Exorcising Demons

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her (reason), she (fantasy) is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

Museo del Prado epigraph of etching no. 43 “The Sleep of Reason”

Los Caprichos Series by Francisco de Goya

            The Artist has a crucial role in society he finds himself in. More than portraying his physical environment so it may be preserved and studied throughout generations; more than expressing his emotions or simply making “Art for Art’s sake.” the artist has also the civil duty of representing the metaphysical reality of his socio-cultural environment, so that Art can serve as a mirror reflecting the current moral standards of a given society and others may ponder upon them.

The etchings series Los Caprichos (The Caprices) by the Spanish neoclassical artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes served as the first of many series of artworks funded by the artist himself and published in the main newspaper of Madrid, El Diario de Madrid. Goya being a neoclassical man who praised reason above all faculties of human nature, published his etchings as a way of presenting to the nineteenth century Spanish society his views on its moral depravity.

When we ask ourselves “why does an artist produce the works he does?” we are asking this as a way of gaining a better understanding of the artwork itself. Goya, being a man who praised reason above all, could have found himself tormented by  he despicable acts immorality he witnessed in his society and hence produced his etchings to both exorcise himself from the torment brought to him by the moral decay of the Spanish nineteenth century society, product of human beings allowing themselves to be possessed by their inner demons.

The Etching no. 43 from the Series Los Caprichos by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, found at El Museo del Prado, is often regarded as the etching entrapping Goya’s main motive for producing the entire series; suggesting the dangers and benefits of our imagination. Goya writes on the illustration “El sueño de la razón produce monstruos.” (The sleep of reason produces monsters). In the illustration he depicts a man (possibly Goya himself) sleeping on a desk with open books, this, serving as a way of illustrating his first premise of “The sleep of reason”. Behind the man we see near him owls, animals often related to wisdom and knowledge, and therefore emphasize the motive of reason; however we see that as the figures distance themselves out of the frontal plane and into the background they turn into bat-like monstrous and terrifying figures. Goya perhaps implying (as it is said in the epigraph of the etching at Museo del Prado) that imagination, which comes from when reason is asleep, can be beneficial but the longer the sleep of the reason is, the more this once beneficial ideas (the owls) may turn into detrimental, demonized, crazed ideas (The bats).

But, can these already crazed ideas, cause by the sleep of reason, be also mothers of great Art? During the mid 20th century with the emergence of psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy Art began to be employed by therapists as a method of communication between them and their patient’s psyche. Today, we see Art Therapy as a branch of mental health professions in which the artworks are viewed from a clinical perspective. However, Art is in itself therapeutic and we see artist such as Vincent Van Gogh interned several times at psychiatric facilities; creating artworks not for a clinical purpose but to both self-express and tame the tormenting thoughts in his mind. Needless to say Van Gogh is one of the main post-impressionist artist of the 20th century, and had successfully joined the list of the many great artists in the history of Art.

Could it be that the monsters Goya was warning us of in his etching no. 43 in Los Caprichos be the mother of great art works as well? Would have Vincent Van Gogh’s artworks had the same impact in the art world, had he tamed them with reason? We all have demons tormenting our minds every so often, which at times escape our ability to rationalize through them. When this happens, when our demons escape from the hands of our reason, it is up to us to find healthy methods of exorcising ourselves from them. Some use exercising, reading, walks on the beach, or journaling; but may I also suggest Art? While it is true that not everyone can be a great artist, a great artist can come from anywhere, and who knows, maybe the next Goya or Van Gogh of our times could be you.

Demons according to Goya

“May the people, recognizing itself in its misery, learn to blush at its cowardice and to hate its tyrants; may the aristocracy, exposed in its fat and obscene nakedness, receive, on each of its muscles the flagellation of its parasitism, its insolence, and its corruption.”

