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Sexuality as a political, economic and cultural force - Part One PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

Alchemische_commonIntroduction - Sexuality as inequality and as a means

Sex and money are the two poles of everyday and constant interest on the part of today's world. And both have always been - particularly sex. It is worth asking ourselves - about sex - why this is. Is this a form of progress, or a fixation? Is there true freedom of sexuality today? To begin with, it could be said that the sexual instinct is a life instinct which tends towards maintaining life through its reproduction.

 

But in the case of man, naturally, it is not only this, because sexuality also functions independently of reproduction. There is also, over and above the tendency to perpetuation, a fundamental attraction between the sexes which many have attempted to analyse. However, no analysis could be truly adequate, because everything goes back, in the end, to the deep-down nature of man and of the beings - a question which cannot be answered. And this attraction between the sexes has a great many gradations, from the most impersonal and animalish to the most intangibly personalised and replete with feelings, and not only that - which complicates the situation to a remarkable degree.

In life, of course, there is not only sexual attraction, but also attraction to beauty, life, and other values, material and non-material. Sexuality, that is to say, belongs within the broadest field of attraction, which is the field, chiefly, of relationships of man with himself and his environment. It could be maintained, in other words, that the 'pleasure principle' has a much broader field than the - directly or indirectly - overtly sexual.

As sexuality between the sexes, however, attraction manifests distortions which are so ancient that it is impossible for us to make out its true form, that is, how it would be without distortions, in spite of all the attempts of modern science and art to demonstrate such probable forms. But what could be regarded as such distortions, bearing in mind that a distortion is both a qualitative deviation and the exaggeration of a function?

1. Sexuality as inequality, that is, as dominance and submission.
2. Sexuality as a means.
3. Sexuality as self-definition.
4. Sexuality as an antidote to fear.
5. Sexuality as socialisation.
6. Sexuality as freedom.
7. Sexuality as fascination and fantasy.

We shall analyse here our view on each of these characteristics, without believing that there are no others in addition, or their refutations, given that the subject is a difficult one to investigate.

At the same time, our position on distortion of sexuality does not presuppose its total idealisation or dematerialisation, but a true critical balance as opposed to a one-dimensional alienation.   

Sexuality as inequality
This problem is one of the most basic distortions of sexuality and is too ancient for us to see it clearly. At this point we will cite a passage from Nietzsche about women and their place in the scheme of things, in order for this phenomenon to be seen as a problem, given that Nietzsche sets out crudely what many feel and hint at indirectly:

"Delight in women, as perhaps a most insignificant, but most delicate and lightweight kind of being. What good fortune to meet with creatures who have only dancing, frivolity, and beautification on their minds. This has always been the enjoyment of every highly-strung and deep male soul whose life has been burdened with grave responsibilities."[i]

How is one to begin to analyse this statement, when as a value it is widespread in the world, directly or indirectly, and the only thing as such that it lacks to have the same force as Nietzsche's statement is its intellectual organisation within a framework of rules of life similar to it? Naturally, woman, whose role was so limited and who was a functional instrument for the male and his family, could only be reduced by way of relief to the frivolity which was indirectly imposed upon her.

What in the end saved women - but men as well! - was both the market and the host of contradictory values which hold good in our Western society, such as, for example, equality, love, freedom, which, in parallel with the undervaluing of women, have thrown their own light, by degrees, upon confused consciousnesses.  

Our subject, however, is not only the undervaluing of woman, but the overall undervaluing of human beings, as the dominance of inequality itself is spiritual undervaluation for everyone and increases the devaluation which is attempted, covertly or openly, by both sides. A clear prevalence of this attitude of devaluation is to be found in Muslim countries, where women are not free and in certain cases less than objects. In the West, of course, women are incomparably freer, even though this approach can still be glimpsed [εάν όμως το σωστό είναι υποβόσκει και όχι υποφώσκει = lurks] in its life, as we shall explain under the points of distortions which follow. We must, moreover, note here the difference between Islam and the West: in Islam the law is imposed and is binding upon the sexuality of women, and the whole political and social system is expressed chiefly through this law; that is to say, we have the two poles of law and sex. In the West, sex is associated, to a significant extent, not with law, but with money, which greatly facilitates the functioning of sexuality, because of the fascination which it exerts on human beings. We have, in other words, the two poles of money and sex. These things are already, in themselves, distortions and prove that sex is not purely itself, but is mixed up with influences which are alien to it.

