I was thinking more about Katie Dobie's idea of exploring one’s humanity via hooking up, as I introduced in my hook-up positive feminists post of a couple of weeks ago. This is an issue that I have long felt a need to deal with squarely, speaking as Christian to Christian and as citizen to citizen to confront all of the ways that the hook-up culture is influencing people's thought and behavior. The key problem with hook-up ideas of sexuality, as Katie Dobie tried to argue for, is that you must lower your idea of your humanity to the common denominator that makes disposable sexual experiences possible. You must resign your humanity to the cynicism and ennui of the Darwinian world of failed relationships and, on some level, decide that your sexuality, and the intimate self that is wrapped up in it is not, in fact, precious. Then and only then will hooking up explore your humanity.
Then, again you’re not really “exploring” in a moving forward with both eyes open sort of a way. Rather you are acquiescing to what is in you as something that is bound to what is around you. In regard to the id, hook-up apologists deal with the sexual impulse as something that is either always good or at least unproductive to question, so they have a certain acquiescence to the sexual impulse as a juggernaut of nature. Operating with the idea that sexuality is the Schopenhourian “will to life” of nature, hooking up is based on the premise that one's conscious mind is only a passenger in the back seat of this “will to sex”, and one should not try to superimpose any mastery over it that would attempt to harness it or control it in any way.
I have written other essays on primalism as a social contract of people who have collectivized their id, networking together their acquiescence to the id as a personal in its personal form and in its collective form. As I’ve explained, it is a social contract that negotiates the advancement of every more diverse id-expressions into the fold of acceptance and ethical/social equivalence. It is a given that the “times” are always a step for the better, and not to be questioned, and represent an increment of progress is the unfettering of the id, personally and collectively. Here, there are no fixed values or meanings and the “times” is a sort of “Tao” of social and ethical wisdom that is in continual flux, as it is sorted and re-sorted by the collective, in a dynamic continuous revolution.
The acquiescence of the personal mastery of thought and dialogue to the collective id is both vaunted as an ethical system and is recognized as a juggernaut that should not be challenged. Primalists and hook-up apologists, after having vaunted the beautiful potential of hooking up as a rite of passage will, to one degree or another, recognize that people are marinated in an un-ending environment of targeted sexual imagery, what has been described as an “unchangeable channel”. The lone individual is climbing uphill to reject all of that imagery and the values therein. It is also a psychological reality that the “will to life” is also includes a powerful “will to fit in”. Put in simple terms, people do what people do.
In the hook-up realm, there is an interesting counterpoint that operates contra to the acquiescence to non-mastery, operating in cognitive dissonance. The hook-up realm operates on the premise that fixed, metaphysical ideas of meaning don’t exist, there is no inherent meaning that is granted to the act of sex itself or in any related sexual behavior that is once removed from the physical act. Having rendered any sexual experience into a blank slate in terms of meaning, the hook-up realm understands that sex has emotional consequences only according to the manner in which individuals subjectively connect or disconnect meaning from the act. In the midst of all that the individual is exempt from being expected to master in regard to his/her sexual nature, in the hook-up realm, the individual is given the prerogative to decide what the emotional consequences of a sexual act are by deciding how much he/she actually gives of himself/herself in the act.
This is the basis for the hook-up social contract regard sexuality in public space. The individual is granted the privilege to apportion sexual experiences into different levels of meaning to the act, ranging from deep meaning to non-meaning. Since there is no inherent transcendental meaning or symbolism in the power of sexuality, its power is available to be harnessed for any and all personal and collective social and economic purposes. Sexuality is thus “freed” from the constraints that it would have in a more structured universe, so that it is now available for experiences that range from the banal to the profound. It is this idea of mastery over sexual meaning that allows for a hook-up social contract that negotiates sexuality across the realms of commerce and personal relationships.
Within the spectrum of sexual experiences that are available to Primalists, the sex at the less meaningful end of the spectrum would include the idea that "sex sells". The slightly more meaningful but not too meaningful sex can be understood in the realm of "exploring one's humanity" as Katie Dobie might define it, wherein sexuality is to be embraced as a personal thread of singular experiences. Primalists, believe that former aspects of the sexual id can be enjoyed, while the truly meaningful sex can be reserved for committed relationships.
"It's no big deal" is the hook-up way of saying that sex is not so precious as to be the exclusive realm of one level of meaning or another. For Katie, and those who argue as she does, there is nothing lost/diminished in the domain of the trust/commitment based sexual behavior on account of all the other non-trust/commitment based sex that is going on in tandem with it.
While a primalist might say, “Sex sells”, a primalist would not say that the “intimate part of my being sells”. This is based on a metaphysical claim concerning the nature of sexuality as being inextricably wrapped up with the dignity of our being in a manner that a primalist is not willing to make. Having eschewed this premise, the primalist can entertain a sense of mastery over sexuality wherein he/she has mentally divorced the intimate self from the experience. It is this divorce that is necessary for a primalist to be “outside” his/her sexuality enough to ostensibly master it. From this idea, one can be “outside” one’s sexuality enough to treat the experience of it as one would experience an endless bazaar that one can choose to indulge in.
Of course I am a critic of the hook-up realm because it plainly violates Jesus’ and the apostles teaching. That said, evaluated on its own terms, the hook-up realm crumbles on its own contradictions, because it assumes a individual’s mastery over sex that is inconsistent with the other tandem ideas of non-mastery. Here, the “mastery of the individual” is not predicated on any other effort of discipline for the individual or of any disciplined examination of the nature of sexuality as being connected with the profundities of one’s being.
