Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sex and the Authentic Self

We’re most embarrassed about that which almost all of us most want to do: we’re most secretive about our sex lives. If you could force the bureaucrats in control of state secrets—those in charge of the contents of the lower levels of Area 51, the Top Secret vaults of CIA headquarters, the volumes of the Vatican Secret Archive—to expose to the world either those earth-shaking revelations or videos of their squalid private sex acts, they would be torn, at the least, and may well prefer to topple governments by releasing the state secrets. This fear of being caught in the naughty act may have evolved from animals’ preference to find a secluded spot to swap genes, to protect themselves from predators when they’re vulnerable. Of course, animals are much more open about having sex than are people, as farmers and zookeepers and birdwatchers can attest. Animals have little capacity for shame and those that can feel embarrassment have no special fear of being observed in flagrante delicto—unless their coupling upsets their dominance hierarchy and the pair is afraid of the alpha’s wrath. Those billions of us who live in private residences need no longer fear being mauled while sexually occupied; home invaders would be more interested in robbing us, and even when we’re naked and engrossed, we can easily arm ourselves by making use of our many technological extensions (a bat, an alarm clock, a shoe, etc). And the exposure of a sex tape poses no direct physical threat to the couple.

So the terror of releasing the details of our sex lives to the public is peculiarly human. With the exceptions of exhibitionists and porn stars, we prefer to keep private that which we most prize or long for, and we have no compelling practical reason for doing so. When a celebrity sex tape is stolen and the thief threatens to publish it on the internet, the agonized celebrity can spend millions in court to prevent the undermining of his or her public image. But why, in the first place, would that image be ruined by the leaking of a sex tape? Once again, if it’s a question of the participants’ identity, as in the case of adultery, the fear would be practical: the hypocrite, for example, may have cultivated an image of righteousness or of heterosexuality, and so wouldn’t want evidence to the contrary to become widely available. But there’s also a more general, underlying ambivalence about the sex act itself. We all cultivate a public image, an ideal version of ourselves: we prefer to be thought of as people with human rights, whereas sex would have us be animals. We prefer to think of ourselves as dignified moral agents, destined for immortality, whereas our sexual lust indicates we’re cosmically insignificant and headed towards extinction like any other phase of natural concatenations. That’s the existential dread of sex which only self-proclaimed people can suffer.

Compare that dread to the surprisingly-rational fear of choking on our vomit in response to our eating the flesh of dead animals. That ignominious fate we avoid by keeping ourselves in the dark about the gruesome treatment of livestock. The very word “livestock” is Orwellian in its smoothing over of the holocaust of objectification that occurs in all pens and cages torturing pigs, chickens, and the like. “Stock” is a supply of goods, meaning things owned, and “live” indicates something that isn’t just a thing or an object. The contradiction is palpable. Were we to tour a slaughterhouse and then be offered a free meal of steak or back ribs, I expect most of us would be overcome with nausea and would have to decline the cooked remains. Our ignorance is by design so that we can enjoy eating meat. Although the pleasures of sex far exceed gustatory ones, except perhaps for gluttons, that’s also by biological design, to distract all sexual creatures from the implications of sex’s physicality: our dignity is naturally a sham and is belied by our loving sex more than our purported gods. Moreover, asexual critics needn’t be lined up to spread this unpopular word. The hiddenness of our sex acts, which even the law typically makes mandatory, demonstrates that we already know that we’re wronged by our sex instinct, that by lusting after bodies, by yearning to fondle breasts, balls, or buttocks, to taste each other’s juices and to be penetrated or stroked in ways that would constitute the severest breaches of decency in public life, we are made into objects of ridicule, reduced to clowns by natural forces so that we exacerbate the absurdity that belongs to the physical aspect of all things.

Is there, however, a way to be sexual without forfeiting our intellectual integrity, let alone our existential authenticity? After all, the aesthetic burden of sex is that it’s utterly commonplace. Sexual reproduction is biologically creative, of course, but artistically unoriginal since we’re passive in our role as baby-makers; the hormones do all the work as our puppeteers. But we are exorbitantly creative in our adapting of the sex instinct to myriad purposes that supersede the reproductive function. We’ve even invented birth control mechanisms seemingly to usurp nature’s power over us. Haven’t we, then, made sex dignified by making it non-animalistic, by incorporating it into our more elevated pursuits? Let’s explore the possibilities of existentially viable forms of sexuality.  

