Monday, March 10, 2008

The MOST DIVISIVE ISSUE:
SEXUALITY, and the FALL from GRACE

A recent diary on the Democratic political blog Daily Kos regarding New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace by patronizing an escort/prostitute raised some questions regarding which I have mixed feelings. Oh, yes, I am a heteromale -- although I like to think of myself as a 'sensitive New Age kinda guy,'I do have a Y Chromosome, which may make a difference in my considerations.

Beyond pretty much any other issue, I think that the issue of sexuality is one of the most divisive that there is. One that is, I suspect, insolvable at the core. The social and emotional components of our expectations seem to have little to do with the biological drives, and appear to be just a rough cultural overlay as to how the biological exchange occurs. Those might synch up with some recent (possibly biological) evolutionary tendencies toward "altruistic" or cooperative behaviours, but although these ethics are highly emotionally charged, I see little historical evidence that they have mastered our biological imperatives.

Simple animal facts: most males of most species are larger and stronger, enabling them more often to get their way against the smaller and weaker, including both women, and competing males. Females in most species give off some "signals" (often pheromones, maybe even in humanity) from time to time. Males become excited, and seek activities that result in the release of that excitement.

Necessary biological side effect: reproduction. Pregnant females, and females with dependent offspring, are more vulnerable and need security, i.e., the provision of defense against predators, shelter, and sufficient nutrition. Various strategies develop to keep a person or group - usually male - around who can provide for those needs,including providing further sexual gratification.

Have I missed anything?

What do men biologically want of women? The pleasure of release of the stimulation. (Other gratifying add-on niceties are appreciated, too.) Is this "objectification" and "dehumanization?" Does this make our intrinsic biology evil? Or, is evil something that can only be determined from a cultural perspective?

So: we seem to have reached a state of cultural evolution where we (or at least, we "Liberals") believe in an intrinsic worth of (most) individuals, and that exchanges between people should be as non-coercive as possible, relatively respectful, and "fair") and I'm not about to try to define that last element at this time!). The rules of these exchanges are heavily indoctrinated, are encoded in both overt and covert contracts, and reinforced by various levels of punishment for transgression. But often, as to the levy of consequences... "it depends on what your definition of is, is." Patriarchy and power mostly still hold sway. To deny that is, I think, to deny reality.

But I see two basic problems regarding sexual exchange and the respect for individual and group sexual human rights: first, "One Rule" does not rule them all. Even in one nation, there are micro-conflicts of culture. If all parties are consenting to some sort of exchange, is it legitimate? How many removed from being "hurt" (and I am right now not talking about physical harm; let's just consider emotional, social, or financial repercussions) is the boundary between a legitimate and an illegitimate exchange? Hurt your spouse and our children: one level. Embarrass your relatives, your neighborhood? A community who may or may not know anything about you but for "what I read in the papers?" The national and international stage?

There may be impediments to some people obtaining gratification: if you can't effectively compete, are you required to accept self-stimulation as the only legitimate outlet? Some people have higher or lower sex drives; are they permitted only a certain number of sexual acts with certain valorized partners? Is monogamy all that is allowable? Is "Free Love" just a fevered hippie pipe dream? What about consenting expressions of perversity?

I think it is clear that we must consider enslavement, and coercion by physical, mental, and emotional abuse, and other non-consensual acts as illegitimate, condemnatory, and enforceably illegal. But what about unpopular or marginal choices? Should a consenting adult be allowed to participate in activities frowned upon by the majority's morality, to engage in risky behaviours, or make unpopular choices? Can a woman legitimately make a choice to participate in sexual exchanges for financial remuneration (for the financial medium grants one power in our civilization)?

Because of the history and structure of our (patriarchal) cultures, do women have authentic freedom to make such choices? Hmm, escort service at $5000.- an hour, turn X number of tricks, invest in that stock portfolio, get out of the biz in Y number of years, vs., work at a (perhaps) thankless public school teaching position for $45,000.- a year gross, minus inflation and rising property taxes?

How much truth is found in stereotypic statements like these?

"I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire." -- Robin Morgan, MS. Magazine Editor
"Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women's bodies... Rape is the primary heterosexual model for sexual relating. Rape is the primary emblem of romantic love. Rape is the means by which a woman is initiated into her womanhood as it is defined by men. ... Rape, then, is the logical consequence of a system of definitions of what is normative. Rape is no excess, no aberration, no accident, no mistake -- it embodies sexuality as the culture defines it." --
Andrea Dworkin
"No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." -- Simone de Beauvoir, author of "The Second Sex"
"Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession... The choice to serve and be protected and plan towards being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn't be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that." - Vivian Gornick, author, University of Illinois

Some scholars have suggested that "Romantic Love," and presumably, "hot" sexuality, is a historical aberration, and that most unions -- even the "consensual" ones -- should be viewed as practical affairs. To share resources, and to allocate role-duties (of which men have traditionally gotten the lion's share).

I certainly know women who seem to genuinely enjoy their sexuality; should our values be concerned with establishing above-board contracts, spelling out expectations? or is that cold, callous, and objectifying? How should we ponder sexuality: focus on the pleasure, or the serious responsibility? How obtainable are the idealistic notions? What if the spouses "turn a blind eye" to affairs, because other than in the bedroom, they've "got it made?" Are these all dupes who are disempowering themselves?

Various pundits have noted that the rich and powerful, the celebrities and the politicians, are 'not like us.' No, they are just like us. This biological conflict is at the root of our humanity.

Actions have consequences, no matter how some try to minimize them, ignore them, or spin them. Those consequences may be of a greater, or lesser, degree. They may precipitate chain reactions that may range from annoying to disastrous. It would be nice to have hard and fast answers, like some
religions believe were enunciated by a Supreme Personality, writ in fire, or graven in stone. How pleasantly simple! But few of us Liberal-types live comfortably in that world.

I have tried to couch this diary with questions and qualifiers; I don't know what the Truth is, nor do I want to promote here any position other than non-coercion and respect. But sexual self-expression and the circumstances thereof so often colours our political perspective, that I think we should ponder this well.




2 Comments:

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Amazin said...

All valid points, however missing one. Through his position of power he has prosecuted and made examples of men doing as he did. Shame on him. Or isn't that what he really wants. Shame.
Do as I say not as I do? I think not, he has deep seated issues. Quite possibly the bad little boy syndrome.
He ran on a platform of Ethics. We believed it was toward, in truth it was from.
I feel for his daughters. Their mother should protect them and remove herself and their daughters from the public eye. They were removed from his.

Greetings from a woman who genuinely enjoys the state of the "Intimate" union. Amazin

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Roger Green said...

Interesting.
One of these days, I need to write about the fact that Eliot Spitzer didn't fall because of sex. The piece I wrote in my blog, Dead Man Walking, written before he said he would resign, spoke to the political reality of his hypocrisy, and that the sex was only the mechanism .

 

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