Rebuilding genuine sensuality

By Charles Redfern

So lemme get this straight: You’re a New York Congressman and there’s talk of you running for mayor and you … uh …

I’ll rephrase: You’re a tweeting Congressman with a bulldog reputation, so you’re careful.  You’re alert to snoops.  Cyberspace eavesdroppers view dirt as gold and will blast it over the internet, so you …

One more try: Where is the line between “psychological malady” and “stupidity”?   When can we abandon therapy’s stilted lingo and holler: “You gotta be kidding!”?  Crawl out of your alpha male lair and feel reality’s slap while you yelp under the icy shower, ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner!  Everyone knows women look at the whole man, not our isolated privates (which aren’t attractive in themselves); everyone knows they love roses, lilacs, fragrant cologne, Valentine’s Day cards, whispered sweet-nothings and little I-love-you gifts wrapped in a bow.  They loathe narcissistic “pigs” who think they’re “studs.”  Everyone knows that.  Right?

Wrong.  My recent in-depth research unveiled a scientifically-verified fact: Men are disgusting.  And women are not far behind.  Pack your bags, Cary Grant and Grace Kelley.  Make room for Gene Simmons and Lindsay Lohan.  The scandalized politician, for whom we pray as he seeks help, is more the rule than the exception because sensuality has been ripped from its foundation.

The Revelation

I discovered reality after the tweet revelations.  Several women posted Facebook sign-ins like this: “Do men think women like seeing pictures of their privates?”  They dropped insinuations that all men are a bunch-a Anthony Weiner’s: every last male and then some.  Which hurt my tender little feelings.  I try to discipline my inner churl and be nice and gentlemanly.  As the title character in the film Hud once said: “Honey, don’t go shooting all the dogs ‘cause one of ‘em’s got fleas.”

Here’s one response to an e-mail in which I made a Hud-like plea: “Oh Chuck, you are so good (read: “you are so in the dark …”), and so smart, but you represent only a minority I’m afraid …” She explained how a grown man sent her an image.  Another reply: “Dear, naïve Chuck …” And then there was the thirty-year-old single mother who sat beside a married man in a bar with pictures on his I-Phone and, with his wife to his left, he …

Disgusting! Repelling!  Sick!  Pigs!

Whatever happened to candle-lit dinners and soft smiles and that phrase, “treat her like a lady”?  Remember Paul’s directive to husbands: “Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy … In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29).  And Peter’s decree: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers”  (1 Peter 3:7).  Offense over “the weaker partner” phraseology blinds us to Peter’s radically pro-woman message in the chauvinistic Roman Empire: Women are co-heirs and should be treated accordingly.  Anything less stymies our prayers and our relationship with God.

But the New Testament writers were so two thousand years ago.  We’ve advanced.  We’re sophisticated.  We don’t say “weaker partner” because we’ve sat through communication seminars.  We’re so cosmopolitan we’ll ignore the obvious divergences between humanity and the rest of the animal kingdom: Never mind that our species paints chapels and writes novels and builds pyramids and constructs cathedrals and invents wheels, trains, cars, airplanes, and space shuttles.  We’re supposedly no different from snorting water buffalo when it comes to sex. We’re wildebeests in the field, bull walruses on the beach and chimps in the jungle.  We’re weasels rutting all year round.  Discipline?  It’s not “natural.”

Don’t be so stunned

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.  Our society’s entire view of sex is woven in multi-layered dysfunction.

First, we’re schizophrenic, both overly strict and antinomian.  Some work-place regulations stamp “sexual harassment” on behavior once regarded as casual flirtation; at the same time, some in those same offices wear skin-tight, come-hither clothing and walk the beckoning walk.  I once worked for a corporate sales firm in which women intentionally flirted with prospective customers to close the deal.  There seemed to an unwritten, Machiavellian pact: “I’ll reveal my cleavage but threaten to write you up if you stare too long.”

