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guilt and shame
guilt and shame
Reading through the blogs here, you see a lot of positive emotions: lust, certainly, but also pride, self-worth, a sense of power, and so on.
On the down side, however, the twin demons seem to be guilt and shame. You might think they're intimately connected, but the more I think about it, the less I believe that to be the case.
In fact, I've always thought that there are no ethical issues intrinsic to sex. That is, sex itself is morally neutral, like walking or writing. Guilt comes into play only under the conditions that usually invoke moral considerations--in this case, trust and respect for others. Any relationship creates obligations and (provisional) rights. A violations of those obligations warrants guilt, plain and simple. Of course, some relationships are stronger or more well defined than others. And any relationship can be negotiated and renegotiated. For instance, a marriage can be open or not. But if you've agreed to act in a certain way, then--absent a renegotiation--you're bound to act that way. Sure, there's is some small wiggle room (there always is). If the obligation is exceedingly minimal, then fine. But you can't just unilaterally decide that the agreed-upon terms are unfair or invalid. Yucky as it is, guilt serves a purpose: it tells us when we've messed up.
But shame, now that's an entirely other beast. Indeed, I suspect that it's far from a purely negative emotion in sex. You know the Woody Allen line: if it doesn't feel dirty, you're not doing it right. That's why I've always been suspicious of tantric approaches. Making sex so spiritual, making it into something not quite sex, almost into a metaphor--to do that, I think, misses something deeply powerful in erotic activity. After all, sex overtakes us; it makes us fools, madmen, animals. In Sonnet 129 Shakespeare says, "lust is perjured, murd'rous, bloody full of blame, savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust, . . . past reason hunted"--a bit florid maybe, but you get the idea. We act ridiculously in sex, rubbing, licking, shoving parts against and into other parts, inhaling fetid odors as if they were delicate perfumes, gorging ourselves on warm, viscous fluids as if at a connoisseur's feast, all of it seeming so increadibly significant . . . until orgasm. And for many of us here, there's more: the accoutrements, machines and clothing and music and god knows what.
And of all the things that salt the soup of sex, isn't shame the spiciest? Isn't the best sex--"shameless" sex--not sex free of shame but rather sex despite shame? I'm kinda thinking it is. There's something about shattering your own sense of propriety, almost a way of repeatedly losing your virginity, that can make things so deliciously erotic. It's something about letting go that seems to lie at the heart of sex. And that need not be read as a submission, at least not to another person; after all, the top gives into his or her drives just as surely as the bottom does. In fact, the top may worry more about how far he/she will go than the bottom does.
In the light of all this, maybe we should treasure shame, keeping it in the spice rack. Like thyme or saffron, a little can go a long way, but what a tasy dish it makes. If so, that was quite a gift Mother Eve bequeathed us!
8/4/2005 8:25 pm
Dear God, man. You should be writing advice columns, not AdultFriendFinder Blogs. I swear you're reading my mind and giving it some organization (and from what I can tell, a far better education as well!).|
I love the thought of sex as a morally neutral act. Does that apply to non-traditional sex? Sex with strangers, sex with the same sex, anal sex, or bestiality? I think so, as long as you have consenting adults (the bestiality is out). There are plenty that would disagree.
I come from a good Catholic home. There is guilt in every aspect of my life. Shame is also around, but guilt is pervasive. I regularly have sex with quite a bit of shame and guilt. I don't know if I have the sex because of the shame, or despite the shame... same for the guilt. I know that to any normal test, I'm addicted to sex that is both shameful and guilt inducing... but it's definitely a chicken and an egg kind of thing.
Great blog, great entry. Keep up the good writing!
8/5/2005 3:58 am
Very interesting concept. To put a positive spin to a negative|
emotion. Sort of a silver lining to the dark cloud. In mulling it
over I come to the realization that it was shame that brought me
here in the first place. Was using other G rated dating services
and found that I longed for intimate contact. When I met with one
guy at Starbucks I found myself overwhelmed with desire. I took
him home and gave in to that desire. He kept saying "Now thats
a surpise. I wasn't expecting this." When he failed to contact me
again, the shame set in. I was sure he saw me as a slut, and I would
never hear from him again. How could I allow this to happen? I did
decide that I should be here. Although my ultimate goal is to have a
LTR, if I should become overwhelmed again, I want to be with someone
who will not judge me harshly for it. One who will follow up with a
call or an email to ease any guilt I may have for it. Well, it was
my hope anyways. Wishing it doesn't make it so.
8/5/2005 6:48 am
TT--Gosh, thanks. I do put some effort into the words, but I suspect the thoughts behind them more likely add confusion than provide clarity. Mostly, I like the community thing here, the fact that you can have small conversations--like this one. It can be a good thing, can't it?|
I had to giggle about the beastiality line. True, the players cannot be consenting adults, but I doubt that's the basis for moral prohibitions against the practice. After all, look at what we do to animals in factory farms. No, the prohobition is, I suspect, all about ourselves and what we take to be our place in the world. But that's another blog!
And to TT and all the other horny, sex-addled pervs here, I salute you!
8/5/2005 11:14 am
Golden--I responded to some of this on your own blog, but to take the idea one step further, I guess for shame to be a positive factor, it's important that you partner recognize the shame you feel and treasure the gift that you've given in transgressing that boundary. Anyone who simply adds to the shame is just a schmuck, pure and simple.|