Dualism: I Want Your Drama, the Touch of Your Hand
Posted by turmarion
I figured that since I was finished with the “Legends of the Fall” series, I was absolved from my promise for no more Lady Gaga. Anyway, it is relevant here–probably more than it was there. This time, I just posted the whole dang video.
FWIW, I like the song much better than I do the video. That’s actually true for me of most of her songs and videos.
OK–back to where we left off last time. There, I discussed how there has been a tendency since the middle of the 20th Century to try to move away from dualism in theology. I gave some of the reasons for that, and some of the ways in which this had been manifested. I also expressed the opinion that the pendulum had swung a bit too far the other way, and explained why. The only area I didn’t discuss was sex and sexuality. That’s a topic that can well do with a post all to itself, eh?The Christian outlook on sexuality has often been described by quoting Swinburne’s line, from “Hymn to Proserpine”,
Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath.
The idea is that Christianity has been pleasure shunning and world denying, and has relegated sex to at best a venial sin regrettably necessary to propagate the species, and at worst a horror to be fled. This critique has often been leveled against Christianity by its opponents; and in all fairness, there is an element of truth to it.
In any case, as part of the attack on dualism and the real and supposed ills it had bequeathed to Christianity, and also in response to real issues raised by the feminist movement and the Sexual Revolution, many Christian thinkers began to re-evaluate sex. They rightly pointed out the sexist and patriarchal detritus that had accumulated around the faith over the millennia like undergrowth, and they rightly began the task of clearing it out. They also rightly pointed out that the ascesis of previous ages had at times been excessive, resulting in much neurosis and unnecessary guilt and repression. This was often stated as the old cliché that “sex is dirty, nasty, and something you should save for the one you love”. Certainly, not a healthy viewpoint.
The pendulum began to swing the other way as far back as the late 60’s, but it didn’t really take off until the 80’s, and has been going strong ever since. There has been much talk of how asceticism was bad, how sex, being created by God is good, how He wants us to enjoy a good sex life, and how sex is even a quasi-sacramental pointing to God. Books were written to give Christian and/or Biblical perspectives on sex (search “christian sex” or “christian sexuality” and you’ll get lots of other titles–the example at the link is an early one). Yes, there were still expectations–none of that adultery or premarital sex, though the latter was soft-pedaled–but by and large, sex was no longer dirty. It was to be joyfully embraced, maybe even as a way to find God.
Well, we see where that went. Most surveys show that the behavior of people describing themselves as Christian is not much different from that of anyone else in terms of sexual behavior: premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, divorce, etc. Some behaviors are a little more concealed among some groups than others, but there’s not that much difference in incidence. Whether this is good or bad depends on one’s perspective, of course. However, most Christian churches at least theoretically teach the traditional sexual ethos, even as most of their members flout it. This may always have been so; but it is much more open now. So in comparison to tradition, is it better to flout traditional mores, but to be discreet (and thus be covertly hypocritical); or to flaunt your lifestyle openly and not even try to resolve the cognitive dissonance? ‘Tis a puzzlement, as the King of Siam might say.
I have to point out that this is still going on in some quarters.
The effect has been that there has been a de facto caving in of organized religion to the present-day sexual mores. Now I’m not interested in defending the bad old days. Changes in emphasis, allowance for changed modern conditions, and rethinking of some old truisms have been in many ways good and often overdue. Still, the proper approach is not a wildly swinging pendulum, but a careful dialectic, assessing both sides of the issue before moving on; not a wholesale embrace of anything and everything in the culture at large.
The thing is that all of us, if we are honest with ourselves, should know it’s not that simple. Mindless repression is bad, but so is mindless indulgence. Any sexually active adult knows that not all sex is good, not everything about sex is sweetness and light, and that there are really dark areas of sexuality, even for the most vanilla of us. Heck, even celibates, if they are honest with themselves and don’t deny what’s there beneath the surface, should know this. I’m not saying they can’t integrate it in a healthy, non-genital way. Many can and do. It’s just that it’s a lie for anyone, celibate or not, swinger or chaste, to pretend that there is no negative and dangerous aspect to sexuality. In this respect, insofar as it realized this and was honest about it, the Church in the old days wasn’t all wrong, by a long shot.
Even though it could be said that Lady Gaga is deconstructing pop, I think there is something in her music, if you overlook the disturbing videos and the layers of deliberate camp and excess, that actually speaks to this. “I want your drama, the touch of your hand.” Who hasn’t felt that way about a lover, especially in the first flushes of new love? The next line, though is, “I want your leather-studded kiss in the sand.” Who among us has not felt the dark undercurrents of our sexuality, the hints of dominance and submission, the juggling of power, the testing of limits, even in the most standard issue relationships? One doesn’t have to be into (or even aware of ) BDSM to be aware of this, if one looks deeply into oneself. Aldous Huxley, no conservative by a long shot, somewhere said that sex is a powerful force, and that those who deny this, whatever ethic they push, are deluding themselves and in danger.
Many of us, as randy youths, liked to hear that God was all for sexual pleasure, that sex wasn’t dirty any more, and so on. As we got older and actually experienced the world, relationships, etc., made our mistakes, broke hearts and got ours broken, we saw that it wasn’t as simple as all that. Maybe, in a sense, Lady Gaga, for all her camp and cynical media manipulation, has it closer to right than many of our religious leaders in the last part of the last century, and some in the current one.
Thus, while I don’t by any means advocate a return to Puritanism, I think libertinism and much of the so-called “sex-positive” ideology is a dead end, as well. What this means in terms of actual practice is something for another day, though I’d tend toward a cautiously libertarian approach, generally speaking. My main point here is to show one more way in which I think we’ve moved too far away from a dualistic perspective, and in which I have tended to return to such a perspective myself. And so, my little monsters, it’s not a matter of rejecting dualism, but appropriating it in the right way! 😉
Part of the series Dualism.
Also part of the series The Lady Gaga Project.
Posted on 30/07/2012, in Christianity, metaphysics, philosophy, religion and tagged Christianity, dualism, Lady Gaga, metaphysics, philosophy, religion, sex, sexuality. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.