SEX: THE IRON MAIDEN(1)
Let me give you a partial summary of the notions in my address by reading two of my recent poems:
according to LBJ
On a land
Young men are
into the east
Which was the
way for young men
in earlier springs
On a land
On the world
towns and men
As I hold
in your embrace.
I look over
of your brown
Sex: The Iron Maiden-I want to suggest to you that you have been cast into form-so as to reduce your display, a display which has probably never varied. (The history of so-called pornography suggest constancy.) The coining of a sexual revolution of present-day man is read by me as but a variant of the larger attempt to keep you from looking about, from noticing, from seeing, and from reducing fear. I will argue that "fright without reason" is the hope of all states, all authorities. Sexual codes provide "fright without reason," not without training, but without relevance-thus without reason. I will argue with you that the universal attempt to control man has employed the idealization of man (the pure, the innocent, the proper) as a disguise for the arbitrariness and maintenance of power. Sex is no more the danger, no more in change than is childhood a truth-but the ideal childhood allowed the fraud of innocence and in turn casts you into a mold unknown as man, but fashioned by him.
The history of interest in sex, interest as reflected in codes, has been, I am arguing, one of disinterest in sex. The Judeo-Christian centuries of rules around sexual conduct has posited a man who is instructed to argue that his sensuality is at fault; that man, in his universal sexual display, is a danger and that only by interposition of authority can the weal of all be assured. Nonsense! This view is counter to the experience of mankind, to the views of Freud, and to the ability to document and trace; namely, twentieth century science. Freud, who asked man to look (at what has always been), directed our focus to sensuality and its complex relation to what he called the "reality principle." He viewed sensuality as a reality and as an antagonist to another reality. What other reality? The specification of events, the identification of factors determining affect, and thus the distinction between belief and knowledge, neither, of course, true or false-both, of course, in a sense true. Freud, the superb example of relativism and objectification (there are other features to Freud, of course), was a child of science and thus an antagonist to moralisms. The hatred he fanned was not in the discoveries of new truths, but in the exposure of old lies. The fury leashed onto science has always been that-uproar over exposure, e.g., Galileo and Darwin. Freud did not invent man, but attempted to rationalize him and thereby to notice man's ideals as lies to man's ways. In earlier days, Freud would have been burned; in later days, the Nazis burned his works, the Soviets banned them, and Americans misunderstood them.
Freud, as does science, provides for confirmation. Authority demands loyalty. The antagonism to Freud of the Russian state was not simply because of Freud's noneconomic view of man, but more centrally, I am arguing, because of Freud's demand for a place for reason and a recognition of fantasy. The two great humanitarians, Marx and Freud, had hopes which are alien to both of the contemporary powers, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America. Freud's and Marx's views were admittedly different, but similar in that both were asking for objectification, confirmation, rationalization, and thus for a multiplex removal of authority.
Orthodoxy is very quickly (and from its perch, correctly) frightened by exposure. For example, the miniskirt, by its daily reminder that the body, if briefly shown, does not dissolve the state, implicitly asks: "What is it that is up" with authority, and , in turn, is pulled down?(2) The pretext of authority is that morality is in danger, while the context is that compliance is questioned, fantasy is exposed, allowing the more central questioning of proscription in general. One needs immediately to notice that sensuality, or the display of the body, is not necessarily directly related with the fall of states-the history of sex as antirevolution has been well documented. For example, working in a house is working for the establishment.(3) The attempt of present-day China to empty that house is an effort at new order, and, as I am arguing, the use of restraints on sexual mores in China is a vehicle for the compliance to a new order. The complexity of all this is seen in China as the human being, "female," is given new status. No longer is she "woman," a diverse sexual object-but now she is "citizen," a citizen with limited sexual rights (she cannot work in a house), but now a citizen-yin/yang.
Injunctions about sexual acts and speech implicitly argue a danger without allowing a test. One is arrested (in many senses of that word) for an act, and the trial makes out as if the act is the question, thereby denying confirmation that the danger is to a ready control of man by his rulers-the churches, the tribe, the somewhat modern state and by infancy-infancy, the kindergarten of life-the death of man. Gertrude Stein correctly asked, "Why do you want to be a boy-if you're going to grow up to be a man?"
