Courtly Love

By Michael Delahoyde

Introduction:

We are so familiar with the love tradition that we mistake it for a natural and universal phenomenon and have no impulse to inquire into its origins. But it is difficult if not impossible to show love to be anything more than an artistic phenomenon or construct — a literary or performative innovation of the Middle Ages.

The term “Courtly Love” (“l’amour courtois”) was coined by Gaston Paris in 1883 (in the journal Romania), so the first problem is that we tend to let the Victorians define it for us. The terms that appear in the actual medieval period are “Amour Honestus” (Honest Love) and “Fin Amor” (Refined Love).

The concept was new in the Middle Ages. The medievals were the first to discover (or invent) it, the first to express this form of romantic passion. There was no literary nor social framework for it in the Christian world before the end of the 11th century; the Western tradition had no room for the expression of love in literature: there’s none in Beowulf or The Song of Roland.

The religious tradition speaks of love, but that’s agape — platonic/christian love of all humankind as your brothers and sisters. In classical literature we witness what’s called love, but, as exemplified well by the case of Dido for Aeneas, the passion is often described in firy terms and always reads like eros — hot lust. (Medea and Phaedra are other cautionary examples, and “love” plunges them into crime and disgrace.) Ovid’s Ars Armitoria and Remedia Amoris (The Art of Love and The Cure for Love) are ironic and didactic treatises generated from a premise that love is a minor peccadillo. Ovid gives rules for illicit conduct.

Rather unlike “Courtly Love,” the literature of the Church is anti-feminist. And the tastemakers in feudal society marry not for love but for real estate and heirs. It’s been said that in the Middle Ages you married a fief and got a wife thrown in with the bargain. Idealized “love” goes against the utilitarian economics of marriage, and passion was forbidden by the Church, so until the courtly version came along, Love was duty and “Luv” was sinful. Thus, “Courtly Love” emerged and remained outside of marriage. (Love and marriage don’t go together like a horse and carriage.) C.S. Lewis decided that its key features were humility, courtesy, and adultery.

Historical Basis?:

Scholars who have believed that Courtly Love was a true historical development rely on the literature to read back a history. They have decided that it all began in southern France, which was sufficiently peaceful and isolated for such a movement to develop. Old Roman war dogs retired here (Avignon; Toulouse; Nimes under the domaine of Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine) and the leisure class, a wealthy and self-sufficient society, found a new fad. (After all, you can’t love if you’re poor — check your Andreas Capellanus.) Intellectuals from all over were attracted to the area’s courts. The south was freer and more tolerant, and was pluralistic (with Arabs, Jews, and Byzantines numbered among the residents). And perhaps the men outnumbered the women (check Rules 3 and 31 in Andreas).

Troubadours:

What we find are troubadour poems. The troubadours were not really wandering minstrels but mostly rich young men, using the Provençal langue d’Oc. Circa 1071 is the birth year for the first known troubadour, William IX of Poitiers. [In the north, feudal knights preferred epic poems of chivalry like the Arthurian tales crossing the channel. But trouvères picked up the troubadour tradition, transposed into the langue d’Oil. In Germany they were called minnesingers.]

Consider Arnaut Daniel’s “Chanson do.ill mot son plan e prim” (“A Song with Simple Words and Fine”) and Bernard de Ventadour’s “Can vei la lauzeta mover” (“When I See the Lark Moving”). Guillaume de Machaut comes later, in the fourteenth century, but is a key big name in love songs: “Amours me fait desirer” (“Love Fills Me with Desire”), “Se ma dame m’a guerpy” (“If My Lady Has Left Me”), “Se je souspir” (“If I Sigh”), “Douce dame jolie” (“Fair and Gentle Lady”), etc.

The formes fixes of the poetry included:

Ballade: a a b (or, if a = ab, then ab ab c)

Virelai: A b b a A b b a A

Rondeau: A B a A a b A B

In other words, there were learned combinations of rhymes, stanzas, and concepts. Some of the music survives but we’ve lost the form of the rhythms.

The Courtly Love sung of in the songs represents a new structure, not that of the Church or of feudalism, but an overturning of both. Love is now a cult — a sort of religion but outside of normal religion — and a code — outside of feudalism but similarly hierarchical. The language and the relationships are similar (and the language, sometimes borrowed from religion, ends up borrowed back by religion in certain lyrics). In feudalism the vassal is the “man” of his sovereign lord; in courtly love, the vassal is the “man” of his sovereign mistress. In religion, the sinner is penitent and asks that Mary intercede on his behalf with Christ, who is Love. In courtly love, the sinner (against the laws of love) asks the mother of the love god, Cupid’s mother Venus, to intercede on his behalf with Cupid or Eros, who is the god of love. So this new love religion seems to parody real religion.

The Procedure:

That’s the static phenomenon interpreted. But the process of courtly love, a long-standing relationship with standardized procedures, can be extracted from the literature and tales of love in the medieval period. Here’s the deal. Andreas Capellanus describes the optic physiology of the first moments. In short, he sees her. Perhaps she is walking in a garden. The vision of her, which is made up of light rays, enters into his eyeball (hence the blind cannot fall in love). Through a rather circuitous anatomical miracle, the love-ray makes its way down around his esophagus and sticks in his heart. Now he’s love-struck. She doesn’t know about him at all. She is of high status and “daungerous,” which means not that she knows Tai Kwon Do but rather that she is standoffish. He is abject.

After haunting himself with visions of her limbs (by the way, she’s long gone now), he swoons a lot and follows various of Andreas’ rules (“you can’t eat, you can’t sleep; there’s no doubt you’re in deep”). Eventually all this love has to come out somehow, and remarkably it tends to emerge in well-crafted stanzas with rhyme patterns mentioned above and a zippy little meter. Secretly, the lover writes poems to the lady called “complaints” (“planh” in Provençal) because they are largely constructed of laments about his own suffering. These may be delivered to her by an intermediary. But she remains scornful while he or his friend continues heaving poems in her window tied to rocks.

