Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace

“Four Hands, One Heart” by Steve Walker

Our richly diverse Christian tradition is filled with stories of God, or angels of God, coming to us in various guises – for example, the guise of a poor beggar. The important message of such stories is, of course, that the loving and healing presence of God is in all, and that we are called to recognize and celebrate the manifestation of this sacred, transforming presence in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Sounds simple, I know. But it can be a difficult message to absorb and allow to inform our lives and our dealings with others – especially those with whom we may find ourselves in disagreement.

I was reminded of such stories when I read two reflections on the recent national conference of the Courage apostolate. Courage, as I’m sure many of you know, is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Church that purports to help people move beyond “same-sex attraction” by encouraging a life of “interior chastity in union with Christ.” The movement labels itself a “pro-chastity ministry,” and equates chastity with celibacy.

Although Courage acknowledges that the “inclination” of “homosexual attractions” is “psychological understandable,” such attractions are nevertheless considered “objectively disordered” – a view promulgated by the hierarchical church.

Courage discourages the use of the term “gay,” believing it reduces individuals to their “sexual attractions” and carries with it a whole set of ideological commitments – “commitments” defined by Courage and which (surprise, surprise!) reflect many of the stereotypes associated with gay people – in particular, gay men.

Instead of “gay,” the term “same-sex attracted” is employed by the Courage movement to describe and talk about the homosexual orientation – which, when you think about it, doesn’t make a lot of sense. After all, the term “same-sex attracted” does a far better job reducing people to their sexual attractions than does the word “gay”!

And of course, as I’ve noted in a previous post, it’s ludicrous to think that the term “same-sex attraction” and its substitution for the word “gay,” doesn’t itself connote certain ideological commitments. For proponents of the Courage apostolate, chief among these “commitments” is an unquestioning obedience to the Magisterium, i.e., the teaching ability and authority of the Pope and those bishops in union with him.

Anyway, two online reflections on the recent Courage conference in Chicago got me thinking. Both of these comments can be found here on Terry Nelson’s blogsite, Abbey Roads 2.

In the first of these reflections, Terry himself opines that: “Most young guys aren’t ready for chastity [by which he means celibacy], not to mention leaving the homosexual lifestyle [which he equates to promiscuity], until they get a bit older and their ‘market’ value has been undermined somewhat – or they just got tired of the gay scene [read: promiscuity, again]. That is not to say there is not an authentic conversion involved, it is just more difficult for a younger guy to imagine a life-long commitment to a life of chastity and devotion, as a viable alternative to the hedonistic gay culture.”

Somewhere in Between

The first thing that struck me as I read Terry Nelson’s reflection was that like many who oppose the idea (let alone the reality) of two consenting adults of the same gender being sexual active together, he seems only able to think in terms of extremes: celibacy and hedonism.

What he is proposing, or perhaps better yet, wishfully thinking, is that gay men (lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender folks barely get a look-in!) will have a Damascus Road-type experience and go from the “hedonistic gay culture” to a “life-long commitment to chastity and devotion.” He’s anticipating that when they get old and flabby and can no longer get laid, they’ll jump ship from that gay pleasure cruise and swim to the rock of Daddy Church (you’ll understand the use of this metaphor in a minute!). In short, Nelson, whether conscious of it or not, expects gay men to jump from one extreme to another.

Yet what he and others seem to forget is that most gay men (indeed, most people – regardless of orientation) live their lives quite happily and productively somewhere in between these extremes. And I think that’s both good and healthy – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

My experience has been that both of these extremes can, in their own ways, be oppressive and life-denying. I think there’s great wisdom in Diarmuid Ó Murchú’s contention that it is only the reclaiming of human sexuality’s “essentially spiritual and humanizing affect” that can “demolish both the repression and oppression that dominate the world today.” And this reclaiming – both on the personal and societal levels – can’t be facilitated by extremist voices and positions. Rather, I agree with writer Doris Lessing when she says that it is the “cool, quiet, sensible low-keyed tone of voice which . . . can produce truth.”

That aspects of both extremes presented by Nelson can be oppressive makes sense in light of Ó Murchú’s observation that “the gross pornographic acting-out [Nelson’s only understanding (experience?) of the “gay lifestyle”], on the one hand, and the secret inner guilt-ridden turmoil [encouraged to varying degrees by movements like Courage], on the other, are each the product of the same repressive regime, and one is as violent and destructive as the other. In fact, it is “the inner repression that often fuels the projections that feed . . . sexual pornography” – and addiction, I would add.

