Generally, I have only tended to write something here just after some sort of relapse into pornography, having the urge, it seems, to make something useful of a useless activity. But there are many times when I have a good idea, and I think: “I should write something about that,” but, being complacent and comfortable with my less reproachable pleasures, I let it slide by, content to be hypnotised by my chosen forms of comfort. The trend is to continue like that, until, growing bored and dissatisfied with ordinary pleasures, I give myself permission to seek for pleasure in the recordings of perverse sexuality, but even that fails to satisfy.
If I were less fortunate, I might more readily be persuaded to seek that satisfaction in the most readily form of sexual enactment available, regulated by the cash nexus. Luckily, that has for many years remained the step too far, although I have contemplated it. The contemplation, however, always takes the form of the fantasy, and, from there, one becomes lost in the spinning of one’s imagination, behind which lies the hope, maybe even the expectation, that the fantasy will one day come true, without having to pay for it, and without having to rehearse it. Of course, even if that should be the case, the moment will pass, and one will be left feeling pretty much the same, or rather worse for the experience.
Now, some of those “good ideas” I wanted to write about, just now seem vapid and uninteresting, but still, let me try.
The most recent idea was inspired by the feeling of desire for a particular person (years of rain upon the land) and the impulse which it gave me to attempt to ingratiate myself with her, using as an excuse for doing so, an already existing form of social relation. I do not wish to go into great detail about this, being more interested in the abstraction.
It is like this: In any social setting, a man may develop feelings of attraction for a woman, and, sometimes, or maybe always, these feelings of attraction are inappropriate, or rather, acting upon those feelings is inappropriate. There are many examples of this. For instance, in the recently popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” the main character, Beth, is at one point approached by her rival, a chess master, who offers to be her chess coach, in preparation for her next big match. At the outset, he feels the need to say: “No sex.”
Now, why did he feel the need to say “No sex”? Well, it is for two reasons, I imagine. The first, he is already sexually attracted to her, and supposes that she is equally attracted to him. Secondly, he wants to keep the relationship focused on chess, and understands that their sexual union will interfere with this goal.
Now, we can take this principle and apply it to so many other social settings. How about the doctor and the patient? The school teacher and the student? The lawyer and the client? There are many such social relations, but the ones mentioned are particularly circumscribed by strong ethical codes which would severely penalise the intrusion of the sexual interest in the primary purpose of the interaction. A doctor who has sex with his patient may lose his license for that indiscretion. Similarly with the other professions. The utilisation of the social role to pursue sexual interest is condemned by the codes of conduct regulating the professions. But the main point is that the pursuit of sex is seen to work against the proper goals of existing social relationships. [Hence the necessity of pre-arranged marriages in any highly civilised society – where the sexual need is taken care of by purposive social arrangement].
This is not to say that sex desire cannot fuel such relationships, lending them an energy, or a piquancy which makes them more enjoyable, if even only on a subtle platform, and this brings us to the question of whether the feeling of desire for a particular person within some pre-existing social relation can ever be turned into something morally, or even spiritually elevating. The idea has been famously expounded by Plato in Symposium. In brief, it is put forward as a teaching of Socrates that what begins as a physical attraction between the lover and the beloved can, by proper application, be transformed into a spiritual relation which elevates both parties to the realms of eternity. The “proper application” referred to is not very clear, but certainly, it involves the active party in the relationship, the lover, to deliberately forego any attempt at sexual union with the beloved. The transformed relationship has since been called “Platonic.”
It has been some time since I have considered the platonic relationship an impossibility when it is between a man and a woman, that is to say, when referring of the transformation of the sexual attraction between a man and a woman. Indeed, when Socrates speaks of the platonic relationship, he is clearly referring to a relationship between a man and another man, speaking to the nature of sexual practice amongst the Greek aristocracy of that time. Such homosexual relationships, between the older lover and the youthful beloved, were evidently highly regarded amongst those who enjoyed them, being viewed as a mystery to be understood only by the properly educated, but, if this was the case, then the actual basis for that esteem had long since been forgotten, and it took the presence of a man like Socrates to remind them of it.
In any case, I have regarded such a relationship as impossible when referring to the relations between man and woman, because, where sexual desire between them exists, it generally must be fulfilled without the intervening presence of overwhelming external and fortuitous obstacles, because man and woman were made for sexual union.
However, if the transformation of desire is to occur at all, and here we speak of the active party in the relationship, the lover, as yet unknown, or unacknowledged by the beloved, for it is in the power of the lover alone to direct the courses which his desire may take, then it will occur only by means of the already existing social relations, or the institutional relations which has made their mutual contact possible in the first place. In other words, if a platonic relationship is to occur between a man and a woman at all, then it is to occur only in instances of appropriate social intercourse. For example, a doctor who has fallen in love with his patient can elevate his desire only by his appropriate treatment of her within the already existing relation between them of doctor and patient. Indeed, his regard for her will only impel him in the deeper application of his art as a doctor. And thus, when the desire which a person feels for another is invested in the proper application of the social relations already existing between them, and when such investment leads to the greater perfection of his general practice, then the platonic relation can be said to exist, even if it is without the conscious knowledge of the beloved, as indeed, it must always be.
There is a fine line, however, between the elevation of desire through the application of art, and the utilisation of art for the fueling of desire, the former being that which enriches the art as it elevates the relationship, the latter degrading the art by employing it in the service of sexual exploitation – and such sexual exploitation always begins as something appearing quite innocent, a phone call, perhaps, or a text message, or a photograph of a flower, or whatever.
In the finer application of these principles, one must find that the true intention to elevate one’s desire for another, to be worthy of their trust, rather than to appear so, the investment of one’s energies into the art form mediating their relationship must necessarily involve the exercise of restraint in the participation in any direct contact with the beloved. Indeed, to the outside observer, even to the beloved, it will appear that the lover has no special regard for the beloved whatsoever. It is something which only he will know.
I guess that if it works at all, that’s how it will work.