Before actually getting a poem in the teeth, she, through some quirky event, will come to know who has been sending the poems. Eventually she will smile, which means she has accepted him as her “drut” (“dread” — meaning not “oh, no, there he is again” but rather in the sense of awe: “revered one”). Next comes the performance of tests. The lover gets a token, perhaps a glove or a girdle (not the 18-hour kind — more a scarf or sash). And the woman gets carte blanche — jousting, journeys, deeds, anything she wants. “Sir Eminem has insulted me. Kill him.” He has to. “Bring home some pork chops. Those last ones were awful.” He has to go slay a wild boar. “Fetch me the molars of the Sultan of Baghdad.” He’s got to climb the widest sea and swim the highest mountain and, though he has nothing against them per se, he’s got to hack his way through the Sultan’s guards and face the old boy, saying, “Render hither thine molars, payan swine!” “Nay, that likest me not nor will I nother!” Then he has to decapitate the Sultan, wrench out the back teeth, and get back home (probably switching clothes with a palmer at some point), only to find out that now she wants some Baskin Robbins pistachio swirl. And this goes on endlessly.

Something Fishy:

Supposedly the finer points of courtly love were so complex that Eleanor’s daughter, Marie of Champagne, commissioned her chaplain, Andreas, to write a rulebook. Another religious man, Chretien de Troyes (fl. 1160-1172) was ordered to write “Lancelot,” in which the knight’s hesitation at getting into a cart is crucial. Andreas supplies a Latin prose work, De Arte Honeste Amandi (The Art of Courtly Love, as the title is usually loosely translated), which subsequently has been taken as a textbook on courtly love.

But Andreas is a churchman. Check out some of the chapters in the Table of Contents! And what’s your honest reaction to reading some of this. A textbook on illicit love? 31 rules? Why 31?

Andreas also provides legal cases! Supposedly, the history of love included Courts of Love ruled by the ladies. There’s no historical evidence that this ever took place, and it seems pretty unlikely, but Andreas’ material has been referred to so often that it has come to seem true.

Here’s one case: a woman’s husband has died. Can she accept her servant as her lover? The decision: no, she must marry within her rank. This is not to say that a widow may not marry a lover, but then he would be her husband, not her lover.

Another case: a knight is serving his lady by defending her name. It’s getting embarrassing and she wants it stopped. There is much debate about this case. The decision: no, the woman is wrong; she cannot forbid him from loving her.

A final case: two little kids were playing in their medieval sandbox and noticed all the fine ladies and gentlemen engaged in the new love fad about them. They imitatively also agreed to a contract between them: that they would share a kiss each day. They years have passed and this guy keeps showing up at the door every morning for the kiss. The woman wants to be released from this juvenile contract. Does she have a case? The decision: granted, because the rules specifically state that one cannot be about the business of love until one is around the age of thirteen. Therefore all those kisses given since that age must be returned. (Huh?)

So is this all a joke? Andreas also offers a retraction — an about-face at the end. And he mentions a “duplicem sententiam” (a double lesson). Finally all seems sinful and love a heresy.

Feminist Perspective:

Does Courtly Love heighten the status of women? Yes, compared to their roles merely as “cup-bearers” and “peace-weavers” — that is, in Beowulf for example, servants and political pawn in marriage.

Marxist Perspective:

The “love story” has been one of the most pervasive and effective of all ideological apparatuses: one of the most effective smokescreens available in the politics of cultural production. One need only think of the historical popularity of crime stories purveyed as “love stories”: from the Trojan War — that paradigmatic “linkage” of love and genocide — to Bonnie and Clyde, from the subcultural Sid and Nancy to the hyperreal Ron and Nancy, we see the degree to which the concept of love is used as a “humanizing” factor, a way of appropriating figures whom we have no other defensible reason to want to identify with. It is also a way of containing whatever political or social threat such figures may pose within the more palatable and manipulable (because simultaneously fetishized as universal and individual) motivations of love and sexual desire…. the “love story,” a narrative that frequently disguises itself (qua narrative) or is taken as “natural” as opposed to the contrivances of other generic forms. (Charnes 136-137).


Works Cited

The Art of Courtly Love. The Early Music Consort of London. London, Virgin Classics Ltd., 1996. D 216190.

Campbell, Joseph, with Bill Moyers. “Tales of Love and Marriage.” The Power of Myth. NY: Doubleday, 1988. 186-204.

Charnes, Linda. Notorious Identity: Materializing the Subject in Shakespeare. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Dodd, William George. “The System of Courtly Love.” 1913. Rpt. in Chaucer Criticism, Vol. II. Ed. Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1961. 1-15. Dodd treats the phenomenon as historical.

Donaldson, E. Talbot. “The Myth of Courtly Love.” Speaking of Chaucer. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1970. Donaldson declares Andreas a clerical joke.

Lewis, C.S. The Allegory of Love. 1936. NY: Oxford University Press, 1958.

Troubadour and Trouvère Songs. Music of the Middle Ages, Vol. 1. Lyrichord Early Music Series. NY: Lyrichord Discs Inc., 1994. LEMS 8001.
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*Article republished with permission from the author.

Apollo – God of Incels

Apollo commons

There are many characters from Greek mythology who displayed involuntary celibacy, but perhaps none more famous than Apollo, the god of rational thought.

Jungian psychologists view Greek gods and goddesses as archetypes – themes that appear not only in mythology but also psychologically and behaviourally in the lives of men and women. The Apollo archetype personifies the aspect of the personality that wants clear definitions, is drawn to master a skill, values order and harmony. The Apollo archetype as it appears in the behaviour of men (or women) favors thinking over feeling, distance over closeness, objective assessment over subjective intuition.

Apollo can be viewed a metaphorical ‘incel‘ figure. The following from psychiatrist Jean Shinoda-Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman describes this aspect of Apollo or the ‘Apollo man’ :

Apollo was the most handsome of gods, as well as responsible and dependable: the sun always came up, rose and set when it was supposed to. He emphasized virtue and had precepts to live by carved on his temple walls. Yet he was unsuccessful in love, rejected by Cassandra, Sybil, Daphne, and Marpessa. The women Apollo the god wanted to have and was rejected by were the kind of women who also may reject an Apollo man.

The woman who rejects a handsome, virtuous, dependable Apollo man usually does so because he lacks qualities that are essential for her, such as depth and intensity, or emotional closeness, or sexual spontaneity. Apollo men are rejected by women who want a deeper bond, with more intensity and emotional expressiveness, than he can provide.

The integrity in which an Apollo man may live out his precepts or live up to his agreements draw admiration and respect, rather than love or passion. Women who are aware of these priorities will not choose him to begin with, or, on discovering what is lacking, may reject him as a lover later. 1

She further tells:

Individuals who resemble Apollo have difficulties that are related to emotional distance, such as communication problems, and the inability to be intimate… Rapport with another person is hard for the Apollo man. He prefers to access (or judge) the situation or the person from a distance, not knowing that he must “get close up” – be vulnerable and empathic – in order to truly know someone else…. But if the woman wants a deeper, more personal relationship, then there are difficulties… she may become increasingly irrational or hysterical.1

When considering the idea of using Greek deities as descriptors, I’m reminded of a statement by C.G. Jung who wrote, “To serve a mania [a psych label] is detestable and undignified, but to serve a God is full of meaning.”

