Courtly Romance as Sadomasochistic Erotica

In the following study How Venus Got Her Furs: Courtly Romance as Sadomasochistic Erotica, sadomasochism is shown to characterize the European sexual relations contract in the form of masochistic-chivalry and romantic love. It can also be observed that the same sadomasochistic culture has spawned the rise of gynocentrism, feminism, and the essentially male servicing of these same traditions.

Article reprinted here by permission of Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Titanism: chaos against order

The Gigantomachy (Gods clash with agents of chaos) – Museo Nacional del Prado.

Throughout history we witness the continuing fight between powers of order and those of chaos, a battle that takes place simultaneously within our psyche and in the cultural scene. The optimal position between these two forces is the establishment of a ‘lightweight’ cultural order, a structural edifice that stops short of becoming a stifling tyranny, while simultaneously allowing for a flourishing of human spontaneity that keeps chaos and destructiveness at bay.

Understood via the language of mythology, both monotheism (singular order) and polytheism (ordered multiplicity) provide protections against chaos, although the monotheistic mindset might argue that polytheism is itself a form of chaos – a charge that falls flat on further investigation. Polytheistic culture, with its participatory democracy among the gods, provides a helpful restraint against chaos via the following routes:

  1. Individual gods & their cults apply restraint against over-reach by other gods and their cults.
  2. The Olympian pantheon is governed by the principle of inclusive democracy.
  3. Tragedy in myth serves as a warning against disintegrative practices of hubris, narcissism and lawlessness.
  4. Representation of Titans as forces of unstructured (and deconstructing) excesses are actively suppressed by ordered Olympian society.

Polytheism can thus be understood as a framework embracing a plurality of value systems, social customs, and political structures. In his excellent book The New Polytheism (1974), David Miller contrasts polytheism’s ‘many centres of order’ with the alternative of chaos:

Polytheism is the name given to a specific religious situation. The situation is characterized by plurality, a plurality that manifests itself in many forms. Socially, polytheism is a situation in which there are various values, patterns of social organization, and principles by which man governs his political life. These values, patterns and principles sometimes mesh harmoniously, but more often they war with one another to be elevated as the single center of normal social order. Such a situation would be sheer anarchy and chaos were it not possible to identify the many orders as each containing a coherence of its own. [Miller, 1974]1

To Miller’s observation about intra-warring tendencies within polytheism I would also add that the monotheistic mindset engages in a comparable extra-warring tendency toward individuals and societies possessing contrary religious values, thus rendering moot any distinction between monotheism and polytheism when it comes to a war reflex. The benefit of polytheistic theology, however, is an inbuilt assumption that a variety of gods and their imperatives belong within the overall pantheon – whereas monotheism is more often “jealous” about the right to hold exclusive power.

The chaos that both monotheism and polytheism negate was personified in Greek mythology by the Titans, and I will use the rest of this article to explore the nature of these mysterious and destructive figures.

The Titans were never well defined, certainly not with the sharp borders and contours typical of the Olympians with their respective domains of interest, so on that basis the Titans fall short of the clear structuralism we reserve for archetypes. We could perhaps stretch the notion of archetypes into a rubbery shape, as did one author who proposed that it’s possible to view Titanism as the “archetype of excess,” but this clear definition belies their shapeshifting, amorphous and ultimately form-destroying natures.

Much confusion has arisen within Jungian circles as to what constitutes an archetype. While excessiveness or destructiveness are certainly part of our human repertoire, they fall short of what we might call complex personality structures, acting instead as singular impulses, functions, or instincts. The question Jungians often ask is should we refer to singular functions as ‘archetypal’ in nature? The Greeks for example personified complex figures such as Aphrodite and Apollo which are reasonably referred to as archetypal patterns, but the Greeks also personified instinctual functions such as Phobos (fear), Phthonos (envy), Nemesis (revenge), Oizys (misery), Limos (hunger) etc. which lacked the complexity of the Olympian archetypes. For this article then, we will stick with the practice of naming simple impulses or instincts such as titanic destructiveness as functions, and reserve the word archetypal for the more elaborate configurations.

