Friday, May 31, 2013

Seventy-Two: Polemics

There was a time in my far-away youth when I read essays and articles that were tagged as "sex-positive". All part of the Sex Wars and the Culture Wars of those years, of course. Those were the years when there were bitter polemics between those who thought pleasure and desire were tools of oppression and those who believed that pleasure and desire were valuable in themselves. I thought those long-ago wars had been settled, and that pleasure and delight had won. The voices of the enemy are still out there, though.

There's been a disturbing shift in definitions and attitudes out there among those who still describe themselves as "sex-positive". There's less and less assertion that pleasure is its own reward, or that experimentation and adventures are valuable all on their own. There are far too many soi-disant "sex-positive" authors and bloggers who seem to be devoting their time to finding reasons not to have sex or not to experiment and seek out adventures and new experiences. And I see that in parallel with writers (e.g., the British journalist Laurie Penny) arguing that beauty itself is irrelevant and probably oppressive and that seeking out pleasure and delight is always something that supports oppression and distracts from "real"issues. This of course goes along with the idea put forth by vile and loathsome writers like Hugo Schwyzer and Amanda Marcotte that no desire is acceptable and no pleasure can be anything other than shameful unless its "context" (i.e., its ideological background) is "correct".

Desire itself is no longer acceptable, really. It's regarded as dangerous, and not in the romanticized way that so many 20th-c. writers and artists described it. Desire must now be judged not on how it leads to pleasure or exalts beauty, but in terms of ideological "context".

In a DSM-5 world, a 12-step world, pleasure itself is suspect, and is seen as a sign or symptom of some underlying problem or pathology. To seek out pleasure or delight or experiences is seen as a sign of something disordered, some addiction or obsession.  Any delights can only be seen as "correct" if they fall within the right ideological context.

Beauty is irrelevant, pleasure is a distraction from the ideological context, delight is a mask for social oppression. "Sex-positive" writers now spend their time finding reasons for their readers not to have sex or seek out pleasure.  It seems that the new era is one where being a roué will be harder and harder, where being someone (and especially a gentleman of a certain age) who prefers young companions and who seeks out delights for their own sake and as adventures to be shared with partners will be increasingly seen as suspect.

It's too late for me, of course. I'm of an age where I won't--- can't ---give up the idea that beauty is to be admired. I can't give up the idea of paying tribute to beauty. I won't--- can't ---give up the idea that pleasure and delight is valuable whatever its ideological context, or  ever come to believe that one's preferences have to be judged in terms of ideological context.

I am a gentleman of a certain age, and I style myself as a roué. I may well be an anachronism in a world where even "sex-positive" writers no longer support the idea of having more and better sex in more and better ways with more and better partners, in an age where pleasure itself is suspect. But I will still be here--- as an aging roué, as an enemy of writers like the vile Amanda Marcotte or the loathsome Hugo Schwyzer. I will be here as someone with young companions at his side, as someone who believes in seductions and delights and adventures. I will still be here--- I'll always be here ---as someone who believes in beauty and in the value and power of beauty and delight.

There are times where one has to take a stand, and I think this is one. I believe in pleasure, in delight, in adventures and new experiences, in young companions as partners in games and rituals and discovery. "Context" only matters as a set for stories. I know who my friends are in these battles, and I know who the enemy is. I know those things, and I won't forget them.  Ever.

1 comment:

ms.gylcerides wilde ride said...

Desire is a driving force. It will always be there. There's nothing to feel guilty about in seeking pleasure or demonizing any one particular behavior or nuance or taste. I don't know what led to all this seriousness. I wrote today that it's almost a crime to enjoy anything anymore because there's always someone out there to give you a million reasons why you shouldn't be doing what you are doing. I would hate to live a life and later on question why I got so little enjoyment out of it. People seem to be very socially misguided--they want something to do, something to care about and so they latch onto anything because they think they are supposed to. I wonder how much these people actually enjoy their own lives.