Friday, May 27, 2016

Pornosophy: Full Stop at the Intersection of Sexuality and Ambition

"Nymphs and Satyr" by Bouguereau (1873)
Women with nymphomania or men with the corresponding state of satyriasis or satyromania suffer from uncontrollable sexual desire. But are such compulsions tantamount to a kind of outsized ambition? Does the drive to constantly seek out new partners, with the notion that nothing and no one is enough, derive from a feeling of discomfort with the status quo? For instance, it’s said about a business that it won’t survive unless it expands. That‘s one of central tenets of capitalism. But sexuality is also intrinsically bound up with the idea of success. A human being can be viewed as a commodity whose worth is constantly being evaluated by the marketplace. Judith Rosner’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar presented a kind of Upton Sinclair view of bar life in which searching for love in nightspots was equated to a meat market and eventually slaughterhouse. Today sites like Tinder facilitate the commodification of sexuality and at the core of this sexual agora lies a Darwinian survival of the fittest. The powerful and attractive male who can gain the attention of all the females (the peacock with the most colorful and dramatic plumage) or males (depending on his orientation) and conversely the females who can attract the most men or women is also the one who will occupy the top of the food chain, leaving those who lack these abilities to be bottom feeders. Of course, one can return to the idea that nymphomania or satyromania are just addictions, predicated on the manipulation and abuse of serotonin levels. But on an existential level sexual ambition is often inextricably tied to the desire for success. You get the job to get the girl or the guy to get the job. Sometimes this process becomes the equivalent of one of the those nuclear chain reactions that gets out of control and leads to a meltdown.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sperm Count: What is the Difference Between a Gang Bang and an Orgy?

"Bacchanal with a wine vat," by Mantegna (c.1470)
What is the difference between a gang bang and an orgy? On first glance it would seem that an orgy is a far more easy going communal activity, while a gang bang has connotations of something more aggressive, particularly because of the words “gang” and “bang.” Merriam-Webster, for instance, defines gang as “a group of criminals” and “bang” as “a resounding blow” while “orgy” is defined as “a wild party and especially one in which many people have sex together.” So there’s a long road to hoe between orgies and gang bangs. In addition the gang bang is actually a solitary activity for the object of the banging. There may be gang bangs in which multiple people are having sex with even larger crowds, but generally gang bangs are activities in which one solitary individual either willingly or unwillingly becomes the subject for the advances of a group. They are, in the vernacular, the caboose for the figurative train. If you drew a Venn diagram there would be some overlapping areas for gang bangs and orgies. Equanimity is not one of the by-products of group sex and a very popular or attractive person at an orgy could very well find themselves the subject of a gang bang when everyone wanted to have sex with him or her, even though it might not feel like a gang bang due to the psychedelic 60’s music, and Timothy Leary sensibility of “turn on, tune in, drop out.” These instances might be termed inadvertent or de facto gang bangs which exude a feeling of joy as opposed to the the atmosphere of doom and gloom that accompanies the kind of gang bang where a posse of people is out to ravage their mark. Still not all gang bangs are criminal activities and not all orgies are completely legal, particularly if they involve the use of large amounts of hallucinogens to catalyze the appropriate level of disinhibtion for the orgy to actually take place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pornosophy: The Problem With Hedonism