The very first observation associating Titans with Chaos comes from Hesiod’s Theogony (700 BC) where he tells that upon being defeated by the Olympian order, the Titans dwelt beyond the threshold of Chaos:

“There lies the sources and the limits
of black earth and of mist-wrapped Tartaros,
of the barren sea, too, and of the starry sky,
and they are grim and dank and loathed even by the gods.

There stand the gates of marble and the threshold of bronze,
unshakable and self-grown from the roots that reach
deep into the ground. In front of these gates, away from all the gods
dwell the Titans, on the other side of murky Chaos.”2

So, as Hesiod tells, the Titans have their dwelling in murky chaos far away from the Olympian gods, suggesting that these two forces cannot mix to form a harmonious synthesis.

Jungian author Rafael Lopez-Pedraza provides the first analysis from an archetypalist point of view, detailing specific features of Titanism in the following survey:

“Kerenyi gives us a general picture of the psychology of the Titans: no laws, no order, no limits. For didactic purposes, we can say that, just as the Greeks thought of the Titanic times as the reign in earlier times of more savage celestial Gods, in the ontogenesis of man, there have also been Titanic times. Our adolescence probably contains a large element of Titanism — excess, unboundedness, lawlessness, chaos, barbarism and so on…

Let us push this Titanic element even further. Kerenyi’s view of the Titans, that they represent a particular function, is perhaps what I am trying to get at concerning this Titanic ingredient which exists in us all. However, we are faced here with a difficulty; a function suggests something specific, whereas Titanism seems so disparate and wild…

I have already mentioned the well-defined Gods and Goddesses with their consistent images; in other words, the archetypes. Nilsson again: “Anthropomorphism has, therefore, a characteristic limitation.” If that is so, it is difficult to see the Titans (whose main characteristic is excess) as archetypes with their own inherent limitation, and even more difficult to see them as the images of an archetype. Furthermore, Nilsson states: “The Titans are abstractions or empty names of whose significance we cannot judge.” So to call the Titans archetypes, or even representatives of a particular function, is a bit risky. If we were to follow Kerenyi on this point and agree that the Titans represent a particular function, then the Titans, with their excessiveness, could be called the archetype of excess.

Nevertheless, in poetry and iconography the Titans are personified, represented as forms, enabling us, perhaps, to broaden our view of anthropomorphism and imagine the forms of the Titans as a sort of borderline anthropomorphism. Personally, I prefer to view them as mythological figures representing mimicry and excess, for they are not archetypal configurations. In order to gain insight into this mimetism, jargon and excess, we need a strong archetypal training and point of view; it is only by having those well-defined forms as a background that we can have insight into what is, by definition, formless in human nature…

We have the literature running from Camus’ The Outsider, published during the war (in 1942), to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, to confirm this impression. I connect what Camus and Burgess expressed in their novels, in terms of mythology and Archetypal Psychology, with the Titanic level in man which we have been tracking: no laws, no order, no limits — in short, excess. Once again, it is literature which has opened the door to an exploration (which we in psychology are just beginning) of those levels in man where the Titan lurks. But, following Kerenyi again, we have to accept that, in the history of human life, the Titanic expresses itself where we are excessive. In this sense, the Titanic could be, if not an archetype, then a particular function.”

Note his use of several descriptors of the Titans – such as no laws, no order, no limits, formless, excess, savage, unboundedness, lawlessness, chaos, barbarism, disparate and wild, etc. – which we can use, along with other descriptions, to construct a final picture of titanism below.

