Friday, January 30, 2009

Sex, Religion, Philosophy and Romance Novels

C'mon! I'm a romance writer. You knew it had to happen sooner or later!

Aside from populating the planet, why are people obsessed with sex? The birth control pill in the 1960s gave women the freedom to do as they wished sexually speaking without fear of unwanted pregnancies. I've been reading a book named "The Philosophy of Sex and Love". It addresses the logic of sex and love from various philosophical viewpoints.

Many issues swirl around the problem of objectification. Objectification of another human being is undesirable according to philosophers and I can't say that I disagree with them.

According to Wikipedia,
"Objectification also commonly refers to the regarding of a person as 'a thing'. For example, sexual objectification refers to the regarding of a person as merely a non-human object, or tool, for sex.

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum has argued that the objectification of something can be determined by the presence of the following factors:
Instrumentality - treating as a tool for one's own purposes;
Denial of autonomy - treating as if lacking in agency or self-determination;
Inertness - treating as if lacking in agency;
Ownership - treating as if owned by another;
Fungibility - treating as if interchangeable;
Violability - treating as if permissible to smash;
and the denial of subjectivity - treating as if there is no need to show concern for the 'object's' feelings and experiences.

Feminist scholars say that the objectification of women involves disregarding personal and intellectual abilities and capabilities, and women's reduction to instruments of sexual pleasure for men. Examples of phenomena seen by some feminists as objectifying women include depictions of women in advertising and media, images of women in pornography, as well as images in more mainstream media such as advertising and art, stripping and prostitution, men evaluating women sexually in public spaces, and cosmetic surgery, particularly breast enlargement.

Feminist authors Christina Hoff Sommers and Naomi Wolf write that women's sexual liberation has led many women to view men as sex objects. Research has suggested that the psychological effects of objectification on men are similar to those of women, leading to negative body image among men, as well as fears of inadequate sexual performance, leading to increased use of drugs like Viagra."

Catholic doctrine says that sex can only occur in marriage and where there is no encumbrance to conception. But why are they so hung up on encumbrances to conception? It was something I hadn't really thought out before. If the Catholic Church removes the 'no encumbrance' part, it opens the door to gay and lesbian marriage. What? Well, if there are encumbrances to conception and a heterosexual couple is having sex for fun rather than for procreative purposes, what is there to prevent the definition of marriage from changing? Nothing. A gay or lesbian love making session cannot result in a child. And the encumbrance to conception is the fact that only a heterosexual union can create a child. So if the Catholic Church says, okay, you can use birth control, then they are saying the sex without the intention of creating life is acceptable. Which would trickle down to the acceptance of gay/lesbian marriage without the chance of conception.

So the Catholic Church is unlikely to ever change its stance on birth control since that leads directly to gay/lesbian marriages, which they don't want. So millions of people around the world die of AIDS because the Catholic Church says contraception (including condoms) is a sin. But what is the greater sin? Millions of people dying or people enjoying sex? Sounds self-serving to me. Power, as they say, is an aphrodisiac especially for a 2000 year old Church accustomed to getting what it wants.

Isn't that objectification? Aren't the Catholic Church and other Churches reducing people down to sexual beings and then denying their sexuality? The Catholic Church objectifies people by their own doctrines - the presence of the factors of objectification are in full use by the Church: Instrumentality (treating as a tool for one's own purposes),Denial of autonomy (treating as if lacking in agency or self-determination), Inertness (treating as if lacking in agency), Ownership (treating as if owned by another) and the denial of subjectivity (treating as if there is no need to show concern for the 'object's' feelings and experiences).

I'm not trying to bash the Catholic Church or any other Church. I was brought up Catholic but I cannot agree with many of their doctrines. Many religions do everything they can to suppress basic human nature. We are animals. The urge to mate is natural. Why is something natural made to be disgusting in the eyes of religion? Because it is a social control. Yes, we need to have basic rules by which to live in order to avoid anarchy and chaos in our societies (we're fairly close to that anyway) but some things need to be left out of the public/religious domains and left up to the individuals.

