Monday, March 05, 2012

I love (hate) sex!

For all the best scientific reasons.
Real-life vampires are not 
Not that there haven't been times when it was personal.  When I was working as a free-lance missionary in Taiwan, for example, I often got lonely.  It's a beautiful island, which is what the word "Formosa" apparently means, but nothing was more beautiful than the friendly smile of the pretty girls who lived there.  However, my work in trying help young women who had been forced into prostitution, was the opposite of an aphrodesiac.  Seeing how those sad young girls were put on the assembly line to have sex with strangers until they were used up, then cut loose to die early deaths, disgusted me with the whole enterprise of sex, and with a good portion of the human race.

My last blog included part of a dialogue with Anne Rice, author of famous books on vampires.  Looking over reviews for one of Rice's non-vampire, non-Christian books, I got a bit of a feeling of having been duped. This older, well-read, and somewhat moralistic (when decrying the crimes of Christianity) lady, having made millions and received her fifteen years of fame, chose to write about: spanking. Torture. Sexual slavery. Border-line pedophilia. 

And come to think of it, the "vampire cult" is essentially about sexual predation.  In fact, it is a lot like the use Chinese men made of those girls in Snake Alley, Taiwan, as justified by traditional Taoist quackery:

According  to Pengzu the Long-Lived . . . If a man wishes to derive the greatest benefit . . . He also had better choose young maidens . . . My late master handed down these methods and himself used them to live for 3000 years.  If combined with drugs, they will even lead to immortality.

The Queen Mother of the West attained the Tao by cultivating her yin energy.  As soon as she had intercourse with a man he would immediately take sick, while her complexion would be ever more radiant . . . She always ate curds and plucked the 5-stringed lute in order to harmonize here heart and concentrate her mind . . .  

This latter quote reminds us that women can be sexual predators, too.  (And some of these girls had been sold out by their mothers!)  My own feeling is that both sexes abuse one another, and their same-sex rivals, about equally, though in different ways.  (And that Sandra Fluke, the 30 year old Georgetown "coed" who wants the school, or perhaps the state, to pay for her sexual activity, abuses her fellow-citizens' wallets, not to mention intellects.) 

I should also say, unlike Anne Rice, I don't see sexual abuse as all that interesting.  I enjoy trying new cuisines: Indian samosas, Dai baked fish, Russian soups, the regional cuisines of China.  But all these foods do just one thing: they deliver nutrients through the mouth to the stomach.  So many of these sexual fantasies seem boring and stupid, like pouring soup into the ear instead of the mouth, just to be "exotic."  As G. K. Chesterton recognized, "conventional" sex, in its full form, is as exciting as it gets, already. "Kinky" innovations "lack the realization of sex," as he put it. 

Yesterday morning, Mark Driscoll preached about porn addiction.  The flagship church for Mars Hill Fellowship is located just across the Ship Canal from Seattle Pacific University, and just a few miles from the University of Washington, so there are a lot of young people in the audience.  Blunt as usual, his edgy sense of humor rather subdued, Driscoll challenged his young congregation, and the tens of thousands who watch his sermons on-line, to grow up and live productive and pure lives.  He illustrated his points by interspersing the sermonizing with an interview with a former porn star, a pretty, but broken young woman.

Her life had been a series of abuses and broken dreams, which began when she was abused by a neighbor.  She was like those girls I saw in Taiwan.  She brought to mind my grandfather's comments about the fertile bottomland of the Kent Valley, that was filled with warehouses, and could no longer grow crops.  Only the warehouse of her life was filled with dung piles and trash heaps.  Christ had begun to tear that broken structure down, to make room for a cottage fit for living in, a garden and perhaps a home.   

As a human, I can't help but take the beauty and the ugliness of sex personally.  As a Christian, I think the Gospel gets things right, or rather Jesus gets things right, that are usually out of joint. 

But what we Christians don't often do, is step back and look at sex, and what it means for the world, outside of our own, parochial, human concerns.  Driscoll's interest in sex, when not personal (and very monogamous), is pastoral, and limited to homo googlus sapiens, the on-line generation of porn addicts. 

Biologist Nick Lane looks at the bigger picture in Life Ascending.  He notes that "some of the best minds in biology have wrestled with the problem of sex."  (I bet!)  Sex is a peculiar thing, he points out.  It's kind of a waste, producing equal numbers of males and females, when only one can bare children.  Wouldn't it be more efficient to produce assexually, through cloning?  And it's hard to find a mate, with lots of head-butting and Romeo-and-Juliet type drama along the way.  Plus when you get a particularly fortuitous gene mix, and a scientific genius appears, his kids are likely to play the guitar for some basement rock band, the potential diffused by the random sorting.

