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Cristina Nehring on the New Erotic Fundamentalism

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Posted on Aug 21, 2009
Flickr / kevindooley

A detail of “Venus Reclining on a Sea Monster With Cupid and a Putto” by John Deare.

By Cristina Nehring

(Page 2)

They would never try, for they know what some of their heterosexual peers have forgotten: that commitment is based not on the violent prohibition of competing contact; it is based not on the erasure of temptation and the criminalization of kindness but on something altogether different. It is based also on love and will, courtship and responsibility. It is also based on the continued quality of the relationship. And my neighbors’ enterprising friendliness not only enriches their community (one of the reasons I live in the Marais is its infectious conviviality), but dramatically enhances the quality of their own relationship. It does so by providing ever fresh material for exchange, and a reminder that both are independent agents—attractive, responsive and not to be taken entirely for granted. Trusted? Yes. Assumed as the other’s birthright? No. In my mind, that is a good thing. The rest of us could do worse than to learn from it.

*  *  *

What happens, though, if there really is an act of infidelity? Full-service physical infidelity, not “emotional infidelity”? The South Carolina-Argentina saga ended, after all, with some days of actual togetherness between the principals—though not as many as one might imagine from the pornographic spite-fest engaged in by columnists and bloggers as a result. In nine years of writing letters—letters rich with biblical quotation, literary discussion, offers of aid to each other’s children, tenderness and hand-wringing about tenderness—Sanford and Shapur managed to see each other for some portion of six days before meeting in the company of Sanford’s spiritual adviser in a New York church with the express purpose of breaking up. Whatever one’s moral judgments of the matter, it is extremely difficult to present this relationship as a sexual orgy.

But that is exactly how it is glossed in the American media. Sanford is a “travelling penis.” His purpose in life was “hot Argentinian f-cking.” It is worth mentioning that the hours he took off to visit Shapur on the famous “state-funded trip” to South America in 2008 came not out of any political activity he was pursuing at the time but out of dove hunting. The people of South Carolina lost nothing at all—but the birds of Brazil got a brief break from the carnage.

It is an existential irony that when an American politician takes time off to kill, his constituents are all applause or indifference. But when he takes time off from killing to love, they are aghast and begin to worry whether it might have cost them anything. Nobody cared that former Vice President Dick Cheney took time out from overseeing the killing of Iraqis in order to frequently kill ducks—not even when he shot a fellow American by mistake in the process—but when a small-state governor has dinner with a South American divorcée, now that’s a scandal.

One of the most tragic aspects of this sort of journalistic lynching is the extreme reductionism about human relationships that it reflects and perpetuates. An interaction that—for all the damage it may have done—probably clocked thousands of hours of letter-writing for each second of kissing, is glossed, simply and confidently, as a “booty call”—an opportunistic groping after “free sex.” Is it not obvious to us that opportunism has a different face? It does not write reams of prose to a person on the other side of the globe and risk public ruin for a few minutes of gratification more reliably obtained in a toilet stall with a magazine—or with a willing groupie on your staff at lunchtime. Women in general are far too much trouble, said poet Philip Larkin to a friend. In the very best of cases you have to take them to a movie and express interest in their career goals and take their phone calls for some time afterward. Larkin himself “would rather stay home with my hand.”

So would others. So would others some of the time. But even Larkin—as his poems occasionally showed—had other aspirations at other moments. Most of us do—or we would not go to the trouble we do to mess up our lives. There would be no allure to the distant bad girl, no myth of the irresistible bad boy, no attraction to hard-to-get mates. As regrettable as we sometimes think such phenomena are, they are also, in a way, reassuring. They demonstrate clearly what we might otherwise forget: that human beings are motivated by more than “free sex.” They long for more than easy gratification. For worse or better, they actually like to work for relationships; to spend time, effort, imagination and—yes—idealism on them.

I wager the following: Even sex is not about sex. Even sex, in many cases, is as much about seizing and offering tangible proof of affection and esteem as it is about the procurement of pleasurable spasms. Those spasms are easy to come by if they are what you’re after. But few of us seek them where they are most easily accessible. Most of us stray farther and wider than ever the desire for physical pleasure would sanction. For all of our cynical posturing and occasional self-incrimination we are a hell of a lot more romantic than we say we are. We are a hell of a lot more interested in intimacy and earned closeness than we are asked to believe by the New Erotic Fundamentalists.

The New Erotic Fundamentalists would call Tristan himself a pig. They would call Isolde a slut who couldn’t find her dildo in time to avert political catastrophe. They would call Romeo—who flouted family to embrace his soul mate—a self-indulgent sop with “pants on fire.” Ultimately, the new erotic fundamentalism stems from a failure of the imagination. It leads, moreover, to a failure of reality—to a turning back of the clock on social progress and gender liberation and human trust. It leads us into a land where university professors cannot close the door during office hours; employers and employees cannot pay each other a heartfelt compliment, and married people cannot joke, work, sympathize or commiserate with members of the opposite sex. It brings us back to burqas and barriers, scarlet letters and scaffolds.

There is still time to turn back. The price, admittedly, is perfect safety. But the prize is freedom, equality and the possibility of love. It’s our choice.

Cristina Nehring has written for numerous publications, including The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Conde Nast Traveler and the London Review of Books. She is the author of “A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century.”


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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, June 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

Epicurus just wanted to smoke dope and get layed.

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By APT, August 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

From Robert Jensen’s excellent review of Nehring’s book: (http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/literature/51022227.html)

“Many, myself included, would agree with Nehring’s central point: There is something shallow and unfulfilling about the readily available, commodified sex so common in contemporary U.S. society, and something equally empty about the passionless paint-by-numbers relationships in which so many find themselves trapped.

The problem comes in her celebration of romance as constant, tumultuous, emotional struggle and tedious existential angst. Her prescription - to intensify the erotic charge in romance and sex by celebrating and intensifying the domination/subordination dynamic - is rooted in a misdiagnosis of the malady. Our warped sexual ethic derives directly from that dynamic, and we can’t save ourselves by deepening our attachment to patriarchy.
...

Although she draws most of her examples from literature, at the heart of Nehring’s book is a failure of imagination. After describing power discrepancies as having a “magnetic force,” as if they come from nature rather than human choices, she asserts that adult erotic relationships “thrive on inequalities of almost every ilk.” That is true enough in a patriarchal society, but such inequality is neither natural nor desirable. Nehring can’t seem to imagine life outside patriarchy’s hierarchy: “It is precisely equality that destroys our libidos, equality that bores men and women alike,” she writes. Trapped within such an ultimate victory of patriarchy, our imaginations atrophy and our choices narrow.

Nehring tries to package this capitulation as “transgression,” but it feels like empty macho posturing. “Real transgression takes guts,” she tells us, sounding like one of the guys in the locker room. This transgression transgresses nothing and, in fact, keeps us trapped. When the trap springs, the results are often brutal. Nehring offers us violent metaphors - “When we fall in love, we hand our partner a loaded gun” - but we should remember that the violence in relationships is often not metaphor but reality, with women most commonly the target.

On the book’s last page, Nehring reveals that she bears “the bodily scars of a loss or two in love,” including being “hospitalized by love.” No details are offered, and she is under no obligation to provide them. But throughout this book, Nehring’s own words contradict her thesis and hint that we should strive for something beyond her notion of love-as-heroic-quest. If such love is always tragic, maybe it’s time to reconstruct love and romance rooted in different values.”

