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Life Arts    H2'ed 7/18/09


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Originally posted:

Sex is an important thing to be comfortable with and open about-to deal with in an open, supportive, non-manipulative manner. In the society depicted in Brave New World they say that "Promiscuity is a Citizen's Duty." They encourage their citizens to have sex and to feel open about sex. Children at an early age are allowed to go off and play with one another-to explore their own and one another's bodies. This seems to be a natural disposition that children have-to masturbate or to play doctor. Though it is often met with disapproval-which, of course, in turn sends children negative messages about sex and sexuality. Encouraging an open appreciation for the body and sexuality thus seems healthy and productive-as does teaching children to develop their own boundaries and demand respect for them. I'm encouraged by the Unitarian Universalist "Our Whole Lives: Lifespan Sexuality Education Curricula":

A world in which sex and the body are considered secret and shameful actually accommodates things like pedophilia. Such an environment provides the perfect soil for the development of sexual neuroses, the hiding and festering rather than effective treatment of sexual neuroses, and the opportunity for those with sexual neuroses to act upon them. The fact that sex and the body are shameful has provided fuel for groups like NAMBLA to believe that sex with children can be okay if dealt with in an open way. But the reason sex with children is harmful to children is because of the inherent power disparity between adults and children and the coercive influence sex involves, not because sex in itself is inherently bad or harmful. And sex between adults and children is not the only situation in which power disparities exist and cause harm.

The harm that results from such sexual manipulation is then compounded by the secrecy and shame the child faces in reaction from the outer society at large. When an adult molests a child, the child often keeps quiet because they are ashamed of what has happened to them, and the guilt, shame, and secrecy compound the harm done to extraordinary levels. The child keeps what happens a secret and allows it to continue because they have been taught to regard sex as a secret and shameful thing. They are afraid of what people will think of them. Many parents are squeamish when it comes to talking to their children about sex, and so the children are left vulnerable to predators. In a world in which sex was an open matter, children would be less likely to find themselves in such situations to begin with. If they did find themselves in such situations, they would not hesitate to report their having been assaulted and immediate action would be taken. Their experience of the assault would be the same as that of any assault not of a sexual nature.

We can build a world without sexual exploitation, but we cannot do it and keep sex a taboo subject. As long as you associate ignorance of sex with innocence, you will necessarily associate sex with guilt. Rape, as another example of sexual violence, becomes a tool of dominance domestically and in war primarily where cultures that value virginity have this weakness of theirs exploited, as well as cultures in which violence, dominance, and male chauvinism are ideals. On the other hand, there are cultures in which rape is unheard of, and these societies are, in turn, ones in which violence and dominance in general are abhorred and the culture is egalitarian in nature.

Returning to the Brave New World society, in it they have no love relationships. The society of Brave New World exemplifies dogmatic idealism-a sort of castrated Dionysian world, filled with positivity but without any transcendent quality of growth and development. There's no attempt to improve anything or become anything greater. Everything is shallow and purely sensory-there is no depth of feeling or understanding. The society of 1984, in contrast, would represent dogmatic nihilism-a true dystopia. The people in 1984 live in poverty and accept lies about how good everything is. Whereas in 1984 there is love for Big Brother and no pleasure-sex exists solely to produce children for the state and not pleasure-in Brave New World there is sex for pleasure only, and no love relationships are developed. That Brave New World advocates an open sexuality and an appreciation for pleasure seems good, but the lack of development of love relationships is a detrimental flaw. We would, of course, want to encourage both an open sexual environment and the development of intimate love relationships. In Stranger in a Strange Land this is exactly what is done. Individuals live together in a kind of nest. They don't wear clothes, are open about everything, have an open sexual environment, develop intimate love relationships, and focus on developing their psychic potential. This, then, seems the ideal situation.

Nudism is an essential piece. Clothing is good for decoration and to protect from the elements, but not to conceal. When it is used to conceal it separates us from each other and it separates us from ourselves. We disassociate from our bodies-we both develop body shame and feel disconnected from our body and our environment. Body shame leads to things like eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia), obsessive use of cosmetics and cosmetic surgery, and all sorts of compulsive behavior that results from general low self-esteem. I think wearing clothing sends a very subtle but very powerful message that there is something wrong with your body. People feel uncomfortable about their bodies and there is a sense of body shame. If one person sees another naked accidentally it can be embarrassing or upsetting-there is a power imbalance created. As seen in Abu Ghraib, the power disparity created between the clothed and unclothed and the insecurity created by body shame can be used to manipulate individuals and destroy their self-esteem. Imagine those sort of tactics being used on members of a nudist colony-they would be void of coercive power or ability to harm. People use words like "modest" and "private" to try and hide this weakness in their character-turn a vice into a virtue through ressentiment. You are not modest-you are insecure. It is not private-it is shameful. Otherwise, you should have no problem openly revealing yourself in public. True modesty is when one plays down one's own virtue so as not to shame others-but when people talk about modesty it relation to their bodies it seems almost always to be about keeping oneself from feeling ashamed at the exposure of one's form. When we don't wear clothes we are all far more vulnerable, sensitive, and open to our bodies, one another, and the environment. We feel our bodies much more. We aren't just floating heads detached from the world. An added bonus: less clothing means less laundry.