Pleasure and Closet Nihilism

Most conspicuously, we have sex for pleasure, not just for the bioengineering of babies. The pleasures are as diverse as our tastes and perversions, as is evident in the lists of sexual fixations aggregated in many places on the web. Virtually all things in the world, including food, uniforms, and even urine and dead bodies have been integrated into our sexual fantasies. The imagination alone is the limit of what we might find sexually attractive, which means that sexual pleasure morphs into other kinds such as the delights in deviating from conventions, in sublimating painful memories, or even just in keeping a humiliating secret in the first place. The “naughtiness of being horny” is a euphemism for when we participate in the antihuman, nihilistic undermining of civilization on behalf of the unconquerable natural kingdom. We relinquish our right to be called presidents, doctors, lawyers, teachers, carpenters, or bus drivers when we derive our deepest pleasure from forbidden sexual attachments, when our fantasies would subvert civilized norms were they consistently and fully realized instead of enacted in our sacred taboo spaces.

Is sex-for-pleasure, then, creative in an existentially viable way? Does this form of humanized sex sustain the existence of non-animalistic creatures? Are we people in so far as we pursue our sexual perversions, that is, when we carry out our non-reproductive sex acts? Although some other species, particularly pigs, dolphins, and some primates have sex for pleasure and thus deviate from the reproductive norm, humans are anomalous in the boundlessness of our sexual creativity. We do thereby become something other than animals when we mix sex with every facet of life. That doesn’t mean this sort of sex is ennobling; the question remains whether sexual pleasure is constructive or destructive. In so far as we unconsciously yearn for civilization to end so that we might satisfy our basest, most demented cravings in a chaotic free-for-all, that is, in so far as we secretly long to be in hell, sexual pleasure turns us into avatars of nature, into representatives of mechanisms and cycles that are indifferent to our survival.

Were we to universalize our sexual fantasies, we would subvert the social order in which, for example, nuns, hogtied slaves, spanked students, family relations, feces, and dogs aren’t objects of human sexual pleasure. We would become heralds of carefree natural Evolution, flowing with the tide of change unto oblivion at time’s end, making impossible the rational resistance to nature’s indifference to the life it happens to generate. Any systematic transcendence of natural processes in the form of artistic and existentially heroic artificiality would be swamped by pansexuality, by all-encompassing lusts. For example, the firemen who would show up at the doorstep of a building set ablaze would be detained by passersby who would be free to vent their longing for grimy workers in uniform, leaving the building to collapse. In Kantian terms, the contradiction between the reality of human transcendence and the fantasy of deviating by way of being solipsistically sovereignty over all is hidden by the gratuitous division between our public and private lives. Similarly, the hypocrite preserves a false sense of dignity by some such rationalization, but her hypocrisy is nevertheless apparent from an external vantage point. Whenever our sexual pleasure depends on the tantalizing prospect of civilization’s end, when the fun of sex derives from the fantasy that anything whatsoever can serve our short-sighted sexual agenda, we prepare for that apocalypse and are thereby agents of destruction.

What, then, is non-biologically created by sexual pleasure? Certainly, we spawn the thriving world of porn, but that world may be just a record of our deviance that testifies to the contradiction in question, which should only increase our cognitive dissonance. By consulting the pornographic library on the internet, we can now verify the extent of our private acknowledgment of what Freud called the discontents of civilization; we can each of us prove that we have implicitly nihilistic, antisocial cravings, that the coupling of sex with the imagination must be kept taboo or the contradiction will be expressed as the collapse of the cultured, humane social order. The problem is that our existential mission is fundamentally bleak, not gratifying. Pleasure can be a respite from war, as in the case of schadenfreude or glee from satirical humour at the enemy’s expense, but the confinement of sexual pleasure to any such utilitarian role would be far from sexy. The holy mission of sustaining transcendent, autonomous human life for the sake of preserving a respite from nature’s monstrosity is endangered by sex’s capture of the imagination, which converts X into its sexual counterpart, bringing sexual lusts to the fore in any conceivable circumstance.

Power and Performance Art

What about sex-for-power, as in rape or domination games? Rape isn’t original, let alone ethical, since rape is rampant in the animal world. Mind you, the rapist isn’t robotic in ignoring the reproductive function and in prioritizing his pleasure at the victim’s expense, but neither is rape constructive or conducive to our existential enterprise. Once again, were the urge to rape universalized, civilization would collapse. Moreover, rape is bound up with misogynistic, social Darwinian culture, according to which women crave brutish but exciting men and wish to repent for their support for feminism that’s emasculated men, making them less heroic or attractive in so far as men must pretend to be equal to women in all respects. Women are supposed to yearn to be manhandled and dominated as long as the alpha males know when to allow women their illusion of equality. The woman can be compelled to submit as long as the dominator doesn’t err in forcing her to “go full retard,” as it were. Thus, simulated rape is acceptable to this Men’s Rights movement, as is sex that looks just like rape but that supposedly includes the woman’s subconscious approval. This movement is at odds with liberalism, but it’s also as effectively destructive as conservatism itself. The hallowing of economic or social inequalities only rehashes the pecking order, the latter being impersonal nature’s mechanism for establishing stable arenas for perpetuating genetic codes.

