Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Interesting subject line for a blog about erotica, hey? Well, at Christmas--a time for families and children, innocence and goodness--it seemed appropriate to have an especially wholesome topic.
Last weekend I saw “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” It’s an old favorite of mine from my college days, a Christian tale, and therefore most apropos for Christmas time. I thought it was a lovely and inspiring film: the Christian motifs are very moving of course, but it affected me in all sorts of ways. (And be warned, there are some spoilers below!)
But if I am discussing the erotic, and as always I am, what could I have to say about a PG movie like this? Well, as in all the most effective children’s movies, there are underlying themes that are subtly tied to greater human experience, including those things that will one day bloom into sexuality.
Take for example the lure of the White Witch. On the surface she tempts young Edmund with candy and flattery, but as she envelopes him in her fur-clad embrace, she represents other pleasures as well. An older reader/viewer will feel that sexual twinge about the Witch. Her temptation has erotic appeal.
But does the side of good have nothing to offer as a positive option? There may not be a blatant “good sex” option in Narnia, but certainly there are plenty of subtle ones. I would never dare to suggest the savior figure of Aslan as a sex object, but at the same time, he possesses many qualities essential to those heroes who inspire our desire. He is pure, he is loving, he is powerful and endlessly brave. My favorite line of dialogue in both book and movie concerning Aslan is this: “He’s not a tame lion.” To be truly captivating, a hero must be not tame.
Likewise admirable is the beauty and valor manifested in the four Pevensie children under Aslan’s influence; all grow up to be very attractive, compelling young adults. People of any age are drawn to what the four become in the story: children want to grow up to be them, and adults feel attraction for them, even including the sexual kind. And this is fine and right, for what evil can there be in being attracted to good?
My personal favorite character in the film is Mr. Tumnus, charmingly portrayed by James McAvoy. He manages to make the faun simultaneously lovable to small children and an object of infatuation for adult women. This is the perfect illustration of my point: sexuality doesn’t burst abruptly forth in us the day we reach puberty. It forms and develops from childhood on. A little girl is charmed by a gentle, funny, curious forest creature because he seems a little scary, but pleasant. His strangeness is intriguing and when it proves safe (well, after that little attempted kidnapping anyway), he is just that more endearing.
When the little girl becomes a woman, these feelings are the same; however, Tumnus’s charms now have a bit of an erotic undertone. Safe strangeness and pleasant scariness are very conducive to sex appeal. But in such a case, that sexual desire is all tangled up in the very innocent love of a child, which somehow makes it a particularly sweet, pure sort of erotic feeling. Nevertheless, I think it not inappropriate to assign erotic appeal to Tumnus; after all, C.S. Lewis knew well that in mythology, fauns are creatures who play hypnotic music on pipes and exhibit great sexual prowess.
Tumnus does, in effect, seduce little Lucy when he lulls her to sleep with his pipe playing. He parallels the White Witch, but fortunately is aligned enough with good that he repents in time. Nevertheless, we never quite forget that he has this power, and he certainly never ceases to have irresistible charm. He has easily wooed and won us by the time he finds himself captured by the Witch.
And we share in Lucy’s determination to save Tumnus simply because he has charmed us. That sexual appeal only strengthens our yearning to see him set free. And thus, once again, the erotic urge serves in the cause of good, as it does more often than we give it credit for.
Well, I’m not suggesting C.S. Lewis said to himself, “As I write these children’s books I must not fail to throw in some erotic elements.” But what he did do was write into his characters and plots a full appreciation for the human experience and a full understanding of human nature. This, to me, is why his works tell their stories so fully and richly. They are suitable for all ages: the adult within the child as well as the child within the adult.
This film is a wonderful Christmas gift to kids from 1 to 92. I hope you get a chance to enjoy it.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The other day while websurfing, I came upon this portrait of Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook. The artist, someone named Katie, offered no other caption than “Let your imagination run wild!”
Well, the small hands could be Peter’s, attacking during a vicious battle after having afflicted Hook with some terrible wound. However, they might just as easily be Wendy’s, and Hook might not actually be in pain. Let your imagination run wild....
It’s been a long time since I saw the ambiguity of pain/pleasure on a human face captured quite so successfully. This portrait demonstrates perfectly that the look of agony and the look of ecstasy are identical. And personally, I find this picture one of the most erotic things I’ve seen in a long time. Why it is so powerful is a question I’ve been asking myself for days, so here are my ruminations on the topic:
I think the thrill of sex often lies in its magical ability to bring opposites together. Males and females experience the opposing traits of gender: that is, women are exposed to aggression and men encounter submission. Beings who live much of the time by reason and practicality are flung into the flip side of life--passion and recklessness. And in the realm of sex, the extremes of pain and pleasure inexplicably intersect, in a manner that is totally engrossing.
