Thursday, September 11, 2008
Sex, Death, and Faberge Eggs
Not to laugh, not to lament, not to curse, but to understand.
Imagine a genuinely omniscient God who came into existence just long enough to create a top-ten list entitled "Things Human Beings Have Irreparably Botched." There are many, many candidates for top honors, but this God (being omniscient and all) would surely place at the top of this list the twin disasters of sex and death; especially if He turned out to be a She. And She would be right.
Have a seat, let me explain.
Thus finishing his grand Survey,
Disgusted Strephon stole away
Repeating in his amorous Fits,
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!
First, and it (shockingly) bears repeating: People Are Animals; not corporeal angels floating in the ether along the circumference of the animal kingdom, but full-fledged participants in the near chaos of sustenance and survival that delineates the existence of any creature in possession of a mouth, stomach, and anus. We are crawling, inside and out, with millions of microscopic organisms that tend to react to us symbiotically until they don't, and then it's nothing but fever, vomiting, sloughing off of skin, liquification of organs, and tooth decay. We are even in trouble at the cellular level. Lewis Thomas points out that the mitochondria that power our cells are in a very real sense not even our own. I could go on. No, really.
Suffice it to say that we are firmly planted in the animal kingdom and that we have a terrible time accepting this fact. Why? Because animals die. All of them. You can sing in praise of the rich tapestry of life all you like, but every one of them, from Snowball II to that tiger that ate those kids, is dead; and all the rest are just waiting their turn. And if we are like them, if we ARE them, well, then we will die too.
Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.
So, what are we going to do about it? I know. What if there really was a God. Not the imaginary God from the beginning of this piece, but a real God. One who created us and is with us all the time. One who looks out for us in times of trouble (we will, for now, overlook the fact that He was there when the trouble started and didn't do anything to stop it) and who guides us when we are weak with temptation. You know the guy. And he didn't JUST create us, he created us in HIS image, and so, ipso facto, we can't be mere animals. We must somehow be different. We must be like Him; never to know the cold touch of death.
The fact that it was We who created Him is by now irrelevant. Not only that, but it seems to work. There are studies that indicate longer life spans for people who have this type of belief. So it should come as no surprise that people are reluctant to do away with their godly associations; even in the face of overwhelming logic; even though these beliefs are a type of social disease; even though the people, on some level, must know that they can't be true.
Those Jesus Freaks
Well, they're friendly but
The shit they believe
Has got their minds all shut
An' they don't even care
When the church takes a cut
Ain't it bleak when you got so much nothin'
Well, good, that takes care of that. No more death. But since we are largely unconscious animals it won't be easy. Nothing is free, we must pay; and the currency of this payment will be in the form of sin, which can only be redeemed at the one true bank. So we set about attaching this sin to even the most basic human functions; those most likely to represent our animal nature.
From the sin of Eve to the curse of Ham. From the Ten Commandments to the lunatic ravings in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. From Matthew's prohibition against impure thought to Paul's keen advice on marriage. It is all laid out before us as a virtual graph of our inevitable failure; and I am only using a single, two-thousand year old, book. Add the moral advice of such great texts as the Koran, the Talmud, the Book of Mormon, Dianetics, the various gitas and hymns, the Left Behind series, the Analects of Confucius, and Dear Abby, and we should be knee deep in self-loathing for ten thousand generations. Praise be to Allah! Or, at least, one of his friends.
Human beings are not animals, and I do not want to see sex and sexual differences treated as casually and amorally as dogs and other beasts treat them.
The most confusing, weird, wonderful, ambivalence generating, messy, creative and procreative act a human being participates in is sex and it gets tons of extra attention from the sin fetishists. There are rules for every aspect of sex, from the words we can use to describe it to the manner in which we can have it, and almost every one of them is negative. We have marinated in these rules for thousands of years and the effect has been frankly deforming. What should be obvious has been obfuscated beyond recognition.
Well, maybe that is overstating it. I mean, there are six and a half billion of us, covering this fuzzy blue planet like a virulent mold, so somebody somewhere must be doing some fucking; but, boy do they feel bad about it. I think this says a lot about the power of sex. In spite of our best efforts, here we are. I guess that hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary biology can't be swayed by two and a half thousand years of glib, fashionable, facile morality.
I asked a Burmese why women, after centuries of following their men, now walk ahead. He said there were many unexploded land mines since the war.
Women, of course and as always, get the worst of it. This can happen in the most obvious ways (genital mutilation, arranged marriage, the Lifetime network) but it is the subtle psychological distortion of their bodies, pressuring them from all angles, that interests me here. And that leads me to the Faberge Eggs.
They are everywhere. In movies: The earnest, well intentioned father telling his bright, confused daughter, in a gray-lit room on a rainy day, that her body is a precious gift only to be given to the right person at the right time. "Thanks Dad," she says, through tears of relief. In music: The ubiquitous new generation of anatomical Barbies extolling the virtues of abstinence while, ironically I guess, thrusting their crotches towards anything remotely phallic. In the news: Fathers, daughters, mothers and sons, proudly displaying their purity rings to arenas full of grinning idiots in a kind of symbolic ritual of mock incest that the participants are, presumably, completely unaware of. In their role models: Behold the new Nancy Grace, now 98% vagina-free.
Well, there is a reason that most boys, by the age of seventeen, have had more orgasms than most women, by the age of forty, will even consider having; and it isn't entirely physiological. It is largely due to the fact that women are trained to see their bodies, especially down there, as delicate, esoteric, semi-precious display items that, once despoiled, can never regain their value and purity. They end up viewing their sexual organs as museum pieces, pristine and vulnerable, suitable for viewing by only an elite audience, under special circumstances, in the right light, and not without the aid of a docent carrying a handful of pamphlets. And like most museum pieces, they end up dustily appreciated rather than enthusiastically enjoyed.
If we, as a society, had any sense, we would have government issued vibrators mailed to every girl over the age of twelve. Then she could figure it out. On her own. Well, at least at first. Then, once the cat's out of the bag, so to speak, it'd be each woman for herself. And we would be, ever so slightly, less neurotic.
But we are far from doing anything like this. And so, reasonably intelligent fathers foam at the mouth as they tell you what they'd like to do to the long haired little freaks who may be thinking about sticking it to their daughters. Nervous mothers, half remembering what they had to go through, furtively pull at their collars and hope for the best. Sons continue to jack off relentlessly while daughters rue the day that they have to look at themselves in one of those little hand held mirrors. You can almost hear Zappa singing in the background: She's just twenty-four/ And she can't get off/ A sad but typical case.
I know. I am intentionally overstating things. This doesn't apply so much today. If I had written this thirty years ago it might have been more relevant. But I was ten at the time and didn't know what a hoo-hoo was, and plus, my writing style back then was wildly affected.
Think about it, though. Don't fool yourself. This stuff is still with us, still in us; and deformities rarely just snap back into place. So take it from my friends, the Bonobo chimps: Go. Fuck. Be happy. Life is short and you've already spent half of it fretting.