The next excerpt is from James Hillman’s article titled And Huge Is Ugly: Zeus and the Titans,4 in which he singles out the presence of destructive excess:

“A sign of the absence of the gods is hugeness, not merely the reign of quantity, but enormity as a quality, a horrendous or fascinating description, like Black Hole, Conglomerate, Megapolis, Trillions, Gigabytes, Star Wars. Whether presented in the images of multinational corporations, polluted oceans, or vast climatic changes, hugeness is the signature of the absent god. Or, let us say that the divine attributes of Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence alone remain. Without the benevolent governance of qualifying divinities, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence become gods. In other words, without the gods, the Titans return.

Are we re-enacting the beginnings of things as recounted by the Theology of Hesiod? The first great task of the gods was to defeat the Titans and to thrust them in Tartarus where they were to be kept away from the human earth forever. Zeus then married Metis (intelligence or measure); lay with Themis (who bore him Hours, Order, Justice, Peace, and the Fates); lay with Eurynome, through whom came the Graces; with Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses, and with Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis. These archetypal principles and powers come into the world only when titanism is safely kept at bay. The cultured imagination and the imagination of civic order begins only when excess is encompassed.

Titans were imagined as Giants; in fact, the popular imagination, says Roscher, never distinguished between Giants and Titans. The root of the word titan means: to stretch, to extend, to spread forth, and to strive or hasten. Hesiod’s own etymology (Theogony 209) of titenes is “to strain.” This straining, striving effort suggests that the major contemporary complaint of stress is the feeling in the Promethean ego of its titanism. (Prometheus is perhaps the most well-known of the Titans, the figure whom Kerényi has called “the archetype of human existence,” thereby pointing to the titanic propensity in each of us.) Stress is a titanic symptom. It refers to the limits of the body and soul attempting to contain titanic limitlessness. A true relief of stress begins only when we can recognize its true background: our titanic propensity.

We may note a difference between titanism and hubris. Hubris is a human failure to remember the gods. When we forget or neglect the gods, we extend beyond the limits set by the gods on mortals, limits given mainly by Zeus through his union with Metis, Themis, and Mnemosyne.

Titanism, however, takes place at the level of the gods themselves. We are not Titans nor can we become titanic – only when the gods are absent can titanism return to the earth. Do you see why we must keep the gods alive and well? Small is beautiful requires a prior step: the return of the gods.

***

“Despite evidence of flagrant titanism all around us, the Titans themselves are invisible, like the black night sky of Uranos, their terrible father, and hidden by their mother, Gaia, in her deepest womb. They are sometimes imagined as ghosts. They work invisibly in darkness and in the impulses and fantasies arising from the depths. López-Pedraza points out, referring to the mythologists Nilsson and Kerényi, that the Titans – because they are invisible or unimaged – therefore do not have limits. Without image they become pure expansion. Hence, their punishment requires severe limitations: the chains that bind Prometheus; incarceration in Tartarus.

Limitation in our society tends to mean repression. We imagine the defeat of excess by means of tougher laws, harder education, severer systems of management control. However, the cure of enormity through more discipline is but an allopathic measure, a cure through the opposite which often leads to a righteous puritanical totalitarianism. The correction of one titanism can easily convert into another sort, e.g., totalitarian moralism, unless we understand what Zeus is truly about: the ordering power of the differentiated imagination: polytheism.

***

“Though the Titans may be invisible, an unimaged limitless greed locked inside human nature, titanism is all around. It strikes the ears, the membranes and eyeballs and fingers. Our senses touch and recoil. Repulsed by the huge and the ugly, we close off the world. We grab a bite on the run, drive thru our days. The common world is lost to sense, and too, the words of sense, the common descriptive language of adjectives and adverbs that give texture and shading. Instead, a titanism of acronyms and the justification for the ugly and the huge with abstract imageless reasons named economy, practicality, time-saving, comfort, accessibility, convenience, and national security.4

In this excerpt Hillman provides a further list of signifiers for the titanic impulse, each associated with his core focus on the sequalae of formless excess; specifically an expansive, striving, spreading, straining and stretching toward outcomes of hugeness and enormity, ultimately to demonstrate an existence without boundaries or limits.