Still, our world would be a drab place without it:


"It may be that, without sex, large complex forms of life are simply not possible at all: we would all disintigrate in a matter of generations, doomed to decay like the degenerate Y chromosome.  Either way, sex makes the difference between a silent and introspective planet, full of dour self-replicating things (I'm reminded of the Ancient Mariner's 'thousand thousand slimy things'), and the explosion of pleasure and glory all around us.  A world without sex is a world without the songs of men and women or birds or frogs, without the flamboyant colours of flowers, without gladiatorial contests, poetry, love or rapture.  A world without much interest." (124)

Indeed, aside from things like lemons, lupine crowning the slopes of Mount Rainier, mallard drakes, penguins nursing eggs through the winter, Medieval allegory, we recall the holidays, Christmas presents, meals around a table, sports (which serves man in place of butting antlers), butterflies and hummingbirds that, as Lane puts it:
More sex!
"Must be tiny, for no larger bird could hover motionless over the deep throat of a flower . . . They have been seduced by the enchanted potions of plants into a life of bondage, moving relentlessly from flower to flower, distributing pollen, or collapsing in a coma and quite possibly dying."

But who can say the life of a hummingbird is a sad thing? 

As humans, we inherit and imbibe all of that: still more, we can see the beauty and enter into the trajedy.  Unlike the hummingbird, we can also choose to rest our passions.  Yet the joining of unlikes to create something new, can also be transposed to describe our union with God, the "wedding feast of the Lamb."
Still more sex!

It is not a coincidence, or an anthropomorphism.  We are not projecting our provincial mating mores on Ultimate Reality.  All Nature echoes and prepares us for marriage, which by definition involves the joining of unlikes: from two up-quarks and one down-quark in a proton, to protons and electrons in a hydrogen atom, to two hydrogen and one oxygen atom in a molecule of water, to the complex assembly of atoms that makes proteins, proteins that make tissues, tissues that make organs, and organs that make bodies.  Then bodies join in sex, creating the smallest "platoon," as Burke put it, that constitutes the elementary particle of clan, village, tribe, state, empire or civilization, and the ephemeral hope or pipe-dream of a "United Nations," or the "Federation" of biologically unrelated sentient beings that the Bible anticipates, long before Star Trek.  

This is the Music of Life.  It is complex, sometimes difficult, with discords, beat and a rhythm, and strange, exotic, heart-felt riffs. 

"Women!  Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!" 

And verse-visa. 

But especially the latter.

Spring is in the air! 


Brian Barrington said...

It's sad to see you attacking Sandra Fluke, rather than the loathsome scumbags who have been demonising her and calling her a whore and a slut. I mean, in one way it's useful to see Republicans doing this, because it reveals what many of them have become so that everyone can see it, and it will surely alienate yet more women from the Republican party, which is good - but it's a bit sad to see you joining in with it.

And you don't really make much of a case against Ms. rice - you've said that she writes about "Spanking [oh no, not spanking!]. Torture. Sexual slavery. Border-line pedophilia." There is nothing wrong about writing about these things per se, unless you can show that there is something particularly objectionable about the way she does it. Maybe there is, but you haven't shown that.

David B Marshall said...

Brian: I'm talking about real abuses, and saving lives that are seriously broken. Why do you choose to focus on so shallow an issue, and so minor a "victim," as Ms. Fluke? This is one of the problems I have with liberalism. I think Ms. Fluke's life is seriously broken, too, but I doubt you'll admit that. Limbaugh, who is not my idea of a saint, either, has apologized, and I haven't repeated his comments.

Nor is the point of the blog to "make a case against Anne Rice." I have no desire to make such a case. But it's obvious, from reviews, that her book is smut, wallowing in abuse, pouring a stream of filth into millions of human minds.

Here's something I don't get about liberals: you make a big deal about half a millirem of radiation from Three Mile Island nuclear plant, you preach about the dangers of tobacco and Mcdonalds and Walmart, you worry over the snail-darter and the unimpeded aesthetic joys of caribou on the North Slope, but don't think to quibble about the poisoning of human minds. Cigarette placement in a movie is terribly important, because it will send subliminal messages to some child in a split second to take up tobacco and die of lung cancer, and should be censored and regulated to death. But wallowing in sorbid sexual perversions is PROTECTED SPEECH and everyone who bats an eye at the worst abuse is a Puritan out to impose theocracy on vibrant democratic societies.

I would think that the mind of a young person ought to be of more value than a snail darter. But maybe that's specism, on my part.

Brian Barrington said...

What has Fluke done to justify the vitriol that is being poured on her? It's shameful. It's a disgrace. Even sensible republicans are rightfully disgusted by the outbursts, like George Will: ""Mr. Boehner comes out and says, Rush's language was inappropriate. Using a salad fork for your entree, that's inappropriate. Not this stuff. I mean, and Rick Santorum says well, what he says was absurd, but an entertainer is allowed to be absurd. No. It is the responsibility of conservatives to police the right in its excesses, just as the liberals unfailingly fail to police the excesses in their own side. And it was depressing, because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh".

How about this from another sometimes sensible republican, Charles krauthammer: "The less said about contraception the better, a lesson Santorum refused to learn. It’s a settled question. The country has no real desire for cringe-inducing admonitions from politicians about libertinism and procreative (vs. pleasurable) sex."

Many republicans can no longer help themselves ... Years of listening to the limbaugh poison has destroyed any sense of decency they have. But hey, keep this up boys, if you think it will get you anywhere!

David B Marshall said...