I sensed this during conversations with some of the male attendees at the 2003 Courage conference in St. Paul, an event which I’ve written about in some detail here.

A sense of integration

Elsewhere in his commentary, Nelson notes that many who have become dissatisfied with our sexualized culture are realizing “the futility of using promiscuous behavior in a search for love, and friendship through sexual intimacy in order stave off the pain of lonely isolation.” I have no doubt this is true. I also think the gaining of this type of awareness can be understood as an almost archetypal journey or “right of passage” for each one of us.

Yet for Nelson, for this “right of passage” to be truly “life-giving” for gay people, it can only direct them to the exit marked “celibacy.” I would argue, however, that although celibacy may be a viable choice for some, it’s not one that is practical or indeed healthy for the majority of people. No, what many, if not most of us discover is that what alleviates the burdens of human existence and enhances our life journey is a healthy acceptance and integration of one’s sexuality, and a cultivation of a range of interpersonal relationships – including sexual relationships.

I agree wholeheartedly with one of the “witnesses” in Thomas Stevenson’s book, Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men, when he says that: “Whatever your sexual orientation is about . . . there ought to be a sense of integration. You ought to have a sense that [your sexuality] informs how you think about things and it gives you a certain energy with which you can change the world or make life better for yourself or your family . . . And that’s what sexuality is for; it’s supposed to be life giving.”

Celibacy for most people is not experienced as “life-giving.” Christopher Evans has written eloquently of the misguided attempts by some to insist that gay people, by virtue of simply being gay, are automatically called to celibacy. For excerpts of his writings on this topic, see the previous Wild Reed post, Thoughts on Celibacy (Part I).

In the arms of “Father”

As well as his own thoughts on Courage, Nelson also shared the following from a man who attended the recent Courage conference in Chicago:

You should have seen the way [Father] held the men at the conference during the healing service. Grown men wept for sadness turned to joy, burying their faces in the crook of his arm, as he held them tightly – one arm wrapped round their shoulder, the other on the back of their head, pressing them close. And the look. The look of his face. A deep well of love. Not a trace of movability or sentimentality. Chiseled in stone but warm to the touch. I think of him and he warms me. He wows me entirely. And it’s because of the Spirit of Christ that lives within him.

Yes, I know, some would have a field day with this – going places with it that, to be honest, I’m not that interested in going, despite the fact that it readily lends itself to some interesting analysis.

Regardless, the reality is that on a very deep level this recollection of acceptance and healing is profoundly beautiful. It reminds me of one of the beautiful images from a series of engravings that Gustave Doré created for Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

“Oh Shrieve Me, Holy Man” by Gustave Doré

Those who espouse Courage’s understanding of homosexuality see themselves, in a way, cursed like the mariner of Coleridge’s epic tale. The albatross around their neck is their homosexuality. Their “same-sex attractions” are experienced as a burden, a cross that they must bear. It’s a way of thinking that I briefly embraced as a young adult, so I know the power, the allure of that type of experience depicted in Doré’s image for a gay person growing up within the Roman Catholic Church.

When one is made to feel in some way “less than,” inferior; and told by a powerful and imposing hierarchical structure that one’s inner core of being is “objectively disordered,” then it is very easy to be convinced that the saving presence and voice of God is incapable of being discerned within one’s own “disordered” and corrupted self.

Thinking in this way, one can become very susceptible to the promises of acceptance and “healing” from authority figures and structures outside of oneself. Who doesn’t want to feel as though they belong? Indeed, one will readily believe in one’s intrinsic disposition to “sinfulness,” view oneself as a martyr, and pledge unquestioning obedience to the hierarchical structure that promises forgiveness and “healing” if that’s what it takes to experience acceptance and belonging.

Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church has a very long and successful history of manipulating people’s deepest human needs and, in so doing, ensuring that they think and behave like “good little children.”

Yet can such a way of being facilitate adult faith formation? It wasn’t long before I realized that it couldn’t and it doesn’t. To quote again the words of Diarmuid Ó Murchú, I “began to leave behind a religious infantilism and grow up – often painfully – into the freedom and courage that belong to the children of God.” And strange as it may seem to some, it was my experience of studying at various Catholic colleges and universities that, in part, helped me in my faith development, my spiritual “growing up.”

But I digress. Back now to the experience of the Courage conference attendee. As I’ve readily acknowledged, it’s a powerful and beautiful testimony on the part of this particular individual. Yet it’s one that also raises some important questions that as a “grown up” spiritual person, I cannot ignore.

