Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Desire has been a thread on several blogs I've read recently. There's Amy, who questions whether all men see their daughters as sex objects, and Andi talking about sublimation of desire in a monastic sense, and Dale struggling with freedom and ferocity, and Kurt with provocative posts about Ikkyu, sex, enlightenment and vows. I've been writing overly long comments on other people's spaces, having trouble with why it all seems so abstract, asking why we don't seem to be talking about real people with real feelings (where does compassion enter into it)
... and why I don't seem able to "get it" about this desire thing. It occurs to me I should use my own space if I'm going to get so involved in the discussion.

It looks this way to me:
It seems that (many) women struggle with being used or abused or conquered to meet men's desires.
It seems that (many) men struggle with the desire to have carefree sex. Maybe the real struggle is to have "enough" sex, but it does seem to often include multiple partners.
It seems that both want intimacy but the means for a women to feel safely intimate involves men not having carefree sex.

The way I've heard it explained in terms of trends, many men physically desire first (task based view of the world), then develop the sense of connection I'd describe as compassion. Many women develop the compassion (relational based view of the world) then the desire.

And to speak to my own experience, rather than generalities, I find my own erotic attraction to a person to be directly linked with my sense of who they are. Brad Pitt might be someone's ideal, as might Jennifer Anniston, but neither would rate a moment of consideration from me, compared to someone who might not fit the models of beauty, but who actually does something to make the world better, or who is passionate about their creativity, things I would have to learn about them as people, as compared to their external presentation in the world. Which means, I don't tend to run into problems with desire for people I don't have compassion for, have a relationship with. And that is where my desire finds its boundary conditions... if I care about the person, (which for me is inseparably linked to desiring them ) then I want to act in a way that holistically supports that person, which provides the basis for choosing right action.

No I'm not pretending I don't have problems with desire. I've had inappropriate desire for married men. I've wished I could get physical needs met without worrying about the ramifications... and of course I've made some mistakes about what was right action too. But compassion played a big part in the process of deciding what to act on, and what to leave untouched, was the basis for the desire in the first place. I don't think of the desire in abstract, I think of specific people, the man I worked with in that group, this particular friend, that guy I dated but who didn't fall in love with me... and the components of them that I was attracted to... their intensity, sense of humor, sensual nature, commitment to a cause, creativity... and the circumstances that made it right or not to act on the attraction (he was married, he wasn't interested in me, he was too vulnerable... etc).

But it makes me wonder, if compassion doesn't come first, then isn't desire purely selfish? What is it about, if it isn't about them?
Without compassion, then doesn't a person need some "artificial" means of governing right action? And doesn't that create the ongoing struggle?

I think of the excuse that "what she doesn't know won't hurt her." Yeah I've heard that one a few times. Its not based in kindness. Or compassion. I think of my own past excuses... that we never had a physical relationship... so everything we did was ok. It wasn't ok, I still participated in something that hurt another person, even if I had never met them... I was not compassionate in my actions.

I guess I think that the love and ideal relationship between two adults could easily be a vehicle for compassion though, based on the kind of marriage my parents had, even though they weren't the most emotional of people... in fact, I think many of their daily choices were based out of a feeling of compassion and identification with the other, and with the responsibilities they shared to the household...
Maybe when they met, my Mom was drawn to his personality, and my Dad was drawn to her looks, or possibly he just hoped to get kissed before he shipped off for war... but something connected and it worked to keep them connected for 56 years. I'm sure of their fidelity, as a component of their mutual love and respect for the relationship and the role each had committed to play in our family... I seriously doubt either struggled with being faithful. And it seems to me in general, its exactly compassion that creates the true motivation to keep vows of fidelity. Compassion for the partner, for the kids, for the community...

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