On culture and sexuality
The news is in. Kim Kardashian has released her most explicit photos ever, and an enthused public is looking for more.
Why is popular culture obsessed with sexuality? Why are magazines for the masses checkered with accounts of the dalliances of the rich, the coupling habits of the famous? Surely, sex is not new. Undoubtedly, the attraction between male and female hasn’t changed much in thousands of years.
The obsession with sex seems most fervent in secular culture; much less so in religious society.
Surely, a society is moved and shaken by its most creative members, those who open windows of possibility and allow the common man to believe in the future. The work of secular artists – in their finely honed mediums of film, theater, and fiction writing – are bedecked with sexuality.
To my ear, it seems that the secularist message is that the free-spirit who breaks mores and taboos recognizes the power of sex, but the middle-aged, religious heterosexual couple with kids, whose lives revolve around marriage, faith and family, doesn’t appreciate its liberating power.
Which, to me (a middle-aged, religious, married, father of six), is rubbish.
No one contests the value of creativity and breaking stereotypes. The most basic ingredient of a growing economy is the creative improvement of products and services. The typical small business innovates and customizes, extending options, expanding possibilities.
Yet, traditionalists don’t find creative release in breaking sexual mores. Why?
To address that, we must engage one more concept, the role of leisure in a culture.
Most people work the week and reset the weekend. The common man or woman may gain R&R by watching a football game or a romantic movie. The intellectual may regain his or her vigor by watching CSPAN and discussing politics. But the truly sophisticated mind will only be rejuvenated when experiencing a pure art form; something uniquely creative and engaging, something that moves him to the world beyond. Art – good art – is where the artist brings the viewer to the pinnacle of the corporeal and then beyond, allowing him to experience the sublime.
I would posit that in secular culture, sex is an obsession because sex is where the human touches the beyond. The drive, dance, passion and unity offer a moment beyond time and space. Extending the barriers of what is normal within sex, allowing humans to touch the sublime in more ways, is an inherent value to secularists, a moral value. Sex is secular holiness because sex is art.
The religious world view is different. At the end of a long workweek the soul needs a reset. A sophisticated spirit won’t be satiated with drink and revelry. Only touching the beyond, lifting the veil of the physical to experience the spiritual, gives a reset. The religious individual reaches that high through prayer to God amongst friends and family, infinitely more powerful than a maestro’s perfect score.
Sex, to religious folk, is much more than leaving time and space. It is not art but intimacy, achieving oneness with spouse in the presence of God. Sex, to the religious soul, is achieving unity with the perfect one, in the presence of all that is Perfect.
The secularist and religious world views offer alternate paths to fulfillment in the most powerful human arenas of sexuality and rejuvenation. One values art, the other values intimacy. One touches the sublime, the other touches eternity.
The author of two books, Yaakov Rosenblatt is a rabbi and businessman in Dallas, Texas