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

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Of Course We Are Obsessed By Sex –Lawrence, Nietzsche, And Sexual Will

D.H. Lawrence, perhaps better than any other writer, understood sex and sexual dynamics.  He understood that sexual relations went far beyond reproduction, love, and Freud; and were existential.  Sexual union, if consummated with perfect parity – an equilibrium of wills and a complementarity of dominance and submission – could be epiphanic; and mutual, simultaneous orgasm the best and most complete expression of being.

Image result for images d h lawrence

Everything for Lawrence paled by comparison.  Human relations without such sexual potency were tepid.  Friendships, as important as they could be for security and complicity, were nothing without sexual intimacy.  For Lawrence sexual union was -  or at least could be – both spiritual epiphany and Nietzschean Übermenscheit.

Both Lawrence and Nietzsche advocated the expression of individual will as the perfect and only validation of human existence in a purposeless world.  Society and societal values are only means to facilitate the expression of such will.   Man is born alone, dies alone, and makes his way alone. 
There is no room for incidental compassion.  Mellors, the gamekeeper, and Lady Chatterley, although both born into lives of social conformity refused to abide by its rules.  Their illicit relationship, however, had little to do with social revolutionary ideas.  Illicitness, adultery, immorality, and deceit had no relevance or meaning.  Their sexual union was, in Nietzsche’s terminology, ‘beyond good and evil’, beyond right and wrong.  Nothing mattered beyond that.

Image result for images nietzsche

Connie Chatterley reflects on ordinariness:
All the great words, it seemed to Connie, were cancelled for her generation: love, joy, happiness, home, mother, father, husband, all these great, dynamic words were half dead now, and dying from day to day. Home was a place you lived in, love was a thing you didn't fool yourself about, joy was a word you applied to a good Charleston, happiness was a term of hypocrisy used to bluff other people, a father was an individual who enjoyed his own existence, a husband was a man you lived with and kept going in spirits.
As for sex, the last of the great words, it was just a cocktail term for an excitement that bucked you up for a while, then left you more raggy than ever. Frayed! It was as if the very material you were made of was cheap stuff, and was fraying out to nothing…
And she went through the days drearily. There was nothing now but this empty treadmill of what Clifford called the integrated life, the long living together of two people, who are in the habit of being in the same house with one another. Nothingness! To accept the great nothingness of life seemed to be the one end of living. All the many busy and important little things that make up the grand sum-total of nothingness! (Lady Chatterley’s Lover).
With Mellors she finds that her assumption that sexual complaisance and lassitude were the rule was completely wrong.  Not only could sexual intercourse be satisfying, but existentially so.  Lawrence writes here of marriage, but ‘man and wife’ are surrogates for ‘man and woman’.
Two rivers of blood are man and wife, two distinct eternal streams that have the power of touching and communing and so renewing, making new one another, without any breaking of the connecting link between the two rivers, that establishes the two forever. 
And this, this oneness gradually accomplished throughout a lifetime in twoness is the highest achievement of time or eternity.  From it all things human spring, children and beauty and well-made things, all true creations of humanity. And all we know of the will of God is that he wishes this, this oneness, to take place, fulfilled over a lifetime, this oneness within the great dual blood-stream of humanity (Lady Chatterley’s Lover)
Image result for images lady chatterley's lover

God’s greatest irony was that he created men with a sex drive and sexual potency which lasts but a few, short decades; but consigned them to a lifetime of sexual desire, fantasy, and illusion.  Octogenarians think about sex as often as thirty-somethings, but since such thoughts and fantasies lead nowhere, the dreams are penal sentences.  It is bad enough that we all are about to die, but to die with the taste of a young woman on our lips?

If there was no such obsession, no insistent, absolute, unremitting drive to have sex, then the chances of a Lawrentian or Nietzschean epiphany would be remote.  At the very least our unforgiving sex drive, our straying, our irreversible desire to mate with every attractive woman we meet ups our chances of an existential encounter.

Of course Lawrence exaggerated.  How many such perfect sexual unions can there possibly be in a Hobbesian short, brutish, and nasty world?  Most men and women find their mates early on, their choices conditioned by parentage, heritage, and genetic predisposition; and are therefore consigned to a predicable, prosaic, and uninspired sexual life.  They quickly find that such traditional marriage unions are not what they are cracked up to be, stray into liaisons which initially seem portals to  Lawrentian existential bliss but are really no more than chimeric escapes into romantic fantasy.

Image result for images thomas hobbes

Some men come close to the Lawrentian and Nietzschean ideal, but the relationships are always asymptotic – they may approach the ideal but never reach it.  Why? Because most of us are heirs to conditioned response.  We fall for image, recollection, and imagination, and never for a sexual partner.  A close friend thought he had found the ‘right’ woman, a Turkish princess who, thanks to her Ottoman royal roots, intellectual brilliance, and great wealth had no patience for anything less than imperial.  She had none of the conventional governors on sexual or secular expression.  She was one of a kind – passionate, willful, desirous, and whose dominance needed complementarity, nor capitulation.  My friend was completely willing to follow her lead, accept her advances, and play maid to her suitor.  None of his maleness or natural male aggression was lost in the bargain.   He was the ultimate co-victor in a sexual affair of surprising mutuality.

The problem that Lawrence only briefly touched on was that of ‘what next?’.  What could possibly follow the sexual epiphany of Connie and Mellors? Both drifted alone and apart, and Lawrence offers no resolution.  Mellors would come out worst, for he had little on which to build a life without the wealthy, aristocratic Connie; while she would presumably suitably reconfigure her life, marriage, and ambitions; but the sexual epiphany experienced by both of them – the existential coming together than Lawrence insisted upon – was now a thing past and of little use for the future.

Did such sorry and pedestrian end to such a passionate and spiritual affair imply that even the most unique sexual experiences will never be more than temporal?  Does experience have to have longevity for meaning?

Lawrence thought ‘No’.  Just as birth and death are unique, existential, and unforgettably permanent, so is complete sexual union.  Its transformational power may be a distant memory, but no one so fortunate to have experienced it can ever have sex incidentally.  Always in the back of one's mind is the suggestion that it might happen again.  Without that particular hope and aspiration, sex becomes as pedestrian and routine as animal insemination.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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