16 March 2008

The Spitzer Fallout

Lauren Berlant has written what by far is the most intelligent commentary I've read on the likely consequences of the Eliot Spitzer "sex scandal." You can find her essay at The Nation. Here are some of the good bits:
"The law, the family, marriage--exit polls suggest that all of these will be the winner here, after being horribly maligned by a man who forgot his oaths to honor them.

Instead, what stories like this really do is to damage the reputation of sex. Whenever there's a sex scandal, I feel sorry for sex. I felt sorry for sex during the Larry Craig brouhaha last summer. What if he liked being married and procreating and giving anonymous head? What if that was his sexual preference? What if he really was not gay, as he claims, but had sexual desires that seemed incoherent? [. . .]

[. . . ] Public sexual scandals revel in the hatred of sex. Disgust at the appetites. The strangeness of sex, the ordinary out-of-controlness of sex acts and sex drives that we all experience (if we're having it). Actually, usually, sex is not a threat to very much. But it feels like a threat to something, which is why so many people stop having it.

So when a sexual scandal happens, people indulge in projections of what makes them uncomfortable about sex: its weirdness (I was just standing up and talking and now I'm doing this?), its sloppiness, its awkwardness, its seeming disconnection from so many other "appropriate" drives (to eat, for example). Then there's the fear of becoming a mere instrument of someone else's pleasure, in a way that one doesn't want.

Nonetheless, I'm just saying, I really like sex. We have no idea what sex would be like in a world that saw it basically as a good. A weird good. A good that can tip you over and make you want to do strange things. A good that can reveal your incoherence, your love of a little disorder, your love of a little control (adjust the dial as you like). A good that can make you happy, for a minute, before the cat starts scratching the corner of the bed, or the phone rings, or the kids mew, or you're hungry and sleepy, or you need another drink or the taxi comes."

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Anonymous Scott Hughes said...

That's a good theory of why people fear sex. I also think sex would be even better and less troublesome in a society that didn't fear it so much. I wonder why people in political power have always seemed to disencourage sex so much.

16 March, 2008 18:46  

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