In the beginning there was sex
and sex was with God. And sex was God
Today I woke up. Normally I wouldn't pay enough attention to something as plain and mundane and waking up, but today I did. Maybe partly because of the pain I was in after a hard training, maybe partly because of getting my 3rd vaccination shot against COVID, probably just because of the really bad night these caused, causing me to dream I was plainly and utterly dead. In any case: I woke up. I could feel it in every inch of my aching body and with every half existing thought going through my heavy and dull mind.
A mind dulled the way mine was after a long night full of restless sleep called for a bit of social media opium. My phone was glad to help and provided access to an ever so delightful world filled with naked booties and boobs. The first post catching my attention was one by Samantha Cornier reading:
I have a lot to say, but to keep it short I’ll say this- Some days I want to feel sexy and show more skin, and other days I want to be fully covered. My body is my vessel to create, to tell stories. I am proud of who I am and I am grateful for my body and all we’ve been through together. I am here to create a community of empowered, open people who are on their lifelong journey of finding oneself. I am not here to entertain or give you something to talk about.
Being in the state I was, I couldn't but feel a certain feeling of jealousy, thinking of her as someone who doesn't have one, but 2 existences: One as her body and one as herself. And let's admit it, we are all here for the comments, so I went down to read such comments as this:
Normalize women showing skin and not being sexualized for it.
I guess we can all agree this is not an isolated case but, alas, a a quite common one. And while I certainly agree, being the time of the year Christmas, a whole thing started in my head around this specific post. Allow me to explain.
The duality of the self
Often have I in this blog and through my artworks spoke about the invisible clutch religion has in our daily western lives. More often than not people (like me) are eager to announce their non-religiousness and very tangible atheism while living the religiousness that is encoded in their culture. Sometimes these religious remains are so insignificant, we don't realize they are even there. But (normally) not working on Sundays, or living in the year 2021 a.D., as well as, of course, having Christmas holidays before starting the new year are so routine, we just live by them as they prove to be a reasonable convention. And then again, isn't this the best place examine to look for and explanation for archaic behaviors?
Therein might, or probably not, reside the duality Samantha was talking about: To speak about Christian and Islamic religions is to accept the dogma of the duality of the self, the body and the soul. While this dualism goes really back in the thought tradition of humanity (see for example Plato's Fedro, whose main concern are the ways and the nature of the immortal soul as opposed to the mortal body, deriving in metempsychosis and ultimately sets the stage for maieutic), it is the Abrahamic tradition that brought morality into the computation, glorifying the soul at the cost of vilifying the body, with all the lust and temptation that brought by the craving for pleasure of the flesh. As Matthew 26:41 prays:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Sure, this duality is a central premise needed for the Abrahamic concept of the resurrection of the souls for their salvation or damnation according to their merits on earth. But does this mean that, after all, we collectively still believe in something as metaphysical as the resurrection of the pure souls for the Final Judgment, and thus seek the absolution of the sins we are bound to commit? Or why is it then, we do still collectively vilify, though active action or passive acceptance, the body's 'lustful' needs and slut shame people for openly sexual behavior/ solicitation? Tell me meta, why? A hunch tells me: because of this duality. Because for some reason we haven't being able to make the leap to accept the body and its inherent sexuality as being in harmony with the soul, being both one. But this is, perhaps, a hunch only.
Don't reduce me to my body
As much as I understand the desire to be appreciated for one's wholeness I fail to feel that need. Before you get me wrong: I'm not trying to make a point saying people, especially women, should just live with being objectivized and deal with what people around them feel entitled to tell, or even worse, do to them because of a certain way they look like. I just fail to see me as a modular being, especially in days like today, where my wholeness is one pain and one misery.
The part about 'reducing x to y' that fascinates me is that, at least for what I can gather, it seems to be a one way road: it is always about the body. Or have you ever hear something like: "don't reduce me to my humor/ intellect/ skills?". Of course one might argue that this is of course because all these things I mentioned are not appearances and thus something that has to be discovered by interaction as opposed as one's boobs, an unfortunate example of a trait that might impede others from looking at us as humans, with breasts, but humans with all the rest implied nonetheless.
Sure, with being reduce to a body part is an annoyance I agree. But what about, say, a working context, a context in which the first contact is doubtless dictated by a superficial look at a list of skills, education and qualifications. I don't mean to say this approach is good or a thing to aspire to. If anything, the spreading implementation of AI in recruiting has made quite clear that being superficial in this regard can as harmful as any other bias, promoting systemic discrimination.
So I rephrase the question: Why does it feel different to be a chosen candidate for a job based on one's merits? Isn't that in a way, being reduced to a set of desired specificities and characteristics? What is the difference between being called a slut for showing one's naked body against being called a nerd for showing one's naked intellect? Of course the social, moral and professional implications of both labels are completely different, but is the root of the problem a different one? I would argue: no, it is a consequence of the body-vs.-soul duality, one imbued with religious morality for that matter.
