“’For instance,’ she [Linda] hoarsely whispered, ‘take the way they have one another here. Mad, I tell you, absolutely mad,” says one of the female characters in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, referring to the “old ways” of having sexual encounters with one person. “Once a lot of women came and made a scene because their men came to see me. Well, why not?” This fragment comes as close as possible to what we call today “consensual sexuality” – sexuality based on mutual agreement divorced from feelings. The novel was written in 1931, and if we wonder what the reactions among Huxley’s original readers were, we should compare the dialogues of the 1930s movies touching on the subject of sex. They are silent in this respect, and if they allude to “it” at all, the characters are likely to blush.
The 1930s readers must have been amused by the way Huxley’s characters think and act, probably for the same reason we are amused by the old science-fiction books, or the movies about man landing on the Moon or Mars, wearing regular clothing and breathing oxygen. “We get the point!” We know the author created the situation and characters to push the boundaries of our imagination, but “we don’t really buy it.” It’s isn’t real because there is no oxygen on the Moon, or Mars! Being plausible does not make it real. So, we brush aside such scenarios with an ironic smile. The original reader of Brave New World most certainly brushed aside the possibility of consensual sex divorced from emotions. Poetic license is one thing, reality of human nature and relationships is another — and if women in Huxley’s novels do not blush it is because they are human robots.
Whether a technetronic utopia requires exactly the kind of sexual relationships as Huxley described is by no means certain, but he seems to have indicated that lack of strong emotional bonds is the premise on which totalitarianism rests. His State is the administrator and dispenser of sexual pleasure and the psychological well-being of its citizens in the form of mood-regulating drug called soma.
Huxley was not the only one to realise that emotions and sex are problems for utopian politics. He and George Orwell got the ideas for their respective novels from the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin’s WE (1923), whose fear of totalitarian future goes back to Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s predictions in Notes from the Underground (1864). There, with his typical visionary power, Dostoyevsky warned us that a society composed of people who act according to strict scientific or rational rules, whose actions can be “calculated and tabulated,” is bound to create a community of individuals without individuality, and whose form of personal identification is a number. He called them “cyphers” or “piano keys” (on account of the predictability of their respective sounds).
In matters of sex, the One State in WE allots a certain number of hours to pleasure. This is the way it is done: “O was to come in an hour. I felt pleasantly and beneficially excited. At home I stepped hurriedly into the office, handed in my pink coupon, and received the certificate permitting me to lower the shades. This right is granted only on sexual days. At all other times we live behind our transparent walls that seem woven of gleaming air—we are always visible, always washed in light.”
Both Huxley and Zamyatin stripped their characters of genuinely human reactions, but Zamyatin, likely to have taken the idea from Dostoyevsky, went even further than Huxley: he stripped them of their names, too. His characters are numbers, like I-330, the female lover of the protagonist – D-503. Orwell, on the other hand, to assure that the state’s control is absolute, that there is no pleasure independent of the Party, in a memorable fragment which sketches mankind’s future with a boot on human face, makes O’Brian explain to Winston that the Party will eliminate orgasm as well. Sex will be a formality, serving the purpose of procreation.
The characters in We and Brave New World are robots, for whom the depth of human experience – expressed and recorded in classical literature, art, music, paintings – is non-existent and cannot touch their soul because they do not have any. Human soul has been taken away from them by the author of fictional reality who created them. Eighty-eight years after the publication of BNW, ninety-six since Zamyatin’s WE, and seventy-one after 1984 appeared, we can say with considerable certainty that literary imagination is not the only place where human beings can be manipulated to achieve fictional perfection. American reality is quickly catching up with fiction.
