Asceticism, however, contorts desire from its essential nature into a strange and unrecognizable beast. It bends desire so far around that desire turns back onto itself and consumes its own tail. By advocating for desire only towards an unknowable abstraction, theology denies desire in its very essence, which is as an immediate and bodily drive. This is how the apologists for ascenticism argue that practicing death is in fact an attenuation of desire: they refuse to acknowledge that the essence of desire is a bodily drive.
Ironically, the satisfaction of the closed desire’s object is actually more enjoyable when approached through open desires. Sex is the best case in point: if the sexual act itself is the desire, then permission to accomplish the act or perhaps the lead-in to the act become the actual climax of the desire. Everything after the point where sex is “acquired” — that is, the sexual act itself — is an unnecessary afterthought and fundamentally empty.
Simply listing out these terms creates a kind of tension. Thinking about desire and the religious life evokes an image of a cold stone church with a black-robed pastor damning desire as a path to Hell. But desire has gotten a raw deal in our current religious climate: the prudishness and the fear of temptation has conflated “desire” with “covetousness”, and the result is that we have created an idol out of repression. We need a reboot on our theology of desire. We need it desperately.
When did masochism become synonymous with submission, and sadism with dominance? Are these two truly synonymous? In the classic Venus in Furs, the protagonist Severin called himself his lover’s slave, but was he truly serving her or did he merely desire the illusion, without ever relinquishing control of his needs in her service, the way a submissive should? We’ve all heard of “topping from the bottom” — it is an expression usually employed with derision, indicating defective behavior in a submissive. But is it possible that masochistic dominants do exist?
In Greek mythology, Eros is a primordial god of sexual love, beauty, and fertility distilled from the chaos that created our universe. Although contemporary conceptions of eros focus on harmony and unity, in classical Greek culture eros was thought of as an agent of madness as well as a creative influence: it overwhelms and seemingly…continue reading.