Friday, January 19, 2018

Hi, It's Stupid: Eros, Sex, and Comedy, Not

Eros, or sexual love, discovers Psyche, the soul, asleep in the garden. Edward Burne-Jones, ca. 1870, Yale Center for British Art.

Hi, it's Stupid to say I'm boycotting stories about the sexual errors, from misbehavior to actual crime, of male comedians, except maybe Bill Cosby, on whom I'm pretty sure I've passed judgement already so it's too late, and Fatty Arbuckle if any new evidence turns up. But I am. I'm not proud of this.

I might be interested in asking why it is that the current crop of stories of men abusing women fall so neatly into two categories, those involving men wielding immense political or financial power from Dominique Strauss-Kahn (a socialist, but that didn't stop me from denouncing him) through Harvey Weinstein (a noted supporter of liberal causes, but I'm not impressed) to Roger Ailes and President Trump, and those involving men who tell jokes for a living. With the peculiar overlap case of the man who used to tell jokes for a living and later became a Senator from Minnesota. What's up with that?

But I'd have to examine the stories in some detail to get a sense of whether it's something about the men themselves or something about the people telling the stories, a particular fixation on the erotic lives of comedians that is somehow parallel to our fixation on the erotic lives of tycoons and politicians, and I'm not going to do it. And #NotAllComedians, of course, but I don't care. Somebody probably ought to write about it, because it's pretty odd when you think about it, but it won't be me. Sorry!

So I have only a really vague idea of what the comedian Aziz Ansari is alleged to have done, or even when or with whom he did it. I'm not going to read about it. I'm not going to defend him and I'm not going to accuse him, because I won't know enough to be able to decide. I'm refusing to have an informed opinion, because I'm refusing to inform myself. That's where I stand, or sit, on this issue.

And by the same token I'm not going to have a lot to say about David Brooks's Aziz Ansari column ("The Power of Human Touch"). I can read the column, because it's written a little like a no-spoilers movie review to be accessible to those who don't want to be told (it's possible he didn't finish it himself, and doesn't actually know how it ends), but I can't say whether Brooks has the story right or not. Sue me! It doesn't matter a lot, because he draws the same kind of cringy conservative-Catholic conclusion ("disordered" is the keyword) he'd draw from any story of the sort—

“Animals have sex and human beings have eros, and no accurate science is possible without making this distinction,” Allan Bloom observed.
The Abrahamic religions also treat sex as something sacred and beautiful when enveloped in loving and covenantal protections, and as something disordered and potentially peace-destroying when not.
I don't intend to weigh in on Allan Bloom either, but I think it's pretty rich to have him legislating what morally satisfying forms heterosexual relations should take:

Given that if Bloom were alive today he'd almost certainly be in as much trouble as the great conductor James Levine, and over the same type of thing, Socratic in more ways than one if you know what I mean. But then he wasn't a comedian.

And I'm certain you could do accurate physics without making the distinction between sex and eros, or botany, to name only two sciences. Economics too, though an economics that distinguishes between sex and eros sounds pretty cool.

We also know that Brooks gave up covenantally protected sex for the disordered, peace-destroying kind as he was transitioning from one Abrahamic religion toward, perhaps, another, and now he's married again and as sacred and beautiful as ever, like a beneficiary of one of those virginity renewal ceremonies, so he might, just once in his fucking life, acknowledge that it's complicated.

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