A client introduced me to a bondage fantasy that skirts motifs found in snuff porn; his fantasy incorporates a twist on The Perils of Pauline, in which he is the one facing an untimely demise at the hands of a vixen villain.
His near death bondage fantasy got me thinking about sex and death, and many other erotic themes woven in experience: the uttering of G-d’s name at the moment of consummation, the need for abandoning ourselves entirely in the moment with a lover, and the persistent appearance of death in love literature throughout history.
I wrote this, ad hoc, though it forms a central theme I’ll continue developing in my memoir.
(As an aside, “Thanatos and Eros” were controlling metaphors in my master’s thesis, themes that I mucked around in for over two years. Confluences.)
Death and Sex:
“All literature is about death and sex,” and I appreciate sexual fantasies as literature waiting for articulation. A few fantasies make it to the page, but too many become the bread and butter of, at best, blue collar craftspeople driven by economic and social pressures. The multi-faceted psychological, literary, and spiritual dimensions of our fantasy lives rarely garner the attention they deserve. Instead, they are treated as disposable consumer items, as are their creators, because the arbitrary socio-political divide between the sacred and profane dictates that our “darkness” be treated as a waste product, instead of revered.
In literature and psychoanalysis, “Death and Sex” are labeled “Thanatos and Eros.” The death impulse and the life impulse, in Freudian terms. Or the eternal Divine dance of creation and destruction, if one looks east to its mythological systems. The inherent tension between sex and death lie at the heart of many of our most complex and compelling myths, literary works, erotic fantasies, and dream states. In the west, the myth of Orpheus became one of the most recognizable: Orpheus’ music pleases the gods, and they grant him the privilege to descend into the underworld (thanatos) to rescue his beloved Eurydice (eros), but he can save her only if he doesn’t look back until they have both emerged from death’s grip. Orpheus steps out from the underworld, looks back, and because Eurydice’s feet have not yet left the land of the dead, he watches his beloved depart forever into death, eros and death becoming inextricably mythologically linked in the Western imagination with Orpheus’ fatal glance.
I have a few ideas on the coupling of death and sex. Just ideas.
Most of us live on remote control. We passively watch life, and switch channels for diversion. One day we are preoccupied with some drama, which will probably be smartly exploited by those with the power to keep us passive, and then move on when the drama / girl / boy / insecurity / addiction / addiction / addiction (because most of us have more than one diversion mechanism at our disposal) isn’t numbing us as it did a week, month, or year earlier. This is why we are all expert at “majoring in minors,” and miss the mark in creating a well lived life. We keep gorging on numbing diversions, one after another, and, unable to admit that we’ve been gorging on diversions, we wallow in more distractions while living lives of quiet discontent, failing to accept responsibility for our mediocrity, while successfully avoiding taking our lives into the realm of realized dreams and lived passion.
In short, we never learn to love ourselves enough to burn brightly and experience life fully, because we’ve been anesthetizing ourselves with bullshit nearly every day since our first failed existential decision, a decision that we may no longer even remember. Having failed in that ephemeral and inconsequential moment, and never having forgiven ourselves, we’ve conscripted ourselves to diversion prison, gripping the self-righteous keys as though our deaths depended on it.
Death jars us from the universal diversion remote. We realize that today may be it. This day and this day only may be all that’s left to us. Death’s ubiquity waits to wake us from our delusions, and catapult us back into life if we’re ready to look it in the face and recognize that this moment may be it, tomorrow may not exist, and life doesn’t come with a guarantee that a white male with a beard waits to welcome us into utopian banality complete with 24/7 harp music, a vaguely construed if comforting forever land where Sisyphean joys no longer exist.
When we’re not living with a diversion remote between our ears, we embrace this life and its potential, fully. Death, rather than something to be avoided, can escort us to the presence of fully living (yes, I am heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy, here).
Only when we’ve been escorted to life, can love appear. No longer a grab bag of projections, expectations, and vapid advice from self-help manuals, we’re connected to something deeper and richer in ourselves, in others, and in the world. When we are fully alive without attachment — having been shaken from triviality’s stupor — we can love and feel without the bullshit that we pay therapists (the most over degreed, inexperienced, inane whores on the planet, second only to politicians) to help us understand. The superfluous pages written, published, and marketed on how to get love and the nefarious creature named “happiness” become apparent for what they are: commodified diversion tactics waiting for consumption.
If we are smart, and wish to avoid being the products of other people’s diversion delusions, we embrace death instead of avoiding it, because from an awareness of death, a passion for our precious existence grows, i.e., the power of eros. We move beyond the many teachers, whose only real job is to lead us back to kingdom of heaven within, to a full awareness that life is precious, here and now. This is it. So death and sex paradoxically sit forever coupled to one another, buried in metaphors and similes, literature and song, dreams and fantasies, be they high brow or low brow expressions. Look around, our unconscious persistently tugs at our consciousness, yelling, “Hey, death, time to live, get it? Death, death, death, everywhere, wake up, wake up, wake up . . . .” At times this tugging manifests destructively through compulsions, because we fear the unknown, and unfortunately we live in avid avoidance of the greatest gift that we can give ourselves, if only we’d shut off the that damned diversion machine to which we’ve attached ourselves, and take a moment to listen.
Eros takes us into a depth of being that I believe we all yearn to experience, if we become courageous and take responsibility for our life’s beauty. Eros is not about getting off. Eros is about our fundamental engagment with all of life, the intercourse between self, world, and others that may or may not involve an orgasm — and, in the best circumstances, eros unites visible reality to invisible transcendence, the unconscious to the conscious, the head to the heart, the body to full awareness. Tall order, eh? And precisely why we need to be bitch-slapped by death in order to get it.
I believe that Orpheus, like Sodom and Gomorrah (sin city has nothing to do with angels and homo-eroticism, but congratulations on a job well done, idiocy), offers us a dire warning: never look back at what was, or we’ll loose the life that awaits us in the present, and loose the love waiting for us, here and now.