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Lust, according to Saint Augustine, is an overindulgence, but to love and be loved is what he has sought for his entire life. Saint Augustine says the only one who can love you truly and fully is God, because love with a human only allows for flaws such as “jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and contention.” According to Saint Augustine, to love God is “to attain the peace which is yours.” (Saint Augustine’s Confessions)

 

Quoted from an article on ‘Love’ on Princeton University Website.

 

Lust is simply a natural drive, like the need for warmth, shelter, food and water.   Psychologically, the sex drive – libido – can be stronger than the hunger for food.  But it is not intrinsically an overindulgence

 

The problem with the suppression of sex by the major religions; Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism, is that the rules were set by men who sought socially to engineer conditions in which women become the ‘property’ of men, and men are supposed to be assured of the paternity of all their children, so that they see it as worthwhile to invest their effort to provide for their upbringing. 

 

The natural impulses of both men and women are to enjoy sexual relationships with as many people as possible, in order to ensure the survival of their genes to the next generation.  As women are always assured that the children they bear will carry their own genes, the selection and retention of the father is not as important as it is for men, who tend to seek to invest only in the children they are convinced are their own.

 

This has resulted in social models of ‘love’ which are based upon men having exclusive sexual access to their woman or – in the case of polygamous religions – women.  The virtuous idea of ‘courtly chivalrous love’, featuring exclusive pair bonding, mutual sexual fidelity, and lifelong companionship, is a taught behaviour which forms part of the social conventions of civilisations led by men.

 

Matriarchies and polyandrous societies are rare.  The type of ‘love’ to which St Augustine was alluding is certainly not the same as any type of love as understood between human beings.  It is certainly not sexual erotic love (although cases of religious extremists having erotic fixations on the deity are not unknown) nor is it the kind of Platonic relationship that might exist between human mutual admirers, sometimes distinguished by the Greek description of Philos as opposed to Eros.  Nor is St Augustine’s love of God akin to Storge which is the type of love the Greeks believed typified parental love for children, which is characterised by unconditional tolerance of however the beloved might behave. Storge is a bit like the other Greek concept of love; Agape, which describes, amongst other ideas, the kind of non-sexual bonds which can exist between married couples.

 

The notion of the love of God is an interesting phenomenon.  If your belief is based upon a concept of a deity or deities which is or are in some way similar to human personalities, then it is reasonable to project a theory that to love the deity results in a reciprocal love of the deity for those who love the deity. 

 

Clearly these kinds of religion act as a sort of comforter for believers, who can imagine that – even if the world appears to be entirely hostile towards them, they are not ‘alone’ and that at least the deity loves them.  These religions often act as  kind of spiritual insurance policy, in which the reward for a life well lived will be paid-out after the believer dies, and attains some form of post-mortem consciousness.  In it’s simplest form it is the promise that the ‘virtuous’ will go to heaven, and the sinful will go to hell.  Often the representations of each are based on physical pleasure or pain, so that a religious martyr might be promised the sexual love of multiple virgins when  they arrive in heaven, whereas a sinner might be threatened with everlasting genital torture.  It seems that visions of heaven often incorporate freedoms to behave in ways that would be considered sinful if they were enjoyed before death.

 

St Augustine was said to have asked God to make him virtuous, but added – being keen on enjoying a wide variety of ‘sins’ -‘not yet’.

 

Spirituality is not limited to paths which require belief in a deity which in any way resembles humanity, and some belief systems can be said to be ‘mystical’ in that they merely acknowledge the existence of some unified force within all universes which is unknowable, and beyond full human ability totally to understand.  Unlike most deities, this ‘force’ incorporates all that is both positive and negative in existence, and includes as a part of itself, every natural phenomenon of the universes, and human individuals themselves.

 

Given that spiritual pathways are used by people to come to terms with both the joys and pains of existence, and to try to identify a way of living that is best for themselves as individuals, there are often distinctions made between the ‘left hand’ (or sinister) pathways and the ‘right’ (both as a descriptor of relative direction and of that which is correct or true).