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By Leefeller, August 29, 2009 at 7:32 am Link to this comment

Though at the time I did not know why my wife bought bibles by the case, then when she ran off with the bible salesman I figured it out.  Fidelity is most important in a bible buying household.

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By APT, August 28, 2009 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

It sounds like Cristina Nehring’s married male friends are not paying enough attention to her.

I would guess that at the heart of this essay is the author’s incapacity to have a sustained, faithful, healthy relationship—here dressed up as a grandiose and insubstantial theory of human relationships.  The emperor never had fewer clothes.

I wonder if Ms. Nehring is single, “emotionally-needy,” and “beautiful” (though from the bizarre way she digs her chin into her neck in every available picture, she is obviously trying to hide something—perhaps a serious receding chin), with a relationship history of train wrecks?

Has Nehring taken a sober look at this country, from the sky-rocketing divorce rates to the 14- and 15-year-olds regularly having sex to the way porn chic has taken over the culture?  Fidelity is not the problem here. And the good governor was lambasted not for his “love” but for his dishonesty.  There’s a crucial difference.

One thing is for sure—I’ll be checking out Ruth Houston’s work.

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By iso, August 25, 2009 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This was a very well written article. I have read Sanford’s letters, and he pours his heart out in them. This was not a fling by any means.

If anything, he comes across as deep. The problem though is that she comes across a shallow; In his last letter, Mark asks her how they could put the genie back in the bottle, and she completely side steps the issue - trivializes it.

These sort of affairs happen to everyone. Bravo for calling it correctly. I’m aghast at the way the American media has caricatured this affair.

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By tomack, August 25, 2009 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Well I guess there’s only one solution, upon entry to adulthood (oh, pick whatever age you feel appropriate) we are awarded three items for life: a pair of rubber gloves, a bottle of lubricant, and your choice of one fruit or vegetable.

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By garth, August 24, 2009 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

The problems with the school psychologist’s argument are twofold.  One is the economic decline of middle class since 1970 and the other is the use of a “golden idea” of what culture should be in the give and take or the talk it through approach to pyschlogical help.
Anyone put under such tremendous social pressures would surely deviate from your norms.
But then again, you might be like me.  I did’nt get much in the 60s either.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

Epicurious & Heraclitus were among those who were skeptics of the gods and also put forth the idea of separating the god belief from what was then developing as the scientific method in its earliest stages.

My kind of people. For I think in that way myself. Many of my ideas I found had been conceived in the BCE times. But then I think these were with the same kind of mind like I was born with. Ones that had no need or reason to have a god or gods. Heros too I find no need for which is why I consider that to be related to the whole biological need for such ultimate leaders or shepard to the flock.

It makes sense if you look at it from a behavioral evolution based point of view. One thing that is constantly going on in an environment that is in flux it is constantly putting our variations until one day they will take hold as survivable and will breed true. Atheism just isn’t one of those traits yet to find a large place on this biosphere. It may never have the chance.

You will find that they tend not to reproduce like rabbits unlike their pious adversaries who drop babies like they are the light of their world regardless of the problems of taking care and loving more than 2 children. [The film comedy “Idiocracy” was dead-on in its evolutionary position as the basis for the film.]

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By ardee, August 24, 2009 at 11:05 am Link to this comment

oldhip, August 24 at 2:24 am

An odd quote I would think, coming as it does from an era in which ‘god’ was a multiplicity…...

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By oldhip, August 23, 2009 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment

Just a simple quote. . .

If God is willing, but not able to prevent evil in the world,
then he is not omnipotent.
If God is able, but not willing to prevent evil in the world,
then he is malevolent.
If God is both able and willing to prevent evil in the world,
then whence comes evil?
If God is neither willing nor able to prevent evil in the world,
then why call him God?

Epicurus, Greek Philosopher (341 BC-270 BC)

[Original posting here]

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By Night-Gaunt, August 23, 2009 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

That is due to the anti-sexual fundamentalists stopping the sexual education necessary and the access to prophylactics to curb such disease transfer for those who still want to do it. So we get the worse of both worlds. Sex by those who are ignorant and the diseases they normally wouldn’t have gotten if they had used condoms et al.

What other countries do you mean Iftekhar? Like Iran or do you mean the Nederlands? Be specific please.

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By Iftekhar, August 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

Erotic fundamentalism in a society where 25% of girls aged 14 - 19 have the human papiloma virus (HPV)? Where sexual activity begins at 14, it would be inane to expect any sort of balanced view towards sex. In other societies, such youngsters would not have sexual experience until they were more mature. As for the references to burqa and other assorted symbols of “loss of freedom”, that too is a western neurosis born out of the experience of slavery.

Anyway, it is nice to see the west still grappling with sexual nonissues other societies have put aside for more sensible activity.

Don’t stop!

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By cyrena, August 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

By Phala, August 23 at 4:12 am #
“... They are indeed like an obsession, an addiction…
I agree with Ms. Huston. However, instead of painting mono-chromatically with such a broad brush, she needs to specify her target client group.”
Then:
RWAs are followers first and more easily frightened (their Achilles’ heel) than low-RWAs. They unquestioningly look to leadership to tell them what to do, how to behave, and what to think, “stand up, take your hate off, put your hand over your heart, and repeat after me [insert pusillanimous platitude] and wear your brown/red shirt to the meeting.”
They lack critical thinking skills and the ability to reconcile conflicting information. Indeed, I saw one’s head almost spin when I said, “Your embryo has a 10% probability he’ll grow up to be Gay!”


THANKS Phala!!! You did this SO WELL!! The entire piece is excellent.

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By christian96, August 23, 2009 at 6:53 am Link to this comment

It has been four decades with our socalled “sexual
revolution” in the 1960’s.  The revolution has proved
to be a disaster for many reasons which I won’t get into
at this time.  Personally, after seeing numerous children
suffering daily while serving as a School Psychologist
for years because one or both parents couldn’t control
themselves sexually and therefore divorced I made the
personal committment to not engage in sexual behavior
until I was in love, married, and devoted to my wife.
I still maintain social relationships with many women
but I can control myself sexually.  Recently, I met an
attractive woman who informed me she likes to give and
receive oral sex.  I had to inform her of my committment
to remain sexually inactive until I was married.  Since
then she has stopped bring me baked goods which I didn’t
need anyway since I’m diabetic.  Beside seeing so many
children suffer because their parents couldn’t control
their sexual desires my biggest argument against extra-
martial sexual intercourse relates to the TRUST needed
in a marriage for it to be successful.  How do you trust
someone after you have discovered they have been unfaithful to you?  The DISTRUST will eat at their mind
like a cancer.  The sexual revolution has failed by
producing a nation full of sexually related diseases,
broken marriages, and suffering children.

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By Phala, August 23, 2009 at 1:12 am Link to this comment

... They are indeed like an obsession, an addiction…

I agree with Ms. Huston. However, instead of painting mono-chromatically with such a broad brush, she needs to specify her target client group.

Social scientists estimate this relatively small and readily identifiable minority of individuals and their leaders account for 20% of any given population. Nonetheless, that’s still a staggering 1.36 billion out of 6.8 billion global inhabitants!

