Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Discarded Preface

There have always been people who have never quite been able to get over the outrage of sex. That men should want to do what they do to women -- which is, in the best of cases, an invasive penetration of another's bodily integrity intended it induce a wild excitement that might easily be mistaken for agony -- that women should consent to let it be done to
them, that they might even want it, indeed, more than they want anything else in the world -- there are many worldviews with which this tableau does not square easily, one of the most prominent of which happens to be the dominant Western spiritual tradition. The early Christians expected Christ to appear again in their lifetime; in the meantime they aspired
to remain, in emulation of their spiritual ideal, perfectly chaste.

Eventually those millenarian hopes faded, and the curious sect of Jews who believed the Messiah had come in their lifetime and would come again to redeem all mankind, made a rather successful transition to a new strategy of propagation of their numbers. But the concession made to the necessity of marriage was always a grudging one -- it was the thing you
had to do if you just couldn't manage the true ideal of chastity -- and the original contempt and hostility toward the body and its desires has never entirely been effaced from the way we regard sex. It flares up at different times and different places to bedevil us all.

In every age, even one as, by turns, "healthily sex-positive," and grossly licentious as our own -- from a certain viewpoint especially our own -- there's a temperament that still struggles with the conundrum of sex. The loftiness, vehemence, and idealism of youth can easily find themselves provoked by it, and provoked to a rage by the spectacle of a whole people freely rutting and flaunting it before world. When we try to peer into the menaced psychology of the Muslim youth that murder themselves in order to murder Americans, the dutifully right thinking in our number catalog the political grievances they hold against us, (American troops in the land of the three holy places, etc.) but the rest of us can't help but thinking -- and sometimes we'll even say it on our irreverent talk shows, and at our irreverent dinner parties, with the same cynical bluntness that we feel it -- those dudes just need to get laid.

And the thing to realize about this -- the dialectical balancing act that must be performed -- is that, of course, on this score, anyway, we're right about them, and they're right about us. They're right about us because it's true when they say that we love life and they love only death; and it's true when they say we find it impossible to conceive of an order of values other than our own grossly materialistic and hedonistic one. They're so desperate to prove otherwise that they're ready to kill and die, violating every stricture of decency and morality that they purport uphold, and we're right about them, because hey -- those dudes just need to get laid.Because once that happens they'll be just like us -- the eventuality they are willing to kill and die to prevent -- and then they'll see. They'll see that it's not so bad, that sex is a part of life and part of the freedom of being a grownup is to have it, though it comes with perplexities and difficulties, it's a thing that men and women have always wanted to do, and always will want to do, and it's no occasion for the apocalypse.

All of which brings me, by apparently circuitous means, to the subject of Otto Weininger. Stay tuned!

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