As an expression of primalism, the hook-up realm is “post-rational”, dispensing with the value for the individual’s effort at disciplined thought as a means to sort out reality. It operates in its cognitive dissonance with a big "whatever" to the aspects of sexual non-mastery that operate in tandem with the ideas of sexual mastery. Having an ethical premium on not questioning the individual id or the collective id, primalists are interested in the appearance of “cool” over any reckoning with cognitive dissonance in the hook-up realm. There is a certain ennui, an ability to traffic in all of this that is given the status of "adulthood" and sophistication. Hook-up sex is also about bravado, and the power that people have when they appear to have mastered danger. This realm of un-examined pleasure, cool-pose and latent pain are all wrapped up in hook-up sexuality as a coin of the social realm.
It is my assertion that the pleasure of sex is, in fact, the pleasure of the intimate self jumping off a cliff into an unknown of fear and awe. The pleasure of sex is the rush of the most intimate part of oneself being either supremely validated or deeply rejected by another. That is it symbolizes the power of a bond of supreme trust. The physical consequences of the act, which are mitigated only by extensive modern technology, are symbolic of the degree of trust that is involved. The pleasure of sex is a profound "thrown-ness" of being as Heidegger would say. As sex is the act that is rife with potency and meaning, so are the acts, the foreplay, that are intended to operate in proximity to the act.
It is the nature of sex and sexuality that gravity and pleasure are woven together. Hooking is an attempt to extract the pleasure of sex without any true intellectual reckoning with its gravity. As such this leaves the hook-up apologists unable to deal with or explain the often destructive power of sex as anything more than an inevitable force of nature. Of course "nature" is a loaded term and can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean, which, in the realm of disposable sexuality, usually means that sexual nature is lowered to the lowest common denominator of acquiescence and mental and spiritual non-engagement.
Any sexual encounter presents one with either a profound validation of ones being in all of its dimension, or a profound invalidation. Pseudo-validation is a form of non-validation that can be pleasing to the receiver. Pseudo-validation is the outward act of validating another with what would be done with a bond of trust if one were deeply trusted – except that it is being presented without any actual trust or respect. The pleasure of lustful sexual desire that one experiences with pseudo-validation is the extrusion of the pleasure through latent pain that comes at the expense of one’s dignity. Thus, the pleasure is not woven into a true exploration of one’s nature in the context of any lasting idea of purpose, dignity or meaning, but is something that is sought as an end in itself. As such, the pleasure is sought as constant nip of desire that demands an endless commitment to procure more of the same and justify more of the same.
The emotional carnage of people caught up in continual hook-up relationships is when there is any discrepancy concerning the level of meaning that people are attaching to the act (it was a hook-up for him but a little more than a hook-up for her or vise versa). Or when people embark on a hook-up only to realize that they gave a little more of themselves than they thought they were at the moment, only to realize that they have left a little piece of themselves behind, or to realize that there were some other physical or emotional consequences that they didn't bargain for. These injuries to the self and recognition of non-mastery are recorded amply in music and art when they are not admitted openly.
Hooking up encompasses all that is done in reality and in fantasy, both physically and merely visually. A strip club offers one form or another of the GFE, the “girl-friend experience”, which can be understood as the “pseudo fore-play experience”. The visual tease of a strip club is a sort of pseudo-validation of pseudo-foreplay that says, “I'm allowing/trusting with the exposure of my intimate self, represented with my body, but not really. I'm invalidating your value as one who is truly worthy of my trust, though I am playing with your pleasing feelings of validation that extrude through the tease.” For the recipient, the emotional oscillation of pain and pleasure is intoxicating.
I am such a harsh critic of the fashion and advertising that accessorizes the hook-up realm for the marketplace because it is the “McVoyuerism”, the endless visual landscape of banal pseudo-foreplay of exposed and party exposed intimate body parts. This practice borrows from the sexual energy of porn and strip-clubs and is toned down just enough to be brought into all crevices of time and place. GFE fashion is one wing of the vast hook-up realm, as is porn and all other manner of amateur boffing, fondling and intimate exposure.
I believe that we are summoned to a realization of ourselves that involves our full emotional and mental engagement of our sexuality. Hook-up is an abdication of this summons for this reason: to treat sex as banal and "no big deal" is to treat ones intimate self as banal and "no big deal". It is the very nature of sexuality such that, were it goes, so does the intimate part of ourselves. Reckoning with this is the beginning of any serious understanding of sexuality.
In rejection of this, hook-up lust is like a wolf licking the ice of frozen blood on a knife, who does not realize that it is now licking its own blood as its tongue is being cut by the knife. The injuries to the self that one bears that one cannot face bond one to the illusion that it’s really “ok” and “no big deal”. Such is the power of sex, that the pleasure of sex, when gone awry, is powerful enough to bind one to delusions. It is no coincidence that the idea of a “hook-up” is not dissimilar to the drug language. Hooking up treats sex as a drug, as a sexual “fix”. And it often goes hand in hand with other drugs.
The only path out of hook-up sexual delusions is a journey into the realm of our sexual being that actually faces the spiritual, emotional and metaphysical cliffs we scale and bruise on. More to come on what that means.