I am NOT proscribing orgies or having sex with a different partner every night or breaking vows. If you make a vow, it is meant to be kept. If you can't keep your vow, then leave the relationship, free and clear and honest.

Kantian philosophy agrees that sex can only take place within a marriage. Kant believed that in order to avoid objectification of the other person that sex had to be marital. The logic behind his philosophy is that when a heterosexual couple marries that the woman owns the man and his sexual organs and that the man owns the woman and her sexual organs. It's sort of an equal power exchange philosophy, so that objectification is avoided. Tit for tat, no pun intended.

Some philosophers believe that human flesh is so repugnant that any/all sexual activity should be prohibited so that the human race can die out. Extreme much?

It seems like a lot of sexual philosophy has a problem with sex for sex sake. It seems like procreation in marriage is the only thing that prevents objectification from happening. But that seems like a very short-sighted philosophy. If you believe in God, I don't see why God would allow sex to be enjoyable but apparently so abhorrent. Just like I can't see how God would create gays and lesbians to only punish them. Sounds like a very capricious, vindictive God. And this makes no sense whatsoever.

I think that between consenting adults, where no one is being hurt including third parties, sex is a way to connect to another human being in the most primal, basic way. It brings pleasure, emotional, mental closeness and floods the body with endorphins. And it's fun to read about. LOL. It's also fun to write about!

Romance novels are fantasy. Romance novels guarantee a happy, committed, monogamous ending. They guarantee sexual tension and obstacles to love but in the end, the reader knows the hero and heroine will live happily ever after and have lots and lots of sex. And many children. So, are romance novels evil? Some would say yes. Others, including me, would say that it is fantasy and even if the sex and marriage are in reversed order, the love and marriage parts still happen. So, are romance novels trashy, even with religious mores thrown into the mix?

Absolutely not.

I think we have more problems with violence on TV than sex everywhere else.

Just my two cents.


The Flower of Scotland said...

Sex is, for the most part, misunderstood. In our country, it has become more of a nervous habit than the expressed longing of a spirit in growth. It has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog. Let me note that it has been said that it is easier to find someone to go to bed with than to find somebody you want to get up to.

This sentiment correctly captures our culture. I know of a small liberal arts denominational college where, it is said, that most women go to get the M R S degree--Mrs. Needless to say, the scuttlebutt has it that the moral reins are pulled so tight that many of these young men and women marry so that they can have sex. I think this also is the objectification referred to.

But when I say that sex is misunderstood, I mean to draw attention to the fact that we, ourselves, are misunderstood. We are not fully aware of who we are; or what we are.

We are energy, plain and simple; however, we have not yet begun to plumb the depths of all that that means. The Love that we are is the energy in question, albeit, we do not yet know how to measure or quantify it; nevertheless, it is energy and it does make the world go round.

All energy belongs to the Source from which it came and should, by rights, be channeled back to that Source. Accordingly, the energy created in sexual excitement should be channeled upward through the chakras to the Source instead of downward through the chakras. Unless, of course, the aim is birth, and then the Presence of Life directs its path.

This is the original intent behind the admonition to have sex only for procreation; but the church has long since lost sight of its role in relation to the plan of the Ascended Host for this world.

When Life comes forth from the Source, it comes forth as twin flames, one "masculine" and one "feminine"; subsequent embodiments provide ample opportunity to move from essential to existential reality by embodying and acquiring a variety of experiences. When the embodied flame attains the ascension it does so as the other gender; i.e., if it comes forth as masculine, it ascends as feminine.

The use of the sexual energy in this produces joy and an ecstasy of completion with the twin flame that can scarcely be understood, given the standards and scale we currently use to measure what passes for love among us.

What is needed most is the dedicated effort of devoted individuals to find the Love that inhabits the Heart Space. From that radiance alone, a great healing of the world could take place.

Richard the Wolf said...

And how does pornography relate to the objectification of women (or men for that matter). Is there a clear difference between erotica and pornography? lots of questions to be pondered and discussed.