“Consent is Sexy” and “Sex without Consent is Rape” are the two slogans with which every American student is familiar (“You Can Withdraw Consent at Any Time!” is the third supplementary slogan). Knowing how to go about finding sexual pleasure is as important as knowing one’s class schedule or where the gym is. Notices which would have been considered indecent and outrageous thirty years ago hang in university hallways like a wall-paper, so that you know that the most intimate part of your life is no longer yours: it is subject to regulations, and if you break them, you can be accused and arrested. The slogans are hammered into the minds of college freshmen by counselors, harassment experts, and guest speakers at Orientation Sessions (like in Huxley’s “Elementary Sex” classes or “Aphroditeum Club”). More and more American students show up in classes with T-shirts or with pins (the size of a hand-palm) on which it is written: “Consent is Sexy” (worn mostly by young men) and “I love Female Orgasm” (worn by young women). They are made to participate unconsciously in an ideological campaign, whose emotionally detrimental effects for their lives they are unaware of. Knowledge of “how to do it,” taught by the “sex-masters” with college degrees, is a new rite of passage with which colleges send their graduates to the workplace. There they deepen their initiation into the American brave new world by taking mandatory “Sexual Harassment Training” and “Sensitivity Training.”
Passing a “training,” administered yearly, is a condition of employment and participation in the work-force in today’s America. To make things as though in a futuristic novel, raising the new totalitarian generation begins in kindergarten. Several years ago, we learned about two six-year old boys—H. Y., from Canon City, Colorado, and M D., from Aurora, Colorado—who were accused of sexual harassment. H.Y. was accused of kissing a girl (his age) on the hand; M.D. for singing a line from an LMFAO song, “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” to a female classmate while waiting in the lunch line. The cases were considered to be of national importance because they were reported in The Washington Post and on national radio.
If you think this is crazy, hold on! Victoria Brooks, Lecturer in Law at the University of Westminster, rushed to defend Samantha against inhuman treatment. Several of her fingers were broken! Samantha is a sex doll who “worked” in a brothel in Barcelona. Human rights activists now want sex-dolls to be endowed with a consent chip. “It is a step toward a consent-oriented approach to sex dolls.”
Now the insanity can be explained. Sex gains legitimacy through consent of the two parties, just like any commodity trade, except that in this case the commodity is sexual pleasure. It is a peculiar ménage à trois (a threesome): me, you and the State, which provides legal framework in the form of guidelines for students and employees, and sexual harassment training, all embedded in “Title IX.” If things “go wrong,” I can file a complaint to my employer, to my college or university counsellor, or to the police.
In the midst of the great social rebellion and sexual revolution, on April 4, 1969, LIFE magazine wrote on the cover: “How Far is Far Enough.” And in a timid fashion, the editors responded: “Once again, a society built upon certain values was testing the limits. How far is far enough?” The language and the question make you think of parents watching children in a kindergarten’s sand-box, wondering whether they should permit their kids more pleasure. The real question was about limits of sexuality and sex’s relationship to the public sphere. Should they be dictated by social norms, that is, Protestant puritanism which for centuries influenced American social and moral norms? If you think so, you are likely to be right. The sexual revolution of the sixties (just like the sexual “experimentations” in Protestant Holland and Scandinavian countries a decade earlier) was indeed a reaction to Protestant moral heritage. It was a rebellion against the sinfulness of carnal pleasure.
The new approach to sex has nothing to do with rejection of a religious tradition, nor is it an extension of anti-puritanical rebellion. (In fact, not too many people, including parents, would think that it is wrong to have “too much pleasure.”). It is a war over privacy and individuality, and as such it is an offshoot of a totalitarian Weltanschauung, or, more precisely, the Liberal ideology which wants to socialise sex, take sexuality out of its moral and emotional domain, and make private morality public. What is public is subject to regulatory power of the State.
Liberalism is interested in sexuality because it sees the private realm as an extension of political realm. It considers all forms of relationships—private and public—to be legitimate if, and only if, they are based on consent (just like in “the consent of the governed”). The underlying assumption of such a view is the equality of the parties entering the contract. In this case, it is the equality of sexes: neither should (subconsciously or by Nature) “succumb” to the other, like in the scenarios of seduction described in Les liaisons dangereuses, Princes de Clèves, Richardson’s Pamela and countless other great works of literature which explored vulnerability, of which love is an expression and aspect.