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

          Though the nineteenth century French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon directed his commentary favoring the works of the French painter Gustave Courbet and his praise of realistic subject matters and the moralizing role it played on its observers, this dismissal of neoclassical tradition which sought to engage in its didactic duties through mythological or literary subjects, making the message rather distant and vague to the audience, in exchange of facing the viewers with the crudest and grimmest reality of themselves can be attributed to no one more than the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. Goya’s works succeed in bridging two traditions that seemingly appear to be on opposite sides of the artistic spectrum, this is done by having the praise for reason characteristic of Neoclassicism come to life through nightmare-like and fantastic subject matters. As a result, Goya succeeds in providing us a dystopian outlook of what happens when we fail to tame our monstrous inner demons through rationality.

During 1799, Goya’s respected position as First Court Painter led Goya to feel confident in venturing in printmaking, the production of the prints were both financed and marketed by him. His first series of Prints Los Caprichos was advertised in the main Newspaper of Madrid, El Diario de Madrid, where he described the prints as a series of scenes, errors and vices of every civil society which seemed the most appropriate to be ridiculed. This ridicule of the errors in the Spanish society or satirical social criticism was not new to the Spanish people, for British prints were already distributed throughout Europe. They were introduced in Britain artists William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray; Goya simply adopted the ideas and motifs to those encountered in every day Spanish life. Though the Prints didn’t generate a generous income, it was more about Goya establishing his independence and his own voice and style as an artist.

Goya’s prints utilized a technique known as Etching, which next to engraving it is the most commonly used method employed in print making. Professional printmakers usually practiced engraving, but etching on the other hand was the method that caught the attention of many well-known artists aside from Goya, including some Tiepolo and Piranesi during the seventeenth century. Throughout the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, etching techniques became for sophisticated with the invention of the aquatint. In this process, soluble granules are mixed in the ground in a way that the acid is able to create a finely pitted surface; this technique was mastered by Goya and hence employed in the production of his prints.

The series Los Caprichos consists in a group of around 80 prints depicting the social decay of Spanish society. The first 40 prints of the series seek to provide a straightforward representation of what Goya believes are the illnesses Spanish Society encounters. The second group of the prints makes use of nightmare scenery and subject matter as an alternative way of showing the social decay Goya strives to emphasize in his prints. Understanding the socio historical context of Goya and his motives in the production of his print series Los Caprichos, paves way to further discuss the artwork featured above:

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes’ print No.66 “Allá va eso” (there it goes) from the series Los Caprichos first published in 1799, temporarily exhibited at Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts a gift by William and Dorothy Walmsley; was witnessed first handed on November 15, 2015. When analyzing the subject matter of the print it is important to remember that print No. 66 belongs to the second group of prints within the series that utilize dark creatures such as witches, goblins, demons, and bats for the purpose of Goya’s satirical criticism. To further understand the subject matter its important to compare the print to a similar one that can expand or clarify the creative process of the artist. This work brings to mind Goya’s print from Los Caprichos No. 68 “Linda Maestra!” (A fine teacher) in which one views a witch teaching a young lady how to fly on a broomstick, bringing to the viewer’s attention to Goya’s commentary on bad examples. Almost suggesting that following the teachings and lessons of the old, ugly witch will evidently lead the young lady to a similar path. The same can be said of the Print No. 66 “Allá va eso” where just like in “Linda Maestra!” we evidence an old witch teaching a young girl how to fly on a broomstick. There is a main difference between both prints can only be explained by analyzing the composition. Goya unlike in print no. 68, does not show the figures separately in fact, he places them in such a way that one appears to be part or an extension of the other; also the young lady has her eyes shut into the action, it is only the old witch the one aware of the environment.

Based on this it can be argued that while the old witch is a bad example it is up to the blind judgment of the young girl to follow her example, and when viewing the bat wings that stem from the young lady’s back, in a way they emphasize the idea that it is indeed the young girl listening and acting upon the bad example of the old witch was truly enables them to have the wings to fly. When relating the title to the main action of the print it is important to think that Goya does not refer to them as individuals or even separate beings, but rather as one conjoined, deformed monstrous thing seen from a far, and that might perhaps be best to see it from a distance – “There it goes”. Goya manages to place the town in the background suggesting the women are flying in the outskirts of the city. Their monstrosity leads them to be casted outside of civil society. The figures are placed directly in the mid-section of the picture plane to emphasize its importance and message. High contrasts and great detailing in the bodies add to the grotesque and unpleasant display of their bodies.

