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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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"The sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion. Desire was thoughtcrime."
George Orwell, 1984

Via the Capitol Fax, we learn about an ongoing (likely failing) effort to get an anti-marriage equality measure onto the ballot for November, presumably to galvanize some conservative support for a Republican ticket that faces utter devastation in the face of a Senator Obama destruction of his opponent in this state.

I went from supporting "civil unions" to realizing the impossibility of that position if you have any shred of intellectual honesty in you. I realize "gay marriage" is still a touchy subject for many of the American people, who likely just need time and exposure to get acclimated to the idea. That is why I don't think pushing for marriage equality is a litmus test for a politician — the political reality forbids it. But while you don't need to actively pursue it, I can't really understand or support wholeheartedly anyone who doesn't at least recognize the principle of marriage equality. In other words, I can understand somebody saying, "Look, full marriage equality is not going to happen anytime soon. That doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do; but we need to take baby steps to get there." I can respect that — I'm a realist. But the politicians who hedge, who have to show just a little bit of gay-hate for their (frankly, religious) street cred drive me crazy. "I'm not comfortable with it" is the basic cliché they use. That tendency among the leaders of the so-called American left got me thinking about the issue, and how, really, it has to do with the right to discriminate.

You know, it has taken me a while, but I've come to believe that the whole, "sanctity of marriage" anti-equality argument is just a convenient way for fundamentalists (I won't say conservatives, most of whom are likely just exploiting the issue) to attack other citizens' sex lives. The obsession with homosexuals has nothing to do with the perceived sinfulness of homosexuality (which is justified by citing a handful of passages in a part of the Bible that Jesus himself said you didn't need to pay attention to), but because it is a temporarily convenient beachhead into our absolute freedom over our own bodies, and our own flesh. People who crave control of the mind and the heart cannot stand the freedom of pleasure that comes with our dominion over our bodies; the ability to cast off the worries of the world and, without shame, sink into the warm flesh of another human creature — they can't stand it. It's too much freedom. It bothers them so much, in fact, that they try to convince us that freedom is slavery.

Born without options, we have flesh. As kids, we're innocently unaware of this flesh beyond curiosity; our declining years, too, our flesh fails us and declines in importance. In between, for a few decades, we are in possession of this active flesh, with the attendant pleasure and pain, scents, sounds and joys.

Then we decline and die, and that flesh rots away, and it will be gone — your particular flesh — forever until there is no end.

So how fortunate are human beings that we alone among animals not only have the pleasure that flesh can bring us, but awareness of that flesh, which brings with it some of the most wonderful and powerful moments in our brief historical flickers of consciousness. When you next feel a warm kiss on your earlobe, or the brush of a nose on your clavicle, or smell someone's freshly cleaned skin, take a moment to realize how lucky we are to have flesh as long as we do.

The tension that breaks with the first kiss. The stirring of an eager body next to you. Discovering some new, exciting part of a person, or yourself.

These treasures are so personal, so exclusively private and our own, and at the same time so irrelevant to the lives of others, that, really, the pleasures of our own flesh are the most natural and innocent of all pleasures human beings pursue. We are convinced from a young age that physical joy with another person is a mark of moral decay and corruption, when they are the opposite: they are symbols of our appreciation of the gift of consciousness, which we have as a hostage in our flesh for only a brief moment of biological, evolutionary time.

Enjoyment our own bodies and those of other people in consensual harmony takes resources away from no starving people; it exploits no one, nor defrauds them of their labor. It humiliates no one and costs nothing. It is so purely human, innocent and wonderful that it is no wonder that organized humanity has gotten jealous of our ownership of it, and so eager to drag it kicking and screaming into the public eye, where it can be "defined" and dirtied, lied about, battered in filth and deep-fried in faith to create this new, needlessly unhealthy monstrosity.

As human creatures lurch towards freedom, would-be masters, whether elected and acting through bureaucrats, or unelected and screaming from pulpits, find new openings to attack our most private and personal pleasure, the pleasure they loathe us having.