Still, there are consensual forms of sexual power play, as in sadomasochism, hatefucking, swinging, and so on. These are forms of theater that caricature elements of social life to facilitate the players’ cathartic release. The grimy business of managing our positions in our dominance hierarchies is converted into a sexual game that reduces these relationships to their bitter essence, to the master-slave, friend-enemy, or family-stranger relation. The master dominates the slave just as the aristocrat, theocrat or capitalist rules over his or her underlings, and the slave obeys the master just as the masses bow to the whims of the upper class. Our appalling, often arbitrary and unwarranted social arrangements are thus showcased in sexual performance art pieces. The office manager can complete his inferior’s submission, without fear of violating public codes of conduct, or else can fulfill his fantasy of being abused by his underling (because the grass is always greener…), by taking up the whip or the blindfold in the sacred taboo space of a BDSM dungeon. The black colour of the leather typically worn in such performances signifies the blindness and nihilism of natural forces, which flow through the participants when they’re immersed in power relations, while the leather itself reinforces that association by bestializing the wearers. The more PC culture imposes an unnatural overlay onto the postmodern masses who aren’t entranced by the supportive liberal secular humanistic myths, the more sexual games of dominance and submission can be expected to flourish underground. When human rights must be respected in a hypersensitive workplace, whereas science itself has superseded the modern glorifications of our freedom and rationality that were meant to be the bedrocks of those rights, savvy individuals will retreat to their sacred private spaces to perform sex rituals that vent their frustrations. Naturalistic BDSM would replace more theistic or anthropocentric sex rites such as those of tantric sex.

If such games are creative, are they ennobling or degrading? Who has the last laugh, as it were, our potential for miraculous transcendence (for anomalous, anti-natural artifacts) or the impersonal flow of nature? This depends on whether the sexual performances satirize or glorify the underlying power dynamics. For example, if sex is mocked in the swinger’s party in which the swingers hook up blindfolded to exacerbate the dumbness of sex hormones and mating calculations, this sort of ritual could be compatible with our existential obligation. In short, sex is redeemed when it takes on a viable aesthetic or comedic value. But if the participants wallow in nature’s intrusions into our artificial worlds, by degrading themselves as they play out purified versions of their roles in the pecking order, they once again serve as double agents, betraying their better half for their grounding in the world that will one day annihilate everything we’ve ever stood for.

Seduction, Romance, and Ennui

Sex can also be the payoff of the art of seduction, in which case sex is eventually interpreted in an egoistic, economic context. The troubadours of the twelfth century sang songs that spread the Islamic and feminist, proto-humanistic culture surrounding the upper class fiction of courtly love, which encouraged nobles to prove their chivalry by their character and deeds, not by their bloodline and wealth. The tragically-doomed, modern individual with his or her rich inner life of often unfulfilled longings was constructed as a Shakespearian ideal that attracted a wide following. In reaction to the Catholic Church’s prudishness and patriarchy, the feminine yearning for romance, for heroic men worthy of their affections and for an emotional outlet that was often unavailable in arranged marriages fuelled the culture of courtly love that swept across Europe and fed into the wider early modern rebirth of classical humanism, of Ovid, neoplatonism, and so forth. Courtly love subverts monotheistic justice by immanentizing the eschaton, to borrow Eric Voegelin’s phrase. The emphasis was on morality, as it was in Christianity and Islam, but noble women replaced the patriarchal deity and sex here and now stood in for heaven in the afterlife. The ideal of unrequited love thus parodies the monotheistic con of delaying the reward for moral behaviour beyond the point at which the theological predictions could be confirmed with evidence sufficient to compel rational consent. The promise of heaven or hell is vindicated only after death, and so the believer must wrestle now with profound uncertainties, fearful and trembling in the shadow of the great unknown. Likewise, feelings of romantic love are futile when the man is attracted to an aloof maiden or when the call to crusade in a distant land lures away the knight. The tactics of seduction thus substitute for the requisite steps of the religious creed that are supposed to guarantee eternal happiness, since the hope that our tragedy isn’t absolute, that life isn’t fully absurd is buttressed by the availability of a lesser heaven in the form of orgasm as an award for success in the romantic quest for the beloved’s affection.

