I love New York City, the place of my birth and where I choose to call home. It is totally crazy, totally not like where you live, but who wants to live where you live? really LOL! I have lived here for most of my life and I can tell you I still haven't fully explored this City. With this in mind, please note that doors will be opened and welcome mats laid out all over the city this weekend (October 9 and 10) during Open House New York, highlighting many historic locations that are closed to the public for most of the year. Go to the Open House website for more information or pick up one of their guides (click here).
* * *
-=[ Sex Wars ]=-
Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
-- Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn
The erotic impulse should be the basis for a joyous dance between the sexes, a filter through which we could better with each other, a vehicle through which can understand the masculine and feminine essence within each of us. It could and should be an opportunity to experience a little of that which we are not, an honoring of differences; a way of seeing the world through the other side of the gender looking glass.
Instead, our erotic experiences are more like a war -- a battle in the sexual marketplace. Heterosexually speaking, we’re often reduced to men trying to get sex from women and women resenting the male preoccupation with sex. What happens is a lot of anger: Men angry that women have sex and won’t give it to them and women angry that men try to take something from them through sex.
I look at the sexual landscape and it seems to me we’re all embroiled in an elaborate sexual power game, both blatant and on the DL. Sex pioneer Wilhelm Reich pointed out long ago that sex becomes a commodity, whose value is exaggerated by a created and artificial scarcity. As it happens with all commodities, the basic question becomes who gets what from whom and at what price. Sex, in this context, becomes a basis for the exchange of money, financial security, attention, personal favors, and most of all, the illusion of affection. This illusion becomes even more pronounced in the cyber arena. I know of some individuals who act out sexually solely via cyber space.
If that isn’t whoring, then I don’t know what is… Welcome to the Thunderdome. Instead of love and appreciation -- instead of an exquisite dance of love and mystery -- we too often experience the erotic as an field of manipulation. And we’re left feeling a profound emptiness from which springs the anger, resentment, confusion, and tears -- all of which we then blame on the erotic impulse, as if it were to blame.
A great deal of this sexual confusion and pain comes from the fundamentally different ways men and women are socially conditioned when it comes to sexuality. The erotic training of boys is so radically different from that of girls that we might as well have been raised in entirely different cultures. In fact, it would probably more helpful to think the sexual wars in just those terms. If we were to come together with a curiosity to learn about each other’s customs, we might be able to begin to perceive, without blame and judgment, our different perspectives on Eros (the sexual impulse). It would be like one person saying, “Among my people, sex is generally a prelude to intimacy, a way of making one emotionally vulnerable.” Another person could respond, "Really? Among my people it’s the opposite -- emotional intimacy is required before a person would feel safe enough to allow this vulnerability of being sexual.”
No need to make one right, the other wrong. No need to laugh at or resent our differences.
Almost from birth, adults relate to boys’ bodies differently than they do girls’. Boys are held less, fondled less, and allowed to cry longer before being answered with touch. Later, they learn not to be sensual because sensuality is framed as feminine, and there is a masculine identity to be forged in which rejecting the dominant figure of the mother plays a big part. Boys are taught that it is not cool to want to be held and comforted, not cool to want to be softly stroked. What is cool, even necessary, is to want sex. The entire urge for touch, comfort, care, gentleness, and intimacy is reduced into the single outlet of sex.
At the same time, girls are taught that sex is their enemy. Sex is a monster, a male beast, and it is the task of the female to tame the beast. Sex contains the danger of pregnancy, and also the danger of destroying one’s status among the society of “good girls.” Sex as pleasure is only permitted if it’s essentially an expression of love for a partner, but sex for its own sake -- lust, desire -- is unfeminine.
So here we are thrown together in this mess. The boys, and later men, try to get all of what they have condensed into sex from the girls and women, who have reduced sexual desire to a romantic detail. Ultimately, the men are left feeling rejected and angry; the women feel pressured, objectified, and angry.
We all bleed.
Sadly, the first casualty in this war is the pure nature of the erotic dance. Lost, along with all of its potential for magic, healing, pleasure, intimacy, and fulfillment.
We need to take back our erotic impulse and begin looking honestly at the different perspectives on eroticism. We need to explore how desire is aroused differently in men and women. We need to take stock of the consequences of teaching men to pursue sex at all costs, while at the same time teaching women to be afraid of sex. Perhaps we can begin by looking at the basic childhood experiences of boys and girls. For example, how does the fear of being subsumed by a dominant mother, versus the fear of being abandoned by an emotionally absent father, affect desire in men and women later life?
While male and female perspectives on erotic desire and sexual union differ greatly, we can still share a deep appreciation for the depth and wonder of human sexuality that transcends the imposed social limits of gender.
PS: Sex is good for you.