The Martyrs of Sex: By John H. Richardson

In appreciation for the exception writing by John H. Richardson; published by Esquire Magazine in its February 2013 issue.

Enough! Enough of the childish delight with which we destroy ourselves and each other over who we choose to have sex with. Here’s a modest proposal: It’s well past time we grow up, stop the carnage, and enjoy sex the way God intended.

Take all the medals away, lay bare the fallen warrior’s chest. Put a new medal there: For Valor in the War of Sex. Add the general’s corpse to the endless pile our hypocrisy and denial generates: Tiger Woods, Larry Craig, Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Gary Hart, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, and all the rest.

We get it completely backward, of course. We are willing to forgive — Clinton still survives, the “Big Dog,” emphasis on dog, too big to kill, and Republicans have forgiven even David Vitter for his love of prostitutes. God Himself has forgiven Newt Gingrich, says Newt Gingrich. After we destroy, we are downright smug in our forgiveness and quickly proceed to clucking over how cruel we have been, how silly it all is. They have been punished enough, we say — it was a psychological weakness, a momentary fall from grace.

But there was never anything to forgive, for this immature and prim purification ritual is the only unforgivable thing. I want to suggest that sex, be it adulterous or premarital or deviant or polyamorous, is a good thing, not a bad thing, and that sex itself is the moment of grace. And that our sterile idea of perfection is the actual sin. To start with the subject on the table, adultery is a brave rebellion against the invisible prison we build for ourselves. When the sad little man Larry Craig widened his stance in that airport bathroom, it was probably the most honest and courageous act of his life. When Clinton got that blowjob in the White House, he wasn’t indulging a weakness (and an eager intern) but enacting the hero’s journey of reconciling inner and outer, risking all to break through the wall of hypocritical purity he had spent years building and projecting to the world in the effort to get elected. By risking martyrdom, in fact, he lifted himself up into an exaltation we still refuse to understand. He was the Martyred Jesus of Oral Sex with Interns and all we see is a mean little sin, as all the sexual deviates pretending to be puritans gathered around in an orgy of denunciation and scandal. In our condemnation, we focus on the supposedly broken vows and the supposed pain of his wife when in fact we know nothing of his wife’s true feelings or her knowledge and tolerance of his “frisky” side (frisky being one of the endless array of demeaning expressions we use as invisible prison bars, along with dog and pig and you only want one thing). We never consider that our reaction is the punishment and the meanness is all in our eyes. Every single time we play out this ritual, we replay the Old Testament rite in which the pious transferred their sins to goats, which were then driven into the wilderness, just as we drive David Petraeus and a parade of other scapegoats out the gates of our smug little village of lies in the hope that we can put the “sin” outside the gate — when it is, of course, always inside. That’s what happens when you put up gates.

What we’re afraid of is the truth. We live in a world in which men and women are buried up to their necks and stoned to death for these same impulses. We recoil at such barbarism with smug assertions of our superior level of civilization while cheerfully meting out our own version of punishment for the same supposed crime — anything to avoid looking at the deeper questions of why adultery exists and what exactly all our endless sexual prohibitions and inhibitions are supposed to do for us. Because if they are there to stabilize the family or inhibit sexually compulsive perversions or avoid the conflicts attendant in jealousy, they’re failing spectacularly and they always have.

In fact, the opposite is true. Our prohibitions against sex cause perversion, and the prison walls we put up around our marriages cause adultery. That is why adultery is merely the physical enactment of the truth men and women hide for long miserable years, a glorious terrifying truth that bursts through all our barriers if we have the vitality to rebel — if we have any vitality left after all the social and personal castration that we enact every single day of our miserable slavish self-denying lives. There’s a sign on my veterinarian’s wall that says, WE ALL NEED A DOG TO WORSHIP US AND A CAT TO BRING US BACK TO REALITY. Those are the mutually destructive roles our society has given to the husbands and wives who assume the prisoner/prison-guard roles in marriage. Let’s be honest, we have a long and inglorious social history that essentially reduces women to marital prostitutes who buster their battered dignity with the drab consolation of fidelity. But when those wives and husbands take up the role of the cat that brings us back down to reality, when they refuse their spouse’s need for worship and celebration, then, in the immortal words of Malcolm Lowry, the lighthouse invites the storm.

So we have reduced ourselves to the pathetic status of nice guys, geldings of civilization, castrati of the well behaved, and we have indentured our wives in the role of prison guard, in which she is expected to condemn the person she supposedly loves for the vitality that he is slowly killing inside himself. In doing so, she has summoned her own betrayal, putting out a screaming four-alarm APB to all the available women of the world: My spouse is not happy. My spouse is not fulfilled within the sacred bonds of marriage. The slaves’ deal of self-denial in exchange for a few crumbs has turned out crappy as always, there aren’t enough crumbs, he’s dying of starvation. And so he finally cries “Spartacus!” and goes to fuck some stranger, some biographer or groupie or fan who gives him the adoration we all hunger for in our deepest core, who worships his body as we are supposed to worship only God, who says to him, You are beautiful and deserving of the intimate lavishment of my tongue, who receives him like the beautifully submissive O, the sexual Christ, “as a god is received.”

Pity the prison guards, too! The fact is, there are people who enjoy the mean little power that comes with the role. But we should always remember that no free person would choose such a role, and that women are also victims of this hateful social design. Their cruelty is in direct proportion to their own suffering, as cruelty usually is.

