I've spent a couple of days thinking about love, and sex, my country and how we seem to think about and act about these things, having started off with the post I wrote about the bizarre attitude the GOP seems to have taken towards the whole business of sex as it plays out in the politics of birth control.
We seem to have a very, very hard time with all of this. And I'm not sure why; it all seems pretty straightforward to me.
Let's look first at the physics of this stuff.On the one hand we have feelings, our emotions; love, tenderness, caring, the affection that we feel for another person. Although we think of them as the adjunct of sexual love - more of which in a bit - these aren't exclusive to adult lovers; we feel them for our children, our parents, sometimes our friends, occasionally (and frighteningly, perhaps) for people we barely know - the obsessed fan believes he or she truly "loves" the object of the obsession, and how can you possibly draw a bright line between that love and another, when all are the product of our own emotions?On the other we have physical desire, lust, the wanting for and need of bodily intimacy. That is - hopefully - both a mutual attraction as well as between adults of the age of consent (unfortunately it's often not) and is one of the most powerful of human inclinations. One of the main reasons I consider the mainstream religious and political hissy about sex as completely moronic along with irritatingly useless is that trying to harness something that has wrecked lives and destroyed great nations by simpering "Oh...but thou shalt not..!" is like trying to sop up a typhoon with a fucking tampon.The West, the Christian West, anyway, has tried since Rome to consciously bind these two - love and sex - together, and then put a bird on it by neatly wrapping them both up with marriage.
Now I've been married twice. And I can tell you that in my experience when a marriage is good it is a wonderful thing.But all sorts of things make a marriage good. And - while sex is a part of them - you can have good times in a marriage when the sex isn't great. And while love is part of them, too, you can have incredible sex during times then the marriage isn't doing so well with the Love Connection.
Sadly I can report that when both of them go to hell there is no hell quite like it.
But for all that we usually take the Love-Sex-Marriage Axis seriously, I'm not so sure that we're doing ourselves a favor trying to wrap the heavy machinery of sex in the pretty shiny paper of love and marriage.Or...no, wait. Let me come at this another way.Love.
Love is an emotion that we can feel for many people, in many different ways, even for places, and things. Love is infinitely adaptable; I can love my children in something of the same way that I love my wife, and I can love her in something of the same way that I love my friends Brent and Julie, say, or my friend Lisa even though Lisa and I have never stood face-to-face, and I've known my wife as intimately physically as a man can know a woman.So love is a sort of universal solvent for human interaction.
Well, there's a lot of reasons for marriage and when you come right down to it, almost none of them have anything to do with love.
Or sex, for that matter.
Really. Think about it.Does a scrap of paper, or a birdshot spray of words from some prelate, mean that I love my bride more, or less, or differently? Does it place a physical impediment, or remove some real barrier to our making love? Will our sex be better, or worse, or different, because we're swiving in socially accepted approval, humping to the applause of Church and State?
Marriage is a property transaction, frankly, a social and legal convenience. It's about inheritance and bastardyand the lust directly involved is the tumescence of litigation that inspires lust in attorneys.
Marriage is something we've made sentimental and tried to tie into love and sex, but its fundamental purpose is purely to confine all that messy love and sloppy lust in a nice fenced social, economic, and legal corral that the prelates and politicians can feel good about.
I like being married only because of the promise it implies; Western marriage is worth a moment's consideration only in what it requires of the parties - a promise of fidelity, of emotional and physical exclusivity.Now that's a lovely idea, and a lovely promise.
But let's be honest with ourselves; how many humans can make that promise with confidence that they will mean it a year, five years, ten years from now? How many of us live up to that promise? How many of us try and fail?
How many don't really try?
My personal belief is that the real infidelity is not of the body but of the mind and soul; if you can't or don't intend to be monogamous - don't be. Don't say the words. Don't make that promise. If he or she takes you on those terms? Fine.
The lying is what makes the sin. To me. Breaking your word.
What you do with your body afterwards is just an insult.
But...back to love and sex.So. I think a big part of our troubles come from trying to tie a big pink bow around all this entropy of love on the one hand and wild rumpus of sex on the other.
