Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ideologia Sexualis

Reginald Marsh Illustration of Dreiser's An American Tragedy
In a piece in a recent Sunday Review Section of the Times, Maureen Dowd quotes a Harvard educated phone sex dominatrix who uses the name Jennifer Hunter to the effect that “Every good dominant knows that the submissive is really the partner in control. All a submissive woman has to do is relax and enjoy the ride while delicious sexual acts are visited upon her. She’s the star of the proceedings. Someone is ministering to her needs for a change. Master is choreographing all the action…after a long day of managing employees, making all the decisions and looking after children, a woman might be exhausted about being in charge and long to surrender control.” (“She’s Fit to be Tied," NYT, 3/31/12). The occasion of Dowd’s piece is the enormous success of the E.L.James trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey. It used to be said that intellectuals provided the ideology for revolutions. However, now it seems as if ideology is providing the lubricant for sexuality in this segment of the evolutionary time line--when it’s so easy for instinct and consciousness to be at cross-purposes. For example, classic romanticism, the act of falling in love, is aided and abetted by a certain degree of voyeurism and arrivisme. Falling in love in this formulation is a form of social rising, to the extent that the aura which becomes the conduit of sex constitutes the hope for a new life. Similarly, S&M as expressed by Dowd's dominatrix appears to be motivated less by the emotional need for punishment than by the desire to relinquish the responsibility of self. In this case, the process is reversed and slightly more complex when it comes to the ideology of the sexuality. Sex may actually begin as the horse driving the cart, but what’s at stake is not only the relaxation from pressure that Dowd’s dominatrix acquaintance describes, but freedom from the bondage of self. Such liberation is a characteristic of Buddhism and other spiritual practices where desire is deemed the beginning of suffering (with happiness ultimately residing in the forsaking of pleasure). Isn’t the true pleasure conveyed by the swashbuckling master that of devotion to a leader or belief system that takes away the headache of individuation? Many women who read Fifty Shades of Grey or The Story of O for that matter think they are indulging in the forbidden, the naughty, the rebellious and the risqué. But are they that different from their more prim contemporaries who throng to communion or confirmation, who takes the sacraments, don the chador or bath with their sisters in the mikvah?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.