Epicurus (photo: Interstate295)
The problem with hedonism is that it's so self serving. If you're constantly thinking about how you can maximize your pleasures there's no time for anyone or thing that isn’t an immediate source of pleasure. Here's a quote from a new Showtime series called Submission, which has an S&M theme that's obviously trying to capitalize on the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. “sometimes losing control has it’s own kind of power.” But though "submission" in an S&M context camouflages itself as a kind of surrender of the self, it's merely a technique of creating sexual excitement and ultimately of maximizing the intensity of the orgasm. Though such surrender  camouflages as a spiritual pursuit, it's totally egocentric. Epicurus is a philosopher whose name is associated with pleasure by virtue of the fact that epicureans, or would be followers of the dictates of Epicurus might be devoted to the cultivation of taste—at least in so far as food is concerned. But Epicurus was a proponent of moderation and the pleasure he proslyetized for was characterized by the diminution of pain. It was not based on a raging need to increasingly gratify urges, but a more even-handed ability to define sensibility, something which is ultimately a social phenomenon in which other peoples’ needs and desires are taken into consideration. But let's employ what might be called a "last supper test," something like one of those conundrums in ethics, in which, in this case, the condemned prisoner gets anything he wants. Imagine yourself hypothetically occupying your own death row. It’s your last day on earth and you sate your desires for wine, women (or men), song and of course glazed donuts. Every orifice is stuffed. Unfettered by the fear of consequences you have satisfied all your desires. But are you happy?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pornosophy: The Joys of Nagging

engraving of Scold's bridle (John Dorman Steele and Esther Baker Steele)
Jung famously said the "craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our our being for wholeness...." The same can be said for nagging. Whether it’s a thirst is up for grabs, but it’s definitely lower level. A lot of people don’t have the stomach for full-blown S&M and it also requires not only the ability to maintain an erection (an increasingly dubious proposition in these perilous times) but also the ability to sustain a role—something which is incidentally one of the most important aspects of the actor’s art. Nagging is to S&M what improvisation is to what Stanislavski called Building A Character. You're not going to blindfold, handcuff, tie to the bedposts, flog, Greek, smother or gag. Rather you’re apt to criticize, humiliate (a cross over technique employed by both naggers and sado-masochists), demean, deride and generally push your love object to the point where they will scream at you (something produced in S&M sessions by both submissives and dominants but by other means). In the midst of bickering you might think to yourself, why can’t this misery be turned into something more glamorous and dramatic?  Anyone can participate in endless anal arguments and most people would rather be right than happy. But how many couples practice anal sex with dildos and restraints? How many couples live like the larger than life characters of Fifty Shades of Grey? Compare and despair. This is precisely the kind of thinking that loses sight of the subtle joys that go into nagging or being nagged to death. Familiarity breeds contempt is the mantra of the nagger who is not only tired of the person he or she is with, but with life in general. Sure you can and should probably move on, but you can’t and that's what makes the pleasure of hocking away at your loved one so sublime.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Sickness Unto Death

Soren Kierkegaard (drawing by Neils Christian Kierkegaard)
Are the proliferation of recovery programs, a sign that addiction is growing? And is that growth caused by an increased need to achieve states of euphoria, which will cover the spiritual void left by the death of God? Or has awareness and a certain openness merely brought these matters out of the closet? Has the shame factor lessened, now that alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual compulsiveness and overeating are considered diseases? The fact that we live in a time when people wear their problems on their sleeves  would give credence to the notion that there's more openness in dealing with things that formerly were hidden from public view. But let’s consider the possibility that hedonism has replaced a vanishing spirituality and that this accounts for the holes in many souls (and sometimes literal soles, when there's protracted soul searching going on). Jung said the "craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness."The problem with using so called pleasure to fill the gap is that it only makes matters worse. What happens to teeth are a perfect example. If you eat too many sweets you get cavities. With respect to the psyche, the spiritual cavity or crevice or chasm only widens. Relying on the senses is a Sisyphean task since the ante is always raised and gratification is by definition elusive. If material pleasure is the lingua franca, satiation will be compromised. You always want more. Look at JFK. He had a seemingly endless chain of liaisons with some of the most beautiful women in the world. Yet if you read the recent obituary of the famed Madame Claude, you will find that he was one of her most prominent customers ("Fernande Gaudet, 92, Dies; Ran High-Society, Call-Girl Ring as 'Madame Claude,NYT, 12/23/15). Perhaps there're no coincidences as the recovery people like to say. Could it be that all the programs are a response to an increase in the problem. Kierkegaard referred to The Sickness Unto Death. Perhaps this particular plague is reaching epidemic proportions.