Of course, late modern seduction does away entirely with the theistic metaphor, and the art of seduction becomes an economic pseudoscience. In the Darwinian culture that predominates in the US, women are only demiurges who like to think they’re the ultimate judges of men’s worth, whereas the true God is the marketplace itself, the chain of cause and effect that results in an ordering of winners and losers who ruthlessly compete to increase their earthly utility. Men seduce women by peacocking or by otherwise exploiting evolutionary weaknesses in women’s mating strategies. Women who capitalize on their physical beauty by allowing themselves to be seduced by egotistical or sociopathic alpha males are often condemned to loneliness in middle age when their beauty fades. Meanwhile, the shunned beta males attempt to learn the techniques of “game” so that they can pretend to be the clowns that confused Western women seem to want. These are some of the fruits of individualism, of the culture that lauds the individual to the point of hypermodern solipsism, in which myths that bind collectives are anathema. Women are abandoned in a forest of male predators, while men must shame themselves in a dehumanizing mating contest that’s marked by a continual lowering of humanistic standards, as occurs in every unregulated market. And men and women are set at odds in the battle between the sexes, so that the pleasures of seduction mingle with those of the hunt. Women muse that in a progressive future, men may not be needed anymore, while men form grudges in condescension to women who select the double standards they wish to preserve. The pornographic spectacle popularizes rough sex and the “cum shot” in the woman’s face that symbolizes the victory at the hunt’s end, the execution of the prey.

In internet dating websites, technology accelerates the downward spiral, by forcing the male competitors and female demiurges to adapt to an environment comprised of machines which are already inhuman. The Tinder app perhaps occupies the nadir of this regression, since it offers only a binary choice of swiping Yes or NO, based purely on an image that displays the users’ superficial appearance. Indeed, “hookups,” a name denoting the culture that encourages casual, unemotional sexual encounters is apt for its invocation of technology—presumably the pair are imagined to latch onto each other with hooks instead of hands—since the participants are dehumanized the more they compete not just with each other in the individualistic monoculture, but with the coldhearted machines. The sex that follows from hypermodern seduction is consequently empty and meaningless and so it adds to the prevailing ennui.

Pity and Camaraderie

Finally, there’s the notion of friends-with-benefits, of a sexual relationship between friends with no monogamous commitment to each other. In this case, the “benefit” of sex is compared to a luxury in the workplace such as health insurance, vacation time, or sick leave, which employers use to attract or retain certain workers. As the government withdraws from its democratic role in sustaining a social safety net, employers are forced to take up the slack. As you might feed your pet a treat for obediently staying put while you untangle her fur, the oligarchic capitalist takes pity on the worker as she’s groomed to ascend the corporate ladder. Similarly, the sexual benefit of friendship may be pity-based. The friends would recognize that they have sexual needs and they may choose to help each other out in that respect just as they might go out of their way on occasion to pick the other up from work or to loan the other some money. The friends in question assume that the sex instinct is a handicap that can be accommodated, as opposed to nourishing the metanarrative of romance or traditional marriage. This sexual realism is potentially in line with our existential mission that persists despite the postmodern incredulity towards all grand stories.  

To see how, compare friendship-with-benefits to the hippies’ free love movement. Both reject marriage, although the reasons differ: the young men who befriend women reject marriage because they’ve been coddled by politically correct parents as they were growing up and so they’re ill-equipped to meet the responsibilities of fatherhood, or else they’re cynical about that social expectation or they prefer to game the system, exploiting the feminist principle, that women shouldn’t be owned by men, as an excuse to be able to date multiple partners; the young women reject marriage on the basis of that feminist rationale, because they want to be autonomous or predatorial like men even though they’re not biologically equal to men and so often must choose between their career and having children. By contrast, hippies were libertarians who wanted to extend the free market to sexual relationships, to free sex from government regulation. This opened the door to drug-fuelled promiscuity in the 1960s; again, the lack of central planning lowers standards from a humanist’s perspective.

