I know what you’re thinking: What do I mean by “eroticise” society and why on earth should we do that? Surely we are obsessed with sex as it is!
Well, yes, sex is everywhere but Eros, i.e. Erotic love, isn’t. Our sexual culture is either prudish or pornographic. On one end, we are surrounded by explicit sexual images that objectify women and make men seem vulgar: and on the other end, lurking underneath our hypersexualised culture are proscriptive Victorian values. In reality, pornographic and prudish cultures are two sides of the same coin: they shock and feed off each other.
In 1970 Shulamith Firestone wrote in The Dialectic of Sex that “heterosexuality has been restricted to the genitals, rather than diffused over the entire physical being”. Still very true today. We still hardly talk about the psychological processes to do with sexual desire (NSFW). Nor do we culturally uphold genuine intimacy. Yet so much of the joy of life is about showing our real selves. Or as Brooke Magnanti a.k.a. Belle de Jour put it, what everyone wants is “someone who accepts them exactly as they are.”
By contrast, in creating a culture where sex is either superficial or taboo, people are stuck with all sorts of hang ups about sex. Even worse, as a 2009 study showed, poor self-esteem, stress, and self-doubt are associated with a hypersexual culture.
This is why we should eroticise society, as Eros per definition involves desire, intimacy and love.
Now it is, in many circles, unfashionable to speak of making love. Making love is associated with a particular idea of romance: R&B music in the background; rose petals floating lightly on velvety cushions that rest invitingly on a silk-clad bed for two; champagne, chocolate, home cooked dinner, cunnilingus.
I’m not judging anyone for whom I’ve just described a perfect recipe for stupefying sex, but I think making love could equally be a quickie in front of the TV. To me, making love is not so much about the format: the set up or the schmooze, but rather it is a mindset. When sex is seductive, honest, sweaty, soft, tactile, emotional, connected, etc., the phrase that best describes it, regardless of where and how it takes place, is making love.
Fucking, on the other hand, is characterised by detachment. You know you are fucking when there is a sense of indifference to whom you are sleeping with – never mind he is your partner of fifteen years and you have five kids – all that matters at that moment is that he is satisfying your animalistic urges.
Let me be clear: one type of sex is not better than another, I think most people engage in both, but to eroticise society, we must talk more about making love.
It hasn’t always been this way …
There is no golden age to look back to when it comes to sexual relations, but before western male supremacist sexologists (such as Sigmund Freud, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis etc.) systemically “phallocentrified” sexuality, historical remnants provide examples of reciprocal sexual exploration. Some very old (NSFW) examples are The Turin Erotic Papyrus of ancient Egypt, the Lakshmana Temple Reliefs and the Japanese Shunga. Attitudes toward homosexuality were also much more relaxed than today. For instance, as far back as 2000 years ago in San cave paintings in Zimbabwe and in 15th century European prayer books there are drawings of male-male sex.
Ultimately, a more erotic society would mean that humans interact – lust, learn, pleasure, care, explore, share, disappoint, love – each other with more finesse. As the Congolese author, Sony Lab’ou Tansi said, “Eroticism is the art of cooking love well”.
What do you think?
Iheoma Obibi says
Great post and it had some LoL moments for me too. I think it depends largely on where you live, but yes, we live in a society that seems to be extremely ambivalent about sex- on the one hand, everyone and everything is supposed to be about sex. but on the other, if you embrace your sexually, well, what a slut!
Everyone knows that it’s a part of life, and we should take a much more natural response to it rather than shuffling between two equally bad extremes, or letting society dictate how your sexuality should be expressed.
Thanks for the comment, Doreen. Glad you enjoyed it and had some chuckles too 🙂
Electric! I love the way you talk about issues most people shy away from. It’s difficult not to fall in love with you writing! Keep up the good job.
Thanks for your comment, I feel encouraged by it 🙂
I love how you “painted” this post. A more eroticise society would definitely be more ideal and freeing for us all mentally, physically & spiritually. Pornographic and prudish cultures don’t serve us at least as I’ve experienced and seen. If we were more free in our ability to express ourselves sexually we’d be able to be more of who we truly are, we’d be less tormented and hurt and thus less likely to hurt others in the form of rape for example. Most people remember beginning to experience themselves sexually from extremely young ages. It is a huge part of who we are and the part of ourselves we think and live from. I think sexuality in modern day is one of the ways we feel imprisoned and thus it is reflected in our world and manifests as oppression and slavery in many forms. Thanks for bringing this into the discussion! Peace!
Thanks for the comment!
“Most people remember beginning to experience themselves sexually from extremely young ages”
This is an important point that goes lost in the status quo; the naturalness of desire.
Harriet Freeman says
Minna, I think you’ve really nailed society’s issue with sex.. or perhaps how society as a whole is creating an issue for individuals about sex. You talk about the ‘mindset’ of sex being far superior to society’s rigid schema of what the perfect sex consist of and i couldn’t agree more. Broadly speaking, our media is fixated on the very superficial environment of sex, in movies and advertisements. Sex sells products when it’s glamourous and expensively accessorised, resulting in the company profiting from this falsehood and the majority of society feeling ‘un-sexy’. I admittedly do rather enjoy the ambiance a candle-lit room gives.. but this is much more about the serenity and peace this light-form brings. It’s a medium where i feel that the honesty of sex is not aggravated by false light.
If you get a chance, visit The British Museum’s Shunga exhibit. I haven’t been yet, but it’s very much on my priority list. https://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/shunga.aspx
I’m interested to know what you attribute to the sex culture being divided, prude vs. porno.. do you think that perhaps in relatively recent European culture we started from a reserved ‘Victorian values’ basis with sex starting to become explicitly portrayed a few decades ago due to society’s patriarchy? As personal issues became more liberally discussed towards the end of the 20th century, this was crucial emergence period for the subject of sex to be discussed in a alternative way than ‘taboo’.. however i feel that maybe it was men that took advantage of this opportunity and abused the sex topic; men who wanted to squeeze margins from raunchy sex (e.g. Sun’s Page 3 started in 1970).
What do you think Minna and what does everyone else think? Do you think men have had a significantly larger part to play than women in forming the essence of sex culture as it is today (porno vs. prude)?
I like candles too don’t get me wrong. But if combined with Barry White, rose petals, foot massage, you name it, I start to feel like I’m taking part in some kind of 90s movie 😉
But jokes aside, and thanks for your great comment @Harriet, I think that the sexual dichotomy (prude/porn) ultimately is to do with fear of a sort of primal urge that humans have, women and men. And the fear is because this urge threatens two of the most powerful systems that govern our norms, namely patriarchy and capitalism. Because it benefits both systems to “sell” sex, even if in different ways..
“Do you think men have had a significantly larger part to play than women in forming the essence of sex culture as it is today (porno vs. prude)?”
Yes, yes and yes.
But that said, I think that there is a lot to be said about women’s participation in sexual culture as it is. I think we need to look at how women perform both roles (porno/prude, madonna/whore) and what it says about women’s sense of sexual power, however damning it might be to look at what it says about women’s sexual identities.
Ingrid Riley says
Wow! Such gravitas you have Ms Salami! Just one of the many posts that surprise, delight and make me go WTF, did she just say that! Yeah I am a new convert to your blog indeed. Please do.not.stop.