The primary purpose of sex is obtaining pleasure, sensual pleasure, pleasure of the body.
However, in everyday experience, sexuality does not always lead to pleasure, even in the realm of fantasy. Contrary to this, it is usually source of frustration, anxiety, guilt, suffering and loneliness.
Because you have no memory for things that happened ten or twenty years ago, you’re still mouthing the same nonsense as three thousand years ago. Worse, you cling until your last nail breaks to such absurdities as ‘race,’ ‘class,’ ‘nation,’ and the obligation to observe a religion, and repress your sexuality. Thus your ‘normal’ ‘adjusted’ state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities; that many of us are only too successful in acquiring a false self to adapt to false realities.
Because of that, one argument that has been put forward to explain this, at least from an ample sector of progressive authors, is our Judeo-Christian heritage. The argument is based on the repression of non-reproductive sexuality established by the Jewish at the beginning of their story. Note here that this repression of free sexuality had no moral purpose for them, but was primarily aimed to ideological and religious differentiation. Also political and military utility.
The peoples of Asia Minor invaded by the Jews regarded sexual pleasure as a gift from the gods, and fertility rites, orgies, bacchanalias, the so-called sacred prostitution (of both sexes), were an integral part of non-monotheistic religions. Therefore, the fight against other religions (the foundation of the national character of the Jews), acquired characteristics of combating sexual pleasure. That is, the so-called fight against idolatry became the fight against the body, ours and of others.
This does not cost too much to the Jews, since they were the representatives of the first fully patriarchal societies in history. For them obedience, trust in authority, was the highest virtue. To maintain disciplined people, warlike, imperialistic, one of the conditions is to eliminate the free play of sexuality.
Based on this we can understand why the persecution of free sexuality among Jews. It wasn’t to encourage reproduction, but considering that sexual impulse is absorbent, rampant, “not subject to reason” and, therefore, encourages disobedience and disorder.
A society based on family and absolute respect for authority, can not afford the free play of sexual pleasure. Even St. Augustine clearly acknowledges it when he says that sexuality is not bad per se, but must be fought and regulated because it encourages disobedience …
Now we can understand, if we agree with the above discussion, why the Jews were given a repressive sexual code. But what has that to do with the frustrations, anxieties, fears, guilt and dissatisfaction that assail us here and now when we make love with someone or when we don’t? Or when we don’t know exactly what our bodies or the bodies of others want?
What peasant, poor, insignificant and ignorant people, on the borders of the empire, have to do with what we live here every day three thousand years later?
Something, but not too much.
The confusion between Jewish and Christian values, its no-differentiation, like they were the same or a consequence of each other, exempts scholars to analyze why the permissive teachings of Jesus became the repressive morality of the Church, and prevents simultaneously our awareness on the changes and fluctuations that Christian sexual morality has had throughout history. I will not say that the morality of Christ is that of a hippie, but obviously for Orthodox Jews it would seem a spawn of the devil.
And this has a lot to do with what we feel, the way we live our body and that of others: the discourse of the Church on sexuality, from the Inquisition to the Second Vatican Council. A discourse that comes down to what St. Paul said: “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor invested, nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God”
Now, the Church is not a stupid, backward and stagnant institution, still stubbornly repeating this “naïve speech” because once was said by St. Paul, St. Augustine, or St. Thomas, much less because Moses has said it.
If the discourse of the Church on sexuality is currently repressive, the phenomenon should be explained by the current conditions, the same way we understand the Jewish moral three thousand years ago by the sociopolitical conditions of the Jewish people three thousand years ago.
If Catholicism and other religions wield in this discourse on sexuality more close to Moses than to Jesus, is not the product of a throwback, but of smart political institutions that want to keep their current status, and obviously they do, since the ongoing importance of religion is quite clear.
In other words, if religious discourse ensures that sex is bad and for the majority of people this is important, is because our society specifically expects that speech, because the existing system needs a religious justification to help maintain its dominance, the order of their privileges, but have to find arguments written three thousand years ago.