The absurdity and illiberality of the Liberal view is becoming clear when we realise that we do not consent to fall in love; we happen to fall in love. It is the yearning of the soul, not regulations, that create a bond and rules which unite people. Even the propagators of “free love” of the 1960s had no intention of doing away with love, and the following two decades of the 70s and 80s are saturated with hundreds of songs about love. The lyrics of John Paul Young’s “Love is in the air” (1976) captures the spirit of the epoch well.
Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes
Or, take a female singer, Barbara Streisand’s hit — “Woman in love”:
But down inside
You know we never know why
The road is narrow and long
When eyes meet eyes
And the feeling is strong
I turn away from the wall
I stumble and fall
But I give you it all
I am a woman in love
And I do anything
To get you into my world
And hold you within
It’s a right I defend
Over and over again
One of the reasons why songs like that seized the hearts of millions of people is because they are genuine: they touch our souls; they say something about us. Those who wrote them knew that songs—like poetry—appeal to emotions, and if a song is to touch you, it has to put ideology aside. Only propaganda follows ideological dictates.
The partisans of consensual sexuality prefer not to talk about vulnerability (“I stumble and fall, But I give you it all”) because it would lead them back to Nature and the differences between the sexes. Today’s Liberalism is dismissive of love and emotions because they do not fit its consensual or contractual framework. Young or Streisand could even be accused of promoting a “wrong attitude.”
Instead of reflecting on the nature of emotions and love in great novels, the scholars influenced by new trends forgot (or never learned) that one of the reasons why literature exists is because it sheds light on human motivations and actions. Instead of explaining that, they made it their business to look for traces of misogyny or sexism in literature. The results are predictable. As one critic observed, what we find in Pamela is “sexual harassment problem in the work-place”! They work on the assumption that in so far as one sex—particularly women—is or can be more vulnerable, the sexes are unequal, and our effort must focus on eliminating inequalities by rendering men powerless. In order to do that, we enact sexual rules, which indirectly gives the State more power than it ever had before.
The perversion of such a reasoning is to see in seduction an attempt to “exercise power” over another. And power in all its forms and manifestations, as John Stuart Mill, the Father of the Liberal idea, taught us, is “illegitimate.” This is partly a reason why the feminist critics prefer Ibsen’s Nora from his Doll’s House to Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, despite the similar maternal and marital predicament in which the two women find themselves. Nora is celebrated as a “strong and independent” woman who asserts her independence from her husband and marital bond (no longer considered to be a sacramental but contractual), whereas Tolstoy’s Anna is a foolish woman who falls victim to her vulnerable feminine nature. In 1861, eighteen years before Ibsen’s Doll’s House, John Stuart Mill, published his most ideologically driven work, The Subjection of Women. Interestingly enough, of all literary heroines, probably none fits Mill’s idea of the new woman better than Ibsen’s Nora.
The idea that only women are vulnerable is not necessarily true either. Consider Prevost’s Manon Lascaut where love of a manipulative woman makes a man a total fool, or Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Great literature is the best place to see how men and women’s emotions create the world of eroticism, sex, and love, and the last thing the great writers confirm is that we can direct, let alone legislate emotions. In so far as politics can direct our sexual behavior, it must exclude emotions, and become an instrument of political power which can create a totalitarian reality. Huxley could create his characters to have “consensual sex” with many partners because he denied Nature her right to direct the characters’ actions. Brave New World is possible only because sex in such a reality is divorced from love, eroticism, and the mystery of giving birth — which the women in BNW are appalled by.
Liberal ideology wants to destroy all of that. It claims to have the power to redeem, and correct, Nature’s mistake by establishing the equality of the two sexes, where sex is negotiated not trough feelings but consent. In subscribing the to the Liberal view, we relinquish our sacred right not just to emotions, but to privacy and intimacy.