How is this inequality expressed today? The so-called 'game' of the sexes is itself a struggle for domination of the one over the other, although what was until recently the classic role of men as victimisers has given them tremendous advantages because of the overall social attitude which favoured them. But the 'imprisonment' of women led to the transformation of their restriction and subservience into indirect power and an invisible domination. This tendency towards domination, as demonstrated spectacularly today when women are free, is a characteristic of both sexes - that is, of humans generally - and cannot be a natural part of sexuality, because any domination is catastrophic and not life-friendly as sexuality should be. Moreover, all the rest of the distortions which we have cited reinforce precisely this domination.

Sexual recognition and success have always been an 'achievement'. Of course, many people like to liken man to the animals, while at the same time hating, or, in the best case, regarding the latter merely as objects. However, animals at least are governed by the need for survival, and, generally, their instinct has not deviated into domination for the sake of domination. Over and above this, the constant reference to our animality is an error, because, apart from the animal side there is in man another side, more personal, inward, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive. Evolution makes its own demands for changes and for replacements of old characteristics by those which are newer and better.

Consequently, this retrogression to the animal demonstrates nothing else but the choice (because it is a choice, and not inevitable) of man to remain an animal, though stronger than the rest. For this reason, he has sought to take from evolutionary progress only what would strengthen this animality as domination over all others. And what is this feature which he has taken? A mind (for many only a rudimentary one) with a capacity for fantasy of every kind. But even this mind (however developed it may appear) is for the most part used for the boosting of this lurking all-powerful animality. Negativity, cynicism, and sophistry by means of intellectual constructs with specification or chaos in place of abstraction usually tend towards this. In order to clarify the issue of animality, we have to say that this is not located only in the sexual and other familiar instincts, but also in the mind, whether this is an instrument of the instincts or its mission is to strengthen the instincts, however complicated and subtle its expression is.

If man wishes to justify himself by means of his 'herd' animal nature, it would be useful for him to know in this context Nietzsche's view of the gregarious animal, when he wonders: " ... is it not the time, now that the 'herd animal' type is increasingly developing in Europe, for there to be an experiment with the fundamental, artificial, and conscious nurturing of the opposite type and its virtues? And would it not be a kind of aim, a deliverance, and a justification for the democratic movement itself if someone were to appear who would use it - a figure, in the end, outside its new and outstanding shaping of slavery ( - that is what European democracy will become in the end - ) and a superior kind of dominant and Caesar-like spirits which would take its stand on it, which would be maintained by it, and which would be exalted by means of it? ... The sight of today's Europeans gives me many hopes; a bold dominant breed is developing on the basis of an exceptionally intelligent herd-like mass. The moment when the movement for the cultivation of this mass will no longer occupy on its own the whole of the stage will not be slow to come. ... The same conditions which hasten the evolution of the herd animal also hasten the evolution of the hegemonic animal."[ii]

We human beings should not feel so sure and proud, then, of our animality, because it conceals many paranoid and unimaginable surprises which go against us. It is, simply, a failure of intellectuals - on general lines, because there have been a very few exceptions - that they did not realise the gravity of Nietzsche's theories. Superficiality in apprehending the ideas of another, when his work is full of such racist ideas, even more than Hitler's Mein Kampf, is a black mark against the direction, the inertia, and the options of the intelligentsia.

