Crazy Sex on the Brain: Cultures that Fall into Orgiastic Sexual Obsessiveness Are Ripe for Decay

POLITICS & POLICY

Sex, sex, sex, sex, and also sex. We live in a paradoxical culture characterized by both a profound Puritanism and a deep lasciviousness, though one may simply be the obverse of the other. Our new Puritans see sex everywhere they look and pursue it remorselessly in theory and doctrine while simultaneously igniting a vendetta against all that is normal and fruitful in the relation between men and women.

The feverish obsession with sex in all its myriad forms and embodiments, as I once wrote, has led to some very bizarre ideas and mind-numbing outcomes, of which gender (or non-biological) self-identification and gender fluidity are among the most conspicuous. The pathology, of course, doesn’t stop there. The campus rape phobia, a reaction to a situation that, as both USA Today and the American College Health Association survey for 2017 clearly demonstrate, virtually does not exist; the campaign against “heteronormativity” and so-called “toxic masculinity”; the legal sanctification of gay marriage; the re-conceiving of sexual dimorphism as a “social construct”; the positing of anywhere from thirty to fifty and more different genders and the pronouns to go with them; the fetish of transgenderism, a delirium masking as a right —all betoken a lubricious fixation suggesting that sex and sexual identity comprise the alpha and omega of all human striving, aspiration, and self-definition rather than merely one element in the complex psychological and emotional pageant of human personality.

Another instance of this painful aberration has recently come to my attention. Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, one of Canada’s most prominent institutions of “higher learning,” has installed a new program in the study of gender led by one Sari M. van Anders. According to the promo, van Anders, professor of Psychology, Gender Studies and Neuroscience, is the new Canada 150 Research Chair, specializing in “Social Neuroendicrinology, Sexuality and Gender/Sex”—an immensely prestigious and lucrative appointment. She is the recipient of a veritable blizzard of awards, suggesting a formidable scientist of stellar reputation rather than an inflated neoteric, all title and no mettle. According to the bulletin, our scientific cynosure sets out “new ways to conceptualize, understand, and map gender/sex, sexual diversity and sexuality…and theories for feminist and queer bioscience.”

How does one “map” sexuality? A tree diagram? A Venn diagram? A jigsaw of cartographic reds and blues and greens? Where does the science lurk with its equations, laws, replication standards, and falsifiability protocols in “feminist and queer bioscience”? What does all this mean? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Van Anders expounds that her work is grounded in something she calls Sexual Configurations Theory, defined as the attempt “to conceptualize and model diverse gender/sexes and partner sexualities from lived experience”—as if there were any other kind of experience. That is, she is “providing ways to do socially situated science…informed by…critically reflective narratives of the minoritized and marginalized.” She is particularly “interested in the sequelae of socially modulated hormones,” “intersecting identities,” and “iterative, recursive, and dynamic associations between hormones and behavior in whole people”—not, be it understood, in fragmented, pulverized or partial people.

If this is not transparent enough, van Anders repeats that “All our work is conducted using a feminist lens” attending to “inequities related to gender and intersecting identities,” and is located—once again—“within a queer science approach.” What these may be is, apparently, easily described: “Feminist and queer science is a broad discipline that is mostly feminist science studies.” Feminists are rarely abashed by the practice of tautology.

But to give her credit, she is not averse to spelling out the details of her discipline and rendering it “biolegible.” “Our research in sexuality involves in-depth explorations of various sexual phenomena, like cuddling, orgasm, fantasy, solitary sexuality, arousal, thoughts, visual stimuli, jealousy, and desire” — in other words, the various manifestations of “multifaceted sexual desire,” “evolved sex,” and “partner number sexualities (e.g., polyamory, monosexuality, asexuality.)” If we are still a mite bemused, we may reflect that the study addresses “eroticism and nurturance, as well as branchedness and coincidence.” Got it now?

The rancid jargon gives the show away. It is not the sinewy, rigorous or elegant language associated with an authentic discipline but a sort of pretentious creole meant to sound impressively esoteric and deflect critical thought. Repetitive and opaque, it is about as scientific as rap or political hucksterism or a bowl of steaming porridge.

The culmination of all this turgid cant may be found in her illustrated SCT Zine, which reads and looks like a crude Archie comic strip, featuring a troupe of gays, Muslims, blacks, fat people and the occasional white guy in short pants gazing at a blackboard replete with differently “partnered” sketches. This Zine, we read, “invites you to join us on a journey through the landscape of your sexuality.” The path to enlightenment is literally represented by the rudimentary maquette of a young man walking along a country road while reading the Zine and pointing toward a horizon emblazoned with the legend in bold: FROM SEXUAL ORIENTATION TO SEXUAL CONFIGURATIONS THEORY. This hodgepodge of prurient nonsense seems a kind of epiphany of much that is wrong with the culture, prudish and denunciatory when it comes to normal male sexuality yet inordinately immodest and carnal when treating, to cite the van Anders lab document, “sexual diversity” and “different types of intimacy.”

Van Anders is mentoring a group of ardent disciples, aka graduate students, research assistants, and lab coordinators, who will continue to spread the tainted gospel of sexual endocrinology and polymorphous perversity into the university ambience, the teaching profession, the health industries and beyond into the wider culture. Their interests and “passions” involve such topics as “prejudice reduction intervention”; countering “femmephobia” via “femme theory”; “the multifaceted ways that people experience pornography”; how “gendered expectations influence people’s sexual behaviors…specifically related to orgasm”; and “measure[ing] diverse identities and experiences”—though how one can possibly measure an identity or an experience is never revealed. Indeed, all this mapping and measuring is designed to give the impression that real science is being done, rather than a shoddy and artificial substitute for a body of knowledge. Another acolyte studies in the Sexual Health Research Laboratory with the perhaps aptly named Dr. Caroline Pukall, concentrating on “sexual script flexibility.” Each of the thirteen postulants mentions his or her out-of-lab hobbies; three of them are devoted to drinking tea. The culture is in big trouble though the tea trade looks fair to prosper.

Van Anders’ influence is and will be extensive. Along with the tendency to glamorize intersectional categories of group status, the sexual infatuation, as noted, entails the downgrading of the complex nature of human being to the level of banal simplicity and the lowest common denominator. Which is to say, sex, especially fluid sex, kooky sex, porno sex, multiple sex, solo sex, non-binary sex, polymorphous sex—in a phrase, the liberation theology of sex.

Cultures that fall into orgiastic sexual obsessiveness are poised for disintegration. “At the height of the Roman empire,” wrote Carle Zimmerman in Family and Civilization, “a man who wanted a binding civil contract chose the dignitas type of marriage.” What has gone out of our sexual maelstrom is precisely dignitas. It has been replaced by indecency, dissipation, moral decadence, and lurid compulsiveness. One thinks, too, of Petronius Arbiter’s late1st Century Satyricon, a hilarious (in this case) picaresque study of the debased Epicureanism that caused, in part, the decay of the Roman world. We are not much different, having submitted to the endocrinology of a culture gone mad with crazy sex on the brain.

But Genesis 19 already had it pegged.

 

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