In addition to serial bonkers, from this cesspool emerge birthers/deathers, bigots, bullies with bullets, big-mouthed buffoons, walk-behind broads, and assorted other banal zealots. Within this group, generalized anxiety pervades and, post 9-11, their numbers swelled. Traumatized, stressed out, and disordered, their leadership told them to “go shopping!” so they did. Forget ‘healing’, this segment of our citizenry adopted obsession (and its attendant pathology hoarding) which manifests itself in uncontrolled acquisition and other excesses.

Bob Altemeyer, social scientist and U of Manitoba psych prof, dubs these people Right-wing Authoritarians (RWA). RWA is a personality trait not a party (although most conservative “right-wingers” are both psychologically and politically predisposed to this hereditary condition.) And, while it would be a mistake to believe leftists are immune from this affliction (e.g. Ted Kaczynsky or Jim Jones’ cult of original cyanide-laced Kool-Aid drinkers), moderates, liberals, and even most far-left fringe-dwellers are rarely high-RWAs (it’s just not in their contentious, or deliberative, consciousness’).

RWAs are followers first and more easily frightened (their Achilles’ heel) than low-RWAs. They unquestioningly look to leadership to tell them what to do, how to behave, and what to think, “stand up, take your hate off, put your hand over your heart, and repeat after me [insert pusillanimous platitude] and wear your brown/red shirt to the meeting.”

They lack critical thinking skills and the ability to reconcile conflicting information. Indeed, I saw one’s head almost spin when I said, “Your embryo has a 10% probability he’ll grow up to be Gay!”

Whether on C Street, in Evangelical/Fundamentalist congregations, or obsessing over a hot-babe in their office or in Argentina, when ‘The Family’ tells them that they are “the chosen” and the only acceptable morality is theirs, they aggressively defend (often in cowardly ways in dark alleys and lynch-parties) their authority’s dictate. To question, let alone debate, is unthinkable (obedience is compulsory and choice just causes confusion). To do otherwise violates their “in-group”, us v. them, mob mentality and they severely punish noncompliance.

When allowed to group in sufficient numbers, all of humanity, not just their private relationships, suffer. Hard-wired to see change (or, even consensus) as destructive, they form tyranny’s backbone and present a real threat to democracy.

Nevertheless, without strong leaders, they lack self-discipline and impulse control. They are maladapted and, eventually, destined for extinction (if they don’t blow us all up!) Unfortunately, we’re stuck with them (reduction of their numbers provides another excellent argument for zero population growth).

So, if you’ve ever asked, “what is going on with these people?” you can safely say you’re not a high-RWA (I took Altemeyer’s assessment and scored 39/200.)

Therefore, how do reflective, independent, humanists cope with these mindless followers? My suggestions: Know thine enemy; Forget logic, it’s wasted on these loons; and, for the sake of goodness, Don’t vote for their leaders or breed with them!

For more insight and strategies, read Dr. Altemeyer’s 31 years worth of data-driven analysis. His 261 pg. on-line book is an invaluable (and conversational) read - Enjoy: http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

Whys=Wise but No?Know

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By cyrena, August 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

“It is an erotic fundamentalism, and its champions, oddly enough, hail from the same ranks as those who yesterday decried the fundamentalism of the Taliban, the practices of Islamic extremists, the backwardness of Eastern burqa champions.”

Not odd at all. In fact, it’s routine for the ideological and cognitively impaired. They include ALL Republicans (or at least the ones who hold office) and a small percentage of Dems, plus various and sundry other political persuasions, as well as the demented and delusional. 

So in that respect, (just looking at the numbers) it’s not really odd. Not new either. Just still scary as hell.

Aside from that, it’s a great piece from Ms. Nehring.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 22, 2009 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

It is a scandal Prole when the man just disappeared and put his political job in jeopardy. That is the difference not his reason for going. He was incommunicado from his staff and was in violation of his job. If there was an emergency of any kind the governor of a state could not be located. That should have gotten him fired. How romantic and stupid! It would have been better if he had hiked the Appalacian trail nude just as long as they knew where he was and could reach him in an instant. So you needed to at least have been full informed as to what the situation was.

Ironic Dilhey that almost no one saw the exposure of her breast and it would have stayed obscure if not for the need for the so-called news organizations played it up over and over again to the point that the Puritanical FCC fined her and the network for “showing it” even if practically no one did. We can discuss the perverse nature of the idea that natural mammaries are deleterious to anybody goes straight to the anti-human ideas of the Judaic based religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Beautiful sculpture of Pagan deities and attendant cherub (putto) and the glorification of the body beautiful. So much more normal than the repressive religion who essentially hates humanity because we a “fallen” and therefor very far away from their version of deity. I am a Naturist myself, i. e. nudist but don’t get to be around others much or find those who like to be that way. After awhile the eroticism fades because you have seen it before.

So-called Western Culture is from the East as much as Islam and almost as bad. There are those here who would be just as bad as the most restrictive of those fundamentalist practitioners in Israel or in places like Iran. They want the same thing here! But the natural drives of sexuality come out in weird ways like in art or being “slain in the spirit” where women writhe on the floor and masterbate to orgasm. [They are frequently covered while they do so.]

Personally I think we should stop limiting ourselves to just monogamy. Not everyone wants it that way or can live like that. We have serial monogamy. But women can have as many men as they want and the same with men. And any other arrangement of adult genders. No fault divorce. Everyone is the same and different in this area and it must be recognized!

Overall I thought it was a good article but the title isn’t quite clear. Such is the English language in its ambiguity. It should have been “Anti Erotic Fundamentalism” would have made sense.

I would like to hear from an erotic fundamentalist who has definite things to say about sex, relationships and arousal.

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By Melonie Magruder, August 22, 2009 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ms Nehring is being disingenuous in her argument in using Mark Sanford’s
example.  Whereas I can agree that we, as a society, are intolerant with all matters
sexual, Sanford’s ‘sin’ of infidelity was pertinent to the American public only in
that he sold himself as a model of ‘family values’ to his electorate. 

I cannot comment on his relationship with his wife - it’s none of my business -
but to get yourself elected proclaiming superiority over another party because you
represent ‘Christian Values’ while cheating on your wife in every way possible is
not only hypocritical, it demeans the people you govern.  I can’t believe South
Carolina hasn’t kicked this guy to the curb.

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By bogi666, August 22, 2009 at 8:40 am Link to this comment

Walt, great observation Sanford using pretend christianity to absolve himself from any/all responsibility, how very christian of him. Sanford belong to the “Family” a group of christians who admire Hitler, Stalin, Mao and most importantly Suharto the U.S. installed military dictator of Indonesia who killed millions it is estimated. This very christian group absolve themselves from any wrong doing, responsibility, as they have cast their god in their image. That’s the attraction of christianity today “I’m not responsible god made me do it and/or Satan made me do it”, either or both the bogeyman god/satan made me do it and I’M NOT RESPONSIBLE cause god told me so.

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By dihey, August 22, 2009 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

Hey Ouroborus! During the so-called “Victorian Era” the American people elected a president, Grover Cleveland, who had fathered a child “out of wedlock”!
Cleveland’s response to “Victorian Moral Accusations” was: “I am taking good care of the child” and that was also good enough for the voters. Yes, it probably did make a difference that women could not vote then but no one can reliably deduce what the difference would have actually been.
Today, in our “Non-Victorian Era” almost every commentator avers that John Edwards cannot possibly become our President in the future. We still are “officially” a Neo-Victorian fundamentalist country (remember Ms. Jackson’s bare breast?) but filled with “Grover Cleveland’s” using birth control devices. Thus many of us are still devilish sinners which gives hope for a much, much better future. However, to paraphrase FDR, “there is nothing more to fear than the awesome churches”.