Marx pointed out that the writing of history is the writing of politics. I suggest that the writing of guides for sexual conduct is likewise the writing of politics. Compliance, reduction of differences, has been effected by sexual codes, all the while the behaviors themselves are irrelevant to forms of community, but can be used to further certain forms. Patriotism has long been said to be the hiding place of rascals. I am arguing that the writing of sexual codes is but another place for deceivers.
The Iron Maiden you have been cast into has set you aside from confirmation, all the while forcing compliance. In this cast, you cannot reach your genitals to confirm or disconfirm their said toxicity. There is none, in my view, as I posit the irrelevance of genitalia to an open society. Man, via his ideals, e.g., patriotism, virginity, is denied objectification of experiences and thereby, Freud argues, development. The very young still question and are told, but their questions, because of their ignorance, not innocence, focus on specifics and fail to comprehend, because of the state of their reason, embedded issues to which, or from which, their hands are bent-which issues? Compliance as well as relativity. On the adult plane, the fantastic fear to make an exception, to break a rule, to let one person do it-these characteristics, which we find so common in bureaucracies, can be read as can that same tolerance to embedded questions. And the effort continues in adulthood to make out as if specifics in statute law (re sex) are of moment. We need also to remember that the invention of the notion "children" (only about three-hundred years old) has conveniently extended the period during which the instruction for the non-employment of a certain reason can be conducted. The invention of childhood, with its corollary frauds of innocence, trauma, asexuality, and impropriety of expression, has cast the young outside sex and, importantly, outside of citizenry. And it has also laid the adult open to control by forcing him to serve as instructor of a fraud and exemplar of an ideal. The notion "child" disenfranchises the young as it peculiarizes the older. Innocence as a value becomes innocence the fact, asexuality the value becomes asexuality the fact, and allows protection to be rationalized on these frauds. The common fraud here is the rasing of hypothesis to fact; another present-day example is the notion "psychosis." This descriptive term is falsely altered to the level of an explanation, then next to a cause, and now we are asked to stamp out psychosis. Importantly for our topic, we need to notice that this descriptive term, this label, is only affixed to behaviors which are abjured, while at the same time allowing the suspicion and dread that all may differ. Thus the value of likeness is further shored up. The late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries lie about madness as disease provided the suspicion of universal disaster, "I may catch it." This clever ignorance has furthered control expressed as science (why, even medicine!) when it is only moralism. The physician hardly belongs in private practice, not at all in public houses.
Western liberalism has been linked with the emergence of the notion "child" with our current conception of insanity. In both instance, child and insanity, Western liberalism, by allowing itself these views, has furthered the possibility of control by paternalizing differences from an ideal-as corruptions. While Western liberalism was alert to the control of princes (church or state) as arbitrary, unnecessary and undesirable, it failed to notice that its conception of child and of insanity would similarly constrain man, asexualize the young, and peculiarize the older. Manner because truth-the endless lie.
A common failure of values is that once they are part of the belief system and their examination is thus denied, their specific continuance is held out as vital to the welfare of all. Formerly, princes were vital to the well-being of all, so princes said and subjects said. Freud illuminated the tyranny of values as the cast of fantasy over reason. Fantasy's independence from instruction "explains" the universal failure of education, another ideal. Freud, while noting the anarchical nature of what he termed the sexual impulse, also noted the antagonism to reason. You remember that, in a sense, for Freud, fantasy is the lie, reason the truth. Development involves constraint, but the particulars of constraint can impede development and may be viewed as frauds. Once the young have been constrained into a language, we ask them to shut up, but they continue to talk. We use, in our instruction of noninfant sexuality, an array of constraints about sex and these continue as the fright of wrongdoing, just as does speech; so fright continues and it seems impossible to convince man that his speech is arbitrary and his fright irrelevant. As man's general sexuality was depicted as opposing confinement, and in that sense anarchical, so man's questioning and differences are also said to be anarchical. Anarchy is a shudder sent up the spine of man, when the call of anarchy is but a lie and a focus so that an aspect of control is overlooked.