If we translate Jung’s statement into one that speaks to our present topic it would say this: To be a devotee of Apollo is full of meaning, but to be labelled an incel is detestable and undignified.

With so much negative and maligning discourse around the topic of incels, perhaps its time we looked at the life of an involuntary celibate as every bit worthy as any other life. If we use Apollo as a model, we might even call parts of that life divine.



References:

[1] Shinoda-Bolen, J., Gods in Everyman: A New Psychology of Men’s Lives and Loves p.130-160 (1989)

Guinevere and Lancelot- by William de Leftwich Dodge (1910)

Painting by artist William de Leftwich Dodge (1910) showing Guinevere looking into Narcissus’ Mirror, with Lancelot sniffing at her hand in recognition of her femdom. This image illustrates the taproot of feminism’s concern with maintaining or increasing the power of women, a process facilitated by men’s adherence to medieval chivalry and deference to women.

Guinevere – by William de Leftwich Dodge. [Flickr. Public Domain.]

To ‘Believe’ in Love – The Religious Significance of the Romantic Love Myth in Western Modernity

The following is from the introduction of religious studies scholar Sarah K. Balstrup’s thesis To ‘Believe’ in Love – The Religious Significance of the Romantic Love Myth in Western Modernity. In it she explores romantic love as the dominant religious belief system in the Western world today. – PW.

THE STUDY OF LOVE

In 2011, Simon May made the bold claim that “love has increasingly filled the vacuum left by the retreat of Christianity…so that it is now the West’s undeclared religion – and perhaps its only generally accepted religion.”4 Although May’s research engages with philosophical debates rather than the more sociological concerns of the scholar of religion, his observations provide an excellent starting point for deeper analysis into this seemingly new religious phenomenon. What is the significance, for instance, of the fact that May refers to love as ‘the’ religion of the West, and the simultaneous claim that such a widespread belief system can remain unrecognised by its adherents? Moreover, what is meant by ‘love’? This thesis seeks to answer such questions and, in doing so, provide a comprehensive analysis of the socio-cultural changes that have occurred between the mid-nineteenth century and the present day that have fundamentally altered both the significance of love, and the nature of religion itself. As the subject of study, love is defined as a particular social mythology that has achieved religious status due to important epistemological shifts associated with secularisation.5 Through the consideration of a number of case studies, including Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856), the HBO series Sex and the City (1998-2004), and romantic comedy films, the religious function of love will be investigated. As a social mythology that effectively replaces the Christian symbolic, love will be appraised as a religious position, on the basis that it acts as an ultimate concern for Western individuals.6 Most importantly this will involve an analysis of the religious epistemological mode in order to demonstrate why the ‘love religion’ does not involve self-identification.

Typically understood as an emotional state, love has become an important topic of philosophical, religious and psychological investigation throughout Western history. While far from exhaustive, such a history might include examples from the Biblical Scriptures, Plato’s Symposium, Dante’s Commedia, the tradition of courtly love that emerged in eleventh century Europe, along with a host of examples from the Romantic poets,7 and humanist philosophers.8 As love has acquired a rich symbolic resonance through the influence of such discourse, it has variously been understood to be an aspect of the Christian symbolic system, a state of being associated with truth, sacredness and beauty,9 or as an ethical force that is human in origin. To consider the implications of each of these examples within their cultural context is an unwieldy task, yet one that has been tackled by numerous academics in the past thirty years, as well as in earlier studies such as C. S. Lewis’s Allegories of Love (1936)10 and Denis de Rougemont’s Passion and Society (1956).11 More recent studies of import include Stephen Kern’s The Culture of Love: Victorians to Moderns (1992)12 and Simon May’s Love: A History (2011),13 as well as a host of philosophical14 and socio-cultural studies.15 While these texts will inform this thesis, in general, their aim has been to extrapolate the culturally specific nature of the Western understanding of love, where ‘religion,’ in its Judeo-Christian form, is understood to be one of many influences upon the myth. In light of Wittgenstein’s assertion that “the meaning of a word is its use in language,”16 it becomes apparent that the survival of ‘religious themes’ does not necessarily prove the continuation of religious significance. Rather, in this thesis, the love myth is deemed to be a coherent symbolic system that functions as a type of secular religion, regardless of the origin of ideas that comprise its current form, which may or may not have been religious in their original cultural context.

Despite the depth and breadth of studies on love, and the frequent claim that love is of sacred or religious significance,17 the definition of love remains vague and the dynamics of this supposed religious connection have yet to be fully explored. Those who have made the strongest claims regarding love’s spiritual significance have done so with disapproval, in the case of de Rougemont,18 May19 and others; or an air of tragedy, as can be found in the reflections of Flaubert,20 Michel de Certeau and Roland Barthes.21 The former find fault with the love myth, claiming that it puts unrealistic expectations upon human relationships,22 that it is an inferior and adulterated version of a purer religious sentiment,23 that it is a corrupting influence in society which involves the human attempt to become God,24 or is otherwise responsible for human cruelty.25 In each case, love and relationships are viewed to be separate from the culturally contingent love myth that is being subjected to critique. As a Religious Studies approach does not involve the evaluation of belief systems based on their putative merit, these arguments will not be explored; however, it is important to note the contested nature of the religiosity of love. As a ‘growing trend,’ the sacralisation of love is then identified as an undesirable development that must be studied in order to create a level of reflexivity necessary to stem the flow of its influence.