Just like in political and social life, Liberalism is inimical to the old ways (tradition, old institutions, custom, laws, and religion), so the traditional sexual morality is seen as hindrance to invade the private realm (the last bastion of privacy), which explains its hostile attitude toward religion and the Church teaching. According to old moral code, in the private realm, shame, chastity, love, craving to be united with one person, and the need to be seduced to give in, reign supreme. All of them — explicitly or implicitly — stand condemned by today’s Liberal ideology. They are viewed as expressions of the patriarchal system, a male dominated world, power structure, or false consciousness. The last term, taken from Marx’s dictionary, operates in the form of a religious morality. Accordingly, chastity is not something objectively positive or grounded in a woman’s natural reactions, but is a result of religious brain-washing of a chaste woman to stay chaste for the benefit of her man. Once she understands that she was ensnared by religion in the form of teaching by a male priest, pastor, or rabbi, she will become autonomous and free from traditional constraints. That’s certainly true, given that according to recent statistics, the rate of marital betrayal by women since the early 90s went up by 40%.
Democratic-liberalism requires that political and social interactions be transparent, and demands the same form of transparency in private or sexual matters. “There is nothing shameful about it; it is all about your pleasure… provided it is consensual” is a normal phrase with which sexual harassment counsellors in America address young people. The media – particularly National Public Radio stations – are seconding the effort to spread the message of consent: “consent is sexy!” In Spain, in the Extremadura region, several years ago, the socialist government introduced masturbation classes for girls and boys (age 13 and older). To make it sound truly sweet, it has been titled: “Pleasure is in Your Own Hands.” Sex liberated from shame can be appealing, but because it is transparent, it deprives you of privacy, that is, individuality.
There is more to it, though. Consensual sexuality precludes moral evaluation, which, once again, is consistent with the Liberal idea which sees one’s behaviour as creative expression of one’s self. If consent is all that matters in approaching sex, then there cannot be anything wrong if I have sex with seven different people in one week, and those who disapprove of my actions are guilty of being judgmental and intolerant. What is more, they prevent me from becoming self-confident. This kind of attitude backed up by psychology of self-esteem can be easily turned into political ideology, which creates a semi-formal social and political structures that demand that institutions stop discriminating against my sexual self-expression. Those who support or participate in such movements, see sexuality not as a private affair but a political program, and the State as an arm of their sexual politics, whose purpose is to defend them against “offensive” language and judgmental attitudes of others.
Clearly, our politicians, journalists, activists, educators, the Department of Education, and hundreds of institutions whose handbook is “Title IX” and the official language is the language of the dominant politically correct orthodoxy bought the idea too, since no other view of sexuality is considered, and those who dare to oppose it are called “bigots.” But they’ve got it wrong on all counts: they’ve got it morally, emotionally, aesthetically, legally and politically wrong. And if so, the question arises why no one, including those who are suspicious of the new sexual morality, asks a common sense question: why those who impose the new sexual norms think that it is the business and duty of secular institutions and the State (which, let’s emphasise, has no moral authority) to propagate this view of sex, let alone teach youngsters about it?
The fact that the outrageous case of accusing six year old boys of sexual harassment did not make us reflect that our approach to sexuality is wrong, that it did not cause any changes in legislation, is a proof that what hides behind new sexual politics is not to the protection of anyone, but the imposition of ideological rules to destroy privacy and intimacy, and if it takes six year old children to be sacrificed by branding them sexual harassers or predators, let it be. It appears that it is easier for politicians to impose meatless Mondays on children in all schools in NY, as did mayor de Blasio a few weeks ago, than protect children from the adults’ ideological insanity.
Most recently, universities started offering a phone app for students to send out alerts when one is experiencing sexual violence, or is made in any way to feel uncomfortable. It is not difficult to predict what will happen: the “university sexual squad” will be intervening daily, arresting male students. Such scenario brings to mind the scene of Julia and Winston’s final moment together in 1984 when the squad moves into the room to arrest them.
