Tuesday, 22 May 2012

ANTISEXUALISM



In my recent review of Ann Sterzinger's novel Nowhere, I observed that we now now live in an age when most social and intellectual movements with any sort of momentum and enduring traction are essentially negative in orientation, "anti-" in temperament. Sterzinger's book highlights one of the less visible, if most radical of these anti-ideologies – that of "antinatalism," the belief that life itself is a misery best avoided.

As was evident in the extensive comments left following my article on Nowhere, many readers feel that the very notion of being "against" life to be absurd, even offensive. But there is afoot an ideology even more shockingly extreme, and certainly more likely to draw ridicule and arouse contempt, yet whose very existence serves both to highlight and to subvert the temper of our times.

I speak of "antisexualism," the doctrine that sexual activity is inherently bad, and ought to be shunned.

No, I'm not making it up... yes, it exists. For evidence, see here for a brief Youtube seminar on the subject:


"But why in the world would anyone be against sex?" you must be asking. The antisexualists' answer to your inevitable question are, to my understanding, many and varied, but they generally reduce to the argument that celibacy improves the state of one's soul. While screwing and/or masturbating may be pleasurable activities in the short term, indulgence in such acts ushers in proclivities and habits of mind best avoided. Abstinence, antisexualists insist, will ultimately make a person happier, healthier, and wiser.

Yet it must be understood that this particular faction of "antis" aren't merely asking for moderation or restraint. They don't just want a return to the paradigm of traditional Christian sexual morality, wherein intercourse is reserved exclusively for the circumstances of wedlock, for the purpose of procreation. In fact, from what I can gather most of these antis aren't particularly religious, so theological arguments related to sex are largely irrelevant.)

No... a simple reversion to norms won't do. Instead, when it comes to carnal urges, antisexualists counsel active avoidance. They would like to see humanity take what they view as the next logical step in its evolution, up from animalism and bestial lust. They would, in short, like to make lovemaking a relic of the barbarous human past.

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I find antisexualism a uniquely interesting phenomenon, because its very existence may be the best example of the post-modern Zeitgeist-serpent feasting on its own tail. For the entire contemporary anti-culture (or "culture of critique," as it has been called in some quarters) began, after all, with the baby-boomer generation's flouting of long-held sexual mores, a cultural shift first ushered in by the invention of the birth control pill, and helped along by the push for legalized abortion and liberalized divorce laws, and a general call for "free love."

Though they inveighed against "judgmentalism," the sexual revolutionaries of the 60s and 70s were in truth as dogmatic and self-righteous as any revolutionary faction throughout modern history. They attacked the idea of chastity as an unfair and unrealistic standard, foolishly believing that adopting a more libertine, less "uptight" attitude towards sex relations would make people feel happier and more fulfilled.

Few would argue that it's easier to get laid these days than it was in the 50s. But is the index of human happiness higher, now that faith and morality have been dethroned and long-held stigmas against carnal misbehavior no longer carry the weight that they once did? To seriously consider that all-but rhetorical question (the clear answer is "no") is to challenge currently-constituted authority at its very foundation.

For this reason, and others, I wish the antisexualists well. Their doctrine, while perhaps unduly extreme, is the essence of counter-cultural, and the current sickening drift of our culture must be countered and driven back.

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