Although the majority of scholars mentioned thus far simply use the term ‘love,’ and may mention culturally specific sub-categories such as agape, eros, or parental love, the contemporary form of love that is increasingly idealised can be more accurately defined as ‘romantic love.’ As a cultural construct, romantic love has a history that can be most clearly traced to eleventh century Provence, when the love poetry of the troubadours began to depict a noble and divine love between man and woman that stood in contrast to the dry practicalities of arranged marriage.26 Medieval scholars have problematised this reductive claim, and have revealed aspects of the courtly tradition that do not serve to convey the more modern notion of romance, yet, the concept of the birth of romance has remained a useful periodisation tool nonetheless.27 As courtly love was an adulterous, albeit unconsummated love that stood in contrast to the institution of marriage, romantic love is based upon passionate feelings towards an idealised other, involving a self-sacrificing attitude of devotional awe. Tristan and Isolde provides the most iconic example of courtly love, and due to the tragic culmination of this lovers’ tale, there has remained a strong link between romantic sentiment and the concept of being reunited with the beloved through death. While not always mentioned regarding the origins of romantic love, there is a very close relationship between courtly love poetry and the writings of medieval mystics like Bernard of Clairvaux and Hadewijch of Antwerp.28 Incorporating Biblical material such as the erotically charged “Song of Songs,” Christian mystics have developed strong associations between devotion for the beloved (as lover), and the Beloved (as Christ or the Deity himself).29 This form of romantic worship drew strongly on Platonic philosophy, wherein erotic desire for the beauty that resides within the beloved can lead the lover to purer states of love, and, ultimately, to the contemplation of the Divine. As influential strains of Christian mysticism appropriated this model of sacred relation,30 the concept of ascent via beauty intermingled with Christian concepts of the Divine, and this association has remained salient in Western cultural mythology.

The poetry of the courtly tradition and the writings of Christian mystics are historical antecedents of the idea of romantic love, however, in mid-eighteenth century England, romantic love came to be understood in terms of human relationships. Related to the rise of the middleclass, the birth of the modern novel, and other factors associated with modernisation, romantic love became a driving force of social change as it became increasingly acceptable to marry for love.31 Previously constrained by the class system and the social obligation to enter into practical marriages, in the mid-eighteenth century, the law of love became more deeply associated with virtue than the ability to conform to the dictates of the social institution. In this early period the ideal of true love was applied to the dissolution of class-based distinctions, and this deregulatory function has become characteristic of the love myth, so that in the contemporary context, romantic love is employed in the rejection of all forms of social barriers. In the realm of popular culture, the romantic comedy has offered a running commentary on the love myth since the establishment of the genre in Hollywood’s classical era.32 Depicting strong female leads in the 1930s and ambitious career women in the 1980s, the romantic comedy genre has a history of correlating the overthrow of patriarchal dominance with the negotiation of ‘true’ love.33 Films from the 1990s onward have extended the use of the romantic love myth to dismantle social barriers relating to race, gender, sexuality, age, and cultural extraction. As such, the love myth has been consistently identified as a force of justice that enables the individual to oppose social sanctions.

As the history of the love myth does not in itself define the specific types of beliefs involved in its contemporary form, examples will be provided of what romantic love is considered to be within the bounds of this thesis. First and foremost it is believed that true love can be found between two people, and that the connection that they share involves the total person; physical, spiritual, mental. These two individuals are destined to be together and are led into contact with one another through divine aid or coincidence, so that all life events can be understood in relation to the formation of a relationship that was always ‘meant to be.’34 Romantic love requires one to surrender disbelief,35 and have faith in the power of love in order to experience this sacred relationship, and the individual expects to undergo trials of virtue in order to be worthy of such love.36 Super-empirical elements implicit in the romantic myth include a belief in destiny,37 and the ability to connect with the beloved by means of extra-sensory-perception, and a belief in postmortem reunion in the afterlife,38 or in subsequent lives.39 The universe is believed to contain knowledge of the fated union between the individual and their ‘soul mate,’40 and one can read ‘signs’ in daily life that may lead them to this person, or reveal their identity. The identity of one’s soul mate is as unique as the individual, so that uniqueness is prized over stereotypical conventions of beauty or personality.41

One may come up against innumerable practical obstacles; identifying subsequent mates as ‘the One,’ or failing to establish a connection with a person that one believes is their ‘soul mate,’42 yet the romantic myth can be manipulated successfully to absorb even the most direct contradictions. This is possible due to a belief in layers of meaning, and an ultimate underlying ‘truth’ related to the concept of the ‘true self.’ This truth can only be verified by emotional cues and personal intuition, so that if these initial feelings of confirmation are seriously tested, the individual can concede that they were fooled by the appearance of truth, and so remain unshaken in their belief that their true love is still out there. Drawing upon the value of self-determination embedded in the ideal of freely choosing one’s partner, out of love rather than social obligation, love is heralded as a revolutionary force that can usurp institutionalised authority.43 Ultimately, true love removes the scales from one’s eyes, revealing the goodness inherent in all things, and enables one to experience Heaven on earth.44 As the mode of relation between the individual and God has been so often expressed in the Judeo-Christian tradition in romantic terms, popular culture reveals that God and the beloved have now become almost interchangeable concepts.45

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REFERENCES:

4 May, Love: A History, p. 1.
5 Terms such as ‘myth,’ ‘mythology,’ ‘imaginative,’ and ‘imagination’ are not used in the pejorative sense in this thesis. While Christian polemicists have used these terms to imply a type of belief that is ‘untrue’ and based upon delusory thinking, here they are used to refer to their function. Mythology can be understood analogously to ‘social narrative,’ while imagination involves a type of active mental engagement requiring the suspension of reality.
6 Paul Tillich, ‘Dynamics of Faith,’ in Robert P. Scharlemann (ed.) Paul Tillich: Main Works, Writings on Religion (Walter de Gruyter, 1988) pp. 231–232.
7 John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and others.
8 For instance, Petrarch and Auguste Comte.
9 Dante Aligheiri, The Paradiso (J. M. Dent and Sons: London, 1941); Charles Williams, Religion and Love in Dante: The Theology of Romantic Love (Kessinger Publishing, 2010); Flaubert, Madame Bovary.
10 C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1938).
11 Denis de Rougemont, Passion and Society (Faber and Faber, 1956).
12 Stephen Kern, The Culture of Love: Victorians to Moderns (Harvard University Press, 1992).
13 May, Love: A History.
14 For example Vincent Brümmer, The Model of Love: A Study in Philosophical Theology (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1993); Albert James Smith, The Metaphysics of Love: Studies in Renaissance Love Poetry from Dante to Milton (Cambridge University Press, 1985); Richard John White, Love’s Philosophy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001); Irving Singer, The Pursuit of Love (John Hopkins University Press, 1994).
15 For example Kern, The Culture of Love; May, Love: A History; Ann Swidler, Talk of Love: How Culture Matters (University of Chicago Press, 2001); Aaron Ben-Ze’ev and Ruhama Goussinsky, In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims (Oxford University Press, 2008).
16 Simon Malpas, Jean-François Lyotard (Routledge, 2003) pp. 21–22.
17 All love theorists mentioned in this thesis recognise the classic examples of sacred love enshrined in Biblical, Platonic, mystic, courtly, and Romantic sources. The centrality of love in Western culture is likewise recognised, yet each theorist articulates the ‘sacred’ or ‘religious’ role of love in a different way. Due to limitations of space, May’s claim is singled out for its directness and clarity.