For a start, after he quotes the conference attendee’s words on his blogsite, Nelson is quick to stress that “the priest cited here is obviously not gay” [emphasis his]. Hmm, I wonder: why “obviously”? And if it’s so obvious, why is there even a need to insist that he’s “not gay” in the first place?

Nelson continues by declaring that “[the priest’s] embrace of the men in the healing service demonstrates his chaste love and security in his own masculinity, and of course, his priesthood.” Nelson sure is going to an awful lot of trouble to reassure us that there’s nothing “gay” about this particular priest!

Of course, perhaps it’s understandable. After all, as a friend of mine pointed out, change a few words and the attendee’s description of the “healing service” could easily describe an S&M encounter – complete with that particular sub-culture’s penchant for total submission and “big daddy” figures.

One can only wonder if the man relating this experience would have had the some profound experience of healing if it wasn’t another man holding him.

Elsewhere, the conference attendee is adamant that for him, this particular priest is “Jesus with skin.” Is it any wonder that some of the most vocal opponents of female ordination are “same-sex attracted” men? I used to think it was simply because they were so unquestionably obedient to the Magisterium. Yet now I wonder if there’s not something deeper going on.

In reality, we’re all called to be “Jesus with skin.” That this particular individual is seemingly incapable of experiencing God’s transforming presence and touch through the embrace (non-gay in his case, of course!) of another man, apart from the priest in question, or the embrace, say, of a woman, is quite sad.

In the arms of one’s beloved

Many gay Catholics experience the transforming and healing presence of Christ in and through the loving embrace of their partners – and, yes, by that I mean their sexual partners.

These experiences can be just as healing and nourishing as the loving embrace of the priest described by the Courage conference attendee.

“Michael S.,” for instance, one of the gay Catholic men interviewed for Thomas Stevenson’s book, Sons of the Church, relates the following:

I like it when [my partner and I] pray together . . . It still feels a little odd to us. But when we’ve done that it’s been really good. And I even heard a story about a couple that would occasionally pray before they had sex. And we did that and it really turns out nice. It’s sex that’s very giving. All of a sudden you’re doing it with a blessing over you or with a higher purpose in life.

And then there’s this beautiful and profound experience of God’s presence discerned in the life of a gay man named Joe. In the following excerpt from Sons of the Church, Joe shares the response he received from God in relation to his deliberations about whether or not he should commit to Leo, the man he loves, or become a monk. Here’s part of “the Lord’s answer” to Joe’s prayers:

Joseph, I love you with every fiber of my being. I love you whether you are gay or straight . . . In the midst of problems and questions, I exist in you. Through it all, I am here with you. Joseph, you asked me what you were to do with Leo and the idea of being a monk. In both cases I gave you an answer. Remember and relive it. I told you to find me in Leo . . . And I also told you I will make you holy in the world. Both answers, my son, are still valid. You have what others desire, a relationship that is based on love and affection. Leo loves you and is faithful to you. You also love Leo in spite of your fears and ambiguities. You are not a celibate, Joseph, and I didn’t ordain you to be. Stop worrying about a lifestyle that isn’t yours. Again, I ask you, how many have what you have? Not many. Grow together with Leo. Develop each other’s strengths and forgive each other’s weaknesses. I live in him, Joseph, and I live in you, too. I bless your relationship and I have ordained it to be a vehicle for your salvation, wholeness, and growth.

I have no doubt whatsoever that there are many gay people who have had similar experiences of hearing, from deep within, the loving, transforming voice of God. I know I have. And it can and has led many to not only accept their homosexuality as a gift from God, but to also share this gift by seeking, building and sustaining a loving, committed relationship with another of the same gender – a relationship that, over time, comes to embody the fruits of the Spirit: faith, hope, love, patience, forgiveness, fortitude, kindness, generosity.

Such relationships between gay men can and do involve a sexual dimension or, as Christopher Evans says in one of his reflections, “penis display.”

“Relationship” by Raphael Perez

Evans goes on to note that: “Penis display in such relationships . . . becomes a sign not of death, of domination and appropriation of the other man for the shoring up of our fragile selves [all of which are popular contentions by groups such as Courage], but quite the opposite. Penis display puts us at risk. Penis display makes us vulnerable. Penis display becomes a way of being naked before G-d and one another rather than forming ourselves in rivalry. We are naked before the other man, being held and known, embraced, reminding us that our true self comes from being receptive and responsive to G-d and giving thanks for one another and that ours is a G-d of embrace. That we are not rivals, but brothers, lovers, friends in Christ.”

