The End Of Love Disorder?

One of these days, a good friend of mine reminded me of how we used to "court". It was his way of laying stress on the snail-like progress of things from Mrs. Grundy dates to the first touch or hand squeeze, and then to their ultimate glory – the kiss, which usually happened in the dark. So unlike nowadays, he pointed out, when the young partners in a couple seem to be practicing some sort of a disabused cohabitation, and to be starting their lives together from a point which is far beyond that kiss-border. The first line that came to my mind then was: since the old gnosis of Western civilization, which stated that the soul was good and the body was evil, is practically reversed, what was "courtship" to us is foreplay to them. But I hesitated in stating it because the situation is actually a bit more intricate than that. The immediate post-totalitarian period of transition mostly affected, leaving aside political and power structures, the representation of sexuality, of eroticism and love, in general. Indeed, any form of rebellion is directed against the authority and any authority, in the most accurate social and political sense, is effective in regulating sexuality. And actually, out of all the claimed liberties, the only one which was truly and totally conquered referred to the sentimental, erotic and desire-oriented sphere, probably because it was the easiest and socially effortless way of diminishing a general state of frustration. Literature, movies and images which were labeled gaudy and pornographic by the old communist regimes, were in fact among the first products flooding the Central and Eastern European market. Marius Babias referred to the case of a political militant who was shocked, in 1989, when the very first question he received from a Trabant driver who had just crossed to Berlin, after the fall of the Wall was: which is the shortest way to the sex-shop? Mass communication fully illustrated the population's curiosity, the revolutionary aspects of this end-of-millennium eroticism, and the general evolution of mentalities. In our Romanian post-modernity, the consequences of the change in mentality in the sentimental-erotic-desire area are already obvious. The image of love, of sexuality and eroticism has turned into a limitless representation: from romantic, Werther-like love, sold by Valentine's Day, passing through the most imaginative, fantastic and aberrant forms of heterosexual eroticism, illustrated by adult magazines, up to homosexuality and pedophilia that news journals keep us posted on. Anyhow, it looks like everywhere consumerism is forged to suffocate the gift, that is the sentimental gratuitousness of love.After the extensive dissemination of contraceptives, sexuality has become unsacred as an instance of life and this unsacred character was made visible by the wiping off of taboos and bans. Moreover, with the transition from modernity to post-modernity in Western societies, we are seeking to emulate, production has ceased to be a problem, while consumption has become one. By the same token, sexuality no longer has a productive goal, namely reproduction. Instead, it has developed an orientation towards eroticism, towards the pleasure that consumes us commercially, above all. This is why the manner of referring to, and writing on, eroticism or sexuality has long lost the taboo and sacred tone. These two have become mere problems of communication, mostly implying instances of difference. Of course, the lack of sacredness and restrictions on the sexual and erotic aspects of love have loosened outrage and protest at a political and religious level. I believe that, paradoxically, even the homosexual option can be interpreted, at least partially, as such a protest against the unsacredness of love: the disappearance of interdictions, the fact that, with the outcome of contraception, sexuality has become a simple matter of "sports", all of these debase the banless eroticism of heterosexual love. Or, homosexuality revives eroticism as a way of transgressing barriers.But, in the new context of permissiveness, not even homosexuality escapes the tolerance that effaces interdictions and decreases the emotional tension of transgression. I believe that the new "love disorder" is so permanently and irreversibly naturalized that it has become more of a new erotic differentiation: one may have different erotic tastes, just as one may have different tastes in food. Just as irreversibly, sacredness has displaced itself on an aspect that we have not yet fully grasped in Romania, where we are still too puzzled by this love disorder. Indeed, the next step of post-modernity after the modern separation of sexuality from reproduction, which allows us to enjoy the pleasure without demographic consequences, is the detachment of reproduction from sexuality: we are now able to "produce" children in the absence of sexual intercourse. And because sacredness is inherent to life and its instances, the problem that continues to be sacred is the "production" of human beings. I can only anticipate that, as we shall come to accept more and more indifferently the individualization of sentimental-erotic-desire related types of behavior, we shall become more and more socially critical and scandalized by these problems. Actually, these things have already occurred on the issues of ovule traffic or the age limit of medically assisted conception. I foresee a future in which erotic perversion will cease to enhance interest or produce a scandal, especially one with a commercial effect. Actually, the comments on VH1 already tell us that homosexuality, which is a trend in itself on the market, is no longer selling so well. I foresee that the current discussion on love disorder will soon be replaced by talks on the illegalities / immoralities / perversions linked to the ways of "producing" or "obtaining" children. The individualization of erotic behaviors will trigger the problem of universalizing the legal and moral issue of reproductive behavior.
from Dilema veche 59/4-10 March 2005

by Aurel Codoban