Make the world safe for democracy is the banner which overlooks American imperialism. Make the world safe from sex is the banner which overlooks a call to general compliance. Every man knows, even while maintaining the opposite, that there is no danger in sex. Even Time magazine was constrained to report this. Denmark recently changed its restrictions on printed matter. The publishers of formerly pornographic books anticipated a huge rush to the book stalls and flooded the purveyors, only to have the books returned for lack of purchasers. Lord Russell's predictions of decades ago came true. Remove censorship and you decrease interest. Time magazine seemed disappointed as the end of censorship was not related to an increase in crimes against children, maidens, and other interested parties.
Next, Denmark will remove censorship from films. The film as a comment on life will then be able to notice what everyone has always seen-genitalia and the rest of the human body. In Denmark, the false safety of ideals has been exchanged for the actual safety of the human sexual condition. Certainly some still see danger (Time, I think, is waiting for something to be rotten in Denmark), but now the views of danger have been exposed for what they always have been-myth.
In prohibition, one sees Ideals; in the diversity of human display, Reals. When Denmark lifts its censorship on films, the movies will be able to turn from insinuation to Art. And audiences will be asked to view an account of the human circumstance, rather than a peculiarity to be witnessed in silence, or in laughter, or in embarrassment. Laughter, silence, embarrassment can be viewed as techniques to distance oneself as one has been pushed into the Iron Maiden, which is not man. Audiences composed of GI's are anything but silent at movies (as many of you know), but their addition to the script given loudly is but a peculiar other voice (and document) that man knows all along, yet, via ideals, denies and yells. And in the yells is reflected multiforms, one being the common American antisensuality best exemplified by Playboy magazine which also allows another of the multiforms in its "Philosophy" sections. Playboy yells while it restricts, as it continues the ideal expanded to all sorts of proportions-woman is the bunny for the hop, the ideal, not the human being in any way real. Playboy, too, is frightened and continues the fright.
Another fraud about sex is the charge that it prevents the complexity of man. No style of sexual expression has as yet been related to any uniformity. The lie that the gay world is gayer is just that-a lie. And it is as naive as the charge that drugs give clearer visions, instead of changes in reports and reduction in variability. Drugs do not expand the mind anymore than sex restricts it. I am using mind poetically here, as that notion has no status in science and obscures by positing.
Differences in thought and actions have long gained attention from those in power, attention from reformers and reactionaries, e.g., Pinel and Tuke, the heralded liberators of the said insane. (There is no such thing as insanity. There are differences in display, but remember, insanity is a charge offered as knowledge and, therefore, a lie.)(4) Pinel and Tuke (and many before them) took off the chains and cast insanity (with all good intentions and liberalism) into the Iron Maiden of Paternalism and Medicine. In these fraudulent views of man (paternalism and medicine), the new patient can be administered to, and all the while he is held to be responsible, responsible for the invention of his keeper. Diabolical! Responsibility is another common hiding place of rascals, as it permits the distortion that compliance is a function of some inherent feature of man, inherently good and drastically necessary. Nonsense! Via the medicalization of man, abuse becomes chemically and/or biologically defined and man is now held in the straights of the chemist or amateur chemist, the physician. This biological reductionism allows one to subtly, or if you like, Oedipally, shift from description (abuse) to proscription (abstinence)-a shift, of course, without warrant.