The existentialism of sexuality
Let's imagine for the sake of argument that it was normal for children, even babies, to run around chasing their sexual interests, the same way adults do. I'm not necessarily referring to a sexual interest as an object to copulate with, but as the object of sexual, bodily desire, if you wish. It might feel weird, or even wrong to think of children in a sexual way (I'm not making a point for pedophilia!) and I would argue, you got it, this relates to the morality based in the religious duality of body vs. soul. It feels as if something pure, something innocent shouldn't be defiled, doesn't it? But, if we look at it in cold rational way, assuming it was the way of life that humans were born with sexual drive, able and willing to copulate, would we still consider it weird?
If we are to believe in something such as a pure soul, we need to have a concept opposite to it as a delimiter, a tainted soul, so to speak. If we peek into, say, christian dialectic, the we are dealing with a spectrum of 2 diametric opposites in which the purity of the soul correlates negatively with the amount of sins committed. This implies that a longer time to fall into temptation, and thus sin, should have a relevant impact on the probability of that soul being tainted (sadly this is something we can't really quantify, but a really interesting statistical work nonetheless). This means in turn that, if we were to assume, children could sin, we would have the whole spectrum. Instead, the concepts of sinful and child seem to be contradictory, as if the purity of the soul was something that is kept until a certain age, the age of the lost of innocence maybe? I find this idea most problematic, as it has implications for what we consider and legislate to be apt and adecuate for children to not know. As the poet Slim Shady put it back in the day:
And that's the message that we deliver to little kids And expect them not to know what a woman's clitoris is Of course, they're gonna know what intercourse is By the time they hit fourth grade They've got the Discovery Channel, don't they?
And I would argue it is not the Discovery Channel but the innate sexuality what drives children to want to prove themselves to others, but that might be a topic for an other time. What is indeed a topic for this time is the idea of sexuality not magically being bestowed onto individuals, but rather being an integral part of them from the beginning of their existence. In a way I think this is comparable to the idea of what existentialism does with the being, putting it as the root of cognition, only with sexuality being put as the root of the being.
I know nothing related to the sexuality of children I have written so far is new. In fact, these ideas are all, in essence, contained in Freud's work. And here we are, almost 100 years after his death, still shocked and horrified at the thought of humans developing a sexual drive and a sexuality from the moment of birth, instead of them acquiring it at a magical turning point found at some arbitrary point at the end of childhood.
The duality in love
When I mean love I only mean the social concept of a romantic interest, the concept of what love means for specific individuals is too concrete and divers to write about here. In fact, I don't want to go too deep into this one, but rather make a small observation.
When we talk about a long term relationship, we tend to think about a deep connection. This connection is normally regarded as something on the plain of nor superficial. This kind of non superficial connection is often regarded a soul connection, in fact, we are culturally conditioned to look for a soul partner. I would claim, correct me if I'm wrong, that we all have been in the position of being counseled by a tutor, parent, friend to rather look for qualities that last in partner, than to just settle for good sex. While I would most probably second this advise, I can't but wonder sometimes, if this isn't in fact, more of the same duality problem at hand.
Especially when I think about my human connections in the last decade, I more often than not see the changes on those people I used to love. Or, on the contrary, the lack of change of those things I didn't love that much about those people. In any case, the traits of the soul we love change, because personalty is shaped, it is a construct and it shifts with the time, experience, income and social standing. In this regard, I sometimes ask myself, why this deep connection is commonly regarded as something of better quality than something as 'short lived' as a hot body and good sex? In the end it all decays and returns to nothing anyway. So why do we look for a soul partner and not for a bed partner? Yes, of course we all get tired of always the same sex, but so do we of always the same jokes, don't we?
Let's get this straight
This post has been an intense rant, I know. All over the place, I know. But, since it isn't my goal to make study on human behavior, nor to prove why all people are living their lives wrong, I guess this messiness is ok. That being said, let's try to get the main ideas together:
- There is a concept of body-vs.-soul duality is western societies.
- This duality leads to bodily/ sexual behavior to be treated as something negative.
- This duality encourages individuals to seek approval for their spiritual/ personality traits rather than for their bodily/ sexual ones.
- Individuals are indoctrinated with this behavior, as their sexuality is ignored, neglected and even negated as they grow up. By the time they are 'old enough' they experience rather a loss than a win of spiritual value.
- Romantic relationships are culturally based on this duality an perpetrate this dogma.
- The dogma has its roots in the, in some cases bleached and culturalized, religious idea of the soul being pure and the body being tainted.
That being said, I will go back to bed, get some rest and try think of other things, not always religion, sex and culture. I will go to sleep and I wish me and my body could do more together, wish I could expand my body with my soul, or vice versa. Alas, in my case at least, me and my body are one alone and need the same things. Today rest. Tomorrow love.