Let us also mention the position of Baudrillard on Christianity, in connection with animality and the body. "The spiritual basis on which man is represented as being in the image of God and to be radically distinguished from all the rest of Nature (as well as even from his body) is indeed the soul: particularly in its Western form, Christianity has proved to be the most anthropocentric religion which mankind has ever known. Christianity not only establishes, in complete antithesis with ancient paganism and all the Eastern religions, an absolute dualism, with man opposed to Nature, but, even worse, affirms that it is the will of God that he should exploit Nature without limitation in accordance with his aims and appetites."[iii]

We shall not deal with the issue of the exploitation of nature (on which we agree with him about non-exploitation) as it is not our subject. We shall, however, deal with the dualism of separating the human soul from the body described above. It is a fact that Christians have interpreted in this way the distinction of the soul from the body, with an irrational and hostile, but also guilt-ridden, treatment of sexuality and chiefly that of women - though not all of them. The first great Fathers of the Church, such as Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, and others, were moderate men - some of them, moreover, had an excellent training in Greek culture - and did not consider the body and its functions as unclean, nor did they wish to impose enforced celibacy. As we are told by Stelios Papadopoulos, a university professor, in his book 'The Life of a Great Man [in Greek]':

"What Basil had contempt for was the passion which nests in the body ... In Basil, we have an orthodox - not Platonic - approach to man. Man is a single being: spirit and body."[iv]  

Furthermore, Christ was referred to as 'Theanthropos' - God-Man - without, of course, the Christian rulers of the worldly churches understanding the synthesis being suggested, and so in practice (in spite of their pronouncements) lapsing into a crude dualism. Nevertheless, even on this issue there was an ideological battle on the part of Gregory Palamas (a saint) waged by the efforts of his thinking in order not to have God thought of as separate from his world - against Varlaam, who regarded the deity as creator but as alien to the creation. Varlaam perhaps arrived at this view only as a reaction against the senseless claims of a large number of people to the effect that they communicated with God, by putting an insuperable distance between them. The psychological factor is in all cases supreme, and for that reason authoritarian positions are detrimental to evolution.    

Furthermore, it is difficult to penetrate deeply into theology because of its complexity, but also because of ignorance of the terminologies and of the true meaning which has been given to the terminologies, because of which countless cruel and inhuman battles have been fought, which, nonetheless, do not seem to have served to prevent the revolting Holy Inquisition, the burning of 'witches', and other religious outrages. However, intellectuals also, on the other side, have dealt only with the excesses of existent religion, and not the ideas in themselves. The same thing also happens frequently in politics: ideas are undervalued because their interpretation and application has been extremely bad (e.g., socialism, democracy, state, freedom, etc.).

This dualism, furthermore, is innate in man, regardless of Christianity, and is not located only in the field of religion. Desire itself presupposes a dualism between the one who desires and the thing desired. The supposed identification with nature is a fantasy, a fraud, since nature itself contains duality within itself. It is only that when you are submerged in nature, you do not register the dualism, even though it is everywhere; and you do not register it because then there is no self-awareness.

But then what could the soul be as separate from the body? This, truly, appears to be something contradictory and inconceivable. For this reason, more careful analysis and thought are required, not so much as a reflex reaction against the nonsense of the Church or of anything else, but dedicated to the idea in itself.

The evolutionary or spiritual factor can only be abstraction or transcendence in relation to a level of apprehension already known. This 'transubstantiation', of which Baudrillard (borrowing Max Weber's expression) speaks below -  not alienation but a broader and more concise apprehension - is not power. That is, man possesses, in this instance, the animality of the body, but without being controlled by it. Furthermore, we should stress that animality itself is divisive and dominating in every direction, and thus the relieving of animality of its divisiveness cannot mean alienation. To sum up, our liberation from the laws of animality is what will bring us closer to nature, freeing us from divisiveness and its competition. Moreover, in the case of animals (with which many wish to identify themselves), the nature in which they live is neither a luxury nor exploitation (as a motive), but a field of harsh necessity. The more we identify ourselves with the animals, the more distant we shall be from nature as its exploiters and dictators, as we embrace all the characteristics of this field with the aid of the mind.