We're trying to mate together water and fire; the ocean of love with the burning fire of lust, trying to convince ourselves and, in particular, our kids, that the water and fire are really one, that love and desire are Janus-faced, and that they always will arrive and depart together.
And I think this is a huge, enormous, monstrous mistake, and one that has produced more problems for us humans than sweet malt beverages and bad pop music combined.Not because people should have sex without loving and caring for each other, or that love must go with love-making.But because our bodies and minds, dirty things that they are, will produce all sorts of lascivious and lusty feelings for other people regardless of who those people are, how well those people would be for us, whether or not we should be making the sign of the two-humped whale with them.
If you convince people that if they desire someone there must be love - real love, committed love, deep, intense, long-term love - around somewhere you're going to end up with a LOT of people who mistake their groinical itches for emotional attachment and the fulfillment of their genital desires with enduring love. Because you've told them that it MUST be love because it feels so good...And...just my personal opinion you also do sex a disservice when you chokehold it to love.
Physical congress is a chancy thing. It is wildly dependent on moods, health, rest and vigor, settings, and more than anything on an interplay of communications, experience, and sensitivity.You may love someone desperately and be utterly incapable of making love to them adequately.
And that failure - sadly - is often taken not for what it is; a bad night's rest, an upset stomach, the clumsiness of ignorance, the haste of youthful excitement, but for a failure of love. A mismatch in emotion. You wouldn't be such a bad lover if you really loved me..!Let me confess; when I was in my twenties I had a lover who was a woman who knew her own wants, knew something of young men, and was unafraid to patiently explain what pleased her to a young man whose knowledge of the female body pretty much stopped at "Tits!"
And then later in life I married - and am still married to - another woman who had the rare gift of understanding love as a gift, as a blessing, as a union while understanding that sex is a craft, a delicately brutal dance, a thing at once maddened, and delicate, and perhaps the most importantly, unlike love in that it can and sometimes often needs to be looked on as any other physical skill that can be bettered with practice, coaching, and communication.But I know that many, many people never get this luck. Like ignorant armies, we wrestle and gasp in the dark, and from our misfortunate collisions draw out emotional heartache we don't deserve.
Because sexual intimacy can be, should be a delight, a gift, a benediction. To reduce it to mere friction, to the bullish satisfaction of immediate needs, is to give away the gift. Because when I enjoy my beloved's body, when I immerse myself in all of the intimate scents, sounds, tastes, and textures of her, I find within them with a closer knowledge of her, a sweeter tenderness for her.
Sensual thing I am, the physical closeness to her brings me unending delights, delights I want like cool water and a warm bed at night.
I want to sit up in the pale morning light beside my lover and watch the shadows cross her hair as she sleeps and throw the intricate angles of her chin and point of shoulder into a Dürer chiaroscuro.
I want to share coffee and crullers and the morning paper and then kiss the pastry crumbs off her breasts.I want to laugh as she does a silly dance dressed only in her woolly socks.
I want to linger over her wrist kissing, feeling the heat of her body, her pulse through my lips, inhaling the scent of her warm flesh, watching her blue life move beneath the skin.
I want to listen to her explain hemstitching to me as I contemplate the deft workings of her ankle.
I want the feel the soft weight of her when she drapes herself over my shoulders and feel her warm breath on the back of my neck in that way that makes me shiver, thinking of the pressure of her hips against mine, of the way she gasps when I kiss her in that gentle crease between the top of her thigh and the swell of her belly, of the dark moist warmth of the back of her hair when we lie together after making love.Because in those moments, as close as we can be in our minds, and hearts, in the complex strands of the web we weave with our bodies we bind ourselves together in ways that the voices and eyes and minds and hearts cannot.Update 3/11: Here's Erick Loomis with a bit of late Victorian sexual curiosity; the history of the vibrator.
I can't say I agree with all of his connections between Victorian "morality" and the sudden recent outbreak of "OMFG-wimmens-are-sexing-without permission!" in the election debate, but the general concept that certain (types of) people want to banish the notion that women enjoy the physical aspects of sex and both desire and should get orgasmic fulfillment as a socially acceptable starting point seems a reasonable conclusion.