When will the Vatican permit its teachings on human sexuality to be informed by such loving and Spirit-filled relationships?

I wonder what it will take for the Courage folks to recognize Christ’s presence in the lives and relationships of their non-celibate gay brothers and sisters?

When will we realize that the healing love we receive when in the arms of “Father,” can also be received when in the arms of our lover?

When will we celebrate, my friends, the liberating truth that the healing and transforming embrace of God can and does come in many guises, many manifestations?

“Home” by Steve Walker

Come to me,
let me put my arms around you.
This was meant to be,
and I’m oh-so-glad I found you.
Need you every day,
got to have your love around me.
Yes, always stay,
’cause I can’t go back
to living without you.

“Come to Me”
by Rodney L. Temperton
and recorded by
Judy Stone

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part I)
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part II)
The Real Meaning of Courage
The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
When “Guidelines” Lack Guidance
Be Not Afraid: You Can Be Happy and Gay
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men - A Discussion Guide
The Catholic Church and Gays: An Excellent Historical Overview
Keeping the Spark Alive
The Dreaded “Same-sex Attracted” View of Catholicism
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
To Whom the Future of the Catholic Church Belongs
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex


Terry Nelson said...

You are a nice man. Obviously we disagree on these matters. Thanks for linking to my discussion on this subject.

My clarification about the priest not being gay comes from the fact I know him and know he is not gay - although some folks think that embracing a gay man is a gay act. (I know - kind of narrow, huh?) It also comes from the fact that many people like to label priests in the Courage ministry as gay, and often it is their peers who cast the suspicion. That's all.

The song "Come To Me" was first made by Patti Austin. I like it too.

Chastity and celibacy does not mean a person must live alone, without intimacy. Genital intimacy is prohibited of course. I know two men who have lived together for 30 years, 28 of those years lived in chastity. One is a devout Catholic, the other a nominal Christian. Early on in the reltionship, the Catholic man, who espoused much of what you covered in the post, felt he could no longer betray his conscience. he was prepared to leave the reltionship until his partner told him he would consent to live in continence. They stayed together.

Neither are promiscuous and both have said their love for one another became deeper, less threatened by outside influences, etc.. Naturally their gay friends thought they were nuts and they lost mny of them. They continue to live together quietly, with deep affection and loyalty towards one another. They cared for both of their ageing parents until they died, and said it was the most rewarding experiences of their lives.

I know that is an isolated experience, but people do this stuff. I have a straight, childless married couple who have lived similarly - which I imagine many people think is disordered as well. I don't however.

I'm sure there are similar stories of other gay couples, living together in fidelity, who are sexually active, while living quiet, well ordered, virtuous lives as well.

God bless you.


Anonymous said...

"Most young men who are gay today are not looking for a "hedonistic gay culture." They're looking for life partner (spouse). They are not prone to one-night stands and sex clubs."


Your statement doesn't jibe with CDC statistics.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Peggy, what are you talking about? Since when did the CDC start surveying young gay men about their sex lives and what they’re looking for (or not looking for) in terms of a relationship?

Rick, I agree with your observation. It’s also confirmed in Thomas Stevenson’s book where one of the oldest witnesses interviewed says: “Being in relationship wasn’t as easy to do [back] then as it is now. People today are looking for a relationship. I see it with the young people. They pair off more and that’s a good thing.”



Anonymous said...

A link to the stats would be nice, if such a link exists.

I wonder if there are vast differences in promiscuous behaviors among young adults who are hetero vs. those who aren't?

My guess is probably not (young/youth being the operative phrase), but I don't have the statistics, and I can't be bothered to look into them right now.

All the middle aged gay people I know, who are out and not selfhating, are in long term, monogamous partnerships. And I know quite a few.

If GLTBs are more prone to relationship jump (which, when compared with divorce rates, common law marriages, etc.) - I would expect to see a somewhat similar pattern of behavior among GLTBs as in the hetero popluation - even without the convention of marriage being available to them.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

rick: Courage was not established to reach out to heterosexuals. It was established to help Catholics struggling with SSA to actually live what the faith they claim to be members of actually teaches.

Mr. Bayly: I'm not sure what you think you are trying to accomplish with your insinuations about Terry Nelson's sexuality: A subject which you know absolutely nothing about. I'm disappointed that you would stoop so low.

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful and thoughtful post, Michael.

Terry Nelson's comment is interesting.