In any case, while the libertarian principles behind free love express confidence in the individual’s powers, the marijuana that was part of this movement’s backdrop must have had a contrary effect. Far from inflating the ego in the manner of cocaine, cannabis has such common psychoactive effects as
a general alteration of conscious perception, euphoria, feelings of well-being, relaxation or stress reduction, increased appreciation of the arts, including humor and music (especially discerning its various components/instruments), joviality, metacognition and introspection, enhanced recollection (episodic memory), increased sensuality, increased awareness of sensation, increased libido, and creativity. Abstract or philosophical thinking, disruption of linear memory and paranoia or anxiety are also typical.
The hallucinations, euphoria, relaxation, joviality, and shared creativity reduce antagonism and foster a humbling, egalitarian vision of everyone’s equality, while the philosophical fear likewise counteracts the aggressive ambition that capitalism promotes, by humbling the users, burying them beneath the weight of platonic ideals.

However, the main difference between friends-with-benefits and free love is that intimacy is central only to the former. Sex is supposed to be an afterthought to the warm, cozy personal connection between the friends, whereas the sexual relationships of heavy cannabis-users are likely to be as impersonal as mystical experiences, since the drug diminishes the sense of self. Intimacy is like the Vulcan mind meld, a sharing of personal peculiarities until the pair proceed as though they were united in a collective, third mind. Without those unique habits that accrue in a person’s ego, there can be no such bond. Like pity-based sex, intimacy is compatible with a realistic philosophy of our tragic and absurd place in nature. Asymmetric pity would rather be associated with the capitalistic ideology: we would pity others but not ourselves, because we’d be competing with them and so might employ our sexual charms as part of some strategy for economic advancement. But universal pity brought on by a dark, mystical appreciation of our cosmic insignificance, that is, by misanthropy that includes self-loathing, could arouse the humbled soul to seek comrades and to help them out in recognition of their shared burden, their animal sex drive. In combat, soldiers consider each other brothers in arms; they sacrifice in honour of their shared burden of being put in mortal danger for some presumed greater good. Likewise, in so-called peacetime, the philosophically-informed and so more existentially-authentic individuals find themselves at war against the world’s absurd godlessness. Their mission? To create meaning that’s worthwhile in spite of being doomed in the long run. Sex between enlightened friends or existential soldiers could be motivated by the sad indulgence of their shared weakness. And sexual intimacy could contribute to the existential mission by enhancing morale by way of camaraderie: the introverts could bounce their ideas and their bodies off each other, stepping out of seclusion to maintain their sanity as social creatures, welcoming the bond between compatriots in the ultimate war between all living things and their undying maker.

18 comments:

  1. My girlfriend said that your ideal relationship sounds like clinging to each other and staring out at the void. She thinks it's adorable.

    As for myself, I wish I could pick you up and shake you and tell you that it is seriously not that damn dark. But, I'll settle for telling you you're pretty cool, instead.

    Your loyal, lurking fans,
    V and K.

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    1. Thanks, V and K. Clinging to each other and staring out at the void? Reminds me of that scene in Toy Story 3, when the toys look out at the landfill fire. I suppose all couples cling to each other in moments of crisis, meaning they literally grab hold and cling. Normally they don't because they're too busy with distractions to think about the permanent existential crisis (overall meaninglessness of all beings, inevitability of our death, the sham of morality and the farce of our ideals such as justice, etc).

      Even I don't think about dark philosophical matters on a constant basis. But when I put on my philosopher's hat and write, I'm afraid I see the facts as pretty dark (absurd and tragic). There's a light side of my philosophy too, as I point out in Enlightenment and Suicide. But I'm with Nietzsche and the other existentialists on their criticism of popular culture for maintaining a form of mass inauthenticity. Philosophy in general is dark, as Leo Strauss implied. That's the main reason philosophy's unpopular.

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    2. As for the ideal relationship, I didn't really speak to that directly. My point here is more limited; it's that that relationship would have to deal admirably with the truth that sex between people is perfectly ridiculous. Sex between animals is fittingly robotic, because they know no better and have little self-control. When people act like animals, we have absurdity on our hands that calls out for comic relief.

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  2. Would you care to comment on the antisexual "movement"? I put that in quotation marks because their online presence seems to be restricted to a few low-traffic websites, including a Russian website that looks like it hasn't been maintained in more than a decade: http://antisex.info/en/go.htm.

    Antisexualism has an interesting history. A story (urban legend?) about the early Christian theologian Origen claims that he castrated himself. Then you had diverse movements here and there like the Cathars, the Shakers, or the Skoptsy that seem to have held on to similar beliefs, although always in a religious (Christian) context. I'm not aware of any comparable secular movements, outside of fiction (Orwell's Junior Anti-Sex League). The modern antinatalists come close, but they're not generally opposed to sex as such.

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    1. I have looked into the asexual community on the internet. Some years ago I too found that Russian website, but there's more to it now. They call themselves "aces", rather like how homosexual men call themselves gay. It's a case of savvy branding. Asexuals want to seem hip and cool rather than mentally disordered.