I hereby emphasize: I do not advocate returning to the terrible days in which women were routinely subjected to rude comments and more.  I am merely stressing our mixed message. Company regulations have piled while cultural permissiveness abounds, creating a flammable mix between office cubicles.

Second, we’re permeated with images of jaded sex, sex, and more manipulative sex: Pornography hogged 37 percent of the Internet’s bandwidth in the first quarter of 2010 and surveys show that seventy percent of 18-to-24-year old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month.  We’re just a few key strokes from a world in which our most intimate, pleasurable act is divorced from its intrinsic responsibility (the conception of babies) and morphs into an ugly one-night stand.  It’s all a game.  We no longer “make love;” we “score.”  People are Kleenex: Use them once and throw them away.  Thus the dark contemporary myth: Fun sex is frivolous and antithetical to commitment; singles “hook up” and married couples don’t; pleasure and responsibility can’t mingle.  And never talk about kids.  They’re taboo.

Third is the insidious interlacing of sex with power.  This is nothing new, which underscores humanity’s flaw as portrayed in the Eden story: Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in a quest for equality with God and power over God.  Power, not relationship, became their motif, alienating them from a Garden anchored in love and hostile to dominance and competition.  We speak of the male-female relationship in war-like terms: there’s “the battle” between the “opposite” sexes; we deceive, mislead and lie to climb into each other’s bed.  “Sex and violence” stroll hand-in-hand in films – especially in the ironically labeled, woefully immature “adult” versions.  It’s all about conquest.  Thus Weiner – and thus Senators John Ensign and David Vitter and Governors Mark Sanford and Eliot Spitzer.  Their hubris seeped into their loins.

Women do it too

Many have quipped on the common bond tethering the scandalized: They’re all men, which releases the speculative flood: Amorous males, humanity’s pathetically irresponsible half, are enamored with themselves, their power, and infidelity’s allure.  Women, who are supposedly more mature, must rescue society because they would never descend to such depths.  Not so, according to Professor Joris Lammers of the Netherlands, who studied a thousand professionals and discovered that women are just as infidelity-prone when they’ve scaled the heights (see the National Public Radio report here).  Studies in Florida substantially echo his findings.

The real reason for sexual scandal among powerful men is obvious: Men still occupy the control centers. Washington writer Barley Bahla points out that “women in power have done some pretty inappropriate things.  Think of Catherine the Great.”  The 18th-century Russian empress roared through heaps of lovers and doled out state money to keep them quiet, making Anthony Weiner look no worse than the shame-faced kid glancing at the magazine rack’s top row.  Women are definitely not inferior to men.  They’re not superior either.  Perhaps a future, humiliated alpha female will echo Weiner: “I haven’t told the truth and I’ve done things I deeply regret.  I brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believe in me …”

The real solution

Yes, men can be disgusting – as is our culture as a whole – because our approach to sex is aberrant in the eyes sensuality’s inventor, God.  The remedy lies in remembering that eroticism was birthed in Heaven, not Hell, and that God gave it to us with all its delight and ecstasy.  God is the sensuous one; God is the rapturous One; God is the hedonist in the truest sense of that word: He relishes pleasure.  The true foundation for sensual indulgence – with all its flirtation and heat – is love, not power.  The true context for this life-giving experience is a covenantal relationship meant to mirror God’s covenantal, life-giving union with us: Marriage.

The devil is clueless.  He knows nothing about sex.  He merely uses it as his own, barely-understood marketing plan.  Hell is asceticism with no divine fellowship.

I pray for Anthony Weiner’s healing.  I hope his marriage recovers and thrives as his romantic life is yanked from the crumbling foundation of power and restored to the firm foundation of love.  Even more, I hope we’ll all see how we’ve robbed ourselves of genuine sensuality.  Our entire society needs therapy.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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2 Comments on “Rebuilding genuine sensuality”

  1. Bill Scarrott Says:

    Awesome post! Well done.


  2. OtienoHongo Says:

    Just stumbled into your blog…good post!


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