We have forced sexuality underground. If there is any pathology around sexuality in our culture it is its separation from all other aspects of human experience. We have cut sex off from the rest of our lives. From our day to day.
We like to think of ourselves as a liberated generation, when it comes to sex. But we are manifestly not. Not in the slightest. The only thing that is liberated is our ability to talk about our sexual pathologies. To write about them, create art about them, to dialogue about them.
But we are not free from them. We are not free from the Eden myth. We are not free from the fear of nakedness, and the fear of masculine energy – what Whitman calls “the procreant urge.” I would argue that it is religion that has institutionalised this pathology. It is now embedded in our culture. And so called liberated behaviours seem to me nothing more than expressions of the problem. For instance, I don’t think a pornstar is liberated. I don’t think 99% of the sex in films or movies is indicative of a culture liberated about its sexuality. Sexuality as it is depicted in popular culture has a desperation about it, a manic quality.
And this is because we are still expressing it through a dualistic paradigm. What I mean is, there is the world of daily life – the clothed world – and then there is the world of sexuality, the naked world, the world of the body. Our daily lives have minimal contact with the world of the body. And if they do, it is almost always conceptual.
So that’s what I’m saying when I say sexuality has been forced underground. The implications for men are drastic, too. Something that is so vital to our identities as biological beings, is, we are taught, essentially shameful. I repeat, NOTHING about modernity is liberated from this. The behaviours of contemporary society around sexuality are simply reinforcing this repression even deeper. And it is all the more worrying because modernity fancies itself as free of old repressions. This is the most dangerous aspect of it.
Men are still ashamed of their sexualities. This is why so much of the culture around masculinity is abusive. And now we are entering into a period of even deeper shame, as a result of this abusive history. The result will be to foster more and more resentments, more and more anger, and more power struggles. Where are we likely to end up?
In my view, we need to dissolve the shame around male sexuality. That is, the whole culture must face up its fear of the primordial. What Conrad meant by the Heart of Darkness should actually be celebrated rather than repressed. The urge to create, and build, and to fight and protect, the urge for glory and conquest; all of these need to be understood rather than feared.
I am going to argue that men, through indirect teachings, mixed messages and passively transferred cultural beliefs, grow up to fear their own energies. Men grow up believing that they have something fundamentally wrong with them. That they are beastial, and that there is a dark force within them that has to be controlled. And women are taught to fear it too.
It is not something that is ever voiced, or articulated in any particular, tangible way, but it is something that exists at the foundations of our culture. Many ancient cultures had rites and religious rituals surrounding the phallic. The procreant male energy was something to be feared, managed, prayed to and begged for forgiveness. It was a merciless God, unpredictable, volatile, violent.
Different cultures had different ways of dealing with this basic fear. Many pagan cultures, and Robert Graves talks a lot about this, had a very abusive way of managing the energy. The Herculean rituals of pagan cultures usually end up with the kings and tribal chiefs being sacrificed or maimed in some way. In many other indigenous cultures, young men are ceremoniously wounded at puberty.
These are actually relatively evolved and practical ways of taming the male energy, compared to our “civilised” form of shame and psychic guilt.
There is a theory that humans created gods and religion as a primitive response to the forces of nature around them. Extreme heat, thunder, storms, all became the wrathfulness of the gods and eventually, of one god. I would argue that we are still caught in a similar kind of primitive reaction to masculinity. And it is a developmental thing. We don’t understand this energy. All we know is that it’s powerful.
But the problem is not this energy itself. The problem is our reactions to it. We have not matured much more than a cave dweller when comes to our understanding of the male principle. We fear it. We’re petrified, and we repress this fear. We fear ourselves. We repress that fear too. So our fear becomes shame, which masks a deeper desire for this energy to be expressed, and this goes on for fucking generations and – hey presto – we have a deeply conflicted, abusive and pathological culture surrounding sexuality.