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By Ouroborus, August 22, 2009 at 4:11 am Link to this comment

Cristina Nehring;

Nicely done, well done. I believe you captured the
American ethos perfectly. After all, they’ve never
quite recovered from the Victorian era. You speak well
to the reality beyond the prudishness of sexuality in
America. They were, after all, hung up on a blow job
Clinton got; the government all most shut down over
that one, LOL. The Europeans on the other hand, just
shrugged and said, “What’s the big deal?” But I
digress; I really enjoyed the read, thanks.

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By Angel Gabriel, August 22, 2009 at 2:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is just another example of the Evolution of American Moralism with a vivid imagination - hatched from the Evangelical “Born Agains” - what else is new in the land of the exceptionally ????less?
As if wars and occupations weren’t enough for Americans…
Won’t someone please create some jobs for these people, so they’ll have less idol time on their hands to dream this stuff up?

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By rgillock, August 22, 2009 at 12:09 am Link to this comment

The concept that men and women cannot be friends or associates without the “danger of sexual intamcy” is completely unfounded.  What I fear more is that such crazed conjectures will be used to roll back a woman’s place in the work place.

This concept that men and women are in danger of sexual melt down when ever they have contact is insane.  It is no different from the Taliban and their insistance on women wearing burcas! 

OK, maybe there are some men who are so sexually inept, so personally insecure, and so fearful of women that they cannot function in a rational society.  Maybe they need to live in a highly restricted environment.  We have institutions for them. 

For the rest of us, we treat each other as humans, not as sex objects.  We learn from each other and treat each other with respect.  We generally have committed relationships with a person we truly love, and no flirtation is worth jeopardizing that love.

Those who are functionally incapable of a committed relationship should not try to set the norms of our society.  They should admit that they lack evolution beyond an alley cat and accept that they do not belong in our society, but never the less, they are allowed to stay.  As long as they behave.

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By Free to Love, August 21, 2009 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hate the whole idea of “emotional affair”.  Maybe I’ll have an “emotional drink”
tonight or and “emotional dessert”.  You either partake of something or you
don’t.  Thinking about it is not the same.

I have had numerous female friends during my 20+ years of marriage and have
never once been unfaithful to my wife.

After the birth of our second child my wife and I had some tough times and
sought counseling.  She felt threatened by some of my friends at work.  Since I
grew up with sisters I’ve always had women friends and don’t see anything
wrong with it.  Our counselor told my wife that I don’t have a problem with
these friendships and she can either accept it or not because I wasn’t going to
change. 

That was ten years ago and we’re happier than ever.

It is foolish to think that you cannot love someone of the opposite sex without
having to jump into bed with them.  It is even more foolish to deny yourself
great meaningful friendship because you’re afraid of your lack of control. 

It’s not about what emotions you might feel toward another person but how
you respond to them.

The only people who have emotional affairs are who believe they exist.

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By prole, August 21, 2009 at 11:12 pm Link to this comment

It most certainly is a grisly “irony that when an American politician takes time off to kill, his constituents are all applause or indifference. But when he takes time off from killing to love, they are aghast and begin to worry whether it might have cost them anything. Nobody cared that former Vice President Dick Cheney took time out from overseeing the killing of Iraqis in order to frequently kill ducks—not even when he shot a fellow American by mistake in the process—but when a small-state governor has dinner with a South American divorcée, now that’s a scandal” This point can’t be emphasized enough. It is absolutely obscene in the deepest sense of that word, that depraved Americans for all their hypocritical squeamishness about eroticism should be so indifferent to wanton killing, especially by allegedly upstanding citizens and decent middle-class folk. It’s disgusting to be gunning down unoffending wildlife for “sport” - especially when you’re dead drunk - but to be slaughtering hundreds of thousands of defenseless Iraqis (and Afghans, Palestinians, etc.) is unconscionable! At least, to give credit where credit is due, drunken killer Cheney managed to wing one ‘good ‘ol boy’ in his hunting party, but unfortunately, he missed the rest of the s.o.b.‘s in the group. Hopefully, his aim will be better next time and he’ll miss the ducks and shoot the chickenhawks. Those are the criminals that really need to be on the wrong end of a rifle, not the innocent ducks and Iraqis. But since there is such a close relationship between Eros and Thanatos, it’s perhaps not surprising that cowardly cold-blooded killers like Cheney and his cronies should get off on killing, both at home and abroad. Maybe if their love life was a little more pleasingly promiscuous, they wouldn’t be so seduced by finding pathological pleasure in killing other living creatures. It’s maybe worth a try anyway. Free love for free people! Excellent essay!

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By mcthorogood, August 21, 2009 at 7:44 pm Link to this comment

Exactly what type of deviant behavior are you trying to rationalize?

As Anne Hendershott sees it in “The Politics of Deviance”, the erasure of deviance has blunted society’s ability to condemn certain choices.

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By Ray Duray, August 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

For those seeking a chance to talk to a live sex expert, may I recommend 1-800-NEW LIFE?

These fine evangelicals promise that they are winning the war on temptation.

From “The Family”, Jeff Sharlet’s wonderful study of this world of evangelical eroticism, I’ve just gleaned a wonderful data point. After several years (think of the dark era of Clinton) of American foreign policy aimed at slowing the spread of AIDS in Africa by means of education and condoms, we had an abrupt policy change and with a born again adminstration money that had previously be spent on condoms and safe sex education was redirected to abstinence advocacy. In Uganda this had a dramatic effect. First there were condom burnings on college campuses. Then there was a burning sensation in private parts along with the inevitable doubling of new HIV-positive results in the country.

How about that for a Christian miracle?

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By Leefeller, August 21, 2009 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

Erotic fundamentalism has a nice ring to it, for some it could mean one in the nose.

Like most fundamentalism’s one can conjure up the concept of an elevator not going all the way to the top and if it did there would be no one at home anyway.  Why do I feel the erotic buzz word and fidelity has as much in common as Bush and common sense?

Fundamental meaning core or central importance combined with erotic means love or sexual desire, so in combination of the combined word sexual desire is of central importance or is it love which is central?

If one is to use the words fundamental and combine them with any other word to make them of central importance, why not have fun with it?

We all know of fundamental ass holes, they have placed themselves in positions as fundamental opportunists in places of fundamental control.

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By mike112769, August 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

Nothing new here, just the god crowd teling us sinners how to live. To hell with them.

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By Virginia777, August 21, 2009 at 4:08 pm Link to this comment

oh God, what next?

Erotic Fundamentalism??

I’m going to personally fight that one!

(this “fight” is at least fun!)