When thinking of modern Spanish art it is impossible not to bring Goya’s works into mind, even though he was not the only recognized painter at the time. Nevertheless, Goya managed to cast under the high contrast shadows of his paintings, most of his contemporaries. Goya’s works continue to serve as poignant reminders of human nature and in his works we can evidence the tragic ending of a man born in a world that praised reason, and to die in a world of decay, irrationality and chaos, leaving behind nothing but the cruelest most grim portrayal of the reality of the depravity our human nature is capable of in his artworks. As the 19th century philosopher, Pierre-joseph Proudhon would have mentioned and agreed: Let us recognize ourselves in our misery and learn to blush at our cowardice.

SLOTH | Les Prostitueés: Olympia

As a hard working, young woman, I have always admired fellow women who go into the working field carrying the financial burden of entire households on their backs. As a way to end this series of the “seven deadliest sins” I have chosen to speak on women who in my regard, have ventured in perhaps one of the hardest, most dangerous, and less rewarding professions of all; Prostituées, Courtesans, The “Olympias” of the world: Prostitutes.

When one takes the step to be a participant of an exclusive relationship, one has promised fidelity to the person who in our regard merits it. The person we have chosen as our spouse is not the best option for us in the planet, simply because a whole lifetime wouldn’t be enough to meet all 6 billion people on earth to choose our spouse from. The person elected, as our spouse is that one who is a better match for us compared to all previous options encountered. This in economics is understood as “Marginal Decision Making” where both the benefits and the costs of a product (or person) have been weighted, and then the marginal benefits of the same product (or person) are then later compared to the marginal benefit received from all previous options considered. The product, or person, we chose in the end is that whose marginal benefit primes over it’s marginal costs, and exceeds the marginal benefit of all other products, or people, considered. We employ Marginal Decision Making in everything we do, from comparing prices and products at supermarkets, to choosing our partner or spouse.

While economics can help us understand why we have chosen to marry someone and offer our significant other our fidelity, economics also holds the answer as to why we are likely to be unfaithful to the same person. How can this be? Simple, it’s called “The Law of Diminishing Marginal Benefit” This law states that amount of consumption of a determined product is inversely proportional to the marginal utility derived from consuming each unity of the same product. Sounds confusing? Allow me to set an example. Suppose you love chocolate, (as you love your wife or girlfriend), the first time you tasted the first bite of chocolate you heart and soul melted, you would probably agree with the Mayan belief that cocoa beans are the Gods’ drink in heaven. Your craving is now satisfied. Supposing you decide to continue having more and more of it, your satisfaction will slowly begin to decrease. Your love for chocolate will probably be rating around a seven or so by now. But if you, the chocoholic, continue to eat more and more chocolate your love for chocolate will probably reach to a rating of three, and as you keep eating you will eventually reach the point where you might start getting sick and tired of Chocolate. Chocolate will now provide you dissatisfaction, rather than satisfaction. You have now reached the point of Dis-utility, congratulations.

The law of diminishing marginal benefit applies to almost everything we consume and we find pleasure in, including people. This does not justify, but rather explain infidelity; it explains the reason why after years of being married to the same person, someone else might begin to seem more sexually appealing. This also serves to understand the core fundament behind prostitution.

“I always wanted to help people but the only skills I could make use of is that with my body. So I use it to heal the hearts of men and women alike, allowing them to drown in pleasure and forget the world, which puts them down. Sure some will despise me, some will think I’m broken and try and take advantage of that, while other will try and offer me escape, but I don’t want to, I’m not broken, I do this because I enjoy it, and making the people I serve happy.”

– Prostitute for over 5 years.