18 de Rougemont, Passion and Society.
19 May, Love: A History.
20 As will be discussed in further detail in the second chapter of this thesis, Flaubert’s views of love are tragic, idealistic, cynical and ironic. Evidence of this can be found in all of his written works, particularly Madame Bovary (1856) and A Sentimental Education (1869) yet also in his extensive collected correspondence. See John Charles Tarver, Gustave Flaubert as seen in his Works and Correspondence (Kessinger Publishing, 2005).
21 Michel de Certeau, The Mystic Fable: Volume One: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (University of Chicago Press, 1995); Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse. As this thesis merely cites de Certeau and Barthes in order to engage with their personal representations of the love myth, their broader theoretical oeuvres will not be considered. Recognising that French theory has contributed much to the study of love, thinkers like Lacan, Kristeva, De Beauvoir and Foucault have been purposely omitted from this thesis in order to distinguish my methodological position from theirs, and avoid an unintended association with the strong political subtext of their writings.
22 Swidler, Talk of Love; May, Love: A History; Kern, The Culture of Love; Ben-Ze’ev and Goussinsky, In the Name of Love.
23 de Rougemont, Passion and Society.
24 May, Love: A History.
25 Ben-Ze’ev and Goussinsky view the “romantic ideology” of love to be responsible for “wife murders” and violence perpetrated against women in the name of love. Ben-Ze’ev and Goussinsky, In the Name of Love.
26 Swidler, Talk of Love, pp. 112–135.
27 Stephen C. Jaeger, Ennobling Love: In Search of a Lost Sensibility (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); Lewis, The Allegory of Love.
28 Gordon Rudy, Mystical Language of Sensation in the Later Middle Ages (Routledge, 2002) pp. 68–72.
29 Louise Nelstrop, Kevin Magill, and Bradley B. Onishi, Christian Mysticism: An Introduction to Contemporary Theological Approaches (Ashgate, 2009) pp. 89–90.
30 Nelstrop, Magill, and Onishi, Christian Mysticism, pp. 23–27, 85–91.
31 Colin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism (Blackwell, 1989) p. 27.
32 Claire Mortimer, Romantic Comedy (Taylor & Francis, 2010) p. 10.
33 Chantal Cornut-Gentille, ‘Working Girl: A Case Study of Achievement by Women? New Opportunities, Old Realities’ in Peter William Evans and Celestino Deleyto (eds) Terms of Endearment: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the 1980s and 1990s (Edinburgh University Press, 1998) pp. 111–128.

34 Before Sunrise (1995) tells the story of Jesse and Celine who meet by chance on a train in Europe. They spend one night together, yet their entire lives are rewritten in relation to this event. Failing to reunite in Vienna the following year, in Before Sunset (2004) the couple eventually meet in Paris to find that the nine years that they had spent apart were filled with dissatisfaction and that their chance at happiness depends upon their being together.
35 In romantic comedies, the initial cynicism of the romantic couple is replaced by absolute faith in the reality of love by the film’s conclusion. For example, When Harry Met Sally (1989), The Proposal (2009), Friends with Benefits (2011).
36 In the romantic comedy Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) this test takes the form of a ‘leap of faith’ where the romantic couple express their commitment to each other and to love by jumping into a volcano. Rather than dying together, this act is rewarded by unseen forces as the volcano spits them out and they survive unscathed. In the ‘real life’ context of the reality television show The Bachelor (16:7) Ben takes Kacie, Nicki and Rachel shark-swimming on their group date. Rachel has a shark phobia, yet Ben convinces her that the shark dive is a suitable metaphor for their (potential) future relationship. Despite the danger that Rachel finds herself in, she is able to utilise the psychological skills learnt from romantic narratives in order to act against her natural instinct of fear. Knowing that when one demonstrates their faith in love, they will be rewarded, Rachel puts her life in danger as she wills herself to believe that Ben’s presence will magically protect her from harm.
37 Serendipity (2001).
38 Chris and Annie reunite in What Dreams May Come (1998), while in Ghost (1990) Sam communicates with his partner Molly after his untimely death. When his spirit is about to ascend to Heaven, the couple say goodbye in the temporary sense by saying “see ya,” implying that they will meet again.
39 The Fountain. Similarly, many romantic films involve lovers meeting while one partner is in a different body, yet the true spiritual bond that they share eventually enables the recognition of the disguised beloved. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) this trope is played out in a range of bodyswapping scenarios, and in the dual nature of Angel/Angelus. Similarly, in Doctor Who (2005-2009) the Doctor’s ‘true self’ is maintained through subsequent ‘regenerations.’
40 In its popular usage, this term refers to a person’s destined true love, yet is derived from Plato’s story of the original humans who were male and female; two joined together with four arms and four legs, until they were separated by Zeus. In popular culture, the term soul mate is employed to emphasise that love between two individuals is so great that no physical or metaphysical force could destroy it. In fictive form, soul mate partnerships are often depicted overcoming space, time, death, the body, or psychic barriers such as spells or Alzheimer’s disease. For example, in The Notebook (2004), The Fountain (2006), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
41 “For me the other is neither he nor she; the other has only a name of his own, and her own name. The third-person pronoun is a wicked pronoun: it is the pronoun of the non-person, it absents, it annuls. When I realise that common discourse takes possession of my other and restores that other to me in the bloodless form of a universal substitute, applied to all the things which are not here, it is as if I saw my other dead, reduced, shelved in an urn upon the wall of the great mausoleum of language. For me, the other cannot be a referent: you are never anything but you, I do not want the Other to speak of you.” Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse, p. 185.
42 Sliding Doors (1998).
43 In The Adjustment Bureau (2011) the authority to be overcome is that of God himself. In the film, it is revealed that angels monitor human behavior to ensure that all act according to their destiny. David and Elise state their case to the Deity and convince Him that they should be allowed to write their own destinies because they are most truly in love.
44 “In this world we’re just beginning to understand the miracle of living…Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Ooh, heaven is a place on earth. They say in heaven love comes first. We’ll make heaven a place on earth.” Belinda Carlisle, “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”
45 For example, songs that are generally understood to be about romantic love can also be read as songs about God, for instance, Florence and the Machine (“When food is gone you are my daily need. When friends are gone I know my Saviour’s love is real…You got the love I need to see me through.”) “You Got the Love,” Markita “Love, Thy Will be Done.” Similarly, in Sister Act (1992) a choir of nuns use the love songs “I Will Follow Him” and “My Guy” to refer to the Christian Deity.

