Sunday, January 07, 2007

On the foundations of sexual psychopathology

[click here for audio / podcast]

I expect that, to the average American, I would seem to be a "sexual deviant", however, I think it is fair to say that my spontaneous, free-flowing eroticsm is but a extension of the way my mind works. I am a divergent thinker, and so I consider myself "sexually divergent" rather than "deviant". But again, that is a question of semantic nuances, I suppose.

Which leads to my next topic.... sexual psychopathology.

My morality, ethics, and sexuality were heavily influenced by two diametrically-opposed lifestyles: the hippie-hedonism of my parent's communal lifestyle, and the fundamentalist Christianity of my missonary evangelist grandparents. Perhaps as a consequence of being caught in the middle of their battle for my mind, body, and soul, I have long been aware of, and fascinated by, how the socio-religious regulation of sexuality is internalized to produce sexual psychopathology. I have long wanted to understand what it is about our society that creates 'child molesters' such as the one I fell prey to when I was 11. What I have learned over the years is that children have always been eroticized, but that the abuse factor is a fairly recent evolution in response to the Church's attempt to bring sexuality and reproduction under its control. It took centuries for them to bring marriage under the umbrella of Its authority, proscribing fornication and adultery, and condemning all non-procreative sexual practices as "unnatural".

The history of sexuality in the West is rather interesting and very convoluted. The Hellenic (Greek) culture tolerated pederastic and male homosexual relations for centuries. It was not uncommon for men and women to reserve feeling of higher 'love' for people of their own gender, or for children. It was understood that sex was required for procreation, but that loving sexuality was fluid in its expression, rather than static. Sex was recognized for the primal and necessary bodily function that it is, rather than being wrapped in and confused with 'love' like it is today. This ended rather quickly with the rise of Christianity--the pleasures of the flesh were directly at odds with the prospect of salvation in the imminent 'last days'.

In my readings, I found it interesting to learn that being a catamite in Hellenic days was not only accepted, but expected by those of honoured houses. It was an honour even, to the family whose boy was chosen. And homosexuality was no more looked down upon then as heterosexuality is now. I also find the evolution of prostitution from something accepted and deemed a necessary, if not always desirable thing, to the apparent abomination that some view it to be today. In fact, a great many things viewed as 'immoral' today were not so before the rise of Christianity.

In the 19th century, Darwin's work began to influence most aspects of Western Thought, and through it, religious views on sexual difference were provided with a biological and eventually an evolutionary logic, which then in turn was used to determine that departures from sanctioned demonstrations of heterosexuality were not only 'sins', but pathological deviations from physiological norms. The emergence of what could be called 'scientific sexology' at the end of the nineteenth century completed these developments by identifying as sexual 'deviants' the prostitutes, masturbators, and perverts whose sexual practices supposedly posed a biological and moral threat to the health of families, nations, and the 'race.' This was the pivotal moment in the modern history of sexuality -- when homosexuality, sadism, masochism, and the other 'perversions' were invented. It was not a simple medical or scientific conspiracy, but a decisive cultural revolution that,
when interwoven with the upwelling of charismatic Christian evangelism during the same era, left pyscho-social marks so deep, indelible, and socially transmissible, that most people in America assume that this 19th century construction is both natural and eternal.

In the end, I think it all comes down to pleasure. Pre-Christian cultures elevated pleasure and happiness as goals to be achieved in daily life. Early Christians, believing that Christ would come again within their lifetime/generation, embraced an ascetic lifestyle that renounced pleasure today in favour of the rigors needed to be worthy of the joys salvation in the afterlife. When it became apparent that Christ was not coming as soon was originally promised, the emphasis shifted to control, to controlling pleasure and pain, marriage and procreation through fear. The eyes of the Heirs of Paul ceased their inward look and turned to those whose lives were free of the oppressive fears of their Christian brethren, and seeing them as threats to the continuation of the Church, sought to bring them under the authority of the Church lest they influence new converts to return to the 'old ways'. Little did the Church elders know that the use of fear to control sexuality would last for thousands of years, and mutate to turn expressions of non-procreative sexuality into an underground phenomenon perpetuated from generation to generation by guilt and oppression. Christianity, and the culture it spawned, has a dark, twisted, and seedy underside. It makes sinners of its subscribers, who, knowing they are powerless to prevent themselves from participating in the cycle of Original Sin, become twisted by fear and the need to exert power and control -- over themselves and others -- in the most deeply personal and private aspect of their lives: their sexuality.

Perhaps, for ha-has, I should begin identifying myself as a Fundamentalist Pre-Christian, and begin dialogue on getting back to sound, healthy, pre-Christian values: de-nuclearization of the 'family' in favour of a return to the community as the basic social unity; the return of sexual worship to temples and other sanctums; rites of fertility and sexual initiation; placing procreation back in the hands of women, who, after all, bear children, and who for millennia, made the decision to bear or expose to the elements children born 'untimely'; viewing masturbation as a healthy and desirable expression of self-love; all as an effort to root out the sexual psychopathology, guilt, and repression rampant in our current society. I can just see their faces now. Wheeeee.

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