He says: "I'm sure there are similar stories of other gay couples, living together in fidelity, who are sexually active, while living quiet, well ordered, virtuous lives as well."

If this is the case, what can be the purpose of trying to change their sexual practice?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful observations with fabulous visuals. But I'm afraid the Judeo-Christo-Islamic nexus are barriers to the very loving embrace you extol. On a direct experience, Mother Teresa came to Saint Paul's parish here in San Francisco to operate and AIDS hospice in one of the parish's unused buildings. Upon arrival, she reproached the parishioners for spending any money on carpet and paint and personally yanked up the carpet in front of stunned observers. Needless to say, the hospice never came into operation. When John Paul II visited in 1988, his visit to the Mission Dolores Basilica caused an uproar. The Pope kissed an AIDS baby and held it up in his arms (captured on a Time cover), but then refused to even countenance the dozens of men with AIDS the archbishop had brought for pastoral care. The shunning was so upsetting, the archbishop, the nation's first CHRISTIAN to have an AIDS ministry, took early retirement (many Catholics believe he was pressured to retire for his active support of AIDS victims). The Image of Embrace that you lovingly draw has to be through OUR hands, because God's Warriors seem to focus on sheep and goats, saved and unsaved, chosen or unchosen, sinner or saint, and dividing one from the other cannot be divine, and if division is the motif, and Jesus certain used it, as did Saint Paul, as have their followers, then the Judeo-Christo-Islamic god cannot be the true god. That god is a tribal god, not a god of unconditional love and benevolence. And witnessing two "pillars" of saintliness, I saw more demonic energies than loving ones. Indeed, only the blind zealot could have missed it. It took its toll in both attendance and affiliation. I knew Kevin who once headed Dignity and admired his efforts as he and many of his fellow Saint Ignatius Prep friends were all part of an inner circle. But I gave him my Saint Jude medal, the saint of lost causes. We can read into the Gospel different meanings, as any good Catholic knows, but what one cannot read "out" of the Gospel is division. Even the beauty of James' and John's epistles, the closest to a divine message, still divides. "If you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors . . . so speak to act as those who are judged by the law of liberty, for judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (Jas 2:8-13). One almost feels the Law of Love, and it fills most of this extraordinary epistle, until the fifth chapter, when a stereotypical indictment of wealth is given. And to end on a gravely mistaken juxtaposition of urging patience in trial and suffering, "as the endurance of Job, you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful" (5:11). I am quite sure James overlooked Job 1:6-22, where Yahweh encourages Satan to torment his righteous servant Job to show Satan just how faithful his servant will be. How is this divinely encouraged torture not sadistic? Apologists insist that the allegory is not meant to show Yahweh as the actual agent of evil, rather we're to understand that loyalty is rewarded. How? Job is loyal and faithful already. Indeed, Yahweh states to Satan, "Very well, all that [Job] has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him" (Jb 1:12). Torment Job, but don't kill him. This allegory does not support a deity who stands against the evil of universal suffering, it illustrates a perverse deity that promotes it. We're not even addressing the issue of why a god would permit suffering, we're asking why a god promotes it? When Job's cries for a hearing for justice are finally given heed, none of his questions are answered. All Job knows at the end is that the innocent suffer, but not without apparent reason: But with divine encouragement. James' appeal to this wisdom literature and its sadistic message of a perverse deity promoting the evil of suffering for the deity's satisfaction, has to jar even the simplest reader. But not if one sees this deity's agents (JPII, MT, and Evangelicals) behavior; they are living this allegory.

Give me the embrace of true romantic love and authentic universal benevolence.Jesus and Paul limit benevolence to the sheep, and exclude the goats. What again did James write about partiality?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to comment on "rick's" comment, which I find far more valid and profound than his honest, but brief, comments make.

Judaism does not have an obsession over sexuality, it has an obsession over "contamination." Leviticus is devoted to nearly nothing else.

As a tribal people, the Hebrews, like most tribes, had their priests who divined the tribe's survival codes. If read from that perspective, all the anally-retentive, hyper-scrupulous purity rituals and contamination avoidance makes sense, and why a tribal people might think menses and feces and semen "contaminate" the individual and the tribe. It's neurotically obsessive for its time, but let's cut them a little slack. They are primitives.