      As I understand it, there's a spectrum of sexual drives, just as there is of orientations, between heterosexuals and homosexuals; in the case of interest in sex, there's the nymphomaniac or sex addict, on the one hand, and the asexual on the other, as well as many degrees between them. Asexuals likewise divide themselves in various respects, depending on whether they're opposed to the physical act of sex or to romance and intimacy as well.

      Some critics say there's no such thing as asexuality just as there's no bisexuality; instead, there's some sort of mental disorder at work. That's just idle name-calling, though, since everything that's distinctly human is "disordered", which is to say abnormal and anomalous from an evolutionary standpoint.

      Still, asexuality may be more psychological and social than biological. It's plausible that some people can have low or non-existent sex drives, but there's also the context of liberal identity politics to consider. The hyper-divisions between shades of sexuality is suspicious to me. Supposedly, there are grey asexuals, demisexuals, lithsexuals, and so on and so on. Everyone's idiosyncratic leanings need to be culturally validated, because everyone wants to fit in somewhere.

      To me it's just obvious that sex between people in general--no matter how normal or abnormal the form--is absurd and ridiculous. Celibacy would be one valid response to that existential fact, but there may be others. As I suggest above, it's fine to be ridiculous as long as you don't kid yourself: when doing something silly and humiliating and indecent, be sure to humble yourself with humour as you do so.

      Here are a couple of handy links on asexuality:

      http://cupcakearrow.tumblr.com/acearothings

      https://www.asexuality.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

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  3. Señor Cain,
    As usual your article is very interesting. You cover so much. Do you have a photographic memory? Do you use the 99 percent of the brain we, as I was told, do not use? Are you really Canadian? Take care and drive safely. Raúl from Paraguay

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    1. Thanks, Raul. I don't have a photographic memory. Do you really think my articles are filled with facts that would have to be memorized? They're not nearly as technical as, say, scientific papers.

      I'm actually a third generation Canadian. My great grandparents were from Poland and England.

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  4. This rant was referenced in another blog site, and its title is intriguing. It is much more self-revelatory confession than philosophy, a discourse that defines terms and has clear logical paragraphs, whose judgments and interpretations are fully developed arguments. This piece is rambling and diffuse, and well, reactionary. At the beginning, you deliquesce about sexual pleasure without any of the authenticity, conviction, or logic of someone who has experienced it. Your romp through the internet is voyeuristic and creepy and says nothing about the narcissism that drives its variety and particularly its self-display. You condemn like your "undead" god. Your condemnation of hook-ups reeks of personal rejection and failure. Your discussion of aesthetics is unclear and says nothing about homosexual aesthetics which infuses so much of modern sexual culture, even heterosexual. But your final paragraph about intimacy says something authentic, experiential, existential, and real about sex. Clarity rather than performative verbiage at last!

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    1. Anon, which is this “other blog site” that “references” the above article? Are you talking about my blog, RWUG?

      You say the article is “reactionary.” But that can’t be right, because this article was written after I wrote ten others on sexuality. (See the relevant section in the Map of the Rants, linked below.) Granted, I’m not writing polished articles here. This is a blog, after all. But neither am I writing spur-of-the-moment, stream-of-consciousness journal entries. These are hybrid writings. I’ve considered the various positions that might be taken on these issues, but I’m using my writings to work out the best philosophy I can muster.

      I don’t see the relevance of my authenticity or conviction to the logic of my argument about pleasure. The argument’s conclusion is that sex that’s primarily for pleasure doesn’t make for an existentially-authentic lifestyle. Whether I personally have sex for pleasure is irrelevant. This is just ad hominem distraction. The argument’s premises are that sex-for-pleasure ultimately destroys high culture, because were lusts and the capture of the sex instinct by the imagination universalized (in the Kantian manner; see his argument about morality: maxims vs categorical imperative), they couldn’t exist beside the culture that fulfills our existential mission to rebel against monstrous nature. That’s one reason sex is usually kept private, secret, and taboo, because it’s incompatible with whom we ought to be.

      More ad hominem regarding my points about internet porn. You presume that because I’m aware of the aggregator sites that I’m into all the perversions I listed. That’s a non sequitur. But that’s not the end of your illogic. Is porn “creepy”? If so, it’s because sex itself is creepy, and that’s one way of stating the point of my article! And if porn is “voyeuristic” even though the viewers are viewing only representations (photos and videos), not the porn actors in person, then every viewing of a representation is voyeuristic. And why stop at photos and videos? Language itself is full of representations, so that would mean every time we say the word “dog” as opposed to beholding a dog itself, we’re being voyeuristic towards dogs. That slippery slope empties your use of the word “voyeuristic” of any useful meaning.

