Notes on Lust

Notes on Lust July 29, 2015

Every moment of erotic love contains the potential to create a new world — a mother, a father, children, a home, a place, a community, a lifelong project and the definite content of a life.

A lustful age is an age frightened of life, of really being someone, really living somewhere, really doing something — of being inaugurated, through love, into a new kind of life.

Lust is love frightened of family.

Lust is love frightened of its own creativity, frightened of being swept into the co-creation of a new world and the total life that kisses contain as an objective possibility. It prefers to hold communion back to a safe number of controllable feelings and sensations. It runs scampering at the sight of children, vows, permanent living spaces, mutual labor, difficulties, titles, name-changes — all those signs and symbols of love’s power to make us new.

Anonymity is the soul of lust. Aquinas says this in monkish fashion: If, in the sexual act, “it is not as a wife but as a woman that a man treats his wife” — it is a sin. Lust, then, is love scared to love the other as wife, as husband — as a relational reality that reflects back upon me and makes me into a new kind of being and a new kind of life. For one can love a woman and be anyone at all. One can love his wife only in and through being her husband. One can love a man and remain unchanged. One can only love the father of her children in and through being a mother. The fear of love, which is lust, is always a fear of ecstasy — a fear of being drawn out of ourselves and into what is new.

And so lust never really wants to meet the other’s parents. Any evidence of the other having a definite life, a childhood, a family (which contains, in erotic love, the possibility of becoming your family, changing you once more), is an offense against anonymity — of the other as “a woman” or “a man” or “a real nice guy.”

How would Martin Buber say it? To move from lust to love is to move from the I-it to the I-Thou relation, and this is something scary, because the I in relation to the Thou is a new kind of I.

Ain’t nobody wanna be a new kind of I. Ain’t nobody.

Our absurd fear of pregnancy has its roots here. The child is the incarnation of several facts lust would prefer to avoid: That erotic love demands we become a new kind of person, that it inaugurates a life, that it is essentially a limiting force, one which whittles us down into husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, workers, households and beings with specific responsibilities that cannot be shirked except as an offense to self, God, and neighbor.

Love limits us.

If freedom is the absence of limitation, love negates freedom. If freedom is more than an absence of limitation (a freedom-from); if it reveals itself, rather, as an opportunity (a freedom-for), then love crowns freedom.

I, for one, am free in order to be limited. Sartre can piss off.

Love limits us because love creates us, and all creation is a limitation — a creation of this rather than that.

Our age loves pornography because pornography is an attempt at eros with absolutely no danger ever being called forth to live a new kind of life. It is, in this sense, infantile. It is, by its very nature, a fear of development. Pornography is the safest sort of sex.

I wonder whether the logic of sexual orientation is nothing more than the codification of lust into the very basis of human sexuality. Within sexual orientation, our basic, fundamental attraction is towards the anonymous — towards “women,” “men,” “femininity,” “masculinity,” “intelligence,” “the soul,” and so on and so on in an ever-expanding list of possible identities. Our arguments for being a this-sexual or that-sexual ring with a fear of ecstasy: We are a certain type of sexual being, our desires are fixed and un-educatable, and they form, from birth, our non-relational “sexual identity.” Other people, far from calling us into what is new, are attractive and then lovable only insofar as they click with our fixed, pre-set, value orientation. Our individual constitution pre-determines who we will let in, and in this strict science of orientation, there are no surprises, only a compatibility or non-compatibility of the other with the ego.

These notes were inspired in a large part by Florence + The Machine’s new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. They should not be taken systematically. 

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