But as Hebrews evolve and interface with other communities, their understanding of irrational primitive codes does not fade, but becomes fixed. It was this narrow-thinking fixity to primitive codes that Jesus repeatedly denounces: "It's not what goes in a man, but what comes out." When he speaks of his flesh and blood as "real life," he is trading on the dietary laws that prohibit rare meat (which has it's life still in it). Clearly, Jesus is trying to get his audience to see the silliness of their primitive and irrational dietary laws as no longer serving any good purpose but control and disputes and clannishness, but most of his audience finds this "teaching difficult," and abandon Jesus. (N.B. The Bread of Life Discourse has many other purposes, not merely the one I've just cited.)

The reason I cite this Discourse is it is paradigmatic of the "problem" within the J-C-I triumvirate, remaining even after one leaves direct association. In the hands of Saint Paul, what Jesus is trying to overcome, he takes in the opposite direction: all flesh is hostile to god, not just the contaminants of Leviticus (see, Rom 1-7). That exactly opposite of Jesus' message. Worse, it exacerbates the tension and extends it, by making the entire person, and especially his sexual organs, the personification of sin. Jude goes so far as to claim human flesh "contaminates" their clothing!

Mind you, these are primitives. But rather than "progress" and "enlightenment," especially upon contact with civilization, such as Rome and Greece, these absurd abnegations should have been laughably comic. Instead, they become paradigmatic -- in direct contradiction of Jesus. And since it is highly probable that Jesus was gay (see, the "beloved" apostle references throughout), clearly butt-fucking, already practiced in Greece and Rome for centuries, would have been welcomed enlightenment from primitive tribal customs.

Why this is important is because Saint Paul (Saul of Tarsus) never saw Jesus in the flesh and retains not only his Jewish prejudices from the Levitical Code, he makes ALL behavior involving the FLESH sinful, not merely the "contamination" ones. This is REGRESS, not progress. And it contradicts the Gospel. But because of this perverse anthropology of Paul's, it has "infected" all who come in contact with it. Indeed, the true contamination is Paul's perverse anthropology, and exceptionally perverse view of all sexuality, especially same-sex eroticism. That such perversion itself might generate perverse reactions such as sexual indulgence without emotional accompaniment should surprise no one! The "taboo" has been broken, but it's gone bonkers. Rather than romantic intimacy, which one assumes would be the liberated recovery, men and women have eviscerated human sexual intimacy to "sex as commodity." One "has sex," these days, not with emotional involvement, not with satisfaction, but merely for self-gratification, or if lucky, mutual self-gratification. The lack of emotional involvement would have been incomprehensible in Greco-Roman societies, but after millennia of repression, it has become commonplace. Indeed, prophets of modernity (psychologists) encourage it. No hedonist from antiquity would have divorced intimacy, sexuality, and emotional factors; they're integral to our flourishing. To segregate these factors only leaves one with less-than-fulfilling "sex." Because it is ONLY "sex." That might work for irrational and unemotive animals that are motivated by instinct alone, but humans' instincts INCLUDE their rational, emotive, and appetitive mental lives along with their physiological drives. Humans could eat perfectly nutritious pellets to satisfy their hunger, just as our pets, but our reason, emotions, and appetites prefer a little flavor, a nice presentation, a lot of spice, and served with a little indulgence. Maybe accompanied by wine and liquors.

Many gays and straights are treating the human erotic impulses as "sex," just as our pets' kibble, as if that could possible satisfy. Rather than "liberate" ourselves to enjoy the fullness of erotic intimacy, many have become compulsive sex-a-holics. That they've become this myopic, one understand briefly, following liberation, but to persist in it becomes self-fulfilling, because it ain't fulfilling. It's "just sex." That's why it's "just sex." Most human populations want more than "just sex." Oh, that want sex, but WITH intimacy and emotional involvement.

So, we can understand the reaction against Pauline repression, but authentic hedonists, including Epicurus, who authored the hedonist principle, would never find "just sex" pleasurable, much less pleasant. They'd regard it as woefully deficient. I'm not denying an occasional orgy might be fun, but serial, anonymous, emotionless "just sex" would have been repugnant to homophiles in antiquity. "Getting it on," not merely "getting off."

But look at what the J-C-I thinking produces in reaction, or in conformity -- both defective exponentially. That is why, generally, gays bond as a couple. Tricking is not merely tiresome, it's banal. Worse, its lack of satisfaction only leads to more of it as compensation for its deficiencies, in a vicious circle jerk of devalued, diminished, and unfulfilling serial sex.

Faith and Fatherland said...

To my mind what Michael has to say about "penis display" sounds about right. After all, communal nudity of one sort or another has been an important part of heterosexual male bonding since the dawn of civilisation.