Posts Tagged ‘naughty bits’

Natural if not Normal

May 20, 2012

Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels, and sex certainly gives no meaning in life to anything but itself.

—Gore Vidal, United States: Essays 1952-1992 (37)

Sex.  What’s with the persistent human propensity to study, describe, imagine, define, categorize, restrict, denounce, regulate, prohibit, criminalize and constantly talk, talk, talk about what other people are doing in private with their naughty bits?

Sex is a basic human need, essential to the survival of the species. But this is only part of the answer.  Human beings require shelter, for example, yet the subject of housing barely elicits a fraction of the chatter that the Big Nasty generates amongst human interlocutors.

And as W.H. Auden pondered: Why should so much poetry be written about sexual love and so little about eating—which is just as pleasurable and never lets you down—or about family affection, or about the love of mathematics.

According to Gore Vidal, “the sexual attitudes of a given society are the result of political decisions” (539).  This explains why we see so many professional moralists and politicians “solemnly worshiping at the shrine of The Family” (601).  (Like when our president recently went out on a limb to courageously declare that Motherhood is the toughest job in the world.)

Barack Obama’s other recent bold pronouncement, that he has evolved to the point where the idea of gay marriage no longer gives him the willies, made much bigger headlines.

So why the big fuss?  To borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, regardless of my own prejudices or proclivities, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg if Adam wants to marry Steve.  (Yes, I know that Steve could be entitled to partake in Adam’s medical benefits, perhaps raising my health care premiums, but the two fellows will also be paying higher taxes, so I’d be willing to bet that the monetary consequences of their union would probably be a net gain for society at large.)

Gore Vidal contends that our political overseers ghettoize certain types of sexual behavior as a means of maintaining their hegemony over the populace: “In order for the ruling class to rule, there must be arbitrary prohibitions” (442).  Sexual preference is just one of the many divisions, such as  race, class, religion, age, region, gender, etc., which are exploited by los que mandan.  Thus we are informed, particularly from the pulpit, that when it comes to sexual preference, there are only two ways to be: “One team is good, godly, straight; the other is evil, sick, vicious” (442).

Like homosexuality, divorce is also dangerous to the status quo because “A woman who can support herself and her child is a threat to marriage, and marriage is the central institution whereby owners of the world control those who do the work” (540). Vidal notes with his characteristic wit that heterosexual couples are expected “to do their duty by one day getting married in order to bring forth new worker-consumers in obedience with God’s law, which tends to resemble with suspicious niceness the will of society’s owners” (540).  Of course, over the last four decades divorce has become so common that many of the leaders who rail in favor of “family values” are themselves divorced.  This helps explain the fury we hear from some quarters against the damage done to our sacred family unit by homosexuals. At any rate, “it does not suit our rulers to have the proles tomcatting around the way that our rulers do” (606).

The mechanisms which enforce such twisted mores are designed to produce citizens who “serve society as loyal workers and dutiful consumers” (540).  This is not an originally American arrangement; it is merely the machinery of power and profit in action.  And any “activity that might decrease the amount of coal mined, the number of pyramids built, the quantity of junk food confected will be proscribed through laws that, in turn, are based on divine revelations handed down by whatever god or gods happen to be in fashion at the moment” (339-340).

In 1948 Gore Vidal courageously published The City and the Pillar, a coming of age novel about homosexuality.  But Vidal is not celebrated as a hero for gay activists today largely because he rejects the “American passion for categorizing” which endeavors “to create two nonexistent categories—gay and straight” (606).  Vidal therefore scoffs at the notion that such a thing as the “gay community” could ever exist.  (“What in God’s name do Eleanor Roosevelt and Roy Cohn have in common?” he quipped.)

Experience has taught Vidal that “it is possible to have a mature sexual relationship with a woman on Monday, and a mature sexual relationship with a man on Tuesday, and perhaps on Wednesday have both together (admittedly you have to be in good condition for this)” (581).

by Richard W. Bray