginity as an approach to male rationality; we might discard the sexist adjective and so reclaim virginity, and chastity too, as difficult, probably doomed, but nevertheless praiseworthy attempts to recover the vision of the pre-pubescent, concerned more with the nature of reality than with sexual games. Or else, in a different vocabulary, we might see sex as the ultimate surrender to the veils of Maya, imprisoning us in a very limited perceptual system. Such a system is seen in its purest form in both the skirt-chaser and the bimbo, who simply never see the world in terms other than what they can give for sex, or what they can get for it.

Posted on February 16, 2011 at 11:40 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, Defying The Demiurge

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  1. Written by urban
    on February 16, 2011 at 13:58

    The notion that there is a finite amount of semen that a man is allotted for life is clearly bunk, but the sense that one ought not be profligate with ones essence for health, vitality, and longevity reasons is more subtle.

    As a practitioner of Chinese internal martial arts as well as a consumer of Chinese medical services, I’m very familiar with a different model of the organism, less mechanical and chemical, more, for lack of a better word, energetic. Less Newtonian, more Quantum Electro Dynamic is perhaps a better way of putting it.

    I have never taken the path of continence myself, and there’s a lot more to it than just not ejaculating, but I know people who have, over very long periods of time as part of an extensive and deep practice. The results are remarkable. And I know others less far along on that path who claim tremendous benefits within a reasonable amount of time.

    It’s definitely not for everyone! But having spent time with remarkable men, one master in his eighties in particular, who have maintained very strong regimens their whole lives which included semen retention, there might be something to it!

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