Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sexual Repression

¡Hola! Everybody…
I’m very busy today and am feeling under the weather. I haven’t slept in over a month, believe it or not. Today, I received my new mattress. I decided that rather than going away for a vacation, I would invest in a top-of-the-line mattress instead. Hopefully, it will save my back and my what little sanity I can claim (by helping me sleep).

Women are welcome to test drive the new mattress.

Today I’m offering a repost.

* * *

The Religious Suppression of Sex

“It is better to be unfaithful than to be faithful without wanting to be.”
-- Brigitte Bardot (1934–)
French star who portrayed sexy, sensual women.

Not long ago, I was having dinner with a close friend. I have found myself distancing myself from my two closest friends, and by chance I ran into one of them and we had dinner. The more we spoke, the more I realized, with the exception of one very important issue, we share very little in common. He has recently gotten into “scripture” and it seems that our rift grows the more he reads. LOL

In any case, he asked me if there were any women in my life and we got into the eternal single guy conversation regarding women. In the span of around thirty minutes, I realized how far apart we are on issues I value very highly. As usual, he thinks my idea that men and women can be friends is wrong-headed. He almost started to use “scripture” as a way of backing this crap up, until I shot him my patented “I-will-tear-your-ass-up-with-cruel-unrelenting-logic-if-you-go-there” look. Actually, he’s convinced it’s effeminate (“homo” was the exact phrase he used) for a man to aspire to such a thing.

The conversation turned to my love life (or lack thereof) when he asked me about a woman I had been seeing briefly. As I related my story of distancing myself because the woman in question is looking for a serious relationship, he asked me, “Well, did you – you know?” I realized he was asking me if we had had sex, and I told him no because I know this particular woman would not have sex unless it was a serious relationship. His response really got to me: “Well, that’s the kind of woman you’re supposed to have relationships with!”


I became somewhat confused as my mind tries to wrap itself around so Neanderthal a view, when I remember who I’m speaking to: a man who revered his ex-wife, but fucked women he considered less than worthy – sluts, ho’s, whatever. And you know what? His thinking, fucked up as it is, is not that different from many men. We want to marry the “good” girls (those who aren’t “easy,” or won’t “put out”), but when it comes to fucking, we want to fuck the “bad” girls. Ahhhh… the wonderful world of sex: mens’ freedom, womens’ love and never the twain shall meet?

I find this form of thinking so wrong-headed it’s hard for me to know where to begin. One good place to start, however, is looking into how our conditioning about sex (at least here in Western world), came about.

Why? Because, though I know the fence needs fixing, I think philosophy is more important right now . Secondly, exploring deeply held assumptions (and we all are culturally conditioned to varying degrees), allows us to begin envisioning more the skillful ways we can relate to one another. Otherwise, don’t complain when he fucks the tramp.

::blank stare::

The history of Christianity’s response to eroticism is like a microcosm of the evolution of Western culture from a sex-affirming attitude, to a sex-negative one. We live immersed in a culture at the same time obsessed and ill at-ease with eroticism, sensuality, passion, and pleasure.

Dualism: The Shame That Binds Us

Let’s go back to about six hundred years before Christ, where we find the earliest images of Eros. These images reveal the Greek God of Love as irrational, uncontrollable, mad, and foolish. Our Greco-Roman foundations adopted a dualistic worldview of constant conflict, with the soul and mind cast as the protagonist seeking to escape the prison of the flesh. This perspective sees the flesh as the source of evil. In Plato’s Utopia, he claims that the world would be better off if all sexual pleasures were starved. His utopia – his ideal society – forbids all sexual relations that are nonprocreative. A society of breeders, as a friend calls fucking just to have babies.

Socrates and Plato viewed all forms of physical expression of sexuality as inferior to abstinence simply because they involve the body. It is interesting to note that though they tolerated homosexual and extramarital heterosexual relations, they agreed that any sexual activity was harmful to the soul. According to Socrates, it takes a year, “to recover from the scorpion’s bite.” (LMAO!!! Too fuckin’ funny!)