In generations past, it was "adultery," or sex unregulated by the religious institution of marriage, which has more to do with love and partnership. Back then, heterosexual adultery was the source of society's corruption, the spread of disease and ruin; we were convinced, as Orwell would say, that freedom was, in this case, slavery.

With the collapse of that argument (in the West, anyway) the new way in was, of course, homosexuality. The choice to attack gay people for their gayness has nothing to do with reality; it has to do with the continuous, unceasing attack on our private joy. So long as we have some source of pleasure, contentment and happiness that relies on no outside structure, that can be gotten for free and exchanged freely between human beings, then the powerful will always try to take it away from us.

So we're supposed to think of sexuality as a constraint rather than a freedom. We are "imprisoned," the moral warriors tell us, by our flesh. We are "subject" to our desires, and homosexuals are the worst off! Because not only are they, too, imprisoned in flesh and subject to desires, but their desires are anomalous.

By insisting homosexuality is a casual choice made by particularly weak (or sick) individuals, the morality crusaders keep the path to the rest of our sexuality open. They see the landscape like this:

There are a bunch of souls, imprisoned in bodies, moving around. Given proper permission, the souls can meet for temporary pleasure. That pleasure is pernicious, though, if there is too much of it, and some of those souls are such prisoners to their pleasure they cannot stop themselves from allowing their flesh to pursue it even without the proper permission. And, so rebellious, they take it even further; they cannot even stop themselves from pleasure that comes in an "unnatural" process, with the "wrong" type of partner. Thus decayed, what else is that soul willing to do!?

Well, of course, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum famously answered that question: "enslaved" to desire, they'll pursue that pleasure even if they have to get it from animals or, presumably, furniture.

Freedom is slavery, in other words. (No less difficult than believing a fallen tree made no sound: or that one can, in fact, be three).

This is even more explicit in places like, say, Iran or Kenya.

With regards to the former, Enlightenment-addled Westerners ask, "How can you demand women cover their bodies, as though their very existence is a shame?" And we're told to respect that culture, and that, in fact, women forced to conceal themselves are more free than women in the West, because they will not be judged by their bodies at all. They are free from the wicked confines of flesh, because their flesh has to remain hidden; as though denying the fact of the flesh can also deny its reality.

The freedom of women in democratic societies to enjoy their bodies freely (or not) is, the fundamentalists say, in fact slavery; they are "forced" to be sexual creatures, when in fact they would be better off being nonsexual (in other words, non-human).

In Kenya, we, the culturally chauvinistic, presume to lecture them about the inhumanity of what is euphemistically called "female circumcision," what is essentially systematized genital mutilation. But, you see, it is done to "free" those women from the tyranny of their personal, private pleasure. They are being emancipated, unlike women in the West, who must suffer terribly from the dictatorship of their clitoris.

According to Amnesty International, 130,000,000 women in the world have been "emancipated" in this way. With no say in the matter, these 130,000,000 unique human creatures were physically altered to ensure that even in their most private, and therefore harmless, moments, they could not be "victimized" by their own pleasure.

Cultural relativism is supposed to forbid us from calling the perpetrators of these crimes brutal, but cultural relativism being asinine, I'm going to go ahead and say it: they are brutal.

While women's pleasure comes in for special targeting by these brave freedom fighters who fearlessly face down both cleavage and clitorises in their wars of liberation, human pleasure is the ultimate prize. If we can are free to enjoy our lives with nothing more than another willing human creature, we can never be wholly socialized.

Not being a homosexual, I can't say with any certainty that gay people have sex at a more frequent rate than straight people, or that the sex is better. I'm sure there is some polling data that exists somewhere, but frankly it is irrelevant. The war on homosexuality is not a war to stop gay people from having sex with each other, which has happened since there were gay people, which has been since forever. The war on homosexuality is a war against human sexuality in general. It is just an excuse to tie sex to corruption and sickness.

It is recasting the joy of flesh, which we each of us are only a few decades away from losing for all eternity, as misery.