Lastly I will give five of the most popular dictionary definitions of titanism, which are as follows:

  • OXFORD: 1. An attitude of resistance to, or defiance of, the established order of things; especially one which is grandiose or romantic but ultimately futile. Compare note at “Titan”. 2. The quality or fact of being titanic; very great size or power.
  • MIRRIAM-WEBSTER: Defiance of and revolt against social or artistic conventions
  • COLLINS: A spirit of defiance of and rebellion against authority, social convention, etc.
  • DICTIONARY.COM: Revolt against tradition, convention, and established order.
  • THEFREEDICTIONARY.COM: Revolt against tradition, convention, and established order.

Based on the descriptions above we can now distil a summary of the traits associated with Titans and titanism, with its driving impetus toward chaos: Titanism is the drive towards destruction of established structures in both self and society in preference for a state of anarchy, chaos and excessiveness.

That, then, is the definition of titanism based on the above sources. While the overall picture is one of destructiveness, it should also be noted that the Titans of mythology created the very first environment, a kind of tabula rasa, on which the Olympians could build their social order. They can be further understood to preside over the process of entropy that works to break down established structures after they become encrusted and repressive – an impetus we have formalised in the philosophical obsession with deconstructionism and post-structuralism. These however are phases of the civilizational cycle, preferably short lived to minimise the suffering associated with violence and breakdown.

We’ve seen the titanic drive emerge at numerous points throughout history, especially in the closing phases of empires, and we are witnessing it again in Western social trends today, destructive trends that are overtly violent or often disguised behind a kind of postmodern deconstructionism which serves as camouflage for what in essence is that same impulse for destruction and chaos. We are witnessing the end of architectural uniformity, responsible individualism, free speech, self-restraint, modesty, manners, social hierarchy, familiar understandings of gender, family cohesiveness, national pride, and many other structures previously enjoyed as norms.

As social unrest increases and our streets continue to burn, we can hope that a well prepared Olympian family awaits in the wings to address the chaos, preferably sooner rather than later.



Sources:

[1] David L. Miller, The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses, (1974)
[2] Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Translated by A. Athanassakis, (1983)
[3] Rafael Lopez Pedraza, Cultural Anxiety, (1990)
[4] James Hillman, And Huge Is Ugly: Zeus and the Titans, in Mythic Figures, (2007)

Men, relationships and hate sex

Unhappy,Separate,Couple,Lying,In,A,Bed,,Having,Conflict,Problem

Hate sex. Those two words appearing together come across as awkward, even oxymoronic, for who in their right mind hates sex? Its true that we might hate sex with the wrong person according to our criteria of what’s hot, but very few people in this world hate sex altogether.

The phrase hate sex however isn’t intended to suggest a person hates sex, but rather that they desire it with a person they are currently fighting with or alienated from.

Other variations on the phrase include rage sex, grudge sex, and angry sex, each offering slightly different meanings but often tied together in the act of having sex with someone you don’t feel so good about.

Sex of this kind is widely believed to be more intense than normal sex, and for that reason “We love having make-up sex” is a common euphemism for angry grinding.

The begging question is why would a couple want to have sex if they are experiencing serious resentment or alienation?

One school of psychology provides some answers.

British Object Relations psychologists claim that if relationship bonds are constantly rendered insecure then the desire for sex is harnessed as a way to reinstate vanishing relationship security. When relationships become fragmented, weak or broken, we desire to be more in synch again, more loved, more on the same page. We want to reaffirm that our future together is secure, that we can still walk into the sunset hand in hand, worldview intact.

Instead of that security, we feel the relationship has become tenuous, hanging by a thread, on the verge of dissolving into….. the unknown. Insecurity and anxiety reign. In this scenario hate sex is utilized in the service of fixing weak intimate bonds, an instinctual attempt to repair those bonds through the complex release of hormones that ultimately serve to re-establish love and connection.