Man, the social animal, is said to be man the chemical event. An example: drug abuse biologically defined is raised to statute law and man is denied the employment of his body, denied in the sense which felonies deny display. Man is denied this for his own good, they tell us via medicine, the new patriotism. Another example is the presentation in so-called health courses of biological dicta converted into social demand. One often feels that sex is just an athletic event and in that sense, these courses may be well located and conveniently placed in physical education departments. I always feel like a shower, after moralisms! Family life education is the "put on" of the age, popular with those whose grade average is two points and lower. In this medical view, differences from an ideal are suspect and are to be reduced, while, for science, differences are a common matter of events. The reduction is offered as protection. Protection against what? Ideals which are invented to allow control, a control which aids in the continuance of the status quo and prevents examination of the implicit ideals about man (falsely constructed). Ideals which were invented to allow control and disenfranchisement of the citizenry-a disenfranchisement which the citizenry supports by its learning of the ideals and , as Freud would have, by the continuation of infancy-the paternalism of liberalism, the rise of the notion "child," the rise of certain forms of states aided in the evolvement of the ideal. Which ideal? Virtue, which made possible the charge of corruption. But Freud said that the infant is polymorphous perverse. How can you corrupt that kind of a sophisticate? Easily-by not relying on evidence and turning instead to conviction, and then, in turn, not noticing that our convictions are assertions and not evidence. We fail to look at the heavens and know the earth is flat, and flatten all who see. Our conviction constructs a young who have (we assert) no interest in sex. We tell them this as we fondle them and they fondle themselves. Experience is a poor counter to ideals, as many of the studies in prejudice suggest, and as Freud stated long ago when he sketched out the future of an illusion. That work was an attempt to test the generalizability of thought as disguise and as immunity to experience. Experience does not seem to counter the conviction of, for example, "I just know that something is wrong, or rotten, in Denmark."
The young used to marry at eleven and twelve, enter the noninfant world at three or four, as recently as the twelfth century, and, of course, witnessed all of the display of the community. Now our young witness all in their homes, as show-and-tell time reveals at grammar school; witness all in their baths, at the keyhole, and in their play. Yet, we still insist that nudity and sex will corrupt. The age of consent has risen, risen in the last century to eighteen (in some state), and colleges continue in the idiocy of in loco parentis, and thus hold onto the notion of corruptibility of the student. All the while, the student is corrupting the academy! Man, through the Judeo-Christian centuries, has been robbed of his sensuality, and importantly of his unreason, and has substituted conviction for knowledge.
Is there a counter? A sexual revolution? A new diversity without statute or other idealized restraint? Are we in a sexual revolution? Has liberalism advanced diversity? Commonly one is reminded of the Wolfenden report and of its changes in respect to consenting adult. (Consent implies evil, and adult invents the child. The report has not gotten out of the seventeenth century. It has, though, made changes.) One thinks of Denmark, of the abortion bills, of contraception, of the American blue ribbon boards and their recommendation, of changes in portrayal in the movies, in books, and of the current interest in the notion of privacy. All of these advents are read by some as heralds of a revolution and, in part, products of liberalism. They are not so read by me! Of course, I do not deny that privacy is now beginning to be detailed by some court decisions (more are pending), but I would remind you that this alleged implicit constitutional guarantee is emerging at a time in which privacy has become impossible through new observational devices. It is in the 1960's and later, no longer possible to be in private. A question remaining here is, "What is the import of privacy, now no longer possible?" It is, or course, theoretically possible to have the impossibility of privacy, as well as privacy, constitutionally decreed.
Revolution? I agree that constraints via lies about sex will decrease, but only as the control over our lives becomes more rational through our new technology. The so-called liberalization of sexual mores is but the recognition of a new and greater ease of control. Instead of revolution, we are witnessing a lack of importance of sex as control. It is not that authorities or liberals have become more able to face diversity, it is just that they now have better weapons to make diversity unlikely and to disarm it. The likelihood of insurrection is rapidly approaching zero. It will probably remain asymptotic, as no society has ever remained static, but 1984 is close and I think not just literature. Of course, we still have remnants of sex as the lie to cover control; for example, the charge of free love among the so-called hippies, who are probably not as active sexually as an American Legion post taken at random, at least at random at certain meetings. But the hippies pose a question, and that is their fault, the American Legion certainty, and their virtue. Thus their lie. Also, the general citizenry will lag behind, as they will continue to hold to an ideal no longer needed for control of them. Control today, through the vast and new technology, is furthered by other well-tried ideals, e.g., unity, patriotism, trial by the charge of conspiracy, the draft, manifest destiny, and the storm trooper in each of you. With all that, sex as a focus is hardly needed.
