Monday, May 12, 2008

Kiss me or kill me?

Yesterday, Rachel raised a very interesting point that caught my attention. Why is it okay to portray the most horrid and gruesome side of human nature in all things artistic, but the most beautiful thing in the world is apparently taboo? How come when I turn on TV I can find "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" playing on several stations, but anything with "Nudity and Adult Situations" is relegated to late night viewing? Why - to condense the question - is bloodshed okay and lovemaking out of bounds?

Taking this into the world of novels - why is Agatha Christie considered a classic by many, yet Anais Nin considered porn by even more? Exactly who is it that said "Sure, go ahead. Slice his dick off. Just don't touch it lovingly." And even more importantly, WHY did they say it?

It's something I've never quite understood. I do know that every living organism on the face of our planet has two goals - to survive and to reproduce. To survive, occasionally it must kill. And to reproduce -'s gotta have some sort of sexual interaction. For humans, one is pleasant, the other fatal. So where did the notion come from that the pleasant one is "dirty" and the fatal one "acceptable"?

I have a theory about all this. It goes back a very long time, all the way back to when our species was gaining sentience. (Sorry creationists. You might want to skip this discussion.) Back then, early man watched the females growing large with child. Watched them give birth in a process which was bloody, painful and completely miraculous. And got totally scared out of their wits. That fear of women and their apparently indescribable abilities became lodged in the male psyche. After all, in the immortal words of South Park's Mr. Garrity - "how the hell can you trust something that bleeds for five days a month and doesn't die?"

Several early civilizations were pretty gender-equal. The Sumerians are a good example. Women could own land and divorce if they were so inclined. But it didn't take long for men to begin suppressing that notion. No way were they going to permit these scary creatures that kind of power. No, let's tell them how precious they are and how we're going to protect them. And then along came organized religion to lock down the process.

That was back then. Now? Sexuality has become a matter of whispers, innuendos and dirty jokes. The human body is still regarded as "naughty" and those who display it as "immoral". Sex is taught to be something done for procreation, not recreation. We hand out weapons with less concern than we hand out condoms. Yes, that fear of the entire sexual experience is still with us, even though it's metamorphosed into the twenty first century version.

"Dexter" is a serial killer with a series on network television - edited, but there nonetheless. "Criminal Minds" doesn't hold back on the bloodletting. VERY occasionally, one or two bedroom scenes sneak in. But where does one go for the no-holds-barred sex? Cable networks...FX... "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me". After ten o'clock of course.

And when it comes to erotic romance novels - well hell. We're sluts, "prostituting our integrity" according to one writer. (Who doesn't apparently sell well in her genre.) No matter the hours of research we put in, the background we've acquired in our chosen field or the popularity of our titles. We're tramps, whores, loose women with looser morals in our professional AND private lives, corrupting the innocent minds of our readers. And teaching them - what??? That sex is wonderful? That two naked people can share something beyond fabulous? That love encompasses more than hand-holding at sunset?

I refuse to even make the effort to defend what I write any more. I will staunchly defend my ability TO write, but not WHAT. I will not bow down before that moralistically unreal notion which says sex is dirty, but I will change the channel when something or someone gets dismembered. I will try to remember that the "Moral Majority" is NEITHER moral nor a majority. And I will ignore those petty enough to jab sharp sticks of jealousy into my chosen literary genre. Writing good sex is as complex and challenging as writing a good murder. I've done both and hope to do so again. If that gets your knickers in a twist, then tough nookies. Go watch the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

I'm gonna find myself something that says LOVE is what it's all about.


Ciana Stone said...

I'll take kiss me for 1000 :)

Bravo, Sahara! You struck a chord that someone needed to sound. We are far too accepting of violence. A recent poll of parents regarding video games found that more than 40% of them were not concerned by the level of bloodshed and mutilation in some of the more popular games of today.

"Wow, little Johnny decapitated 20 people and blew up an entire village scattering body parts for miles. Wooo whooo!"

Switch to little Johnny sneaking a peek at the Victoria's Secret catalog and it's WHACK! "What are you doing looking at that? Don't you know that's dirty?"

Sometimes I feel we live on continent dazed and confused :)

Rachel.C said...

Whoa! I only asked a little question.
Picture me standing at my desk applauding. You said it so well Sahara. There's no way I could have done the topic the same justice and I raised it.
As an unpub'd writer this constant slap in the face is beginning to piss me off. I get all the slaps I need from editors when they reject my work I don't need one from someone that wouldn't know a good bout of sex if it ran them over with a bus.
I'm tired of the violence being acceptable but sex not. Where are we as people when we think hurting someone is okay but giving pleasure is not? I'm just gonna shake my head and laugh because I'm enjoying life to the fullest and not missing out on anything because of their views.

mamasand2 said...

WOW!!! Sahara, you hit hard and very much to the point. In fact you pointed out a number of unarguable points that I hadn't even thought of.
All I knew was that I never watch something with blood or even swinging blades in it. And I love good romances, with or without the erotic element as long as it has a good plot.

That was a very well thought out and logical post that really made me think about things that I hadn't before.


Nicole Austin said...

*applauding* As always, Sahara, very eloquent! When I grow up, I want to be like you!

Sally Painter said...

Well said, Sahara! It confounds me too. If you examine Rome's heyday and even before and after, clearly sex was not such a gasp topic. Just look at some of the pottery from Grecian and Roman eras. OMG!

Anyway, I think our modern reaction was designed to control as you said.

Great post. I still love the slogan, "Make LOVE, not WAR!"

NathalieGray said...

Anais Nin. *le big sigh* I love her books.

I don't think I've ever defended (or had to) what I write. Not even once. No one said anything that I found particularly offensive, or if they did, I didn't get it. Or maybe I just don't care what people think eh. :))

Melany said...

What a wonderful post.

It absolutely ticks me off to no end that people will let their children watch violence all day long, but heaven forbid they see a naked body or a hint of sex.

Things that are inherently beautiful have been held up as dirty, while bloody violence is overlooked. *seethes*

Mechele Armstrong aka Lany of Melany Logen

N.J.Walters said...

Well said, Sahara!

I'm constantly shocked by how easily we accept violence in our society. Yet a woman doing something as simple as breast feeding a baby can spark outrage.

*shaking head*