Friday, October 05, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

Sex is a biological function, but sexuality is the psychological process that governs it, and it is a strange place. It is not the same thing from the beginning of life to the end. It can get hijacked early by other internal drives and psychological cravings. It can change in specific ways in response to specific situations.

In many of the mammals most closely related to us, it is a force that turns off and turns on via biological triggers. The female goes into estrus. The males within scent of her suddenly become excited and aroused. The rest of the time, it's as though sexuality did not exist. It's like a playhouse that goes dark 29 days a month.

In humans, the stage is always lit and the doors unlocked. Any internal psychological trauma or unresolved dissonance can climb up on the stage and act itself out in the realm of sexuality.

Our rigid notions of the boundaries of what is, and isn't, sexual discourage us from seeing a lot of what goes on on that stage. Our insistence that sexual behavior is always either hetero or homo, a conceit of the late 19th century in Western civilization that is belied by the historical record -- what was Byron, Achilles, the Big Dawg in Cell Block ? -- further clouds our vision.

Now consider another strange place: U.S. Congress. The power of a Senator is enormous. So is the responsibility. No one can feel that assured all the time. But a Senator has to. In this media culture, there is no down-time for a public official of that rank. In this era of perpetual campaign seasons, there is no chance to recover from an ungraded moment of real human existence. Any person will have the 4 a.m. thoughts, the self-doubts, the long spells of wondering if he or she is capable of bearing the burdens.

Senators are among the class of people who ought to have them most of any of us, and they are among the classes least permitted to acknowledge such things go on inside them.

But the dark stage of sexuality always is there. And it is where the needs go that get locked out of the conscious mind. And certain behaviors that we generally lump into the category of "Sexuality" really have little to do with that and a great deal to do with power, the craving for power, or the craving to let go of it. And what looks to our culture like a deliberately humiliating homosexual act of self-abasement might just be coming from such a place and situation, unseen or unsuspected by either the performer or the audience.