Prostitutes, and openly sexually active women (like myself), are what in the late 19th and early 20th century in Paris were known to be a Demi-monde. The term implies to live a hedonistic lifestyle, and describes the behavior of a person who choses to openly act outside of the established societal bourgeois values. The modernist French painter Claude Manet’s “Olympia” (1863) excelled in representing a reformed and rather challenging version of the Italian Renaissance master’s “Venus of Urbino” (1742). Olympia was the name associated with prostitutes during 1860 Paris; and rather than seeming inviting and seductive towards the viewer. Olympia’s gaze is confrontational, and that of stoic indifference towards both the viewer’s judgment of her sexual labor and the arrival of the new client, suggested by the arriving bouquet, held by the African maid.

It is also noteworthy that her hand placed on top of her genitalia is often interpreted as the freedom to grant or deny access to clients, which could be attributed to the fact that Olympia might be a highly-payed courtesan of the time as indicated by the pearl-costly pendants she wears. Finally, though both are nudes, the “Venus of Urbino” and “Olympia” contrast in themes as indicated by the animals featured on each painting respectively. The “Venus of Urbino” was meant to represent the wife of the Duke of Urbino seductively waiting for her husband, her fidelity embodied in the dog sleeping by her side. “Olympia” on the other hand awaits anyone; she awaits no one, for what belongs to everyone belongs to no one. Her sexual freedom embodied in the cat awake and alert by her side. 

Prostitution has been mistakenly and often categorized as a slothful way of gaining wealth, as both the words “sloth” and (sexual) “Labor” are mutually exclusive of each other. In the world there is no such thing as equality of opportunity, there is only equality in potential, in potential of working. To some and many women in the world, prostitution serves as the best of all options before them, and will (in most cases) willingly choose to become prostitutes; Marginal Decision Making at it’s finest. The question with legalizing prostitution should in my regard, not be based from it’s morality perspective, but rather on whether it should be regulated to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, or epidemics as was the case in 19th century Paris and Syphilis. Simply put, as long as resources remain scarce and must then be allocated thorough pricing, as long as there is a demand for a determined product or service, there will always be someone willing to work and supply it; for it is a universal truth of life, that…

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground (…)”

– Genesis 3:19

PRIDE | Are we having “Trophy Sex”?

“A sex trophy should be functional, and shaped like a dildo, yet decorative.”

– Jarod Kintz.

        Before there was Redtube or PornHub, there were Des Beaux Arts. For centuries, men would commission art works showcasing their mistresses, or favorite prostitutes as their nude subjects, for it was thought that no woman with a gram of dignity in her body, would dare to expose herself. Such is the case of several master paintings made throughout the history of art. It hadn’t been until the emergence of the artistic movement Rococo during 18th century France, that patronesses of recognized societal status would commission themselves as the subjects of nudes, for they would be found dressed with the garments of aesthetic elements and mythological allusions, as we see with François Boucher’s “The Toilet of Venus” (1751), commissioned by the Marquise de Pompadour. Posing as the Goddess of beauty “Venus” seemed like a great excuse to be naked, right? Quite clever, if you ask my opinion.

        But as mentioned previously, before Rococo came around to save the day for married women throughout the world; men commissioned works featuring their collection of mistresses, (La collection des side-bitches) to be showcased to other fellow men in private collections. As is the case of the famous painting made by the Renaissance master “The Venus of Urbino.” (1538) commissioned by the Guidobaldo II della Rovere, the duke of Urbino. The Venus of Urbino was intended to represent his wife Giulia Varano (Le Main bitch), awaiting for her husband. But in fact, the model was Angela de Moro, a highly paid courtesan of the time. Rumor has it that Angela de Moro, was perhaps the Duke of Urbino’s favorite mistress (The main Side-bitch). Truth or false? Who knows?

        We are all familiar with the term of a Trophy Wife simply defined as: n. An attractive wife, serving as a status symbol for the husband. However, 21st century Hook up culture has made it possible to have a list of Trophy women; men’s collection of the victims conquered throughout their sexual life. This, interestingly enough, does not solely apply to men but to women as well. 21st century self-proclaimed feminist and independent young bachelorettes can often be found guilty of showcasing their collection of  Trophy men, “Boy Toys”,  finding themselves unconcerned with their happiness, goals, hopes or dreams. Yes. I’ll admit to it as well. Forgive me lord, for I have sinned.