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    2. Is porn consumption “narcissistic”? Perhaps some porn stars are, but on the contrary, I’d assume that most porn users loath themselves. And I’d say the variety of porn is driven not by narcissism but by the capture of the sex instinct by the imagination. To paraphrase Dostoevsky, once we have sex for pleasure, everything is permitted. Another cause is the downward spiral of addiction. As each fetish fails to please due to overuse, the porn addict must switch to another one.

      By the way, I’m pretty sure most men who use the internet with any regularity consume some form of internet porn. Women don’t look at much internet porn because they don’t get turned on so much by visuals. Instead, they find emotional connections more sexy, which is why their porn comes in the forms of romance novels and soap operas.

      The undead god (nature) condemns nothing, since it’s impersonal.

      More presumption and ad hominem regarding my remarks on hookup culture. Any criticism can be parried with a cheap personal attack: “Oh, you’re only criticizing the government because you wish you could have been president, but you never had the ambition to try!” You left no response to the substance of my criticisms. For example, “In internet dating websites, technology accelerates the downward spiral, by forcing the male competitors and female demiurges to adapt to an environment comprised of machines which are already inhuman.” Hence the shallowness of hookup culture (the Tinder app, etc).

      What’s “unclear” about my point that sex-as-theater (e.g. BDSM culture) can vindicate sex by giving it an aesthetic value? Theater is an art form, don’t you know?

      No, I don’t talk about homosexuality in this article. Neither do I talk about a trillion other things. So you’ve discovered the tragedy that one thing can’t be all things. Alas, we’re finite! Regarding the impact of homosexual aesthetics on modern culture, though, see my two articles linked below (especially the section “Feminism and the Emasculation of Modern Men in the second link).

      For the record, I deny that most of the above article is “performative verbiage.” It’s merely an attempt to sort out the question of how a noble soul could have a sex life.

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2014/01/fashion-industry-schemes-to-punish-men.html

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2013/12/sexism-and-horror-of-sex.html

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2013/02/map-of-rants.html

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    3. 1. "Methinks he doth protest too much." 2. How does a noble soul have a sex life? Isn't through "intimacy" your answer? 3. Given your materialistic stance, how can you use the word "soul"? 4. Simply viewing a representation of a dog is not voyeurism. 5. There is a difference between philosophy and your ranting. 5. There is a difference between analysis with an orderly and clear definition of terms, an orderly and clearly constructed process of building an argument--that is, step by step argumentation, one conclusion building on another, and your ranting interpretations. 6. Lastly, for anyone who has an aesthetic, intimate, authentic, fulfilling to the "Self" sex life as an existential action and expression of his life, this rant, I am sorry to be the one to tell you, demonstrates you don't know what you are talking about.

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    4. Protests too much? You’re the one who went out of your way to leave a snide comment on my blog. Did something in the article offend you, I wonder? Let me guess, it wasn’t the attack on one of your cherished beliefs, but it was what you consider my poor attempt at philosophizing.

      Yeah, when I did my PhD in philosophy at an analytic philosophy department (UWO), I learned all about logic and the analytic style of philosophizing. I also learned how amateurish it is to fetishize reason and to try to define “philosophy” without appealing to family resemblance. Were Plato’s dialogues philosophy? How about Nietzsche’s aphorisms or Kierkegaard’s literary works? How about Derrida’s postmodern deconstructions?

      I also learned how silly it is to mistake a blog for a professional philosophy journal. Oh, did you want a careful, step by step series of arguments? But then my maximum pool of readers would be as small as that of the average philosophy journal—and most readers of those journals read that stuff only because they have to, not because they enjoy it. The analytic style of argument is boring and pretentious.

      That’s not to say we shouldn’t be logical or clear in our writing. There are arguments and explanations in all my “rants.” That’s why I call them philosophical rants, since they combine logic with rhetoric. And the thing is, you still haven’t engaged with a single one of my substantive points, so argue by assertion as much as you like, but everything I say in the above article stands if only by default.

      Sure, the kind of intimacy I discuss in the last section is one way to have a noble sex life. Sex-as-theater might be another way. I haven’t arrived at an exhaustive conclusion. I’m merely considering some options. Is that alright with you?

      You evidently haven’t read too deeply into my body of work here. My kind of naturalism is fine with emergent properties, so it’s not all just matter. Besides, “soul” means “mind” just as “spirit” means consciousness. No supernaturalism needed.