The man in the street refuses to sign a document he suspects-the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our man in the street is not wrong. That document insists on differences as strongly as he, via ideals, abhors them. To cast the ambience of rights around differences is counter to his instruction and, according to Freud, his infancy. "How silly a declaration can you sign?" when it is obvious that good is likeness. While the American contribution to a view of man, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, asserts that unlikeness must get a like accord, i.e., due process. Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is looking at what liberals have built-the juvenile court-and is asserting that the young, called juvenile, have been disenfranchised. Cases are running in the courts, and many in law predict that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights will eventually be extended to the young. In the due process sense, the young will again be recognized as adults and thus as citizens. Those who argue (in law) for this change, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, shy away from seeing the young as with sex. In that sense, there is no revolution, no return to what has always been-man with sensuality. In the next decades, due process will be given the young (diabolically, in an age where it may not matter, as it, of course, does), but sexual rights for the young will not be theirs, while it will be the case for individuals called adults. The fantasy of the innocence of the young and their asexuality persists even though no longer needed. The churches found that they could live with Darwin, with Galileo, with Copernicus, but not with rationality. Sex may provide this, but we need a bigger revolution to bring it about, a revolution which will take us beyond the chains of illusion to a look at ourselves and then at others.
The same sector of liberalism which has disenfranchised the young via the juvenile court is now out to reduce another sector of option by convening the Family Court, with jurisdiction over divorce. As with the outcry regarding sexual freedom, so the outcry about affiliation freedom (marriage-divorce) is based on moralism disguised as knowledge. But it is also soundly based, as it rests in the horror about differences and rationality. Freud tells us that the attack on an ideal marriage is read as a possible exposure to further ideals, read that way by the courts (those in authority) and by many not in authority. The attack on divorce is falsely conceived as saving society. Saving it from what? It turns out, from differences which actually exist, differences, which, of course, are much more complexly determined than by affiliation status. The fraud of the family or conciliation court lies in its ignorance; the horror, in its power. In the next decades, that court, too, will fall to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
I have been arguing that you will be more and more rationally controlled, and given back more of your sexual display via the elimination of statute restrictions. Your privacy will be made rational as it becomes an impossibility, and you will continue to condemn others and yourself as you persist in the ideals which the state no longer needs to control you. The last laugh, as always, is on you.
The major humanists of our times, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, have asked us to go beyond the chains of illusion. I do not think it likely. Marx asked that "the demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion." Rephrase this in the terms in which I have been talking, by stating: "Unless the fraud of control is exposed, the freedom of sex will be meaningless."
Freud argued that "men cannot remain children forever. They must, in the end, go out into the hostile life." He was wrong. The biological view of man which has entered our times insures quite the reverse of what Freud saw. The state has become the doctor, the parent who knows best. Lies!
Along with the increase in due process and other rights, control is increased, made more effective, more scientifically based, while ignoring totally the humanism of science to which Freud referred when he declared: "...our science is no illusion, but an illusion it would be to suppose that what science cannot give us, we can get elsewhere." (He spoke with the narrower referent of psychoanalysis. I extend his remarks to all of twentieth-century science.)
Bertrand Russell made a similar remark in speaking of science, which he linked to knowledge, and of philosophy, which he linked (among other characteristics) to that which we do not know. What man does not know is the extent and the increase in control and the fraud of ideal. Man's sexual liberation is an illusion, while a fact.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Aron, H. (1968). Sex: the iron maiden. Journal of Human Relations, 16, 475-489. Copyright 1968 by Central State University. Reprinted by permission. Also an address at "The Sexual Revolution," Sacramento State College, February 28, 1968.
2. In part this is "a funny"' the pulled down is, of course, the hemline. In part it is meant to throw the reader into a present jargon of protest and concern; in part it is used to set the stage of questioning.
3. There are several meanings here: one is a house of prostitution, but it is larger; as it suggest the house of sensuality, it suggests the old order and all that is old in man.
4. The argument here is that differences in conduct and thought have probably always existed. But the designation of differences in conduct and thought as insanity is recent. The designation insanity allows the hiding of the demand for similarity under the suggestion of illness (insanity), and thereby stigmatizes rather than clarifies diversity.