Brian: You seem to think I was posting a political commentary. Given the season, the mistake may be understandable.

David B Marshall said...

BTW, Sandra Fluke is not a prostitute. And "slut" is an insult. But there is a behavior pattern that corresponds to this insult. And I, personally, am rather horrified to see that society has "progressed" to the point that a woman can brag to Congress about sluttish behavior, without the slightest trace of shame or feeling that there is anything shameful, even demanding that she be compensated for such behavior by a Christian institution.

And this is all in the context (since you are so fixated on politics) of the Democratic Party running roughshod over religious freedom, trying to twist the arms of Catholics into denying their own values. And that is not only despicable, it is rather unConstitutional.

That the Democratic Party then chooses to focus on a couple rough (but in one case apparently quite accurate) words by a radio talk show host, rather than the president's illicit bid for power, or even the moral corruption they are encouraging, is symptomatic of that party's deep, deep corruption.

Since you bring party politics up.

Brian Barrington said...

The catholic church says that wearing a condom is a mortal sin punishable by an eternity of suffering in hell. That is the official position, which is sensibly ignored by nearly all Catholics, since it's totally absurd.

So you know enough about fluke to be able to say she engages in sluttish behaviour? How on earth do you know that? On second thoughts, don't tell me. I'm not interested.

As for this whole vampire obsession among teenage girls - I can't totally explain it but it seems harmless enough. It doesn't seem to be turning any of them into real vampires or anything.

David B Marshall said...

Brian: I think that's a ridiculous idea, too -- if that's what they really think. I think all of Mormonism, and a lot of Elite European Liberalism, is ridiculous, too. But we do have such a thing as religious liberty, and it is a good thing.

Here's my point. In yesterday's sermon, Mark Driscoll interviewed a former porn "star," as I mentioned. She said that once, her boyfriend invited her to hang out with several other guys on the set. When she got there, talking about another woman who's nude photo her husband had passed around, she said, "I wouldn't want my husband to treat me like that." Then she found out that her boyfriend had, in fact, just been doing the same thing, to her.

You wouldn't think a porn star would mind. But most women seem to be made that way. Even most men (if I can judge by myself) are capable of feeling shame.

It's like the sensitivity of our skin. We feel pain, and draw back.

As evolutionists, one would expect secular humanists to recognize that such natural defense mechanisms have a purpose.

Society has a stake in encouraging this feeling, protecting it, and even taking the side of those who feel it. It's troubling to me when people like Fluke are lionized, and society's only responsibility depicted as subsidizing her sex life. I don't think we should go back to stoning adulteresses -- I like the balance Jesus found, saving the girl, then also telling her, "Go and sin no more." We're Christians: you may not like that balance, but if you're going to embrace much pluralism, you'll have to put up with it.

Brian Barrington said...

Nobody is forcing anybody to wear condoms if they are one of tiny minority of Catholics who agrees with and obeys the rule. 

What has Sandra fluke done that is "sluttish"?

Crude said...


I feel bad for helping derail one of your posts, and seeing a new one get derailed. You're too good of a writer to have to put up with this crap. And I'm damn impressed with the work you've done (I mean, among it all, the social efforts you describe in this post.)

I agree in particular that Christians should be better at discussing and considering sex. Putting it in proper perspective. One thing I enjoy about the natural law types is that they seem capable and willing to have a public discussion about these things, where most people (frankly, even liberals) prefer to either not discuss it, or discuss it in only the most sterilized (ha ha, no pun intended) terms.

David B Marshall said...

Brian: No, the idea is that Catholics should be forced to provide contraceptions, abortions, etc, against their will.

You're right, though, I have insufficient evidence to agree with Limbaugh that Fluke's behavior as "sluttish." I jumped to conclusions that plausibly, but not certainly, follow from Ms. Fluke's testimony. I find the Democratic take on that testimony, and the purposes for which they are using it, very troubling. But two wrongs don't make a right.

Here's what she actually said:

“Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary."

One does wonder why the man / men involved here, don't help pick up the slack. And I don't claim to be any kind of expert, but the numbers here seem a little, well, weird:

David B Marshall said...

Crude: Not at all! You and Brian seem to be having an interesting conversation, and I'm happy to observe silently. If I'd read much of Aquinas and Spinoza myself, which regretfully I have not, yet, I'd probably join in.

This site has been getting a lot more visits in recent months, and hopefully more people will continue to chip in. I'm happy to hear from thoughtful posters like both of you are, and have no objections if the conversation wanders sometimes.

Brian Barrington said...

No employer should have any say in the details of what is contained in their employees' health plans. What do they know about it? Who wants their boss deciding what is covered or not, based on their religious beliefs or some other whim? That would be insane ... It would be a recipe for impinging on the religious liberty, or just the plain liberty, of the employee.  Ideally, a good health system might not involve direct employer contributions at all. But if the system does involve employers contributing, then the employers should just provide the money and have no other say in the matter.

Turretinfan said...

"No employer should have any say in the details of what is contained in their employees' health plans. "


Wait for this line in the next comment: "You call it 'communism,' I call it 'good sense'."

Of course, employers should have a say in what they pay for.