A recent Newsweek cover story dealt with how sexual fetishism has become “mainstream.” The article was inspired by the erotic trilogy 50 Shades of Grey that has sparked something of a furor, at least on the internet. The Newsweek piece was read by a wider audience and it offended the tender, yet publicly strong sensibilities of two usually opposed interest groups: feminists and evangelicals. For the first group, the suggestion that the female sexual experience should be in any way submissive and even mildly masochistic struck at the core of “equality.” For the latter group, well, sex is for procreation alone and any hint of adventurous exploration of pleasure possibilities beyond the missionary position is just down-right sinful.
Eroticism has always interested me. I am a sexually active person by nature. Sex has always been an important aspect of my relationship with Jennifer. I own a DVD of Basic Instinct, a movie I enjoy, along with a half-dozen or so other erotic films in my video library. I have a small collection erotic novels and short stories as well. The Mammoth Book of New Erotica is my oldest erotic book, from 1998. But, I’ll be the first to admit that I am rarely aroused by any of the erotic literature. I find virtually all erotic fiction to be lacking, even if the characters do end up giving me ideas on innovative ways to keep the sexual spark alive. Frankly, I think I can write more exciting prose, but perhaps that’s just my tastes. I have dabbled in it a bit in private writings and someday I might give it more of a try.
Human sexual attraction is one of the most natural things in the world. It involves all sorts of uncontrollable and instinctual aspects of our humanity from pheromones to physical symmetry to just simple surrender to the whims of animal passion. Attempts by religions and various laws to regulate human sexual attraction are largely pointless and the fact that sex and pornography are so pervasive both on the internet and throughout virtually every human society tells us how integral tabooed attractions truly are to our existence as a whole. Like it or not.
The evangelical reaction can be best illustrated in comments by Rick Santorum a few weeks ago. He has infamously stated that oral contraceptives are a root cause of sexual promiscuousness. Specifically: "It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
Imagine that. I guess sex any time, any way, and any where never existed before the Pill. How naive. Silly, stupid logic that is indicative of the unfree, uninitiated, and neurotically self-possessed Christian right-wing. Still, Santorum’s comments evoked a response from none other than Mr. Playboy himself, Hugh Heffner, who bemoaned the assault upon sexual liberty.
Interestingly enough Heffner did not comment on the feminist response to the fringes of sexual liberation as revealed by Newsweek. Women seem to be conflicted over their desire for equality and their desire for certain domination role-plays or submissive sexual lifestyles. It is an interesting juxtaposition of seemingly conflicting motivations.
I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Women can certainly be treated as equals in society while acting out diverse, kinky sexual preferences. The problem comes with individual relationships and the desire for submission. And this is true of not just male-domination. There are plenty of lesbian relationships which have a dominant-submissive context.
So the problem really is confusion on the part of everyone appalled by sexual fetishism as part of our humanity. Sex is meant to be joyful, fullfilling, and inspiring. How that is attained comes in a variety of flavors, diversity being a primary strength of human evolution.
There is currently a call for female erotica. What a quandary for so many myths. The guidelines for submissions reads: "Desired themes include: Women’s sexual fantasies and experiences of all kinds, such as taboo sex acts, fantasy scenarios (real or imagined), bondage, fetish, male anal penetration (such as strap-on play), first-time experiences, light S/M, exhibitionism, power-play, voyeurism, public sex, seduction, role-play, spontaneous sex, spanking, erotic punishment, sexual surprise, emotional honesty, desire, longing, lust, passion, female fierceness, power (and power struggles), deviousness, meaning, themes that involve the Internet and technology, and sublime humor. Above all, include explicit sex."
The emphasis is strict: "sexual activity must be on the female experience; female pleasure is the main element."
This fits the evangelical perspective more so than the feminist, but in a negative way. Women always were the root of sin itself. This is a universally stirct-orthodox Christian, Judaic, and Islamic understanding. It goes without saying. So, here we have a call for women who are so liberated in their sexuality and so animalistically connected to their bodies that they want to express and explore this human urge in complete freedom. How sinful. Which, of course, is precisely the condition that makes it delicious. Thus is erotica.
In truth, however, the most progressive feminists understand that what gets women off is just as complex and sophisticated as what gets men off. Equality of sex drives and the popularization of fetishism are not the would-be symptoms of sinful decay nor are they admission that a woman's body is subservient to a man's. To the truly liberated sexuality is the basis for an Equality within which human individuals get to choose their most intimate erotic pleasure.
So it turns out Equality is perhaps most profoundly exhibited in the sexual passions of women which are strong in the play for power in sex. Women and men (doms and subs in both sexes) are most equal in their sexual needs. These seek to balance one another as do their bodies as organs of pleasure. For, truth be told, submission and domination are a precarious balance in every animal body.
Ecce Homo: Part Two
2 weeks ago