Excerpt source: To Believe in Love – The Religious Significance of the Romantic Love Myth in Western Modernity, by Sarah K. Balstrup

Adam Kostakis – Is gynocentrism a biological essential? (2011)

The following is an informal discussion on whether gynocentrism is a ‘biological predisposition,’ which took place between commenter ‘Julie’ and Adam Kostakis in the comments section under his essay Anatomy of a Victim Ideology Lecture No. 5.

Julie said…

Hello,

NB: My english is not perfect so I can be hard in what I say, no subtilities, but don’t see bad intention.

I readed all your lectures, very interresting. And also many others blog with great interrest. I can’t agree with misogynistic views, but I agree that you have it very bad now in western world. And that can’t continue no longer.

Gynocentrism, I think, is in good part based on human biological instinct. In other word it’s here to stay. For the good and for the bad. Evolution have gived us superior biological value and status. Nature have created you with a purposes of “serving” us (providing, protection, etc.). You can’t escape this, no more than us. But balance is needed, We are different but in a symbiotic relationship.

You said the feminist project is increasing the power of Women. No problem there for me until this power is on our own life but this is not what they ask for.

I agree that they (the radical feminist) want political Female Supremacy in a way or another. They are not numerous but influent.

This influence is increased by the fact that, we Women collectively “lack care” (a kind of indifference) about you collectively. I mean as a gender. We say notting and let them go. May be because of an instinctive gynocentrism, may be because we beleave that you are strong and don’t need it or we have learned to beleave that. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, I think you have a bigger problem than those radical Women. The much more numerous males advocating and acting for this lunacy. Some of those men are prime minister, governor, president, judge, representative, etc. And they vote laws, policies and rules. Some of those males have kinky fantasm about Female Supremacy. Some have money and career in it. Some are just the kind of male ready to say yes to anything a Woman ask…

The general unvisible climate of misandry. (I discovered his existance with stupefaction after reading about it.) Is in part created by the same males. Like the t-shirt saying to throw rock at boys… Created by males for profit!

Because of my life-style, I know this kind of males, they are excessive, deeply anti-male, they beg me telling me how males are stupid, worthless and blah blah blah… Dreaming of Female led totalitarian regime…8/2/11 10:21 PM

Adam Kostakis said…

Julie,

I did not believe that Gynocentrism is a biological predisposition. I do not believe that evolution grants women superior biological value and status. I do not believe men are created to “serve” women, or that this situation is inescapable. What you describe is not a symbiotic relationship, but a parasitic one. And it is one I believe is socially constructed. It’s an enduring relationship, for sure! But you know what they say, rules are made to be broken.

I also disagree that women are indifferent to the plight of men and boys – I know, and have talked to, plenty of women who are deeply concerned about misandry.

What you have described is a set of Gynocentric myths. I am sorry to see that you have bought into them. Perhaps you believe that Gynocentrism is an inherent human trait because it helps you feel secure in your privileged position – if it is inherent, it cannot be taken away.

You are correct that there are a number of men advocating for the lunacy of radical feminism. When attacking feminism, I do not attack women. I attack feminists, whether they be men or women.

However, I do believe that the climate of misandry is created – exclusively – by women. Certain powerful men are the enablers, but they did not create the hatred.12/2/11 8:38 AM

Julie said…

Adam,

«I do not believe that evolution grants women superior biological value and status.»
What I mean by superior biological value is that to perpetuate our species (like every mamals)the bottle neck is the number of Women. This is why every culture are ready to give up males’ lifes to protect us from danger. You will agree on that fact.

«I also disagree that women are indifferent to the plight of men and boys – I know, and have talked to, plenty of women who are deeply concerned about misandry.»
May be the misunderstanding come of my limited english. I agree with you, many Women are concerned, I’m myself concerned by this misandous climate. Otherwise why the hell I was here?

«However, I do believe that the climate of misandry is created – exclusively – by women.»

On that I can only disagree.

Firts,I saw some contradiction here with what you said before «I also disagree that women are indifferent to the plight of men and boys» We can’t be for and against it in same time.

We are in part responsable, because We buy the t-shirt saying to throw rock at boys. But, We don’t made them. And the greatest misandrous things I have seen was from males.


«Certain powerful men are the enablers, but they did not create the hatred.»

The enabler is money, We are controling most of the spending of each household. The proof of that is in the number of store dedicated to us in any mall.

They want the money, they try to seduce us. They do itthe same way the males telling Me how stupid males are. Unfortunately, We are buying in that because We saw this as fun. And they push more of it the next round.

«When attacking feminism, I do not attack women.»
This was clear for Me. It’s unfortunately not every MRA. I sawed, many who are in misogyny and hate.15/2/11 7:49 PM

Adam Kostakis said…

What I mean by superior biological value is that to perpetuate our species (like every mamals)the bottle neck is the number of Women. This is why every culture are ready to give up males’ lifes to protect us from danger. You will agree on that fact.

I will not agree on that point of view. I see this biological essentialism as a gloss on traditional female privilege. For one thing, you’re only talking about a narrow band of women – namely, those who are young and fertile. Am I to believe that those beyond their most fertile years (i.e. older than 25) are recognized as having no greater value than the average man? Of course not: women remain privileged, regardless of their age and fertility. Reproduction really has nothing to do with it.

Moreover, any society with a deficit of men will not survive very long. It is men who design, create, build and maintain the infrastructure of society. Insofar as women give birth to the next generation, men give birth to civilization itself. Remove men from the equation, and we return to some primitivist state of nature.

Now, as a corollary of rooting out Gynocentrism, this latter historical fact will be forced to change as well: women will have to contribute to the building and maintaining of society, or they will be forced out – which is the deal men have always been handed.

So, you see, I’m very set against all notions of biological essentialism – historically it may be the case that women were valued more for reproductive reasons, while the onus was on men to build, maintain and defend society. That does not have to be the future, and if feminists were really honest with themselves, they would admit that such an idea, egalitarian as it is, scares the living daylights out of them.

I agree with you, many Women are concerned, I’m myself concerned by this misandous climate. Otherwise why the hell I was here?

Yeah – my comment wasn’t attacking you personally. You said that women are indifferent to the plight of men and boys, I responded that I know this to not be the case, but I did not mean to suggest that you are indifferent.

Firts,I saw some contradiction here with what you said before «I also disagree that women are indifferent to the plight of men and boys» We can’t be for and against it in same time.