        Modern day feminist women are quick to fight against female sexual objectification, but could it be that 21st century hook up culture has also slowly, but surely sexually objectified men? Dating apps like Tinder, have made it a trend for women of all ages to go out on Friday nights and compete over taking home the hottest guy at the club, only to give him a fake number the next morning.  Moreover, some women go as far as dating men for superficial qualities extending from physique, to job, societal status, College major, and when asking about their personality it probably goes as far as: “Oh my God, yeah he is super sweet! he bought me flowers. I think I’m going to marry him.” Key words: BOUGHT. ME. FLOWERS. Let that sink in. Simply put, her marriage criterion would have probably been met by anyone willing to do the same for her. So the question is: Does she actually love you, the person dwelling inside? or could it be possible that she is playing to be a real-life Barbie doll, and are you simply filling up the role of Ken, in her pink mental utopia? Finding yourself slowly and steadily becoming one of her collectable Kens, one of her potentially disposable, Trophy Men.

        Now that we have all confessed to the sin of Sexual Pride or Vainglory, here at the Sexual Confessionary, the question remains: Has commitment phobia in modern day society given birth to “Trophy Sex”? and if so, Does “Trophy Sex” emerge as a result of mutual gender sexual objectification? I believe that after a while of mastering the art of seduction and becoming a master-level sexual hunter; after having enough collectable Ken or Barbie heads hung on your wall, enough “Venuses of Urbino” hanging in your private collection (La collection des “Dick Pics” or “Nudes”), there comes a moment when the master hunter must turn the weaponry in, admit to his or her own humanity, recognize all wins and loses, wave goodbye, bow and retire from the game. For a real master of the game, knows when the time has come for his sun to set. A real master of the game understands it’s best to walk home waving good bye through the golden gates, than be kicked out through the back door. The former sexual hunter, now filled with the maturity empiric knowledge has granted him or her, will now begin his quest towards finding not “The Golden Pussy” or “The Divine Dick”, but for a person of bone and flesh with a mind and a soul, worthy of loving and capable of loving in return. The quest for love, begins with a change of attitude.

      According to Dante Alighieri’s “Struttura della Divina Commedia” the seventh deadliest sin is pride, vainglory, for it represents the abuse of our intellect, our rational ability; that which places us above the beasts and closer to the creator. The sexual hunter can find himself guilty of the sin of Pride, for he has employed psychological maneuvers and tricks to seduce and capture the objects of his desire. Pride is to deny everyone else’s humanity, and only acknowledging our own. Redemption from Pride can only be brought by the Seventh Heavenliest Virtue of all: Humility, for it recognizes everyone’s humanity.

      Love is often compared by many contemporaries with baseball. A baseball player can win “The Home Run Derby” by scoring 10 or 20 home runs, and possibly be chosen to play in the All-Star Games; but as it is true for both baseball and love, only passion for the game (Love) and acknowledgment of other individuals, of other players, as part of one whole humanity, of one team, can grant you a taste of the glory that comes with winning a World Series Championship. If you are guilty, as I myself am, of the sin of Sexual Pride, remind yourself that it is never too late for redemption, for life is filled with second chances. If you’re humble enough to love someone else’s humane perfections and imperfections, as they have chosen to love yours, in the game of love my friend, you might have just earned yourself your very own and well deserved World Series Championship ring, with a carving celebrating the “Greatest Comeback in Baseball (in The Game of Love’s) History.”

GREED | The Game of Love: Selfish or Selfless?

“I love you, Dominique. As selfishly as the fact that I exist. As selfishly as my lungs breathe air. I breathe for my own necessity, for the fuel of my body, for my survival. I’ve given you, not my sacrifice or my pity, but my ego and my naked need. This is the only way I can want you to love me.”

Ayn Rand. The Fountain Head.