 

Broadly, to chose to explore potentially destructive phenomena is to choose the ‘dark’ or ‘left’ approach, and the ‘light’ or ‘right’ path is often approached by employing a kind of ‘enlightened self-interest’ and seeking to live in accordance with those things one can observe as being ‘creative’ or positive.

 

The kind of extreme sexual behaviour often considered to be ‘debauched’ which can lead to damaging other people, or causing other people to be provoked to damage the protagonists, can be seen as belonging to the ‘dark side’, and is usually proscribed by people who seek to be ‘righteous’, however it is possible to see lust as a positive force, and to include it validly as an act of worship for the unified force which drives the universe.

 

Most of the ‘good’ reasons why sex is commonly kept under strict control by organised religions are simply practical ‘bathroom’ issues of health and safety.  Obviously the sexual transmission of diseases is a problem in any society concerned with the health of all its members, and the possessiveness of men often leads to violence, injury and murder when women are permitted total sexual freedom.  Interestingly, in the few matriarchies that exist around the world, sexual promiscuity of women is not considered to be sinful, and probably causes less problems than the consumption of pork and shellfish would cause if regularly eaten in hot countries without refrigeration technologies – the practical reasons for the dietary laws of Judaism and Islam.

 

It is entirely sensible to see sex as a positive and natural part of the creative forces in the universes, and hence a perfectly valid aspect of life to celebrate as part of a life of ‘worship’, just as one might celebrate food – enjoying it, but not to the excess which leads to obesity, morbidity and mortality.

 

In my own opinion, the most sublime religious experience is shared orgasm between male and female, as a transcendence of self – humanity being far more than either gender alone, and as an expression of the origin of human life, as our only relationship with everything that comprises the universes of which we are a part, and the only way to ‘experience the love of God’.

 

To believe that we are loved by a benevolent and caring personality is, in my opinion, merely a comforting act of self-delusion, and leaves us liable to many other sophistries which result in us behaving in ways which are destructive to each other and those aspects of the universe which lie within our sphere of influence.  Sex can be highly moral, including unbridled promiscuity.  Our immoralities concern destruction of our planet and its environs through warfare, greedy exploitation of natural resources and other species through technology and lack of a balanced approach which not only threatens other parts of creation, but humanity ourselves.  That’s where we have over-indulged, and accelerated climate change and potential pandemics are only symptoms of how unbalanced we are.  God will not save any of us; if the balance overtips, we’ll be as beloved by God as were the dinosaurs.

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Let me confess; I’ve not read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by British author EL James, and I don’t intend to.

Nevertheless, I’m extremely pleased she’s risen to the top of US Bestseller lists with her trilogy, originally released by a small Australian e-publisher. I suspect she might be a lot more literary than her success displays, but has evidently pitched her ‘Fan-Fic’ novels to provide a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. As a TV executive she must have an intelligent grasp of how money is made in mass-markets.

I’m really not a ‘Fan’. Fan-Fic is openly derivative, and demands that authors adopt the writing style of another writer’s original, without falling straight into the black-hole of parody or pastiche. There’s nothing wrong with pastiche; Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Pistache’ is a fine example of the art. There are many more, including accomplished exercises in completing authors’ unfinished work, or continuing a series after the progenitor has died.

I also dislike pulp genre fiction with its stylistic clichés, plotline memes and targeted unoriginality. This isn’t to say that many ‘great’ literary novels haven’t been dubbed genre fiction, whilst not actually suffering from the flaws of the category. There are, for instance, many Sci-Fi titles, since it’s a perfect structure by which to explore utopian or dystopian scenarios, set either on a future Earth or some imaginary planet of another star. Most of the mechanical bits are merely incorporated to lend some credibility to a tale which demands the readers’ suspension of disbelief. Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ for example.

If you consult a list of the world’s highest grossing authors, up there with Shakespeare and Tolstoy are Enid Blyton and Barbara Cartland. I’ve read Blyton, but not Cartland. It’s not that I’m a snob, but I prefer stories about sexual love not to cop-out with ellipses when I get to the sticky bits. I prefer erotica to say something about people and their unexpurgated inner motives and behaviour. I don’t simply want to hear that X inserted Tab A into Y’s Slot B and instant satisfaction was delivered. I want to know the whys, hows and the effect on their lives as a result of all the beastliness.