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By omygodnotagain, August 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

Cristina
It is so nice to hear a woman who views a romantic affair not as cheating but as what it is romantic, magical and special. It seems to me that throughout history people have looked at it that way until recently. Our sexual revolution was a charade, cheap sex, we never grew up we became retarded PC Puritans. Consider for a moment the Oscar winning film from the 1960s Dr Zhivago,based on Boris Pasternak’s book. Set against the Russian Revolution it is about an intensely romantic affair between Omar Sharif and as Zhivago and Julie Christie as Lara. Never once did anyone describe it as cheating back then, why because three quarters through the movie Zhivago’s wife, after he had been kidnapped by the Bolshis comes to see Lara to tell her leave her key out he will come back to you, and his wife leaves a letter with Lara. When Dr Z finally escapes he comes to Lara’s she gives him the letter, as he reads it aloud his wife addresses him as my dear, it is full of caring, talking about the kids, how she like Lara how she loves and cares for him. How more romantic could it get, but in this catty, cheating lets lynch the bastard atmosphere.. Dr Z would deserve to be kidnapped for not keeping his pants on, and Lara would deserve to have lost her daughter at busy station for being a slut and a home wrecker. Romantic affairs are magical, if they handled discreetly with sensitivity, if family priorities are kept front and center. Just praying we return to the romanticism of the past, and leave this ugly PC name calling so called progressive era of erotic fundamentalism.

Well done Cristina… great article.

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By Sepharad, August 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

I agree with ardee: this is one of the silliest articles published here. It’s basically a pseudo-academic tarting down of headlines on celeb/pol mags we all see while zoning out in the supermarket line. For more enlightening and literary commentary on relationships in a changing American society, I recommend the author read, in chronological order, the many short story collections by the late, perceptive and generous-souled John Updike.

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By John Schaberg, August 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

I feel like the author went a little far a field at the end of the article. We are speaking about infidelity. Romeo and his pants on fire are not material to the subject. I also found an odd lack of discussion about fidelity – a partner’s resolve not to allow temptation to interfere with the commitment. All this about what is appropriate between you and the opposite sex when you are in a committed relationship exists inside your own head and nowhere else.  There are no rules.

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By Anarcissie, August 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

I, too, would not take Time too seriously.  Once, they were a news magazine, but now no one is going to read them for the news, so they’re floundering around looking for a new shtick.  Thumbsucking articles on various popular themes are to be expected; it’s probably thought to be especially good if you can mix hot items like sex, religion and puritanism.  Got to get some readers!

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By clancy Sigal, August 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re Nehring: Would it be a good idea for any sex commentator or advice giver to
present credentials at bottom of article?  Instead of how many articles she’s
written and who for, more personal details pertinent to subject.  Inquiring Minds
Want To Know.

Clancy

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By oldog, August 21, 2009 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Far, far better
to have loved well and often,
than virtuously
but once

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By Scotty_Mack, August 21, 2009 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

Who in the hell reads Time?

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By tropicgirl, August 21, 2009 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

Cristina, this is a great article.

You can see this has already been played out in the Catholic Church of the
Middle Ages and beyond. The entire Baroque art movement (not to be confused
with the Renaissance) and its over sexuality was used to woo sinners back from
the liberation of Martin Luther and his “go direct to God” approach. The sick
world of sex and violence that existed in the Catholic church became
entrenched and we are still dealing with that today.

Evangelicals are a perfect example of this type of internal violence. They often
have a ticker tape of shame and blame running inside their heads at any given
moment. That’s why they are homophobes. That’s why they need “date night”.

I see the sickness of culture apparent in our treatment of animals, our
treatment of children, the environment, our treatment of the elderly and the
weak or unhealthy or mentally challenged.

Our so-called creative persons are also all about the violence and sex. Nothing
else turns them on anymore. The entire corporate music industry has also
become depraved in this way, totally missing the opportunity for the healing of
music that we experienced in the 60’s and 70’s.

All you can really say about it is that our culture is sick, it is imbecilic and
childish, and it is inherently excited about causing or watching violence upon
others, whether human or animal or weaker sex.

And, you can see it right at eye level with law enforcement and politicians who
benefit from the sick, from the objects of wars of choice, from the targets of
ethnic cleansing,  and profit from violence against the environment.

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By Ray Duray, August 21, 2009 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

I agree with Fenwick and Ivan. After reading the article for an intelligent discussion of “...The New Erotic Fundamentalism” I felt that I was the victim of a bait-and-switch.

Currently I’m reading “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet and serenditously enough I’ve just read a section in that book about the sexual imagery that that is springing up in the art work on exhibition in some of the Colorado Springs megachurches. To say the least, there is a lot of eroticism on public display there, with voluptuously bare-breasted angels pouring honey over an Adonis style Christian hero with then an overflowing cup of honey delicately poised over his privates further cascading down on the congregants. And these people scorn Hugh Hefner? 

This is what the teasing headline and salaciously inviting photo led me to believe I was reading about. Alas, I find that this was simply a siren song into a turgid and essentially pointless laundry list of disconnected and seemingly random thoughts about anything that might come to mind for author. Frankly, Mr. Scheer, where is an editor when you need one?

I’d stongly encourage anyone actually interested in the topic of the new evangelical eroticism and the disturbing implications this has for American foreign policy and the further brainwashing of the fundamentalist masses to pick up a copy of the Jeff Sharlet book. There is an exceptionally informative and focused discussion of the menace we’re faced with there.

So, was this article a joke, or simply another prime example of a nation collective losing its mind? To paraphrase Robert Oppenheimer, the optimist thinks this sort of unthinking article is the best that journalism has to offer, and the pessimist fears this is true.

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By vtgh, August 21, 2009 at 9:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I enjoyed Christina’s contortions trying to potray the Mark-Maria love affair in a sympathetic light..is she jealous that Flanagan got to write in Time?
Christina never addresses Flanagan’s central point: do you give up the “thrill” of love for the betterment of your children? Is it justified to pursue your romantic interests when there are children involved whose lived will never be the same again after watching the father disparage the mother on TV by calling another woman his soulmate?
Most of the derision towards Sanford arises precisely because he is a selfish jerk…it is ok to believe that your love affair is the best thing that happened to you but its NOT ok to insult your wife and certainly not right to humiliate your children the way he did. Note that she only refers to his initial press conference; not to the AP interview where he imploded big-time and lost the sympathy of even his ardent supporters. And I can understand her need to gloss over his Argentine trip..it DID cost South Carolina money. He blew off a business opportunity to romance his mate.
But more about Nehrings own agenda. She has waxed eloquent about love and she needs to keep her thoughts in the news, even when her main standard bearer—Sanford—is turning out be a bigger jerk than we thought. Maria is no innocent either: in her quest for love, she has been romancing one married man after another. And Nehring conveniently doesnt have a husband, feeling free to enagage in essays about loving and living freely..and calling the rest of us—who value monogamy and family stability—as puritans. You are entitled to your views Christina—but so are we.

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By Ivan hentschel, August 21, 2009 at 8:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This “article’ is indeed a joke, yes? You published it to see if anyone was actually reading? Gobbledygook..or however you spell it. Giberish with multi-syllabic disractions.

In case you (and the author) have not noticed our world is falling apart, we are beset by homophobia and racism and poverty and worry and we have much better reasons to use up oxygen than breathing through this.

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By Shift, August 21, 2009 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

By veggieburger, August 21 at 7:22 am #

“@Shift: assertion backed up by a cruel ad hominem attack?  And you have missed her point!”

No, I have dismissed her point as immature and jockish, totally lacking in historical context and depth.  Her views are pop culture politics.

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By Leefeller, August 21, 2009 at 7:02 am Link to this comment

As a self proclaimed farmer, this is why farmers separate the bulls from the cows and why Bulls are always pissed.