And the real sadness and tragedy is not that we overreached, that we tempted fate with our imitation of the gods — the real tragedy is that we have been made ashamed to declare ourselves as gods, which is why a man like the otherwise estimable General Petraeus martyrs himself and fires himself when most of the world is finally happy to put the barbaric past behind us and admit it’s just a personal matter, that we’re beyond that spouse-as-property social contract now, that husbands and wives in the modern world have to learn to listen to each other and accommodate their different and changing needs. Trained in a religio-military ethic to honor discipline above life, he feels so guilty for his one eruption of rampant unsublimated manhood that he turns his eyes from the truth that his social prominence and brief rebellion reveal to so many great men: The real failure is not sexual vitality, the real failure is all in the eyes of the mean little scolds who drag us down from the throne and tell us we are hateful, our desire is hateful, that our essential vitality is a sin.

They know in their hearts that this is a lie, which is why they immediately pivot to celebrating the invisible bars. It’s his wife or her husband who is the victim, they say, it’s the lie he told, the promise he failed to honor — always the forms and not the substance, never mind that we’re interposing ourselves between him and his wife and reading into their privacy our own broken oath. That’s the essential tell that shows we don’t really give a damn about their private life. It’s about us. We’re the ones who feel violated, who feel threatened. Tiger Woods owed us. We wanted him to be pure, to be perfect, to be an example and not a man, and definitely not a god worshipped by the groupies we will never have. We wanted him to be more and less at the same time, the sanitized definition of a saint, but especially less because we knew he was more and we hated him for that. So we tried to abstract the vitality out of him and make him less, more like us. Anything to drive that goat out the gates of the city — because the last thing we want to do is face the goat within. Because if the Big Dog and the Tiger are out there fucking eager women and that’s not a terrible shameful sin, then why aren’t we out there fucking eager women?

Quickly, before we can think too deeply, let’s come up with reasons why! Because they’re interns, just little “children” who don’t have independent minds that can make decisions freely because of the power imbalance between older successful men and beautiful young women, never mind that everyone with half a brain knows that beautiful youth has its own mind and sexual intelligence that speaks to it just as loudly as your sagging old testicles, or that the power balance between youth and beauty and age and success is anything but obvious and usually tends to youth and beauty, as even flirtatious little babies intuit when they play their little hide-and-seek games.

We’re so civilized now we have buried the older myth that the real sinners are these hot little Eves tempting us with their ripe apples of ass and breast, summoning against our noble will the snakes that betray with their hidden foulness. That’s not politically correct anymore. It’s as upsetting to our gelded feminized complacence as the penis gourds and codpieces healthier societies used to celebrate their animal vitality. And I know that even as they read this, a whole generation of feminist scolds is saying, “But but but, the sexualization of women is used to oppress them and keep them trivialized in their place,” never considering for one moment that all they’ve done is reverse-sexualize themselves by denying that vitality and gelding themselves so they can fit into the three-piece suit of civilization and make better little worker bees — who are always by definition asexual drones who have ceded the hive’s sexuality to the queens and kings we so eagerly destroy at the first sign of blood, feeding on their moment of weakness like mad hyenas. The scolds never consider that the real victory would be to own their sexuality and include it in their definition of power. And the irony of course is that this animal, emphasis on animal, vitality is not a design failure of great achievers. It is of course part and parcel of why the great become great in the first place.

Do you think it’s an accident that so many great men are relentless horndogs, or that so many prominent women seem to be completely asexual — asexuality being, of course, as every priest knows, an especially ferocious form of sexuality so intense that it has masked itself in the chador of its opposite in order to sublimate itself into pure will to power? The sexual vitality of the great is essential to their greatness, not an accident to be suppressed or excused. But our mean little secret is that we secretly hate and fear the Big Dogs because who knows, they might turn out to be Hitler or Attila so let’s hammer on them like a fucking piÑata with adulation and temptation and parade our pretty little daughters in front of them — and every famous man knows how men love to display their daughters before them — but don’t touch. Because if you succumb to the temptations we parade constantly below your nose, we will have to kill you. So sorry, that’s how things are done in civilized society — but don’t worry, after the crucifixion, with enough penance and gay therapy, we’ll raise you back up again! That’s just how generous and forgiving we are! God, we little guys are wonderful!

Enough! Enough of the childish delight with which we destroy ourselves and each other over who we choose to have sex with. Here’s a modest proposal: It’s well past time we grow up, stop the carnage, and enjoy sex the way God intended.


By John H. Richardson


About circusinpurgatory
Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized short stories, poetry and prose have been published in the Starry Night Review, Elegant Thorn Review, Language and and Vagabond Press; the Battered Suitcase. His latest book “Armor of Innocence” and first book “Walking the Midway in Purgatory, a Journal” are available on-line and through bookstores.

2 Responses to The Martyrs of Sex: By John H. Richardson

  1. TheGirl says:

    This thoroughly written article talks a lot about sex vs. relationships. I don’t agree that the act of sex is a sin. However, our society does place a lot of emphasis on the relationship of the people having sex.

    Sex can be a good thing but it can be a tool. A tool used for power and manipulation (Clinton and his intern—or any boss and an employee) Whether its the younger girl trying to climb the social ladder or the older man feeling good about getting someone to be attracted to him.

    However, I think it’s arrogant one way or another to say to enjoy sex as God intended, because if the Catholic priest can get it wrong. I’m sure no one on this earth with certainty can say how God intended for us to enjoy something.

    Perhaps, just being less concerned with society’s ideas and more concerned with the people involved. I.e- a husband wants to have sex with a escort, fine. Wife wants to leave because of that –fine. It not about the act of sex. But betrayal. Should he lose his job for it? Hhhhmmm….

  2. James Mcfarland says:

    8.8 rating, philosophical, tiny print made piece hard to read

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