With the religious and dogmatic assertion that free sexuality is inherently inhumane, antisocial, animalizing, and repressive, control is justified as a human need, as an inescapable defense reaction or social hygiene, to save civilization and its fundamental institutions. So we talk about sexuality as something demonic, irrational, destructive and chaotic, as a kind of beast that brutalizes and animalizes man who don’t monitors himself, leading to break up the most sacred of human nature.
In short, if we want to know what’s wrong with sex, we should forget to look up embarrassed and simply look at ourselves and our fellowmen, face to face and openly.
If we do this, what we see is that our sexuality, usually, is not expressed or preformed spontaneously, not governed by the laws of personal pleasure, but in fact is almost always repressed, controlled, manipulated and distorted by social power, by the various powers that act directly or indirectly on us.
Sexuality is perhaps the field where the power structure of social relations is most manifest. This manipulation of sexuality has been more clear, especially from the eighteenth century, with the rise of the bourgeoisie as a class in power.
At that point, the monogamous conjugal family (nuclear family) confiscates sexuality, tries to absorb monopolistically the reproductive function, and the question becomes absolutely private. It leaves one recognized place for sexuality, utilitarian and fruitful: the parents’ bedroom. Any sexuality that is or is intended purely out of this place, should be lived as hidden, marginal, sinful, abnormal, unnatural, aberrant and punishable at all levels.
The prevailing sexual morality officially considered licit sexuality only restricted to the relationship penis-vagina between two adult individuals, without violence, with no family ties, both of the opposite sex, in a private setting, in a union consecrated by the compulsory bond of marriage, monogamy, based on love and, in the optimum, intended to sex procreation and not simply pleasure. Outside this framework, any sexual activity, fantasy or desire, is considered illegal, sinful, vicious, abnormal, sickly, morbid or perverse and, therefore, condemnable. Not only by society but also by the individual who has been trained from childhood in this moral code.
It should be noted that sexual repression had always failed, from the moment that has never wipe out illicit sexuality, if that had been its only intention. In reality, the forbidden activities and sexual fantasies have always constituted the bulk of the sexual life of any person. But the effectiveness of the repressive moral code is based not only on what is forbidden, but by prohibiting many things -and knowing that they are humanly impossible to avoid- it creates a network of guilt from which no one escapes, and this is much more effective than direct repression itself.
Moreover, as the moral code leads to experience sexuality as an exclusive competence of our private lives, we live these behaviors and feelings of shame and blame as personal problems, as if we were the only ones violating the codes, as if all others lead a holy and pious life, and the only “deviant” and “evil” we were…
But that’s not all. In conducting our sexuality as intimate, individual, as if each of us were an island body, we attack and alienate the very foundation of Eros, which is by obligation and desire the more social, communal and sharing of all human impulses.
This is what’s wrong with our sex life: instead of being at the service of personal pleasure, which automatically is freely shared with all coming into play, it is subjected to codes that tell us what is good or bad to feel, what is good or bad to share, and even communicate, what is right or wrong to do, and with whom, and under what circumstances, and, above all, with what purpose. We have been educated in such a way that we can accept sexuality if and only if our sexual behaviors are means and instruments to achieve nonsexual objectives: Form couples, establish a family, have children, extend the surname, assault, humiliate, catch the husband, survive economically, escape roles, assert ourselves, being in love, get tenderness or pay protection, set dependencies, pay the divorce, demonstrate our power, our techniques, our ability to seduce, our manhood, or our love. The list is in fact endless. And if not, you could analyze yourself.
And the core of our being, which is really and only OUR WISHES, where is it? In the underworld of the repressed, unconscious, unknown, hidden, and pathological culpability. In other words, what really defines us as people, as human beings, unique, irreplaceable, have been thrown into the place of the unrecognized, and we remain firmly there.