How does this work for gay people, can they be tempted to become ungay by befriending people of the opposite sex? After all it is a choice to be gay, according to the righteousness of gospel eaters.

Running off to Argentina is a prime example of why people of opposite sexes should never become friends or everyone could just become gay?

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By Foodperson, August 21, 2009 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

” Even sex is not about sex. Even sex, in many cases, is as much about seizing and offering tangible proof of affection and esteem as it is about the procurement of pleasurable spasms. “

I don’t think that makes us more romantic at all!
Of course It really can have romantic purposes( naive too, perhaps?) like those ...but when people say these things, it might just as much be one of those lies humans tell to themselves to make their lives seem more full of purpose and [what they have learned to consider] beautiful.
The fact that they don’t simply masturbate does not mean they have not simply found attractive(and in some cases that’s not even an issue) human beings as better sex objects with extra positive stuff like not feeling lonely, maybe having some more money,feeling appreciated,not being bored,being cared for etcetera…

so yeah that’s the part I wanted to comment on, sorry if it seems slightly out of context but that’s when reading this became a bit “unsatisfying” for me.
Hypocrisy clearly is present in both sides.

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By stonecutter, August 21, 2009 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

The problem here is the toxic concentration of 21st century media and its obsessive 24/7 dead-horse-beating reaction to any event that promises ongoing controversy, no matter how insipid. Much of dumbed-down America is addicted to and mainlining schadenfreude, when they don’t even know what it is, let alone how to spell it.

One early evening’s partial viewing of swill like “Entertainment Tonight” or “The Insider” (one partial viewing is all any thoughtful person can stand) is a small example of the depths to which TV cynicism and pandering about the lives and foibles of public figures has descended.

It’s a fact that many (but not all) of these subjects are proactively seeking this vile, simple-minded, melodramatic publicity for their own ends, through the auspices of various PR firms dedicated to keeping the client’s name in lights and/or scrubbing their public image, even when public behavior is despicable by reasonable standards. Bad publicity is still publicity, and always better than no publicity at all.

When Gov. Sanford was making his “confession” at his now-famous press conference, there was a woman behind him on-camera smiling happily as he spoke.  Who was she, a spectator, a staffer, and what the hell was she smiling at? At his tearful admission of infidelity? At the shameless use of the media to manipulate his mawkish revelations to his own ends? At the sheer absurdity of it all (“another Pol bites the dust”)? 

The whole cycle of public admissions of sexual “betrayal” by politicians, already the most mendacious, hypocritical, phoniest class of privileged citizens in our midst, is unquestionably ludicrous and laughable, the primary reason why Letterman can still 10 years later get a raucous response from his audience about Clinton and Lewinsky.

The great majority of thoughtful, better educated, perhaps even sophisticated members of American society, the spine of Letterman’s nightly audience (they’re not watching him much in Oklahoma City) realize that sexual liaisons, whether the product of bored, restless, wandering, searching husbands or wives, experimenting teens or young adults, or the countless permutations in between of humans seeking comfort, pleasure and some happiness, however transient, should be and usually is PRIVATE, and is nobody’s business but the parties involved. That is, unless some media-addicted politician or celebrity is the perpetrator, and some “innocent” wife is the “victim”.  American’s live for this “Wuthering Heights” mush, served up in a 100 different recipes.

It becomes a well-produced, media-fueled circus, complete with popcorn and the requisite ooo’s and aahh’s. Just another form of “infotainment”, masquerading as “news”.  The current sport of daily comparing John Ensign’s cycle of contrition amidst allegations of bribery and illicit use of funds vs. Sanford’s unique scenario vs. Clinton’s “suspect zero” encounters with Monica vs. Spitzer’s fall from grace vs. Vitter’s special brand of Louisiana bullshit is instructive. It’s a cottage industry, and to whom, what audience demographic, is it directed?

When some serious, authoritative voice can speak to that question, perhaps we can uncover some truth about the cynicism and venality that infects our current mediasphere like an epidemic of swine flu; the incessant demand for ratings in an ever-shrinking and fragmenting media market, with economic depression as a backdrop and a population increasingly driven by fear and uncertainty. The realization that 500 channel capacity has opened the door to a Niagra Falls of pure, defiant, unadulterated crap, parsed into smaller niches of junk programming and faux “news”, enveloped in drug, car and cell phone commercials ad infinitum. 

Let’s build a Colosseum, bring in these fools and their wives and significant others, and let them go at it!  Bread and circuses…the Romans knew what they were doing.

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By Ruth Houston, August 21, 2009 at 6:33 am Link to this comment

Cristina,

I’m flattered that you quoted me in the third paragraph of your essay in reference to opposite sex friendships / male-female friendships and emotional infidelity.

However some of the quotes were taken out of context.  The article you refer to does NOT condemn friendships between women and men.  It warns that such friendships can progress to emotional infidelity which is the precursor to sexual infidelity.  A number of infidelity studies have found this to be true.  The transition takes place gradually, often without the parties involved ever realizing what is happening until it’s too late.

The purpose of the article you quote, and other articles I have written on the topic of emotional infidelity is not to discourage male-female friendships, but to alert men and women to the inherent danger of opposite sex friendships so they can safeguard their marriage or relationship by putting some checks and balances in place.

Not every male-female friendship will turn into an emotional affair. But a significant number of them do.  Various infidelity studies, polls and surveys put the rate somewhere around 30%.  Based on the e-mails and phone calls I receive on a daily basis, I’d say the rate of progression from emotional infidelity to sexual infidelity is well over 50%.  I see constant evidence every time I do an infidelity consultation with someone who has become a victim of sexual infidelity that developed because their spouse or significant other had a close opposite sex friendship in which they failed to take certain precaitions

The Emotional Infidelity Quiz you refer to was not meant to frighten people so they would “yank the cord” as you put it.

The Quiz is a tool I designed to help people evaluate their own, or their partner’s opposite sex friendship to see if it’s in danger of becoming an emotional affair.  The quiz is accompanied by a tip sheet with suggestions on checks and balances that can be put in place to keep male-female friendships from crossing the line.

For a more detailed picture of how close opposite sex friendships can undermine a marriage or committed relationship, may I refer you to two other articles on the Examiner site that you linked to in the 3rd paragraph of your essay above.

For a more accurate view of emotional infidelity than you have portrayed, your readers may wish to read the article entitled Emotional Infidelity Usually Leads to Sexual Infidelity.  To complete the picture,  real life examples, with which most people are familiar, are included in the article entitled 3 High Profile Cases of Emotional Infidelity. (the Sanford Affair; the Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie triangle, the A-Rod – Madonna affair of the heart) 

The same fate befalls countless ordinary people.

I might also add that extramarital affairs in which there is a dual emotional / sexual bond, in other words, emotional affairs which have progressed to sexual affairs, are extremely difficult to overcome.  They are indeed like an obsession, an addiction, as Jenny Sanford states in her interview with Vogue magazine, and often prove to be a death knell for most marriages or committed relationships. 

Forewarned is forearmed.

Please, for the sake of your marriage or relationship, take heed and govern yourself accordingly.

Sincerely,

Ruth Houston

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By Druthers, August 21, 2009 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

By ardee,
“The fringe becomes the norm?  I fail to understand why or even when this silliness began, but fringe beliefs are exactly that, nonrepresentative of the opinions or mores of the majority.”

