So here I am, still writing about the same book (Sex Is Not a Natural Act), even though I haven't read any more of it. (I want to...but I just keep watching The Wire instead.) But, the book does bring up my pet concept, which is that sex and romance are increasing in importance (and as methods of distraction) as people become more estranged from communities, culture, and social change. Does this concept have a name? I really wish it did, because then I could look it up and find more information, something I could spend many happy hours doing...if it had a damn name! As it is, I just have to settle for getting excited when it randomly pops up, as it did in Michael Lerner's Surplus Powerlessness (link is to my post on the topic). In the chapter "Am I Normal?", Leonore Tiefer gives her opinions as to why people are so preoccupied with whether or not they're normal sexually. In a list of "large social changes in how we view marriage and life" helping to make sex more of an urgent issue for us, Tiefer includes "People are relying on personal relationships to provide a sense of worth they lack in the public sphere due to increased technology, mobility, and bureaucracy" (11). Tiefer also quotes Gunter Schmidt, from a 1983 forward to a book on sexuality:
[Sexuality] is supposed to hold marriages and relationships together because they scarcely fulfill material functions any longer; it is supposed to promote self-realization and self-esteem in a society that makes it more and more difficult to feel worth something and needed as an individual; it is supposed to drive out coldness and powerlessness in a world bureaucratized by administration, a world walled up in concrete landscapes and a world of disrupted relationships at home and in the community...All discontent-- political, social, and personal-- is meant to be deflected into the social and relationship sector in order to be compensated. (25)
This statement is extremely similar to some of Lerners'-- they should probably get together for coffee or at least a nice, long Skype chat (to name their concept?). But all matchmaking aside, this unnamed concept relates to something I've been thinking about lately, which is how to define "success" for myself when society is always telling me I've failed. As I touched on here, I'm not especially interested in excessive money, in power, in fame, or in marriage and children. I really don't give a damn whether I have a huge house, a nice car, expensive clothes, or the latest gadgets. And I can't expect to be changed by romantic love for someone, or to have that experience give meaning and purpose to my life. For whatever reason, the ideas Schmidt talks about just don't "work" on me. Would I rather they did? No, not really, but it bothers me how many people are probably knocking against this unnamed concept, wondering why they don't quite fit in, asking if that's all there is, and then thinking they have some problem. Can we blame the ascendancy of sex and romance as all-powerful and all-encompassing for social change being so hard?
There's one clear song to sum up this post: This, especially the third verse (maybe someone saw that one coming). I guess it's a depressing song, but it also kind of makes me laugh because it's so over-the-top. Let's break out the booze! Or, okay, the tea.