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

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Youth, Beauty, And The Sexual Ideal

Not every woman can be Aphrodite nor any man Apollo,  but the desire to be so persists nonetheless.  The ideal of sexual beauty, allure, attractiveness is as old as evolution, changing over time and generation but still as valid as ever.  We would all like to be Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, or a host of hot Hollywood newcomers.

Image result for images sculpture aphrodite

The veneration of the ideal is not new.  Plato never intended generations of humanity to wish more than they ever could achieve.  He only meant to set unreachable but perfect standards to which we should aspire.  Women can never have the unique sexual allure that has made Marilyn an icon, desired by successive generations of men, but try they must to satisfy longings for perfection.  Even if they fall stories short, they will have at least attempted the ideal, validated the perpetual search for feminine, sexual, desirability.

Marilyn Hot

Most women not only fall short, but fall dismally short.  Sadly, many women have fallen prey to post-modern feminism which has devalued their central, unique character – their femininity – and automatically resigned them to the lower tiers of the stadium, many seats below the unreconstructed women who know men’s weakness, how to manipulate it, and how to get the best bet for attractive offspring. 

If one was to look at women’s magazines as indicators of women’s sexual fashion, a surprise would be in store.  It is as if feminism had never happened.  Getting a man is first, foremost, and the sine qua non of essential femininity.  Self-worth, intelligence., social potential, and character do not even feature in the cover stories of Elle, Vogue, and Seventeen.  Yet these periodicals have not missed a beat, are not retrograde in the least, and are at the avant-garde of sexual gamesmanship.  Nothing has changed since the Paleolithic, these magazines tout, so get with it, sister, and reel in your man. Of course the back pages are filled with articles about getting ahead, Michelle Obama, and the new crop of thirty-something women in Congress; but the cover is all sex, sex appeal, and mating. Why is this not surprising?

Image result for covers elle

Human nature has not changed one iota since homo sapiens.  We are the same acquisitive, territorial, aggressive, self-interested creatures as we were climbing out of the slime; so why should anyone suggest anything other than competitive mating, competitive economic competition, and competitive social mobility?

The ideal of feminine beauty has not changed an iota either.   Beautiful women today are held to the same standard as Nefertiti, Venus de Milo, and lesser Greek and Roman goddesses, princesses, and queens.  Images from ancient sarcophagi, temples, and frescoes depict women as ideally beautiful as they are today.

Why is it not surprising that women today resort to face lifts, reconstructive surgery, enhanced makeup, and stylistic remakes to look young?  God, Darwin, and survivalist human nature ordained that beautiful women would be sought after; and that others would have to stand in line.  No amount of propaganda for the self-worth and value of the articulate, intelligent, insightful female could possibly divert attention from the Marilyn Monroes of a culture.  Seductive, alluring, impossibly sexual creatures yelling fertility, sexual satisfaction, and regeneration.  If and only if a woman combines intellectual achievement and sexual allure can she compete with Marilyn Monroes.

The same can be said of men.  The Apollos of any generation – beautiful, attractive, strong, confident, and attentive males – will always be first on the dance card, first in mating, and first in marriage.  However women might be seduced by status, fame, and fortune; and however many might accept ugly, unappealing men in due return, they know they have settled for second best.  The Henry Kissingers of the world, however much they might raise a woman’s profile and salability, are second best to the Apollos.

D.H. Lawrence understood this best.  Despite Victorian ambitions of status, fame, and aristocratic recognition, Connie Chatterley knew that sexual union with a consummate, sexually complete man was all that life could offer; that no social propriety or concerns about livelihood or status could possibly compare with the sexual unity she found with Mellors.

Image result for images d.h. lawrence

Everyone settles for second best.  Few find youth, beauty, and sensual allure in their mates Physical ordinariness, common and inescapable, is nevertheless hard to swallow.  Ideals die hard.  We simply cannot be that far away.  Of course we can. Only the fortunate few can find youthful beauty.

This youthful ideal – Apollo and Venus, Dido and Aeneas, Romeo and Juliet – while rare among the young, is much more common among the old.  Those older men, fortunate enough to have found a younger woman to love them, have achieved something their younger colleagues might never know.  In a December-May affair Apollonian beauty is irrelevant.  Only youth matters.  The perfectly formed sensuous breasts, graceful torsos, long limbs, and classic profiles mean nothing.  That Marge from Accounting lacks all of this, but has soft, smooth, young skin; full lips, and a young, exuberant face means everything.  Platonic ideals go out the window.  Marilyn Monroe and Nefertiti are forgotten in an Morgan studio apartment cinq-a-sept.  

Image result for images statues apollo

It is a mistake to devalue beauty and youth, to suggest that intelligence, insight, and wisdom compensate for lack of physical attractiveness or middle age.  The young  may not be aware of their particular value; and older people may dismiss the value of youth because they have lost it; but youthful beauty is inescapable.  Art from the earliest sculptures of pre-historic, Paleolithic Europe recognizes the uniqueness of youthful beauty.  Depictions of the old are only iconic references to wisdom, sagacity, and history.  The old are and will always be supernumerary, dependent, and dispensable.

The Phillip Roth novel, The Human Stain perhaps best tells of the ironic consummation of perfect love.  Coleman Silk, an older, retired professor has an affair with as woman half his age and well beneath him in status, education, and upbringing.  It is a dangerous affair since the woman is still married to a psychopath and has a brutal, damaged past.  A friend of Coleman’s berates him for the affair, citing all the obvious reasons.  “Granted”, Silk says, “she is not my first love; and granted she is not my best love; but she is most definitely my last love, and that has to count for something”.

Not only is he having an affair with a younger woman, but a woman of sensuality, sexual forthrightness, and and extraordinary beauty.  Silk cares nothing for the risk, the likelihood of danger or death because this is his epiphany – a final, last consummation with youth, beauty, and life.

There are stories of lasting love – couples who have been married for decades and who still love and depend on each other – but these always seem penitential, byes given to men and women who have risked nothing and end up with nothing more than companionship.  Both have been faithful, accommodating, and respectful – and both, if they were to speak honestly, have lives of quiet, secure boredom.

Old age and death have their existential consequences – the end of it all, the abyss, the point of no return – but most men in their passing regret only one thing, the loss of their youth and beauty but especially the loss of the youth and beauty of those whom they might have had.

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