The theory that sex repairs a failing relationship bond was first proposed back in 1941 by psychologist Ronald Fairbairn, who announced a deviation from the traditional Freudian formula that humans are primarily pleasure-seekers. For Fairbairn we are first and foremost “object seekers” by which phrase he means seekers of other people to have relationships with:

“Freud spoke of libidinal aims and defined these aims in terms of erotogenic zones – as oral aims, anal aims and so on. What he described however are not really aims but modes of dealing with objects; and the zones in question should properly be regarded, not as the dictators of aims, but as the servants of aims… The real libidinal aim is the establishment of satisfactory relationships with objects; and it is, accordingly, the object that constitutes the true libidinal goal.”1

Fairbairn’s position is summarized, in the words of GoodTherapy.org, by stating that the primary motivational factors in one’s life are based on human relationships, rather than sexual or aggressive triggers. Object relations is a variation of psychoanalytic theory which diverges from Freud’s belief that we are pleasure seeking beings; instead it suggests that humans seek relationships.

The Object Relations theorists view hate-sex as a way to potentially relieve tension over failed or failing relationships, and also as a vehicle by which that relationship might be re-established. The theory is summarized perfectly by Fairbairn who says, “Explicit pleasure-seeking is thus not a means of achieving libidinal aims, but a means of mitigating the failure of these aims.”

“Pleasure-seeking is not a means of achieving libidinal aims,
but a means of mitigating failure of these aims.”

Is it true that sexual pleasure is a way to mitigate and repair failing relationships? The urgency of hate-fucking as it arises on top of a fierce argument appears to support this hypothesis, and if we accept it we are faced with a revision to the goals of our pleasure-seeking culture – no longer is sex an act of pleasure alone but a psychobiological reflex intended to repair relationship damage and foster attachment.

That such damage is rife in modern relationships is undeniable. The misandry, misogyny, gynocentrism and the growth of cultural narcissism are enough to make any intimate bond unravel, including those of biological family. As mentioned in another article the toying with relationship bonds to extract compliance from a partner is a particular cause for weakness.

As cruel as it sounds, withholding affection, sex, approval and love have become part of women’s repertoire employed to coerce men into compliance and servitude (eg. “If you don’t earn more money, I’ll stop loving you”) – a coercion that men often acquiesce to in order to salvage what feels like an increasingly fragile relationship bond. Indeed, one of the core strategies of romantic love is to keep the relationship bond in the realm of tantalizing denial, a formula that emulates the techniques of animal behaviorism, but instead of the model being learned from Skinner or Pavlov, it is taught by grassroots dating culture; the message being to keep your man in a position of uncertainty. Aside from other relationship tensions, this approach to relationships is one that potentially elicits the insecure grudge fuck.

The obsession some men have with sex, porn, prostitutes, sexbots, sex toys etc. raises a question of whether the intensity is partly driven by frustrated opportunities for human attachment, with hate-sex themes arising from unconscious aims of mitigating relationship frustrations. Whatever the case, it’s an open question as to why some men indulge in hate fucking and fantasizing about same. More broadly, we might ask why any securely-attached couple would bother nursing regular grudges and hate in the first place? The answer is, securely attached couples probably wouldn’t!

Next time you hear someone talk about hate sex as if it were fun, just a little “make up” sex as they like to call it, consider how much fun is really involved in a big picture of that relationship. If hate sex is an attempt to repair relationships damaged by emotional manipulation, alienation and abuse — especially if happening on a regular basis — then it’s about as far away from fun as you can possibly get.

*This revised articled first published on June 23, 2017.

References:

[1] Ronald Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality, pp. 82-83

Further reading:

Don’t Make Love, Make Hate: Have You Ever Hate-F*cked?
Why You Should be Having Sex With the Man You Hate