Who would want to be part of such a dismal majority?  That fringe is a haven for humans, far from the brow-beating crowd.  That is where most artist go, where the most beautiful words, unforgettable images and lasting things in life come from.
Suburbia is a goal for many and a jail for others.

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By Fat Freddy, August 21, 2009 at 5:17 am Link to this comment

Don’t befriend a member of the opposite sex! “If you or your spouse or significant other have a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex that you think might be bordering on emotional infidelity, get a free copy of the Emotional Infidelity Quiz” so you can yank the cord, before it is too late, on that dangerous identification with the enemy gender.

My conclusion would be to avoid the institution of marriage and the vows/contract that go with it.

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By walt, August 21, 2009 at 5:00 am Link to this comment

What a wonderful, refreshing article. Thank you Christina! (and no, I’m not
making a pass).

I missed the lynching in Time, etc. In fact, I avoided even the Internet twaddle
on the “affair. The way the culture treats this is just so unseemly. And I don’t
mean just the ersatz news that clogs cable 24/7. The late night comics can, on
the one hand claim themselves to be progressive, but they will rarely pass the
opportunity to wade into the sleaze. David Letterman still makes Clinton /
Lewinsky jokes and that happened in 1995. But it still gets laughs.

We are I guess, at once a lascivious and a puritanical culture.

It’s too bad that the editors of Time didn’t have the opportunity to read Jenny
Sanford’s interview in Vogue before publication. In it, she leaves an interesting
clue to his behavior when she talks about her marriage to the Governor.

“We weren’t madly in love (!), but we were compatible and good friends,” Jenny
says. “I like to think we balance each other out. I am a conservative at heart,
but I’m not passionate about ideas like he is. I am better at making the trains
run on time…”

Egad! I’m sorry, was that a Mussolini reference?! And could a person of either
gender, who made their life in politics, be satisfied with a mate who is not
passionate about ideas?

Do I seem too much the libertine if I paraphrase what Chris Rock said about
O.J. in discussing Sanford’s affaire de couer, “I don’t condone ‘it’ … but I
understand”?

Even though this article speaks to sexuality, it touches on the fact that
fundamentalists at both ends of the spectrum are united by their dim view of
humans and human sexuality.

In discussing this “scandal” both feminists and anti-feminists can find common
ground, the Right and the Left can be (I beg you to forgive the expression)
strange bedfellows.

But not so strange, really. Both Right and Left ideologues seek to restrict
human activity because they are polluted by the notion that humans are
inherently evil and must be circumscribed. Whether a Minister in South
Carolina or an Imam in Iran, both extremist views suspect the openly free and
expressive human, especially in matters of sexuality and lifestyle.

In Sanford’s South Carolina alcohol is treated like active plutonium. And those
who consume it openly instead of in the privacy of their antebellum mini
mansions, are frowned upon.

In parts of the Middle East, alcohol is so reviled by religious people that
offering a drink to one of them can actually lead to physical violence.

The new erotic fundamentalism does indeed stem from the old. But it is now
both a secular and religious belief … though rooted in religion. 

Sanford himself gave another telling quote when he made his confession.

He said “God’s Laws are to protect us from ourselves.”

Really? This belief that human are not to be allowed to be responsible for their
own behavior and need religious or ideological supervision undercuts the
cause of democracy, which presumes we can manage ourselves very well, thank you very much.

But this is no longer the legacy left to us by the Puritans and Jansenists that
settled America. In fact it is neither unique to them nor unique to the US.
Indeed it is an ideological “movement that is sweeping the world.

So what to do? Make love and make no apologies for it … and afterwards, have
a drink!

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By ardee, August 21, 2009 at 4:56 am Link to this comment

The fringe becomes the norm?  I fail to understand why or even when this silliness began, but fringe beliefs are exactly that, nonrepresentative of the opinions or mores of the majority.

Not the silliest article to appear here, but among the finalists certainly.

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By Eso, August 21, 2009 at 4:41 am Link to this comment

So, with a world with 4x the number of people it can support on a renewable basis, and a half or more of the people living in cities, we are going to now walk into a sexual closet and overcome our loneliness by masturbating in the dark?

Ridiculous article.

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By morgan1, August 21, 2009 at 4:30 am Link to this comment

This article is misleading—There is no NEW Puritan Fundamentalism. It was here when the Constitution and Bill of Rights was written, and never went away. Under Republicans, suppression of sex and eroticism is far more extreme (Remember the statue being covered up because Ridge found it offensive)while they enjoy bacchanals to their content. It is hypocrisy at its highest levels. When Dems have the majority, all the extremists reappear, the Far Right begins to scream how we are all going to hell and the Palins take center stage. It is no different now than when Carter was President, Clinton and now Obama. Certain fragments of American culture have this fear, this insecurity that different is bad and what feels good must be really bad. This “New” is not new at all.

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By Jaded Prole, August 21, 2009 at 4:24 am Link to this comment

The moralists, the fear-mongers and the shills are the greatest danger to humanity. Fidelity has to do with honesty. Love and friendship are good things. Every relationship is its own world and no person or group should try to limit everyone elses experience to their own vision of what’s “right.” Human affairs are too complex for all that.

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By veggieburger, August 21, 2009 at 4:22 am Link to this comment

If your neighbours were followers of Dan Savage’s advice column, they would be just fine!

@Shift: assertion backed up by a cruel ad hominem attack?  And you have missed her point!

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By photoshock, August 21, 2009 at 4:11 am Link to this comment

The ‘scandal’ surrounding Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina is much the same scandal surrounding the life of a certain American poet, Walt Whitman. 
His whole life was dedicated to the enjoyment of the flesh and spirit, not only through his verse and prose but also through his actions. He made his life a living sacrifice, much to the dismay of the people of his time, to the sometimes erotic, sometimes bestial nature of ‘man.’
No other poet of his time embodies the nature of freedom and the freedom of nature than he, lest we forget, the spider often, not always eats her mate.
Why would rational thinking people, well some anyway wish to be like spiders? We are often told by the Far Right Wing Nuts of the Grand Orgy Party that, we are higher than the animals and the highest form of ‘G-d’s Creation.’ Yet we would sacrifice this height for the self-abnegation of separation and sustained contact with members of our own sex and or gender.
This is not the highest and best that the Puritanical and Fanatical describe as life. I, for one would give up the practice of their kind of morality for the nearness of another. For at this point I am alone and lonely, living in one of those kind of towns where everyone knows your business and your business is closely watched for any signs of ‘weakness’ regarding the other sex.
For this, I have had to forgo any contact with any other human being, sexual or otherwise. At heart, I am a hopeful romantic, yet because of a debilitating disease cannot perform sexually like I would want.
And even if I did, I would have to run the gauntlet of others ‘Nosey Nate’ characteristics.
It is a sad fact of life that the disabled and people living in small towns do not share the freedoms of their city-dwelling cousins. I would gladly give up the security of this life, for the freedom of contact with other humans, thinking and breathing, living and laughing, loving and learning about myself and others. Not only sexual but intellectual and emotional contact. For this is living, not the life I lead right now.

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By M Currey, August 21, 2009 at 4:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are older relationships based on being friends, then a man or woman lose a partner and sometimes these friends become new partners, there does not have to be sex involed because as a person gets older that aspect of a relationship has no meaning because as woman of a certain age sex is no longer desirable but going out to diner is more desirable than haing dinner alone.