You don’t have to be into S&M for this to be true. Even people who are repulsed by bondage find a blend of pleasure and pain in the sex act. We use very interesting adjectives to describe sexual pleasure: agonizing, excruciating, torturous. The physiology of the sexual response is remarkably similar to the pain response: tenseness, trembling, thrashing. Erotic moaning can be indistinguishable from groans of pain. Even psychologically there are similarities...arousal can seem unbearable, make you frantic, desperate, overwhelmed. Sometimes if you were asked if you felt good or bad, you might not be quick to answer. Although ultimately the feeling will prove to be pleasure, it is just so intense and severe, it’s hard to sort out.
And that’s the point. Sexual experience is extreme. What sensation could be better than one so intense that it falls beyond the scale of pain and pleasure and can’t even be clearly categorized?
It’s the intensity of the feeling that is important. In a culture that so often requires us to hide or contain our feelings, only extreme sensation will cause a visible, physical reaction like the expression worn by Hook. Anyone wearing such a face has clearly lost control, the way we all do when in acute pain. But what if it isn’t pain? What if that look is born instead of bliss? One can only imagine the extent of pleasure that would evoke such a look.
And in seeing Hook’s expression, it’s hard not to think about what he might be feeling. Since the look is so ambiguous--because it could just as easily be pain as pleasure--therefore we find ourselves studying it, contemplating it, pondering what it would be like to feel what Hook does, or to make him feel it. For a moment it doesn’t much matter whether the feeling is good or bad; the beauty of it is that it is so intense.
Sometimes the erotic urge is just for intensity. That is why we say, “let me die in your arms,” or less delicately, “fuck me till I’m unconscious.” It’s why we like vampires who drink their victims dry. It’s why we dream of sex that is sweet torture and puts us in agony. We like sex (at least in the fantasy world) to be in the context of extreme emotion, no matter whether it is lust, terror, rage, jealousy, desperation, or even hatred. Be it agony or ecstasy, the intensity refreshes and invigorates us.
Very literally, it hurts so good.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
All my life I’ve been accused of having a powerful imagination, but I hope the subject of this entry is not something completely unique to me. Perhaps you have experienced it too.
Over the years I’ve found myself occasionally turning to my imagination to cope with discomfort, pain, stress and anxiety. More specifically, I’ll evoke the person of some “imaginary friend”...but not just any friend: someone with erotic appeal. For as Marvin Gaye once claimed in song, sex can have a healing affect. In fact, even imaginary sex can. Hence the title of this entry: Sexual Fantasy Healing.
I’m not talking about using the imagination to cure cancer or even a cold, but rather to ease both mind and body, to relieve discomfort, to lift emotional burdens, and such. Think of the imagined person as a sort of shaman, a mysterious medicine man who uses his powers to heal. In this case his powers are not so much magical as they are psychological, but the archetype still fits. By surrendering to this shaman figure and his sexual power, I’m lifted out of my circumstances and distracted from my cares.
And where do I come up with this shaman guy, and what does he do? Obviously an example is worth a thousand words here.
Sometimes when I go to bed at night I may be fretting about a problem in my life. I know I can’t do anything about it, I know I need to not let it spoil my rest, but sometimes it’s not easy to let go. So I’ll seek out some help in the figure of a person I find particularly compelling or attractive.
By way of illustration, I’ll offer Peter Sarsgaard. I greatly admire the acting talents of this man, but that aside, he has certain qualities that qualify him for playing this part in my imagination. Although his characters often have a quiet, gentle demeanor, they also present a subtle kind of erotic power. Peter is soft spoken but there is something alluring in his voice. And while he is not the in-your-face kind of gorgeous, he has beautiful bedroom eyes that seem to beckon you, and sensuous lips that suggest erotic pleasure even when that is the furthest thing from the matter at hand.
My imaginary Peter has the wonderful gift of being able to seize all my attention immediately. He is such a sexual presence to me, I respond instantly in the way the female typically does when aroused: I submit and surrender. Therefore I become very suggestible, and however he advises me, be it to forget my problems or to relax or to ignore my discomfort, I obey him. Tension flees, stress-inducing distractions disappear. And his unique demeanor is the perfect combination of arousing and soothing: I feel attracted to him but not in a tense or frustrating way.
