Thursday, August 20, 2015


It used to be that people talked about romantic love and there are all kinds of stories of star crossed lovers in the Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde vein who either overcame or succumbed to enormous obstacles. In some third world countries with repressive cultures like Afghanistan this story is still being told. Only recently an Afghan couple faced reprisals and even death threats for rebelling against the tradition of arranged marriage ("Afghan Newlyweds, Facing Threats, Find Brief Respite in Mountains,” NYT, 4/21/14). It’s one thing to climb or move mountains and face danger for love, but is pleasure, any kind of pure pleasure so desirable that one would risk one’s life for it? For instance, there is a Japanese delicacy called Fugu or puffer fish, which is highly prized though it can be lethal if not prepared correctly. However prosaic, the Swanson’s Hungry-Man Fried Chicken TV dinner starts to seem appetizing in comparison. Sex tourists often go to great length and danger to chase after what they must consciously realize are similarly lethal temptations. As the old saying goes “15 Will Get You Life.”  One wonders if part of the pleasure or compulsion doesn’t subliminally lie in the danger, the threat of punishment, of being caught. Two recent news items underscore the lengths to which people will go not for love, but for pure pleasure. The first is the case of the Subway pitchman who was involved with child pornography and assignations with underage girls (“Jared Fogle, Ex-Subway Pitchman, To Plead Guilty to Child Sex and Pornography Charges,” NYT, 8/19/15) The second involves the student at St. Paul’s, who in exercising a contemporary form of droit du seigneur, described in the piece as “senior salute," ended up being charged with rape (“Rape Case Puts Focus on Culture of Elite St. Paul’s School,” NYT, 8/18/15).  It’s easy to see why Tristan or Romeo braved everything for love, but what accounts for the lengths that some people will go for the pleasure of eating a piece of fish or for that matter having sex with an anonymous child. In the case of the St. Paul’s student the object seems to have been to sleep with as many girls as possible and become the winner of a contest. Under age sex was involved, but the goal on first glance appears to be more about a perverse form of competition. In the case of Fogle, the motive appears to be even more nefarious and all pervasive. Back in the 70’s there was a porn film entitled Snuff, which played on the notion that it was showing an actress actually being killed in the act of making a film and advertised itself as, “The film that could only be made in South America...where Life is CHEAP." It only had a brief run, but it’s female lead was no Juliet. Necrophilia is sex with a corpse. Forget about Bill Cosby drugging women, or Jason Fogle’s pedophilia, will we soon be finding celebrities being accused of participating in safaris where the game are humans? Significantly the Times piece quotes the prosecution as describing students involved in the practice used at St. Paul’s as “slaying." But what is fun anyway? What is desire? What hedonistic wish is being gratified in the pursuit of all this “pleasure?" Is happiness killing Cecil?

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