      I’m afraid the slippery slope you’re on does imply that saying “dog” is voyeuristic. Thus, there’s something wrong with your assertion that viewing porn is voyeuristic. Hints: that’s a bit of logic there and what’s voyeuristic, by extension, is viewing specifically the amateur porn produced by real-life spies or voyeurs (e.g. the guys who film up ladies’ skirts, etc).

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  5. From a short read : I don't get your shame idea with sex, Ben - I wonder if you're simply using hyperbole to raise some other issue. I mean take regular photo's - often enough people have some silly expression on their face that makes them look stupid unless they have posed carefully. How stupid do we look during sex? Pretty silly - I mean, we play twister because it's silly - and sex is like that. Plus a lot of people are just plain mean - always ready to say a cruel word where others could be used. Is it shame when people have cruel words always at the ready (defensiveness would be a fair description).

    Or do you think it's shame because the shame points to something more about ourselves or something?

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    1. Callan, the shame of sex isn't in its silliness. What's shameful is the hypocrisy, the conflict between our private and public lives. We don't act in public as though at any moment we could be mortified, if only evidence of our sex life came to light by blackmail, for example. We're not sufficiently humble in public, knowing that what we do in private is embarrassing, not to mention animalistic whereas we pretend to be superior to the animals we hunt or enslave.

      Perhaps we think the shame cancels out because virtually everyone's in the same boat (including virgins who masturbate, for example). If one sexually-active person tried to blackmail another one, by showing evidence of the latter's sex life, the latter could do the same to the former. That's true, of course, but only the utility of blackmail would be nullified. The shame wouldn't cancel out as long as both individuals were hypocritical in taking themselves seriously in public while making nonsense of their principles and ideals in private. Were your blackmailer likewise blackmailed, you'd both know that you're both hypocritical, and so one would have no advantage over the other, but the lack of personal integrity would stand in both cases. That inauthenticity, that phoniness, as Holden puts it in Catcher in the Rye, is what's disgusting.

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    2. Well my point was that there wasn't a shame in what is just plain silly. It's just silly. Like twister is silly.

      I'm just not getting the public/private thing - would I hand out my credit card number in public? Am I ashmed of it? No - it's the damage others in public could do. And feelings can be just as hurt by mean words, that poisonous individuals seem to continually harbor.

      Really a cheetah is superior to people at running - and in certain contexts, perhaps at extrapolation, humans are superior to cheetahs.

      Or am I just missing it - is there some demographic who both hold themselves at some ontological level higher than animals, then do it like they do it on the discovery channel? Sort of a denied world of animality? And in regular public life act as if clean of this? Genuinely clean of it?? I'm thinking maybe there's a micro demographic who do this, but is there really a significant demographic who does?

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    3. Ah crud, I'm logged in under Cairo Silver and posted under that name by mistake.

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    4. If someone is known as being silly so that no one expects anything more from that person, that silly behaviour isn't surprising, but the whole person becomes a shame in certain contexts. For example, you wouldn't take a fool to a cocktail party, because the fool would embarrass and offend the guests.

      But because we hold ourselves to higher standards, especially when out in public, when we act silly, which we do mainly in private, there's the shame of hypocrisy, of failing to live up to our higher standard. There are the shames of the incoherence of our worldview and of our lack of personal integrity, of the weak will behind the self-serving choice of when to be civil.

      Go up to people on the street and call them animals. See how quickly they'll take offense. That's because we distinguish between animals and people. In some technical, biological sense, people are animals, but in the sense that matters more to everyone on the planet, there's a big difference between the two. So when people act like animals in the most conspicuous way possible, as in sexual activity, the "people" fall short in spectacular fashion. Hence the comedic value of making fun of people on sexual grounds, which all comedians are wont to do.

      You keep your credit card number private, but numbers in general aren't secret; you'll find numbers all over the place in both our public and private lives. For example, you'll see numbers on the clock hanging on a wall inside the bank. By contrast, it's not just your sex life that's secret, but sex between people in general.

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    5. Higher standards? I thought it's just standards - kind of like stopping at red lights and stop signs and such?

      Interesting point on numbers being everywhere, but the actual intimacies of sex, even fragmentally, not being around. But then again, maybe that's why women like romance movies and novels - I mean, that's the intimacy parts - the whole groin mashing bit is fun (and profitable - well, for nature that is) - it's good, but it's like booze at a party, it's not the point of the party perse. But I guess such romance movies aren't exactly intimate reflections of anyone in real life either. Far from it.

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