The antistrophe which we have made here is neither eccentric nor perverse; we have simply attempted to discern the depths of our motives as human beings and of the nature of our desires.

As regards the harsh attitude of applied Christianity towards sexuality, in the case of all those who have chosen it for themselves for correct motives, it has probably been the method indicated for the subjugation of the passions for the sake of another self, but, naturally, imposition on others (or even on oneself with a mistaken motive) cannot be said to contain something which is truly spiritual. We shall not continue any further on this, as our subject is not Christianity. We simply wished to give another viewpoint on the problem of dualism and concepts.

Further to the above thoughts, we must add here that enforcement always exists on the part of societies by means of the mass models which they create, and, today, the model of free and aggressive sexuality accordingly puts anyone who differs in any way outside the social framework of acceptance. However, in no circumstances could it be said that the situation in the past was in this field as free as it is today - no comparison can even be made. Nevertheless, in spite of evolution, today too there is a state of loneliness for all those who differ.

Furthermore, the notorious 'war of the two sexes' ought, properly speaking, to make us think hard about its breadth, power, and the intellectual complexity with which it is invested, unless we really and consistently identify with the animals, accepting that there is no such thing as evolution, as Nietzsche did in thinking that there is no evolution but only a standstill and chaos, which is convenient for any fascist view of the world. This, however, is a totally unscientific conclusion.

The war of the sexes also extends to one between representatives of the same sex as a proof of superiority in the attraction of the desired person, which is usually successful, because those who are the 'bone of contention' are satisfied and achieve self-realisation through such conflicts in the other sex which occur for their sake. These and other, less visible, conflicts and techniques take place as a form of authority and, in essence, constitute a part of the seduction which follows as the subject of a section below.

The field of attraction which tends towards unity and within which sexuality operates is distorted by divisiveness as a tendency towards possession, superiority, and enforcement, and though attraction itself exists, it is at the same time cancelled out or distorted by these factors.

Naturally, sexuality as inequality is absolutely obvious in the Muslim world and supports the whole of the political system and its cultural basis. In the Western world, this inequality now lies in the very nature of the sexuality of women and men as superiority and conquest, whichever sex it is coming from. There are, that is to say, almost terms of equality between the sexes, but with a view to the pursuit of inequality - which is extremely contradictory and misleading.

Sexuality as a means
So far, we have dealt with sexuality within the framework of its function in itself. Let us look now at its function in connection with other areas of life.

Sexuality is a basic tool in the attainment of the goals of human beings and is, in the end, a marketable product and a psychological weapon of social confirmation and intervention.

Projected and dominating sexuality is a measure of individual success and acceptance for our society (as the chador is for Muslims). Thus people make feverish efforts to retain their youth by technical scientific means, and to create beauty and youth as synonyms of sexuality (and vice versa), even if it does not exist, with a view to remaining in the social mainstream of life. In reality, all these efforts in the matter of sexuality, with such exaggeration, show an inherent inferiority in this instinct. Of course, in the depths of all instincts there must be a shortcoming which is created by insecurity and competition in the same field (indeed, it is exactly in this way that sexuality and survival are linked), and in end, as a counterbalance, it transforms them into superiority. But always at the bottom of these there pre-exists the shortcoming which the world of need imposes. Superiority goes hand in hand and cohabits with the shortcoming. In any case, if the shortcoming were absent, it could not be either ostentatious or fixated on competition.

However, it is not only social recognition but also the pursuit of economic, vocational, and other aims which are made easier by the use of sexuality. Here we see another aspect of the two poles sex - money. If we look around us, we see people climbing to posts at work by the use of sexuality. This is nothing new, but with today's freedom of women, it is a more widespread phenomenon, in terms of numbers, because the possibilities for the creation of relationships has increased.