A single woman of a certain age can have male friends, but most of these men (also of a certain age) do not have any strong desire for sex just for someone to talk to.

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By bogi666, August 21, 2009 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

FYI, Governor Sanford characterizes himself as a fundamentalist although he uses the term derived from a group of mostly Repubicans called the “Family” which is also the title of a new book. The “Family” is located in Wash., DC and its heroes are; Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and most significant Suharto the former U.S. installed military dictator of Indonesia.Ho Chi Mihn is conveniently missing.  The “Family” admires these tyrants because they knew power and they interpret the New Testament as being about power. Suharto is significant because since 1978 the unofficial policy of the Repubican Party has been to turn the USA into an Indonesian type country, using Suharto as their leadership model. SANFORD belongs to this group who have absolved themselves from any/all misconduct, understandable since they have made god in their own image. Remember it is the unofficial policies of politicians that is important. Official policy statements are just propaganda and public relations gimmicks.

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By jerrygates7, August 21, 2009 at 3:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cristina Nehring casts a critical eye towards the erotic fundamentalists of latter American days, hearkening back to their burning stakes of yesteryear that agitate the emotions of a sexual intellectual with their conservative imperatives which constrict the lives of free adults as much as any conservative ideology.

  Standing akimbo with fiery eyes of accusation, that bastion of right winged circular flight, fundamentalism, bestrides the annals of conservative dogma equal to or perhaps even greater than that of the Mullahs of Iran, another target of their one winged ire, they circle both their moral superior and their sexual inferior, never equating singular sexualism with myopic dogmatism, this albatross only flies in circles where false fronts mean more than truth and religious exceptionalism trumps common decency to empower militarist expansion of Christian bureaucracy and at the same dubious time,reign in free love as if unconditional devotion, which is the stuff of any concept of heaven, has no place on earth.

  Where then do sexual babies, shy, retiring and secluded from the nastiness of interelative contact, such as asexuals ,fall in this paradigm of narrow minded virtue. Is it OK to masturbate on a mountaintop or do the microscopes of the sexual police don their hiking sticked ,telescopic lenses there as well, decrying the blatantly ostentatious sexual predation of loving of self as anathema to their derisions ?

  Is it too much for the railroading religious right to acknowledge that God made not clones, but the diversity that spawns human full spectrum beauty in so many colors that no one sexual aspect can possibly be the model for all, simple and positive proof that if we, as humans cant get past jealousy, possessiveness and myopic narrowness, we cant even masturbate without looking over own shoulders for that extremist mantra legion peering from the bushes to be voyeur of tattling, not realizing that while examining others for possible signs of erotic infractions, they are getting off on trashing people who know how to have fun, while hiding in the bushes in the throes of unrequited ecstasy, casting aspersions from a peanut gallery that is so narrowly defined as to prohibit self inspection of the third kind, what makes me happy?

  When the fundamentalist sex police come to your door, just say no, I love as an angel, no conditions or sexual persuasion, and see if that’s illegal too. If the answer is affirmative, tell them they wont be going to heaven, that way, at least they leave thinking about how angels have sex,knowing that if any, certainly the angels must have gotten it right!

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, August 21, 2009 at 3:13 am Link to this comment

How wonderful it would be if we could find a happy medium between the decadence of Western society and the puritanical morals of the extreme right.  Neither extreme is acceptable to me.  It is an unfortunate fact that we are still very much primitive animals and our base emotions often rule our behavior.  But it is also these emotions that give us passion and make us interesting as humans.  As for fidelity, a therapist friend once told me that infidelity was a sign that something was wrong in the relationship.  People only stray when they are not satisfied with their current situation.  Finding an illicit lover is their way of fixing what is missing.

My concern with any orthodoxy is the willingness of those who have it to impose their views on others.  It is like the religious right demanding that their views be the only ones tolerated.  If you are Jewish or Hindu or Muslim, sorry.  Only Rick Warren’s view of God is acceptable.  The Taliban wants to do the same thing.

Unfortunately, I have no profound insights into how we solve this issue.  Infidelity has been with us forever and I doubt it will ever go away.  Just look at the number of evangelical preachers who have strayed.

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By Kesey Seven, August 21, 2009 at 2:02 am Link to this comment

Here’s a poem written for a friend:


Hey, or perhaps I should say boo!
  or perhaps I should gently clasp
  your hand from across this
    thousand miles and gently say
    it’s okay
    it’s okay
          I know what you’re thinking
          I know what you’re saying
          I can hear your voice
          I cherish the memory

  We all must give
      as much as we can take
  and the clasp of a child’s hand
  makes us give what is sacred

  I can hear your voice
    as if you were
            here now

  That last long conversation we had
          I cherish it.

  That last short conversation we had
        I could hear the oppression
        listening to every word
        I could hear the pain
        the sacrifice in every word
        making the loss holy
              in the eyes of God
        for it is that thing we do
        that thing I have done
        that thing you are doing
        when love becomes rote
        when something else is being lost
        so something else can be given
        it’s hard to put a price tag
        on the touch of a child’s hand

  For some people
  Seattle is a place in Washington
  and 30th is the last day
  of some months

  But for you and I
        it is a corner
  in a small town
        where two lives meet
              and never part

Kesey Seven, 8-20-09 Hey

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By Kesey Seven, August 21, 2009 at 1:44 am Link to this comment

Well, I have to say I agree with this essay wholeheartedly.  But do keep in mind that newspapers and television news are “family” media. As such they regularly pretend whole segments of the population do not exist. 

Millions of American couples swap partners. Millions more know of their partners’ affairs and stay married.  Even more enjoy adult movies together, fantasizing they are having sex with the people on screen as they’re having sex with each other. 

But when the “family” media reports on adult sexual behavior they have to pretend that this is 1860, the majority of American interpret The Bible literally, and that all couples hold each physically and emotionally hostage. 

Admittedly, there is a bit of glee in this because most of the sexual screw-ups are made by Republicans who make careers sticking their noses in other people’s bedrooms and demanding legislation to regulate who gets poked and prodded and where. So, when a Republican goes down in public, there’s a bit of a smile and a shrug:  He had it coming. 

But the sober side of this is very serious as Cristina Nehring points out. We live in a soul deadening culture where we have to work constantly for a “good” life, often leaving little time for a loving relationship with a spouse. Couples tend to lose each other emotionally first and then the sex becomes unbearable. For people in this situation who remain monogamous, a close friendship with a member of the opposite sex can be a lifesaver.

New Erotic Fundamentalists, Puritans, Hypocrites in the Media, call them what you will: They are still branding people with The Scarlet Letter, locking adulterers in the public stockades, and encouraging the rest of us to pelt them with rocks and garbage. It is cruel. It is despicable. It is quite profitable.

It is an incredible conservative bias of the censored news, one they use to keep us all in line. And it’s just one more reason to break up the corporate media.

Kesey Seven

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By Shift, August 21, 2009 at 1:33 am Link to this comment

“If we train ourselves otherwise, we will soon find ourselves in a heartless world indeed. We will sacrifice the possibility of humanity for a frigid and isolating guarantee of fidelity.”

I have seldom read a more twisted and tortured statement.  Fidelity leads to a far richer and deeper experience with one’s partner that enables us to live on a higher emotional plane.  I grow weary listening to people like Christina Nehring whose personal maturation appears to have short circuited well short of full actualization and whose words
reflect a jockish gibberish.

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