If you are puzzled – as you should be — why colleges are interested in young people’s sexual life, instead of either encouraging sexual modesty or getting out of their private lives, leaving the matters to parents and religious institutions, here is the answer: colleges are the meccas of liberal ideology and their mission is to make students think and act in a certain way. They neither educate them nor provide them with a truly moral vision of the world. Sexual re-education is a part of the project of the Great Liberal Transformation à la Huxley. In doing that they destroy the young people’s emotions and individuality before they had a chance to develop it during the educational process by exposing them to something beautiful or sublime.
By considering human sexuality to be political, they had to socialise it – invent and impose new rules and norms. Those norms make your life transparent, and transparency means that we have no way to escape the State’s scrutiny. No political regime in history went that far. Not even the Communists nor the Nazis, nor the Fascists succeeded in appropriating the most intimate realm. The old totalitarians were not interested in citizens’ sexual life unless you slept with an ideological or state enemy. But even then, one’s sexual life was of interest to the state only in so far as it could sabotage politics.
The reason why there is no serious opposition to what is happening and why the Liberal ideologues succeeded thus far is twofold. First, consensual sex with “seven people a week” escapes moral evaluation because it is a form of explicit agreement to exchange pleasure for pleasure. Also, no one can be called “names” any longer and pass judgment on what I do because I did it according to the rules of consent. Second, we have been seduced by the idea of easy sex – easy because it does not require a very complex moral, aesthetic, emotional and erotic game, like the one we find in great works of literature. Not a single student I asked in recent years read Stendhal’s On Love, Charterhouse of Parma, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Goethe’s Sufferings of Young Werther, or Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, let alone Ortega y Gasset’s On Love and Octavio Paz’s The Double Flame: On Love and Eroticism. Like everything in America, even the most profound reality must be made simple.
There is The Complete IDIOT’s Guide to Amazing Sex and Sex for Dummies. Both had 4 editions, which makes one wonder how simple the 4th edition must be compared to the 1st one. Eleventh edition will probably be as simple as the eleventh edition of Orwell’s “Newspeak Dictionary.” The analogy is not as crazy as it may appear at first sight. Language of love, like regular language, is an expression of the way we communicate with the opposite sex, who we are as human beings, and how we relate to each other. If our love vocabulary shrinks as do the words in the Orwell’s Newspeak, our humanity will be robbed off what is precious, and we will “engage” — as Huxley predicted.
The consequences of the new education are already visible. No one, including young people, talks about being in love, and very few new singers sing songs about love. Love is no longer in the air: love evaporated from the atmosphere. Ask students the question and they will look at you with incredulous eyes as if you spoke to them in Arabic. Those who are, are most likely to be religious, and see love as a path to sex at some point, but not this Friday when everyone, like in Huxley, will have it. Of course, it is not going to be a shuttering emotional experience, followed by a conversation about being together in the future. Even at 18 they are too cynical and already emotionally destroyed to believe that they can experience what Abelard and Heloise or Tristan and Iseult did. It will be like sweating and moaning in the gym, rather than a way to form a moral bond that keeps people together. Their moral world has been destroyed by ideology of transparency propagated by the new class of sex experts and counsellors whose job is to provide “safe spaces” for young people to satisfy their animalistic instinct.
Those who either do not see the danger of consensual sexuality, its anti-aesthetic and anti-moral dimension, and prefer it to the old rules of intimacy and privacy, should consider using consensual phone devices for protection from legal danger. It can be called Con-sex. The device has not been not built yet, but such an idea is not beyond the horizon. Such a device could use authorisation passwords in the form of voice, fingerprints, or a social security number. Those who will use it may feel safe now but should be aware that Big Brother will keep the electronic record for ever. One day in the future it will destroy your life.
Never before, it seems, was intimacy so dangerous. In fact, never before was being oneself so dangerous.