The gay person is portrayed as a hopelessly depraved individual, so in thrall to their "base" desires they can't even see their own sickness. In fundamentalist literature, homosexual are portrayed as close to subhuman as possible — in fact reminding me a little of the Biblical descriptions of "mad" people, like in Mark 5:10, the lunatic whose Legion demons are cast into swine. They are "touched" by this "madness" which has come from succumbing to desire, which is, of course, an act of enslaving themselves.

In fact, take a moment to read Mark's description of the "mad" man, and think about how we are told that, when it comes to flesh, Freedom is Slavery:

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

Why won't these damn gays/women/human beings keep the damn chains on!? Will you just obey already and quit enjoying the few things that are exclusively yours to enjoy!? Obey! Don't you realize you are not acting of your own will or for your own benefit, but at the behest of evil demons and spirits (and clitorises)? Don't you realize that pleasure is in fact pain? That freedom is slavery?

It'd be great if we could tut-tut the backwardness of the genital mutilators and gay bashers and demand the emancipation of the individual to lord their own bodies. But, as with everything, the attack comes not only from the forces of superstition and ignorance we associate with the right, but the forces of relativism and subjectivity associated with the left.

I'm not making a lazy, hazy reference to the red herring "all heterosexual sex is rape" position of some mythical group of (usually second-wave) feminists invented by the right. I'm referring to the over-intellectualizaton of a biological act, of a recrudescent Puritanism that manifests itself in academic "liberal" theory over the last few decades, that holds fantasy and submission to passion as dangerous for nebulous theoretical reasons. That is too eager to conflate violence-which-is-sexual with sex, which is like comparing a zebra to a candy cane because they both have stripes. In this iteration of the drive to destroy our mastery over own pleasure, sex is a social, political and economical act that must be considered and deliberated over, when this is utterly and absolutely not the case.

Andrea Dworkin never said that all heterosexual sex is rape; but she did say heterosexual sex was inherently "violent" — a conclusion she reached through a series of word-games and arguments-by-metaphor that have no relationship to material reality. If you're wondering why argument-by-metaphor sounds familiar, it is because it has a cousin we call "parables."

As with the missionaries for whom a sex position has been named, these ideological proselytizers tell us that pleasures of the flesh are fine, in context; that they are OK only if of a certain type. Too much permissiveness in how we enjoy ourselves and one another, we the few animals who protect the faint, flickering flame of self-awareness, is not freedom at all: it is, in fact, slavery!

Intellectuals, like priests and violence, have no place in sex. Let the scientists educate us so we can avoid the biological dangers, and let us be. If we really believe love is real and strong, then we shouldn't fear for the future of the family. In only a short while, all of us — every single human being drawing breath on this planet — will be nothing more than bones in the ground, and not long after that, we will all of us be dust. Can't we be left alone, to enjoy our own flesh, on our own bones?

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Julian Real / April 29, 2008 7:12 PM

Andrea Dworkin never said that all heterosexual sex is rape; but she did say heterosexual sex was inherently "violent"

Could you quote Andrea Dworkin precisely, as I think your assessment is incorrect. She was speaking about intercourse in the context of male supremacist societies, never outside of that context. Again, I welcome you to quote her, not just a word, and passing that off as a legitimate quote.

Surely that's not too much to ask.

Joe / May 6, 2008 6:17 PM

What is a "male supremacist society?" Is that one where males hold the political power? If that is so, you would be hard-pressed to find a non-male "supremacist" society.

How that distinction would change the act of sexual intercourse is beyond me. I think the female "supremacist" societies of the native americans had sex the same way we do now. How does the fact that land ownership passes by maternal lines alter the inherent violence of an act?

Anyway, he was not quoting, he was paraphrasing. That's allowed, right?

Eve / September 29, 2009 9:08 PM

I for one think our Government needs to back off what people do and use in the bedrooms of there home. Recently Alabamas supreme court upheld a ban on sex toys and gay people still can not get married. What we do and who we do in our bedroom in none of the Governments business.


About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon studies and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at

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