The first letter is about a highly interesting subject, that of looking/admiring women, and whether they enjoy it or dislike it. My beautiful sister, now a mature woman (still beautiful), told me that it is a bit of a relief to no longer have men stare at her all the time. But then in the same conversation, she told that when her very pretty niece in her twenties complained about men looking, she told her: "enjoy it while you have it, for it won't last." :)
I have the theory that how you look and how you feel about looking, makes a big difference to how it feels to the woman. Open enjoyment without guilt can't be bad.
I would like women who read this to email me and tell me your viewpoint on the matter.
Letters to Domai, 1 of 2
Running late as usual, I had been going over my notes on my laptop while driving. I pulled into a parking space and tried to finish preparing for my seminar. Taxes are boring so it came as no surprise when a pretty girl caught my eye and my attention. This time of year we have very cold mornings and very warm afternoons. You never know quite how to dress. This girl had it figured out. She was wearing a warm and fuzzy blue sweater the accentuated her breasts, and a very short cotton mini-skirt. She had firm tanned legs that hinted at a very active lifestyle. Did I mention that our mountains give the PYG's plenty of opportunities to hike, swim, mountain bike and ski?
This must have been my lucky day. Her car was parked next to mine. I thought I would try DOMAI's theory of staring openly instead of getting caught peeking. It obviously worked because she gave me the sweetest smile as she walked between her car and mine. Evidently, she needed to get something out of the passenger seat because she leaned in the passenger window with her back to me. My staring was rewarded when she leaned far enough for me to see her white cotton panties with tiny red roses on them. I slowly drunk in the beauty of her long smooth legs from beginning to end. Suddenly I realized she wasn't moving. She had looked back over her shoulder and caught me staring. She flashed another of those sweet smiles as if to say, "Its okay. I'll stay here until you are finished looking." I smiled back and, without breaking eye contact, she slowly stood up.
As she walked away I decided to never again glance or peek as if I was doing something wrong. She dressed that way because she wanted men to look at her. Why should I deny her the pleasure and confirmation of knowing that she truly is a work of art? At 33 I am now a full fledged "Dirty Old Man."
Letters to Domai, 2 of 2
I've just got round to reading Professor Moscovici's article that you published as the newsletter on June 11. I thought that perhaps your readers might be interested in another perspective on it. Picking philosophical debates with professors of philosophy is probably going to lead me into a hiding for nothing, but discussion is part of the process.
A little background is in order, partly to bring abstraction back down to earth for a while. Abstraction is all very well, but eventually it meets cold reality. I'm involved with a political party in my country. Which party and which country aren't relevant, but a couple of years ago I found myself, over a conference breakfast, discussing a proposed policy against pornography with a friend and her wife (really). We were trying to work out what this would mean in practise - details like what we'd want to do with a lot of the paintings in the National Art Gallery, much of which was described as 'rich men's porn'. Karen (not her real name) wanted to accept erotica, but not pornography. Her wife rightly pointed out that we couldn't legislate on the basis of erotica was what Karen likes and porn as what Karen doesn't like.
The discussion turned into an exercise in philosophy that did little but wake us up. Reaching an objective decision on what to do with all that those Titian paintings proved, unsurprisingly, impossible.
Reading Claudia Moscovici's article set me thinking about the problem again. She distinguishes between sexuality and sensuality, but I think she leaves her definition of sensuality much too tight. I think her mistake is to keep the definition, apart from a brief quote from the sculptor Auguste Rodin, within the bounds of one sense - that of sight. I suppose anyone familiar with the feel of wet clay under their fingertips might have some small insight into Rodin's experience.
Sensuality, of course, can be found elsewhere. I'm listening to Carl Orff's work, Carmina Burana. Leaving aside the political abuses to which it was put, much can be said about these chants. First, they are undoubtedly sensual. Arguably, that's part of the point. Many are certainly erotic. Cour d'amours are not just sensual, but openly sexual.
Is Moscovici then correct to make her distinction? To answer that question I looked more deeply into sensuality. There's no doubt that smell can be sensual. If that wasn't the case then the perfumers would be out of business. That said, the scent of a rose, also sensual, probably cannot be said to be sexual. I might go so far as to call it erotic, in the right circumstances.
Drawing on her distinction, Moscovici gives us a provisional definition. Sensuality hints, but doesn't promise or deliver. I don't agree. My rose certainly delivers - the scent is delicious in and of itself. If I'm not going to agree with the professor, I need to find another definition.
Can we have sensuality without sexuality or eroticism? Staying with Orff for the moment, music expressing the arrival of spring and the joys of the tavern provide an interesting contrast. Orff's 'primitive and vital rudeness' also delivers, but beauty, the innate purpose, emerges from the sensuality, not from the sexuality. Sensuality, as the word implies, provides for the human experience of the senses. This is, of course, much too simplistic to use as a definition. It's a description, but little else.
Probing more deeply, I find myself asking what else, in my human experience, I find sensual. Thinking back, and deliberately keeping sex and, to make a distinction, lovemaking, out of it, I find more than a few examples, but the feel of ripe berry juice from a picking session on the hill, using my hands to earth up my late potatoes and the feel of flour running through my fingers are all, in my experience, sensual. They all provide, to rephrase Moscovici's citing of Descartes, a more thoughtful and calming manifestation of emotion than one of stimulating a purely visceral response. The soul moves, and the process of making pastry becomes a sensual, even magical (in the sense of transforming consciousness), process.
At this point it would be easy to jump to a few conclusions, but I have to be careful. The senses of touch, smell, hearing and even taste are important to a fulfilling sexual experience. The sexual experience appears to emerge from a specific set of sensual ones.
Two things become clear. Sensuality, in providing for the needs of the senses, delivers in and of itself, not physically, but in terms of consciousness. This is far from where Moscovici leads us, and farther still from what my dictionary tells me. Secondly, sexuality promises to deliver, but without sensuality it's ultimately crude and meaningless. Pornography becomes erotica in a debased form. That isn't, in itself, cause to ban pornography, but it's a similar distinction to one between the Cracow Philharmonic playing Carl Orff and some rock singer yelling about getting off with a whore. We're no closer to being able to draw an objective, practical distinction between the two, but I know what I prefer.
The images of DOMAI, not to mention those Titian paintings in the National Gallery, deliver to our human needs purely as a result of their sensuality. Any sexual component is secondary. Under sensuality, the form is not object, as some writers would have us believe, but subject of that sensuality. If nothing else, that should make sure Karen and her friends leave those images alone. We'd all be emotionally poorer otherwise.
With that out of the way, I'm off to pick some berries for a pie!