Don’t confuse the wishes I’m speaking about with the so-called sexual desire, as that would make a gross caricature of itself, and is just another system trap. Desire is desire to be, to speak out in the real world, making the environment to fit to what we want, to act as we really are, not someone’s desire to possess or be possessed by someone.
So, no matter how active the sex life of anyone is, it won’t enrich him/her. Desire does not seek to multiply coupling acts more or less mechanic. What desire is seeking is pleasure, excitement, not only at the “carnal” level but as total relationship -not in the imperialist sense, but as unlimited-deep, and extensive as well. And with characters not bound to follow a script, but with real people, who are able to auto-recognized themselves as desiring subjects and act accordingly. Desire just looks for the communion between free beings.
Daily relations -public and private- to which we are accustomed, has nothing of this. We relate to each other as actors tied to a character, and get from others the same thing. We are husbands with our wives, parents with our children, children with our parents, chiefs with our subordinates, subordinates with our bosses, teachers with our students, lovers with our lovers, and so on till exhausting the repertoire of social figures.
Sexuality experienced this way is, of course, destructive to oneself and for all. But it is a socially encouraged destructiveness. The system requires that people move, act, think and feel just as a support material for the different social roles. A desiring subject is creative and therefore, unpredictable and messy, in other words, socially maladjusted.
If the repression of desire (and life), generates frustration, aggression and violence, this is handled in a socially useful way, focusing it on the “self-improvement”, the competitiveness, “struggle for life”, the search for individual and selfish success. And if frustration drifts toward self-destruction (suffering, disease, neurosis, alcoholism, drugs, addiction, suicide), it is not a serious problem for society, unless it affects production, but for the subjects who live and suffer individually and culpably.
Now, what is the basic mechanism used by our today’s society to achieve we act in this way? This instrument of domination is LOVE. For the love of parents children accept repression, for fear of losing this love they suffer education, to secure love we establish couples, accept dependence, fulfill roles, we wear out chasing unattainable perfection, and suffer and put the blame on ourselves where the ideals fail.
Running the risk of sounding cynical, I would say that this is what’s wrong with sex: that, unfortunately, it’s at the service of love and not pleasure. We are too romantic when we talk and think about sexuality. We require sexuality of things that have nothing to do with it: to give us back the love of our mother, that our mate should be everything to us, and we everything for him/her, that orgasms should be institutional, or even our sexuality should define us as people. I believe, I clearly know, love is just a kind of symptom that arises through the repression of libido.
We, my dear fellowmen, are suffering here a particularly unattractive and discouragingly common affliction called tunnel vision, which, for all the misery it causes, ought to top the job list at the World Health Organization. Tunnel vision is a disease in which perception is restricted by ignorance and distorted by vested interest. Tunnel vision is caused by an optic fungus that multiplies when the brain is less energetic than the ego. It is complicated by exposure to politics. When a good idea is run through the filters and compressors of ordinary tunnel vision, it not only comes out reduced in scale and value but in its new dogmatic configuration produces effects the opposite of those for which it originally was intended.
If desire causes suffering, it may be because we do not desire wisely, or that we are inexpert at obtaining what we desire. Instead of hiding our heads in a prayer cloth and building walls against temptation, why not get better at fulfilling desire? Salvation is for the feeble, that’s what I think. I don’t want any fucking salvation, I want life, all of life, the miserable as well as the superb. If the gods would tax ecstasy, then I shall pay; however, I shall protest their taxes at each opportunity, and if Woden or Shiva or Buddha or that Christian fellow -what’s his name?- cannot respect that, then I’ll accept their wrath. At least I will have tasted the banquet that they have spread before me on this rich, round planet, where all wishes should be fulfilled, the more forbidden, the more delicious, rather than recoiling from it like a toothless bunny. I cannot believe that the most delicious things were placed here merely to test us, to tempt us, to make it the more difficult for us to capture the grand prize: the safety of the void. To fashion of life such a petty game is unworthy of both men and gods.
What’s wrong with sex? – Dugutigui on some ideas from Extrem and some others