          Love, in my regard, is a game whose comparison is most closely related to a “House of mirrors”, where you will attempt to find in others the reflection of yourself, of your values and virtues. In short, you will strive to find the reflection of yourself that appeals to you the most. I argue that we can find traces of our personalities identified with every individual that we encounter, since human nature is one, and one alone. However, as the objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand argues, men are born with free will. Altruistic love, selfless love, is based on the idea that we must love everyone in our surrounding, and that in the name of such love, one must sacrifice, one must work and suffer to satisfy the pleasures and whims of the person subject of your love. I disagree.

“To say ‘I love you’, one must learn to say ‘I’ first.”.

-Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged.

          I can only speak for myself, as I am the person I know the best. Call me a narcissist, for having a high regard of myself, but I believe that a man should be, and is by nature, entitled to self-esteem. In fact, it is true that human beings are lonely beings. So, question: How do we find companionship amongst an existentially lonely humankind? I argue that it should be done selfishly. Ayn rand suggests, Love should be handled as a business deal, in which the currency are a human being’s values. It is only after spending time analyzing ourselves, and raising awareness of our own values and virtues, that we can then discriminate from humankind those individuals whose value system, mirror our own. I, for example, could never love an altruist. In fact, I tried, but I couldn’t find myself identified with the individual. Phrases such as “You are my happiness”, or “Baby, I just want to please and serve you.” do not mirror my value system, for I am individualistic, not altruistic.

In the painting “The swing” made by the Rococo french painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1767) clearly see two men competing for the attention of the woman on the swing. I would argue that the man swinging the woman is an altruist while the man on the floor is individualistic, for he chooses to flirt with the woman disregarding the efforts of the other man to seduce her. The woman on the other hand is also individualistic, for she does not mind receiving the benefit of the company and the efforts (the swinging) of the altruist man, while seducing and gaining the attention of the man of her choosing; a selfish, individualistic man: A man of self-esteem.

“To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self-esteem, is capable of love—because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed values. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.”

– Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged.

          I do not believe in altruistic love; Simply because, I take selfish pleasure in loving, and caring for the person of my choosing. Compared to a child and his favorite toy. In respects to love, however, I believe that our only mutual benefit from the other person we choose to love, should only be their companion. “I’ve given you, not my sacrifice or my pity, but my ego and my naked need.” The person of your choosing should not be neither “your savior” or “your charity project” nor “Your only door towards happiness”; as it implies that you are yet to develop self-actualization, and self awareness of your own values.

 “It is an act that forces them to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body, and accept their real ego as their standard of value. They will always be attracted to the person who reflects their deepest vision of themselves, the person whose surrender permits them to experience a sense of self-esteem. Love is our response to our highest values – and can be nothing else.”

-Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged.

           For one, they should be that one individual whose possession grants you a sense of self-esteem, a sense of achievement, a well-earned price. And lastly, the person of your choosing should be that one individual to whom you have willingly exposed your fears, your failures; in short, your soul. These two individuals, will then find themselves in complete and utter intimacy, for when sexuality comes about, they will lay in a both physical and metaphysical nakedness.

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

– Genesis 2:25

As Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they will not hold shame in their physical nakedness, for they are mirrors, reflections of each other’s metaphysical reality, of each other’s virtues, of each other’s souls. For your own heart’s protection, for your own well being, and to guarantee your success in the game of love, in the “house of mirrors”, being selfish, individualistic, in short, being greedy is a must.

GLUTTONY | The Forbidden Fruit’s price tag.

“But I’m a selfish man. I’ve wanted you since you fell into my office. You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty; beguilingly innocent… the list is endless. I’m in awe of you. I want you, and the thought of anyone else having you is like a knife twisting in my dark soul.”
– E.L. James, “Fifty Shades Darker” Trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey”

            Throughout history, the arts have served as a mirror of the human characteristics that are praised in a given society. Even though these valued characteristics change constantly throughout the ages, there are values or morality standards that remain the same. This is attributed to the fact that despite socio-historic and cultural differences, human nature shows itself to be almost immutable. For example, Ancient Greece was a patriarchal society, where men in literature were portrayed as heroes engaging in quests, and finding along the way temptations that would distract them from their main goal; which usually included women whose offerings, pleasures and rewards they must refuse. Talk about “Le Femme Fatale”, right? In today’s literature, gender roles haven’t changed much, but the trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” written by E.L. James suggests differently.

