Friday, January 2, 2015

One Two Eight: Reactions

Long ago, a girl told me that everyone wants to be found attractive, but only by people who are themselves attractive. If someone unattractive finds you attractive, she said, you feel like you've done something wrong.

I've thought about what she said over the years, and she's always had a point. Fame, Freud wrote, was  "the love of many anonymous people". But fame (or even celebrity) is different from individual desire. And my friend was right. We want to be desired, but only by people we'd desire in return, or at least by people whose desire raises our own social status. There's always the thought that if someone unattractive, someone much less attractive than you, desires you, then it means that your own value is lessened. If they think they can have you, then it means that they can see flaws. They can see something that means you're not out of their league, and your own social status is lessened.

All of which raises the question of how to respond to desire, of how others' desire is supposed to make one feel.  The gender warriors of course disapprove of desire altogether. Desire, they argue, is always an act of aggression, a demand.  The gender warriors see desire as a claim on someone else's body and time. Desire is seen as something that always lessens or cheapens the desired, since it reduces them to being seen as merely sexual. They seem to think that the only response to desire is righteous anger.

I've never understand why being desired is considered reductive. We're each of us a whole complicated collection of things, but a sexual being is one of them. There's the whole question there of how we see ourselves--- what we are versus what we've done ---and the question of differentiating desire from admiration. Both involve having status ascribed from others, but which is...better? Which is more "true"? Does being desired as a sexual being, as a physical body,  touch on something deeper or more 'authentic' than being desired as someone successful or stylish or intelligent?

I have to say that sometimes there is a feeling that being told that you're smart or fun or charming feels vaguely derogatory. There are times when one wants very much to be desired as a body, as a sexual creature.  Desire speaks to something deeper and more personal than social graces or knowledge,  and being desired as a body can mean something more personal, more intense, than being seen as bright or charming or good at social graces. I'm used to young companions telling me that what brought them to my bed was all the things I know, all the stories I can tell. I'm not used to being told that I'm simply wanted, or that I invoke any physical desire.

Well, wanting what you've never had, always believing the grass is greener over the hill. I'm used to those things.

The question remains, though. How do you respond to desire? How does desire make you feel? What does being desired tell you about yourself and your social status? If you're reading this, write and tell me. Tell me about desire and what it means to you to desire and be desired.

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