"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sexual Healing–Liaisons, Love, And D.H.Lawrence

Whenever blue teardrops are fallin'
And my emotional stability is leaving me
There is something I can do
I can get on the telephone and call you up baby
And honey I know you'll be there to relieve me
The love you give to me will free me
If you don't know the thing you're dealing
Ohh I can tell you, darling, that it's sexual healing…(Marvin Gaye)
Image result for marvin gaye images

Nothing particularly new here – sexual intimacy is the quickest, easiest, most accessible, and cheapest way to relieve suffering, restore self-esteem, and give a boost to an otherwise pedestrian life; a drug as powerful, as temporary, and less addictive than heroin.  Who would not choose to spend an hour with a lover in even the worst of places to escape the ordinary, the responsible, and the persistently moral?

Of course no drug comes without side effects and sequelae.  The natural tendency is to return to incidents of temporary pleasure even if they bind and reproduce themselves without conscious will.  There is no way that a man can forget a woman’s suppleness, desire, and ecstasy without wanting more.  He is as dependent on his lover’s passion and intimacy as a drug addict is on narcotics, as needful, as demanding, and as slavish.

Not all sex of course.  Marital sex, particularly that of long duration, quickly loses its healing powers whatsoever.  Beyond a certain age and longevity, sex becomes routine and expected; but new lovers, new venues, new demands are part and parcel of rejuvenation and a restoration or reaffirmation of sexual identity and esteem.

Image result for images marriage

D.H. Lawrence understood the power of sexual union better than most; and felt that a coming together of parallel, equally matched wills could be an epiphany – at once a rejection of the expected and the bourgeois and a discovery of the unique character of sexual nature.  Sex transcended class and position.  Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper lover had little in common except sexual union – a liberating, completing, and totally satisfying release and coming together.  Even though they doubted continuance – a doubt that was ultimately realized – they persisted.  They could not stay away.  No social mores or conventions could hold them.  Even a doomed sexual union was better than none at all; or worse, an unsatisfactory one.

Lawrence’s characters in Women in Love were modern before their time and suffered because of it.  Gudrun, Rupert, Gerald, and Ursula all sought sexual complementarity – a balance of wills – but could never find it.  Throughout the novel they are testing each other, probing character and principle, but seeking only complete sexual union.  If Lawrence is right about anything – and he was very right about placing sexual dynamics at the core of maturity – he understood how difficult if not impossible it is to achieve ‘coming together’ – a physical event but a philosophical promise.  All his characters hope for union and for complementarity but are hopelessly siloed.   Only Connie and Mellors come close.

Image result for d.h.lawrence

Madame Bovary sought similar sexual license, a liberation from a routine marriage and an essay into sexual realities which could never be even considered within the confines of church-sanctioned matrimony.  Emma Bovary is a selfish, amoral and cruel woman whose sexual and feminist demands, however worthy, are her undoing.  She cannot untangle character from sexuality.

Henry Miller exalted sex, but for its own sake.  His characters were liberating but narrowly conceived.  Kate and Petruchio (The Taming of the Shrew) were perhaps most sexually fulfilled literary couple and certainly the forerunners of Lawrence.  There is no question of male or female dominance, but a matching of sexual will.  If Kate submits to Petruchio’s maleness and authority, it is because she wants to – to be free from sexual antagonism, proto-Freudian combat with her father, and jealous competition with her sister.  Union with Petruchio is indeed sexual healing of the most substantial sort.

Image result for henry miller

There are women who dismiss men’s sexual dalliances with younger women out of hand – laughable attempts to recover lost youth, optimism, and vigor.  How silly men are, they claim, so adolescent, fanciful, and immature.  Yet they have no idea of the transformative power of sex with such women. 
Antony, one of the triumvirate of Rome, brilliant military general, and charismatic leader, gives all away for his love of Cleopatra, a woman of savvy and means who has bedded Julius Caesar and Pompey, whose ambitions have no bounds, and who has never been bested.  She is the younger woman, the unattainable feminine ideal, the embodiment of sexual presence and the seductive allure of the East.  He is well aware of the risks he is taken; but this, undoubtedly the last love of his life and perhaps his best, cannot be denied.  Cleopatra will full all his unfulfilled expectations.

Coleman Silk, the main character in Phillip Roth’s The Human Stain explains his affair with a woman thirty years his junior, this way – “Granted, she is not my first love; and granted she is not my best love; but she surely is my last love”, and that has to count for something. Youthful rejuvenation is not silly nor a caricature of men over the hill, still immature and fanciful; but an important reality.  What man in his later years would refuse the opportunity to love a young woman?  To have the sex he thought over and done with? To both remember youth and to relive it?

If there was ever sexual healing it is between an older man and a younger woman.

‘Make-up sex’ became popular thanks to George Costanza and Seinfeld.  The best sex was an act of contrition – and like the prayers said after confession, never truly believed.  Marital squabbles and fights would continue, make-up sex would become an almost expected part of the routine; but it never would amount to anything but a Band-Aid and far from sexual healing.

At the finale of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf George and Martha, bloodied and beaten after having been ‘flayed to the marrow’ realize that they, even in very perverse ways, love each other.  As the curtain falls, they make their way off to bed…or so believers in sexual healing would expect.  There is nothing in the play, however, to lead one to  assume that an alcohol-fueled resolution would be the final one; and that sexual reconciliation would even be possible.  Albee might be philosophically hopeful for sexual and emotional union, but he has prepared George and Martha and us for failure.

Image result for george and martha albee

Sexual healing of course comes in many sizes and need not be the existential experience of Shakespeare or Albee.  A simple rendezvous, a Parisian cinq-a-sept, can do wonders for boredom and irritability.  So much is wrapped up in the sexual act – will, dominance and submission, performance, expectation, romance and desire – that even at its most cartoonish it satisfies.

The ultimate irony of life is that God created men with a time-limited sexual drive, libido, and physical competence but condemned them to think about sex until their dying day.  If there is any other aspect of life more important, more durable, and more resistant to sexual fantasy, it has has yet to be found.

Sex is as common as ragweed in the late summer – unremarkable, extant, expected, and nothing special – and like the weed causes bouts of sneezing and runny eyes.  Only in some special cases does it rise above allergy.  Lawrence, Albee, and Shakespeare knew that it could but rarely.  Sexual healing – an epiphany of sexual union which has lasting effects on character and self-awareness – occurs only in certain few, ill-defined cases. Perhaps it takes predilection – wanting more than sexual release – but such desire and melodramatic romance never result in anything but sweet kisses and good-byes.  Perhaps it takes will and struggle – an innate sense of human natural determinism.  One must prevail; and in the attempt a worthy opponent shows herself.

In any case, no truer words were said or sung than those of Marvin Gaye.
And when I get that feeling
I want sexual healing
Sexual healing is good for me
Makes me feel so fine, it's such a rush
Helps to relieve the mind, and it's good for us

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.