In this way, sexuality is fundamentally distorted and is dragged through the mud; and we should not protest when on these distorted foundations exploitation by economically and socially powerful actors occurs.

Such fully established exploitation began with advertising, chiefly in the USA, by companies which wanted to sell their products. From that point on, the production of goods began no longer to correspond to need, but to the greed of human desire. In this they were helped in an absolute way and decisively by Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, who had the idea that there is in the mass of human beings a dark subconscious which, if some were to learn how to handle by fulfilling its desires, they would be able to control and, at the same time, direct this desire towards the products on offer, with the result that they would enrich themselves, and the mass, satisfied by consumption, would become inert and obedient to those in power. The then President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, wanted people to be transformed into 'happiness machines'.[v] Naturally, sexuality was at the epicentre, given that at that time for an understanding of the masses it was the theories of Freud which were mainly used. The star of Bernays may have been dimmed with the Second World War, but these tactics were also used after that, to the present-day point of degradation, where sexual suggestion is everywhere dominant, not only in the case of an exceptionally large number of products advertised, but also through the mass media, magazines, and the model of happiness projected, which is very clearly sexual (together with that of youth and charm).

This means that the sexual basis which existed and was used, instead of, with the passage of time, being enlightened and reduced to the smaller place which it should occupy, has been boosted because of the artificial reinforcement of the model in a vicious circle of self-regeneration, without rhythm and wisdom, thus preventing the development of any other side of man.

In this way, instead of man being liberated, though he overcomes old fixations and phobias, he creates new forms of being taken hostage, posing as freedom, which give rise to obstacles to his evolution. But this is not true freedom, because it is imposed by a deluge of models of success and happiness, which is another form of propaganda, more invasive than the political variety, because its aim is neither obvious nor, naturally, opposed to the sedimentations of the human subconscious. Consequently, as human beings, we are today faced with our inertia of consciousness, and, for that reason, we wait for a corporealised threat in order to react, because, deep down, we want this inertia to remain undisturbed, and only in the case of extreme necessity do we breach it. The result is that the instincts are constantly in conflict with one another, as, for example, is the case with the economic crisis, which reduces sexual activity, because anxiety over survival is more fundamental and absorbs the attention. This, on the one had, is not unreasonable as a human reaction, but, on the other, we do not know what effect this will have on that human psychological make-up which has sexuality as a main centre of self-definition. This conflict should, it is logical to believe, be more harmful because of the existing deficit of balance, rather than being a simple displacement or postponement of an aim.

Such inertia of the psyche is an inertia in the mind, forms of which are both an obsession of the mind with a non-abstractive direction because of the contraction which it causes, and a refusal to use it, since we are afraid that the mind can, if used correctly, break down emotional fascinations of every kind (which is true).

 

[i]  F. Nietzsche, Η θέληση για δύναμη [The will to power], Greek edition Nisides, pp. 434, sub-para. 943: What nobility is.
[ii]  Ibid., p. 438.
[iii]  Jean Baudrillard, Le miroir de la production, Paris 1973.
http://freepsyche.blogspot.com/2008/04/blog-post_4615.html 
[iv]  Papadopoulos, S., Η ζωή ενός Μεγάλου [The life of a great man], publ. Apostoliki Diakonia, p. 125.
[v] The Age of the Self - Documentary by tvxs.gr

You may also read: 
SEXUALITY AS A POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL FORCE - PART TWO -- Sexuality as self-definition
SEXUALITY AS A POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL FORCE - PARE THREE -- Sexuality as an antidote to fear
SEXUALITY AS A POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL FORCE - PART FOUR -- Sexuality as socialization
SEXUALITY AS A POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL FORCE - PART FIVE -- Sexuality as freedom
SEXUALITY AS A POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL FORCE - PART SIX -- Sexuality as seduction
SEXUALITY AS A POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL FORCE - PART SEVEN -- Sexuality as seduction in marriage


Ioanna Moutsopoulou, Lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO
 

Photo from Wikimedia

 
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