The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The degradation of erotic life

OP/ED
 The degradation of erotic life
The degradation of erotic life

The degradation of erotic life

Like many people who teach at SMU, I traditionally spend thefinal weeks of the semester reflecting on the past year academicyear. I look back upon my classes, my students, and the things welearned together. As I began this process of reflection this year,I realized that outside of my teaching and other responsibilities,I have not been particularly focused on life at SMU. So over thepast few weeks I’ve started reading the online archivedissues of The Daily Campus. Without question, the mostchilling thing I read was a commentary by President Turner,published in The Daily Campus on Feb. 7. Entitled”Campus Safety Involves Respect,” President Turnercautions students about the possible presence of GHB, the so-called”date-rape” drug on campus.

As I read the commentary, I felt disbelief. I had heard of GHBbefore, but I tended to take stories of its use as urban folklore.After all, it’s hard to imagine what kind of man would drug awoman in order to have sexual intercourse with her inert body. Itis sick, pathological, criminal behavior. I wanted to believe thepossible use of GHB on campus is less widespread than it maybe.

Perhaps because I’m just a year or so away from turning50, President Turner’s column left me to reflect upon my daysin college and the ways in which I and many members of mygeneration grappled with the world of sexuality. Thepresident’s column provoked me to revisit my coming-of-age,and reminded me that the generations — yours and mine —are linked by a similar struggle, one that so many of us handlepoorly as it first rages within us.

The president’s warnings about GHB are indeed well taken,and I am pleased that he lent the prestige of his office to a topicthat a less open-minded university might sweep under the rug. Womenon this campus are well advised to be cautious. But it is alsoimportant to realize something else: that cautionary tales of suchoutrageous, criminal sexual conduct sometimes validate in our mindsseemingly more mundane and commonplace behaviors surrounding sex,which by no means criminal, are nonetheless deeply troubling.

A few years ago I attended a talk by a prominent localpsychiatrist where I learned a term I had never heard —default heterosexuality. The psychiatrist was discussing TonySoprano, who is a walking advertisement for male dysfunction. He isviolent, brutish, childish, cruel, unfaithful — and he hateswomen. Sure, he is deeply driven to have sex with women. But lovingwomen and wanting to have sex with women are very differentthings.

Tony is a default heterosexual. As a teenager he felt aroused bywomen, but he defined his masculinity in simplistic and patheticterms. He learned the mechanics of sex, but he never learned tolove, and so, he never learned to be a man. He laughed it off inhis 20s. And now in his 40s, he has hardened into a petulant,selfish, armored coward who has lots of mechanical sex, and ismiserable. He is an awful husband and father — and a rottenlover.

President Turner’s words of caution pained me because theyreminded me of the degradation of erotic life within our culture.In this uptight, dirty-minded, cynical society of ours, we tend toreduce sex to one thing, and as such, ironically enough,infantilize it.

All too often we reduce it, as a friend of mine likes to say, to”bumping uglies.” For some people, like Tony Soprano,it is just that — and only that.

But it is also important to remember that sex is a lot more thanthe entangling of body parts. Sex is many things. For one, it is away for people in their adult lives to maintain the joys of wonderand play that fueled their youth. It can be deeply stirring,tender, exciting, delightful, frivolous, transgressive, playful,fun and glorious. But it can also be boring, work-a-day, empty,lonely, hurtful, and at times, criminal.

At the end of the day (although mornings are also fun), sex isabout the deep connections we seek with others. Our bodies offer us— and offer others — many pleasures. But thosepleasures are multiplied a thousand fold when we lay down ourshields and allow ourselves to give and receive the physical andemotional togetherness for which we all long.

There are many things to take away from your time at SMU. I hopethat you’ve learned to love learning. And I also hope, forthe sexually and non-sexually active among you, that you’velearned about the pleasures of tenderness, playfulness, andemotional connection which are the hallmarks of healthy grown-upsexuality.

 

Bruce Levy is the director of the Center for Inter-CommunityExperience. He may be reached at [email protected].

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