Speaking of beastliness, I understand that Fifty Shades of Grey features themes of ‘BDSM’ as an undercurrent of the leitmotiv of Vampirism. Although the views of actual Vampires have not, so far as I’m aware, been expressed, I also hear that ‘serious lifestyle BDSM practitioners’ consider the BDSM aspects of the trilogy to be disappointingly flawed. Maybe it’s the author’s British reserve? Has she written scenes that would best be filmed as ‘Carry On Spanking’? Or is it the same type of disappointment that trainspotters feel, reading the Thirty Nine Steps, when they find there’s not enough detail about the locomotive that hauled Hannay halfway across the Forth Bridge?

There is a pruriently coy tone to polite mainstream conversations when it’s suggested that women fantasise about dominant males, being tied up and spanked, and even raped. Psychologists rush to the media to assure us fantasies of these types are entirely ‘normal’, and no woman desires actual rape. Sexual games of dominance (of both genders) bondage, and consensual ‘Sado-Masochism’ are far more widespread in respectable bedrooms all over the developed world than we like to pretend.

It’s been suggested the growing prevalence of e-readers has fostered a huge growth in the market for womens’ pornography. No longer must copies of ‘The Story of O’ or Anais Nin’s short stories be hidden behind the detergent box or in her bedside cupboard drawer. She can read them on the train on the way to work, and no-one will guess the reason for her Mona Lisa smile.

Perhaps this is not quite a symptom of the moral collapse of the West, but a positive step towards defusing the bomb of sexuality. There is, however, a long journey ahead before men and women are going to be honest with each other; before we reach an open understanding that women who fantasise aren’t ‘gagging for it’, and that sometimes perfectly virile men long for appreciation, gentleness and affection rather than a demand for athletic performance ‘in the sack’.

The cosy myths of virility and femininity are well past their deflower-by date. Without sexualising children, we need to stop building their expectations of sexuality into forbidden, must-have prizes of adult freedom and admit that the whole experience has many more than fifty shades of grey in the ‘how was it for you’ spectrum.

At its best, it can be sublime; an almost sacred, divine union of two (or more) people sharing the experience on a total physical, emotional, and spiritual level, but at its worst, it can be soul destroying, painful, heartbreaking and destructive. Like any spectrum of human activities, it seems to follow a bell-curve, with the majority of examples falling around the middle; that’s where adjectives such as; nice, OK, alright, pleasant and satisfactory pivot around ‘neutral’ towards acceptable, uncomfortable, unimpressive, a nuisance and disappointing.

I want people to enjoy good sex, much as I’d like them to eat good food. So long as they think, in the words of Anthony Worrall Thompson; “It’s all good!” they’re going to feel they aren’t doing it right. Like food, I tend to believe it’s better natural: nothing added and ‘nowt taken out’. I don’t object to adding a little spice, now and then, but I can’t live on nothing but hot curry, and variety itself is said to be the spice of life. I’m also prepared to accept that for those with self-raising problems a little blue chemical additive might be justified, but I’d prefer not to have added flavourings, and I’d rather the wholemeal approach would come back into fashion, so that hair would be left where it grows naturally. It might be a little bit of hypocritical sophistry, but I’m in favour of the additive of a little contraception, adjusted to taste.

When it comes to being ‘natural’ we might learn from the Bonobos, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. They are relaxed about sex and it seems to make them happy, but men might not like to know that they are a female dominated species.

The distinction between pornography and erotica ought to be that pornography encourages people selfishly to gratify their own desires, whilst erotica persuades people to share: giving pleasure to others, which is socially constructive; if you sweep away moral judgements based on paternity, property, materialism, ownership and jealousy. If men did what women wanted, they might just find that, as the ‘inferior’ gender, they’d be a lot happier. Just like male Bonobos.

I suspect that EL James does not write, by this distinction, pornography. I’d like to imagine she might the Jane the Baptist of progress in the evolution of human civilisation. We need high quality erotica, in all fields of the arts, although I’m not sure what erotic music would sound like. So it’s good that we can’t pretend that women are exactly how men would like to imagine them, and it’s time that publishers began to take erotic writing seriously as a valid literary form.