It’s easy to forget your cares when those eyes are looking into yours, those lips are beckoning to be kissed, and that voice is urging to you to surrender. Suddenly all the world retreats and nothing is left but Peter, and nothing matters but how he’s making you feel. Sexual fantasy healing, there it is.
I’ve used this approach to everything from insomnia to stomach cramps to enduring unpleasant medical procedures. Not always Peter, of course--the list of fantasy figures who have helped me out is dozens long. And although to some this may seem downright weird, I was relieved some years back when I did extensive study of Carl Jung’s theories of psychoanalysis that Dr. Jung actually explained the phenomenon.
If anyone out there has experienced anything similar, please do post if you’re willing. And those who have not, I hope you’ll give it a try sometime.
And actually, it’s kind of fun to do even when you’re feeling just fine. :-)
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Last night was the broadcast of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I’m afraid I was elsewhere in TV Land during this show, but the idea of it did inspire me nonetheless. I thought, well, we have Vicky’s Secret catering to the fashion show preferences of the male gender...what about a fashion show geared for women?
So I played a little game with myself and invented a fantasy lineup of celebrity males (living and departed alike) sporting the outfits that they’ve made famous. Maybe men are easily satisfied with a bunch of women in underwear, but we women have much broader and more interesting tastes, do we not? This is my personal list of men in their sexiest garb, a smorgasbord of male fashion hotness:
- Diego Luna in tight pants suitable for Latin dancing (“Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”).
- John O’Hurley in tails (“Dancing with the Stars”).
- John Williams in a summer tux, conducting the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.
- Rick Springfield in leather pants with a guitar.
- Mike Portnoy in sweat, drumming for Dream Theater.
- John Krasinski in jeans and a sweater (since we normally see him in shirt and tie) (“The Office”).
- Josh Holloway in jeans. Period. (“Lost”)
- Christian Bale in a batcowl (“Batman Begins”).
- Hugh Jackman in wolverine claws (“X-Men”).
- Mel Gibson in a kilt (“Braveheart”).
- Malcolm McDowell in a toga (“Caligula”).
- Frank Langella in a cape (“Dracula”).
- Johnny Depp in pirate gear and eyeliner (“Pirates of the Caribbean”).
- Colin Firth in Regency riding clothes (“Pride and Prejudice”).
- Orlando Bloom in pointed ears with an arrow ready to let fly (“Lord of the Rings”).
- Viggo Mortensen all scruffy and dirty, brandishing a sword (“Lord of the Rings”).
- Alan Rickman in Hogwarts professorial wear (or those excellent glasses he wears in “Love Actually,” for that matter).
- Daniel Radcliffe (after puberty of course) in his Griffyndor school coat and scarf (with those excellent round glasses).
- Robert Preston in a straw boater and seersucker suit (“The Music Man”).
- Yul Brynner in Siamese royal garb (“The King and I”).
- Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in cowboy hats and chaps (“Shanghai Noon”).
- Michael Rennie dressed for intergalactic travel (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”).
- Richard O’Brien dressed to spoof Michael Rennie (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”).
- Sting in a sci-fi codpiece (“Dune”).
- Patrick Stewart in his Star Fleet dress uniform (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”).
- Napoleon Dynamite in moon boots, as long as he’s dancing (“Napoleon Dynamite”).
- Joaquin Phoenix in firefighting gear (“Ladder 49”).
- Ty Pennington in a tool belt.
- Noah Wylie in a lab coat (“ER”).
- Any member of the Geek Squad, complete with pocket protector (okay, this may only work for me...see also I Heart Techies).
- Mark Allen (6-time Ironman winner) in a singlet, running shorts and Nikes.
- Nathan Fillion in a long brown coat (“Serenity”/“Firefly”).
- Keanu Reeves in a long black coat (“The Matrix”).
- Hayden Christensen in black Jedi robes (“Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith”).
- Bobby Flay in chef’s whites.
- Jeff Goldblum with blue skin (“Earth Girls are Easy”).
- Gerard Butler with a mask (“The Phantom of the Opera”).
- Trey Parker in a baseketball uniform (“Baseketball”).
- Vince Vaughn in cheerleading attire (“Old School”).
- Ewan McGregor naked and oiled under the lights (“Velvet Goldmine”).
- Okay, Ewan McGregor in anything.