Now when I say this, I'm sure a number of you cringe. You feel fear, because you are insecure. But I don't say these things because I am secure and wish to pick on you. I feel the same insecurity that many of you feel, but in my weakness and sickness, I recognize that I am weak and sick-and I want to be strong. I want to become integrated with my body and my natural body processes and to be free of shame for these things. I want to be able to connect with other people without hiding parts of myself away. Why would you want to do so? But I also want to be clear that I don't think the most effective way to achieve this state of health is through forcing oneself into situations where one feels uncomfortable-this may even be counterproductive. Rather, one should expand one's feelings of comfort and confidence through positive, nourishing experiences. As for those gifted with an abundance of comfort and confidence, they should solidify and consolidate this sentiment by being naked as often as possible. They can help to lead the way in this shift towards general health and integration. And if you are not so strong, at least encourage rather than shame others when they exhibit this strength of character.

In many traditional tribal cultures they are more open about sexuality. The Shuar, for example, always have sex outside. They consider sex to be a way to connect with one another, in particular, as well as the environment and the stream of life itself, in general. They would consider sex that is done inside, and especially sex that is hidden, to be perverted. I think there is certainly a use for both seclusion as well as public display. These allow for different types of energetic experiences and development-autonomy and homonomy, respectively. One should feel comfortable with both and open about both. The importance of nakedness doesn't just apply to sex and the body, however. It also applies to conversation and the mind. Secrets and lies create cognitive dissonance. If someone holds a secret about something they are ashamed about, it is detrimental to their health and happiness. We should encourage everyone to be open about everything and to share everything and to not be ashamed. Whatever someone thinks and however someone feels is natural and is to be accepted. That doesn't mean that anyone can do whatever they want. Any group, of course, makes decisions to limit or prevent certain actions for the purpose of functionality. But this doesn't need to take the form of personal or moral disapproval, merely an assertion of the group's desire and functional necessity. The latter requires no shame-merely discourse and action. Individuals should be encouraged to be brave and open about themselves and the way they feel, on the one hand, as well as accepting and appreciative of the way others feel. You can deal with issues through reason-pragmatically.

A certain ressentiment has come about in how people think about sexuality. Initially sex is taken as a good thing-if it weren't, we wouldn't survive as a species. People seek to have sex and have sexual experiences. But while some excel at this, others don't. Jealousy and insecurity give rise to a desire to disparage sex and individuals who are sexually active. Because the weaker don't want to feel weaker, they engage in ressentiment and assert the contrary value-sex isn't good but bad, chastity is a virtue-to try and make themselves feel good and the strong feel bad. Thus words like slut and whore are used to try and shame women who are sexually active. Women are specifically the target of this anti-sex mechanism in "patriarchal" societies, though to a certain extent the anti-sex values extend to harm us all. (It's actually a little more nuanced than this. See my article "Gender.")

And "patriarchy," or patrilineal systems more specifically, are really the key to this. In a matrilineal system, descent comes down through the mother's line. Brother and sister ties are very strong and marriage ties are very weak. A child is raised by its mother and her brothers and sisters. The children that a man is economically and socially responsible for are not those that he produced biologically-though he is involved in their lives like a favorite uncle-but the children his sisters produce. Under these systems there is little or no sexual repression-no attempt to prevent people from having sex. Why? Because children from such unions are always accounted for. If it comes out of your sister, it's yours. In patrilineal systems, however, where descent comes down from the father, in order for a man to be sure that the children he is raising are really his children, he has to control his wife sexually. Women have to be prevented from having sex. The focus is on limiting women specifically, but of course everyone ends up suffering for this. By living communally in a kinship system rather than a descent system, however, we can undo this issue and promote a positive and free sexual environment. And, of course, the ability to genetically detect paternity makes this a non-issue in the modern world, since one can always determine the father now if the issue comes up.

Sex is power for the people and a form of free spirituality. Two women, two men, a man and a woman-each of these forms represent a unique type of union. It is the will of life that it should not be bound and that each of these forms should exist, for otherwise life would be incomplete and less. I don't begrudge life this. Heterosexuals, homosexuals, and pansexuals each have their own advantages. Heterosexuals have an easier time producing children and have the unique situation of being able to be friends with members of their own sex without ever having to worry about sex complicating things. Homosexuals have the "home field advantage." They also don't have to worry about unplanned pregnancies. Pansexuals get to love everyone without discrimination by sex. Also, some people prefer to exist in pairs and others in groups, some more exclusive and others more open, some more traditionally and some more experimentally. This is the will of life-and I do not begrudge life this. That it harm none, do what ye will. There is a lie that homosexuality is unnatural-as if anything that occurs could be unnatural-but this behavior is found readily in other species, along with masturbation and oral sex. The idea that only human beings have sex for pleasure is ridiculous.

The use of terms like whore and slut, a result of ressentiment born out of jealousy and insecurity, are an assault against liberal and healthy sexuality. This is part and parcel of a calculated attempt to subdue and exploit the human spirit. The individual that is empowered through sex is less easily the victim of Christian or Capitalist means of control. Selling items through sex appeal is not as affective when the populace gets all the sex it wants for free. In a truly sexually liberated world, pornography wouldn't exist.

Those that think that sex exists for the sole purpose of reproduction are mistaken. Sex, like everything else, is both an end in itself and a means to an infinite number of potential ends.

"Western ideas of relationships prescribe ideally, that romance, domesticated intimacy (in marriage) and sexuality should all be incorporated into the same relationship-and if, for example, one has a relationship 'only for sex' it is not complete, and perhaps not morally sound.

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Ben Dench graduated valedictorian of his class from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the Spring Semester of 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy (his graduation speech, which received high praise, is available on YouTube). He is currently (more...)
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