Thursday, January 08, 2009

Addressing The "Why?" Part I

One of the side-effects of the recent election (and especially the Proposition 8 mess in California) is that we're getting a lot of post-mortem analysis asking "Why?" Why do the neo-cons so vehemently oppose gay marriage? For that matter, why are they so dead-set against sexual freedom in general? For example, from L'Hote:

(the essay is short and worth quoting in its entirety)

Thursday, December 11, 2008
the hot stress injection

I think the idea that social or cultural conservatives are generally people who are afraid of sex is little more than a gross caricature. As I've tried to demonstrate, I equally think a lot of self-professed "sexually liberated" people are, in fact, the ones most likely to feel actual fear for sex, because their attempts to make sex mundane are usually about removing the danger, immediacy and emotionality of sex-- that is, the things that make sex so special in the first place. When I hear someone talking about a naked party, sometimes, they may just think that's a way to have a good time, although frankly I think the average naked human, even a particularly attractive one, isn't something you'd like to look at in most social contexts. Very often, though, I think people who are interested in naked parties or the like are people who are paradoxically terrified of sex. They're attempting to de-eroticize shared nakedness. That's not liberating sex from anything, it's robbing sex of its power.

I do think, however, that conservatives allow general unease and fear about sex to carry a lot of rhetorical water for them. It seems to me that often enough, conservatives can just sort of invoke sexual ephemera and conjure emotional reactions, out of proportion with what they've actually proved logically. We're evolutionarily and culturally cued to react to invocations of sex, and I wouldn't want to change that. But I think conservatives, when agitating against this or that current sexual practice, use that general sense of heightened emotionality or stress to rhetorical advantage in a way that doesn't actually benefit the conversation.

I'm not quite accusing James Polous of doing this here. My assumption is just that James is hearkening to previous posts where he's already laid the groundwork of why bisexuality is bad. James certainly isn't one to not do the necessary intellectual homework. But I would have appreciated a link to get at his actual arguments, here. Invoking the painfully obvious does us little good. James has a pretty strong case for the origins of bisexual affect, although I can't accept it on the grounds that I don't believe in one person or another judging the internal sexual and emotional content of another. More to the point, though, that doesn't get us anywhere about why this is all to our detriment as a society.

Of note here is probably my philosophical stance that the best, most humane and liberating framework for understanding human sexuality is to think in terms of sexual behaviors and not sexual orientations.

Update: Just about everyone in comments, or near enough, is telling my I'm a moron for this post. I don't know, I think I'm on to something here. Look I'm not saying "don't go to naked parties, it's immoral." I'm saying "I won't go to a naked party, because I don't think the people involved are accomplishing what they think they're accomplishing; and anyway, I want to keep shared nudity for sex, because I value sex."

The emphases are mine. While I appreciate the effort to come up with an explanation, I have to confess the analysis is off the mark, IMHO.

In the first place, while I'm speaking only anecdotally, I've found that the people whom I've encountered that Freddie DeBoer calls "self-professed sexually liberated" are not afraid of sex at all. If they ARE afraid, they're doing a damn good job of hiding it. Rather, these people, (and again, I admit I'm speaking only anecdotally, and only from personal experience) want to get over or have gotten over their fear of sex and instead treat sex as a mundane thing precisely because that's what it is, at least in their eyes. It must be stressed that being mundane makes sex no less important or significant than would be the mundanaeity of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Rather, in my opinion these people have in fact overcome their fear of sex, and are thus empowered. Rather than having the value of sex removed, they've had the SHOCK value removed.

Consider this website, one of my favorites, by NY photographer Jordan Matter

While he does all sorts of photography, Mr. Matter's main appeal, at least to me, is of all the nude and topless women he photographs in the streets of New York City.

For example:

Aren't all these women treating nudity as something mundane? Aren't they all therefore removing its shock value?

And aren't they all sexy as hell?

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think sex is powerful because it's dangerous, immediate, or emotional. It's powerful because it's SEX. It's one of the most basic, fundamental drives in nature. Its power is inherent. Sex doesn't need to be dangerous to be valuable. In fact, IMHO it's the element of danger that keeps people from enjoying its value as much as they might.

And that's what the Holy Terrors are fighting against. I do agree with Mr. DeBoer that the Holy Terrors and their whores in the government are exploiting that fear, but before we can address the "why" we should also consider the "how."

I just disagree with Mr. DeBoer's assertion that removing (or attempting to remove) the fear element leads to a bad result; that sex is "rob(bed) of its power."

On the contrary. Removing the fear element makes it more fun and alluring. In fact, Mr. DeBoer's position admits that in his eyes, the Holy Terrors have a case for treating sex as a bad thing. He admits the element of fear is great; so great in fact, that attempts to remove that element are counter-productive.

I take a different tack.

More later.

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