Fast forward to three centuries after Jesus, and you find Plotinus popularizing this very view among early Christians. Platonism deeply informs much of St. Augustine’s views of sex ,and through him, most of Christian thought down to the present day.

Early Influences: The Stoics and Gnostics

Stoicism, the dominant philosophy of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian movement, endorsed this same from of Platonic dualism. Seneca the Younger, a contemporary of Jesus and tutor to emperors, was the preeminent Stoic philosopher. His advice? “Do nothing for the sake of pleasure.” “Sexual desire,” he warned, “is friendship gone mad.” (Are we seeing the roots to modern ideas of friendships between the sexes?) “It is also shameful to love one’s own wife immodestly… Nothing is more depraved than to love one’s spouse as if she were an adulteress.” Centuries later, St. Jerome repeated this very same Stoic sensibility: “Anyone who has passionate a love of his wife is an adulterer.” In 1988, in front of a public audience, Pope John Paul II again endorsed this stoic point of view, testifying to its hold on Christian sexual values.

The Stoics believed the ecstasy of sex was dangerous, hard to control, and detrimental to men’s health. Sex was a soulful burden needing purging before it could rise to the divine. Centuries later, Catholics would wage bloody battles to enforce celibacy on the clergy.

Another contemporary of Jesus highly admired by Christians, Musonius Rufus, maintained that “men who are… not immoral are bound to consider sexual intercourse [morally] justified only when it occurs… for the purpose of begetting children.” The essential Christian belief that procreation is the natural purpose of sex and that contraception is unnatural comes from the Platonic and Stoic philosophers. Christian moralists cannot even claim the missionary position, for it was the 2nd century Stoic Artemidorus who claimed that male-superior, face-to-face sexual intercourse was the only morally acceptable position.

If you think the Stoics were a bunch of wet blankets, then you will love the Gnostics. The deeply pessimistic Gnostic worldview probably originated in Persia shortly before the birth of Christ. These guys stressed the worthlessness and baseness of all things! To the Gnostics, the body was a “corpse with senses, the grave you carry around with you.” Demons created this world. The soul is a spark of light from another world captured by demonic powers. This kind of degradation of the body was unknown in the Greco-Roman Christian world before the coming of the Gnostics.

The Gnostics are relevant in that they attempted to synthesize a blend of pagan and Christian values. They interpreted the Christian faith as a special kind of knowledge, gnosis, which the soul/ mind can use to transcend this earth and rise to the heavens. What is interesting is the Gnostics, like the Stoics before them, wavered between extreme sexual deprivation and hedonistic behavior, both motivated by their contempt for the body. Much like the conservative hypocrites of today.

When in the early 4th century Constantine made Christianity the official state religion, outlawing pagan religions in the process, the emphasis on competing with other religions was shifted to sexual abstinence. Sexual abstinence and celibacy became the centerpieces of Christian moral life. Another wave of Gnostic influence, lasting about 100 years, ensued. By this time, you find Manichaeus stating that sexual abstinence was required of true believers. Some churches influenced by Manichaean thought even went so far as to only baptize virgins.

The triumph of anti sex values actually came about from a political movement that backfired. Jesus had included women among his immediate disciples, women who left home and openly traveled with him. This was an affront to the customs of the day and did not sit well with the church leaders who followed the apostles. One scholar, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, suggests that as males tried to reassert male rule, the women rebelled with the only weapon they had – withholding sex (as Prince says, “pussy control!”). This religious war of the sexes ended, Fiorenza believes, with a victory for the male celibates, who used sexual abstinence as a weapon by framing women as dangerous seductresses.

Fast forward to today and my friend’s views and one can better see how gender sex roles are still firmly embedded in this cultural mindset. This cultural mindset has several dire consequences, the least of which is the debasement and destruction of sexual freedom, but that is a discussion for another post.



1 comment:

  1. Wow, fantastic weblog format! How long have you ever been blogging
    for? you made blogging look easy. The whole look of
    your website is wonderful, let alone the content material!

    Feel free to visit my web blog chat sites for adults


What say you?


[un]Common Sense