Sunday, 27 October 2013

Is love love?

(Affairs of the heart or affairs of the penis?) We know sex is sex and that’s all there is to it. We don’t form attachments lightly. We’re far too smart to invest ourselves in something so foolish. We live in a hard-nosed realist age, don’t we? We are not taken in by high-falutin’ romantic ideas, which are really Mother Nature’s sleight of hand, are we? The likes of Richard Dawkins have schooled us that when the penis twitches and strains it is pointing blindly upwards to a new level of evolutionary sophistication and that the imperatives of the race are being fulfilled – forget the individual with his or her silly romantic ideas. Similarly, in the 50’s, Masters and Johnson watched clear-eyed and clinical, as they took readings from electrodes, precariously attached to couples who didn’t know each other, as they jacknifed urgently on a king-sized gurney cum observation platform. They made us conversant with terms like arousal, flushing of the epidermis, reaching plateaux, and orgasm, while carefully excising any personal meaning from the spectacle being enacted in front of them. As a result, sensible chaps that we are, we realise that we are simply subject to chemical urges and animal carnality which will have evaporated in the morning. But we are also an age that blows an average of £20K on wedding ceremonies for marriages that may only last a few years or months. Valentine’s Day is a big industry as are the circulation figures of Heat magazine and it’s like, telling us of the progress of Cheryl Cole’s latest amour. In short we go around behaving as if love has meaning and importance. The truth is, on this issue, we don’t know whether we’re coming or going! When, in the middle of the night I glimpse my wife’s back in the gloom and, feelings of love leading me to enfold her in my arms, I quickly find that my nether regions are in the vicinity of her backside and, before I know it, am betrayed by the cad in my pyjamas who rises, grinning to the occasion, mocking, in his no-nonsense way, my warm chaste emotions towards the person beside me. The truth, surely, is that, as usual, I’m only interested in one thing. But it isn’t, I’m interested in two things and it is not either/or, it is both. Human Love is transacted through the vocabulary and grammar of vulvae, glans, nipple, labia, clitoris, erogenous zones, masturbation, penetration, ejaculation and orgasm (the language and domain of the scientific and also, dare we say it, the pornographic?). It is mediated and played out on the instrument of the human body but it is still love and there is no opposition between carnality and the romantic with all its claims to meaning and significance. We do love each other and that love matters. The fact that, after being separate from my wife for a week or so, on seeing her I simultaneously feel love urging me to look into her eyes and hug her, coupled with a twitch in my underpants is not a contradiction but a magnificent and glorious resolution of the physical and the personal. The two co-exist and are inseparable. To try to separate them would be like trying to peel the membrane off a living human brain, in other words, to do violence to our being.That is the delight and singularity of being human. The personal and the erotic are indissoluble. This is why Masters and Johnson may send a shudder down our spines. They sought to observe the erotic while pretending that the personal was not in the room with them and that their presence was, therefore, not an intrusion.

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