It’s simple. Some women are not indifferent to the plight of men and boys. Other women are indifferent. And still other women are the generators of misandry. I do not view a social entity so heterogeneous and amorphous as ‘women’ to be one solid bloc. Within ‘women’, we find individuals who are inevitably going to fundamentally disagree with each other on basic principles. There is no contradiction to say that misandry is in the first instance generated by (certain) women, and that there are (certain other) women who oppose misandry.

Just like men, really.16/2/11 2:36 AM

Adam Kostakis said…

We are in part responsable, because We buy the t-shirt saying to throw rock at boys. But, We don’t made them. And the greatest misandrous things I have seen was from males.

I won’t dispute that (certain) men are responsible for aiding and enabling misandry. The person who created the T-shirts you refer to is, indeed, a man – I believe his name is Todd Goldman.

But, put it this way: if hatred against men and boys did not already exist, would Todd have been able to sell his T-shirts?

Can you imagine anybody selling T-shirts saying “blacks are stupid … throw rocks at them” today? I can’t. But what if T-shirts were in vogue in the early 20th century Deep South? I’m sure those T-shirts would be sold by the truckload. The hatred needs to already exist for the product to be saleable.

And that’s why I say that (certain) women generate misandry, while (certain) men are its enablers. Todd Goldman and men like him capitalize on female hatred against the male sex. Todd does not create the hatred. If the hatred was not there, nobody would buy the T-shirts; everyone would be repulsed by the very idea.

“The enabler is money, We are controling most of the spending of each household. The proof of that is in the number of store dedicated to us in any mall.”

This is partially true. Money is surely the motivator for Todd Goldman and men like him – as I said above, they capitalize on female hatred of the male sex. Essentially, they sell out their own sex to make a quick buck. I won’t deny that men like this are misandrists, but I think striking at the root is a more effective strategy, and in this day and age, that means attacking feminists.

“This was clear for Me. It’s unfortunately not every MRA. I sawed, many who are in misogyny and hate.”

Yes. I find it unfortunate that many MRAs use inflammatory language which turns off potential supporters. On the other hand, I understand exactly why they do it, and wouldn’t want to take away their rights to express themselves however they please. They are venting, because for years (decades for most), they have had no place to express their dissatisfaction with feminism and Gynocentrism. They now have that place, very suddenly, and having bottled up rage for most of their lives, they are for the first time given the opportunity to blow off some steam. Predictably, the bottle erupts all over the place. There is some serious anger, and it is emanating from good men: a sure indicator that times are going to change.16/2/11 2:36 AM

White Supremacy: A Euphemism For White Women Worship

So why is white male+female supremacy a euphemism for white women worship? Because men’s part in the much touted “supremacy” culture is geared largely to the role of servicing white women, a role otherwise known as chivalry or benevolent sexism.

Whether men traditionally called her ma’am, m’lady, madam or some other highfalutin title, the sexual dynamic was always one that positions woman as dominatrix, and the man as submissive liegemen – i.e., it closely resembles sadomasochism. That same sadomasochism has been the centrepiece of the women’s movement in which, for example, early feminists looked down sneeringly on their ebony lessers, claiming as Susan B. Anthony did, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman,” and which we see continued in the spa and nail shops which have exclusively women of color carving the toejam out of pampered and ’empowered’ white women’s nails.

In her blog post Three Cheers for White Menmedievalist Rachel Fulton Brown waxes poetic about men’s having aided and abetted a culture of worshipping white women — a worship that we know has led to the three evils of misandry, racism, and (white) female narcissism. Here is her post:

1. When white women (see Marie de France and Eleanor of Aquitaine) invented chivalry and courtly love, white men agreed that it was better for knights to spend their time protecting women rather than raping them, and even agreed to write songs for them rather than expecting them to want to have sex with them without being forced.

2. When white men who were celibate (see the canon lawyers and theologians of the twelfth century and thereafter) argued that marriage was a sacrament valid only if both the man and the woman consented, white men exerted themselves to become good husbands rather than expecting women to live as their slaves.

3. When white women (see Christine de Pizan, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the suffragettes) invented feminism, white men supported them (see John Stuart Mill) and even went so far as to vote (because only men could vote at the time) to let them vote, not to mention hiring them as workers and supporting their education.

Fulton Brown copped a lot of flack for praising white men’s chivalry and women’s associated pedestalization. But she was right, even if I would radically differ with her in response to this history — ie. my reaction is one of disgust and rejection of the narcissism and sadomasochism embedded in the heart of the same construct.

Alison Phipps, a Professor of Gender Studies at Sussex University, recently published an essay titled White tears, white rage: Victimhood and (as) violence in mainstream feminism, and more recently a book titled Me, Not You: The Trouble With Mainstream Feminism.

There is much detail in her feminism-inspired corpus that I am at odds with, and no doubt much in my work that she too would be at odds with. However, I find her thesis readable in parts where describing the power of white women’s tears (a tradition I refer to as damseling), along with white men’s symbiotic enmeshment with those tears in the form of “chivalric” protection frequently involving warrantless, exaggerated violence, especially in colonial settings. This compact is aptly referred to by Phipps as “a circuit” between white women’s perceived vulnerabilities and white men’s reactivity on their behalf.

Phipps’ essay is the first from a feminist perspective that positions males and females as conspiring together as a circuitous dyad, a position contrasted with that of most other feminist authors who prefer to lump all power and evil with men, and all goodness with women. Phipps describes the sexual relations contract of white European descendants as malignant and exploitative, and while I do agree with her in certain key respects I find her thesis too reductive and totalising in its demonization.

The following are a few excerpts from her essay on White Women’s Tears:

Using #MeToo as a starting point, this paper argues that the cultural power of mainstream white feminism partly derives from the cultural power of white tears. This in turn depends on the dehumanisation of people of colour, who were constructed in colonial ‘race science’ as incapable of complex feeling (Schuller 2018). Colonialism also created a circuit between bourgeois white women’s tears and white men’s rage, often activated by allegations of rape, which operated in the service of economic extraction and exploitation. This circuit endures, abetting the criminal punishment system and the weaponisation of ‘women’s safety’ by the various border regimes of the right. It has especially been utilised by reactionary forms of feminism, which set themselves against sex workers and trans people.

