Friday, July 08, 2005

One again our Friday guest columnist: Mr. Gershon Legman

I am happy to present another Friday column by Mr. Gershon Legman.

Mr. Legman comes to us from an undetermined location and does not have a computer, therefore I am transcribing his statements via telephone and publishing them, as a direct transcript, as he speaks to me. We have agreed to do this every Friday.

And so without further delay, Mr. Legman ...

Thank you once again for having me, Dr. Wertham.

h-hrghmm. (cough)

What is the 'elsewhere' of sex? Religion suggests prayer. Psychiatry proposes sublimation. The man & woman in the street are interested in neither. Transvaluation requires a fully equivalent satisfaction substituted for that suppressed. A sanctity that would equivalue a lifetime of sex, in depth and intensity, is beyond reach of all but saints. Sublimation to this same degree is impossible in our culture to all save an enfranchised élite: the bridge-builders, war-makers, movie-actresses. A thousand men must die to write one general's name in history, ten thousand women be damned to neurosis to pay one actress' wage; a million lives sink in the mud of the Nile to build one pyramid, found one concert series, immortalize one ironmonger's name in philanthropy. Sublimation is not for the million — unless through a self-sacrifice — seldom for the few.

Professional moral elements, busying themselves with censorship, prefer to believe that sex can be replaced by physical and emotional exertions measurably less violent than itself, such as calisthenics, cold baths, and bingo. The sinister absurdity of this pious hope is everywhere obvious. The one thing, and the only thing short of total sublimation, that can replace sex has become increasingly familiar decade by decade since the general introduction of Puritan censorship about 1740, and has reached so gargantuan a stage of formal development all around us that reflection upon the possible next step is plainly terrifying.

There is no mundane substitute for sex except sadism. You may search the indexes to Krafft-Ebing, Hirschfeld, Guyon, or any dozen sex scientists, but you will find no other human activity that can replace sex completely — spurlos versenkt. Narcissism, homosexuality, zoöphily: these are clearly misdirections of ordinary sexual acts towards biologically unsuitable recipients. Fetichisms in all their number seldom supersede sexuality, generally do no more than to excite to it by a deviant concentration upon one attractive feature — breast, hair, foot, buttock, or whatever — an interest usually spread over all. But sadism does not substitute. It is complete in itself. It can dispense with all earthly relations to sex — can dispense even with orgasm — thus allowing its adherents publicly to preen themselves on the 'purity' of the ruthless delights.

Geoffrey Gorer, the foremost student of the Marquis de Sade, makes a literary connection very plain in his Bali & Angkor, 1936:

In English literature we can trace a series of secular mythologies or accepted beliefs . . . to-day in the ecstacies of sexual love and violence, or (to use a single word for both manifestations) in thrills. The various uses of this word in current speech are sufficiently indicative. People talk of the thrill of love, the aesthetic thrill, the religious thrill, the thrill of danger, the thrill of murder, of robbery, and sudden death. Unfortunately we believe in our mythologies instead of using them, a disastrous and most dangerous situation . . . especially as the law does everything possible to prevent people enjoying the heaven which is in their art so endlessly preached at them, so that most people are in a chronic state of unsatisfied sexual desire . . . What is particularly dangerous is that despite all the prohibitions of convention and law people do acquire sexual experience, and for the greater part, find out that they have been stuffed with lies, that though pleasant, it is no such lasting ecstasy and final solution as art would leave us to suppose; and then they are ready for the other half of our myth, violence.



(long pause)


. . . That's all for today.

(phone hangs up, end of transcript)