In an article on #MeToo, Jamilah Lemieux (2017) commented: ‘white women know how to be victims. They know just how to bleed and weep in the public square, they fundamentally understand that they are entitled to sympathy’. Lemieux was not claiming the disclosures of #MeToo were not genuine; she was highlighting the power brought to mainstream feminism by the power of white women’s tears. White-lady tears, to use Cooper’s phrase: bourgeois white women’s tears are the ultimate symbol of femininity, evoking the damsel in distress and the mourning, lamenting women of myth (Phipps 2020, p71)… the power of bourgeois white women’s tears was solidified in the modern colonial period, as ‘women’s protection’ became key to the deadly disciplinary power that maintained racialised and classed regimes of extraction and exploitation.

Structurally, bourgeois white women’s tears support what Sharpe (2016, p16) calls ‘reappearances of the slave ship’: ‘protecting (white) women’ fuels the necropolitics of criminal punishment and the border regimes of Fortress Europe, North America and other parts of the world. These tears enter a world in which marginalised people are disposable, whether they are Black people killed by police, migrants left to starve or drown (Sharpe 2016, pp43-44, 54), or trans people and sex workers (many of them people of colour) disproportionately left to survive outside bourgeois families, communities and the law. The circuit between white women’s tears and white men’s rage means that because we cry, marginalised people can die. As some forms of reactionary feminism exploit this circuit in their engagements with the far right, their narratives of victimhood can themselves be understood as violence. The ship, then, stays afloat: captained by white men, but suspended in a pool of white women’s tears.

After reading Phipps’ essay I’m immediately reminded of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being falsely accused of offending a white woman. White men bashed him for offending a white women’s fragile sensibilities (which it turns out was fabricated by the woman) and proceeded to showcase their “chivalry” via the act of torturing and brutally bashing the boy to death. In this one image is captured the scenario painted by Phipps – the compact that would keep white women (and their white male protectors) at the top of the food chain.

While I won’t join Phipps in her general malignment of white men, the question remains have certain men throughout history showcased white supremacy, sometimes brutally? Yes they have – but to what ends? I’m going to finish with an unpopular conclusion: that white male supremacy, if and when it has existed, has been driven partly, and perhaps even largely, by a desire to protect a culture of white female supremacy. Keep in mind that this conclusion is becoming recognized not only in the rarefied writings of feminists and MRAs, but also among the everyday populace which has in recent times immortalized the ‘Karen’ figure as an example of racist, misandrist, and narcissistic entitlement.

In a time when anti-white racism and critical race theory are gaining momentum, something I do not wish to fuel, keep in mind that some white women are not like that, even if many are. It still pays to follow the dictum of Martin Luther King who encouraged us to look at content of character before color of skin, and by that route we avoid the fallacy of exaggerated class guilt.

See also:

Alison Phipps: White Men’s Ship Floats on White Women’s Tears


Alison Phipps, a Professor of Gender Studies at Sussex University, recently published an essay titled White tears, white rage: Victimhood and (as) violence in mainstream feminism, and more recently a book titled Me, Not You: The Trouble With Mainstream Feminism.

There is much detail in her corpus that I am at odds with, and no doubt much in my work that she too would be at odds with. However, I find her thesis broadly accurate when describing the power of white women’s tears (a tradition I refer to as damseling), along with white men’s symbiotic enmeshment with those tears in the form of “chivalric” protection frequently involving warrantless, exaggerated violence, especially in colonial settings. This compact is aptly referred to by Phipps as “a circuit” between white women’s perceived vulnerabilities and white men’s reactivity on their behalf.

Phipps’ essay is the first from a feminist perspective that positions males and females as conspiring together as a circuitous dyad, a position contrasted with that of most other feminist authors who prefer to lump all power and evil with men, and all goodness with women. Phipps describes the sexual relations contract of white European descendants as malignant and exploitative, and while I do agree with her in certain key respects I find her thesis overly reductive and totalising in its demonization.

The following are a few excerpts from her essay on White Women’s Tears:

Using #MeToo as a starting point, this paper argues that the cultural power of mainstream white feminism partly derives from the cultural power of white tears. This in turn depends on the dehumanisation of people of colour, who were constructed in colonial ‘race science’ as incapable of complex feeling (Schuller 2018). Colonialism also created a circuit between bourgeois white women’s tears and white men’s rage, often activated by allegations of rape, which operated in the service of economic extraction and exploitation. This circuit endures, abetting the criminal punishment system and the weaponisation of ‘women’s safety’ by the various border regimes of the right. It has especially been utilised by reactionary forms of feminism, which set themselves against sex workers and trans people.

In an article on #MeToo, Jamilah Lemieux (2017) commented: ‘white women know how to be victims. They know just how to bleed and weep in the public square, they fundamentally understand that they are entitled to sympathy’. Lemieux was not claiming the disclosures of #MeToo were not genuine; she was highlighting the power brought to mainstream feminism by the power of white women’s tears. White-lady tears, to use Cooper’s phrase: bourgeois white women’s tears are the ultimate symbol of femininity, evoking the damsel in distress and the mourning, lamenting women of myth (Phipps 2020, p71), and it is likely that this power is not fully accessible to working class white women, who are often figures of classed disgust (Tyler 2008). While it might date back to the ancients, the power of bourgeois white women’s tears was solidified in the modern colonial period, as ‘women’s protection’ became key to the deadly disciplinary power that maintained racialised and classed regimes of extraction and exploitation.

The narrative – that reactionary feminists are the real victims but their voices are not being heard – achieves several aims. It disseminates reactionary feminist ideas; it deploys Strategic White Womanhood to avoid accountability; it uses the device of white women’s tears to deny humanity to the Other. Reactionary feminists seize womanhood – and personhood – while sex workers become uncaring ‘happy hookers’ and trans women become shadowy threats. We see the weeping Madonna versus the unfeeling whore. We see the weeping survivor versus the menacing predator. Neither sex workers or trans women are entitled to complex feelings or to claim victimisation on their own behalf.

Structurally, bourgeois white women’s tears support what Sharpe (2016, p16) calls ‘reappearances of the slave ship’: ‘protecting (white) women’ fuels the necropolitics of criminal punishment and the border regimes of Fortress Europe, North America and other parts of the world. These tears enter a world in which marginalised people are disposable, whether they are Black people killed by police, migrants left to starve or drown (Sharpe 2016, pp43-44, 54), or trans people and sex workers (many of them people of colour) disproportionately left to survive outside bourgeois families, communities and the law. The circuit between white women’s tears and white men’s rage means that because we cry, marginalised people can die. As some forms of reactionary feminism exploit this circuit in their engagements with the far right, their narratives of victimhood can themselves be understood as violence. The ship, then, stays afloat: captained by white men, but suspended in a pool of white women’s tears.

__________________________________

See Also:



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-led 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