            As its also the case in Homer’s “The Odyssey”, both Calypso and Christian Grey are pictured as the Forbidden Fruit that must always remain to be unattainable to the Hero. Calypso, in Greek Mythology is a sea nymph condemned to live in solitude in the Island of Ogygia, and once there, she is cursed to fall in love with sailors arriving to her shores. Despite her beauty and charms, she would find herself in solitude, as her overwhelming, and selfish love would drive them away from their heroic goal. On the other hand, in “Fifty shades of Grey”, the successful, young billionaire and bachelor, Christian Grey, troubled by the demons of his past, would find himself proposing to women a life of luxury and adventure in the exchange of bearing with his overwhelming, controlling and abusive manifestations of love. Both Calypso and Christian Grey, fall under the “Not everything that shines is gold” theme.

            Calypso is a beautiful nymph, who has the power to turn anyone of her choosing immortal and he would in return live in her island full of pleasures and commodities forever. She would seduce sailors, and they would stay for a short period of time; but as her curse promises, she would fall in love and offer them the option to be immortal by her side forever, or leave and never return. The sailor would eventually leave and she would be lonesome in her island. Calypso’s loving, though charming and promising of a life full of pleasures, is depicted as toxic for the hero, since it was selfish and controlling; keeping the hero from his ultimate goal, reaching Ithaca. As Homer would describe Calypso:

“Her ladyship Calypso
clung to him in her sea-hollowed caves –
a nymph, immortal and most beautiful,
who craved him for her own.”

– (Homer, Odyssey, Book One, lines 14 ff.)

            On the other hand, Christian Grey a handsome Seattle, billionaire bachelor, CEO at Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. slowly seduces innocent and virginal literature major Anastasia Steele into his secluded and secret world of BDSM (“Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism and masochism”). Grey would promise Anastasia a world where luxuries and pleasures are at her disposition, at the expense of taking part in his sadistic sexual pleasures. Christian would offer Anastasia a contract with the Terms and Conditions of their relationship, (as Calypso does with Odysseus) where she would either decide to comply and stay with him forever, or leave and never return. In book one, like Calypso’s story, though Christian’s love for Anastasia would be passionate and real, his abusive and often obsessive arrogant manifestations of love eventually drove her away, leaving him in his perpetual loneliness. E.L. James represents Christian’s narcissistic and somewhat misogynistic arrogance in the following fashion:

“Ana asks:  ‘why would I want to do this? 

Christian responds: ‘To please me’.
‘What would I get out of it?’

Christian responds: ‘Me’ ”

– E.L. James, trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” vol. 1

            Unlike in the Odyssey, the protagonist of Fifty Shades of Grey is not the hero, but rather the obstacle of the hero, Anastasia, towards her self-actualization into womanhood. Christian Grey was presented as the character contrasting with her innocence, as Calypso’s hedonistic personality contrasted to the practical personality of Odysseus. It is also noteworthy the gender differences between the authors and the repercussions it has on gender representation. In Homer’s “Odyssey” women such as Circe, Calypso and the sirens used their womanly charms to keep Odysseus from reaching Ithaca. In E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” Christian uses his seductive manly appeals to seduce Ana into his world of sexual sadism, succeeding and preventing Ana to discover her sexuality under traditional parameters. Homer shows a male hero corrupted by the treachery and seduction of women, E.L. James shows a female innocent hero corrupted by the treachery of a seductive, successful and possessive man; a rather contemporary portrayal of 21st Century women reality. So, “Femme Fatale” or “Homme Fatale”?

A comparison as such calls for a reflection on how heroes are viewed in modern society. In Ancient Mythology, in general, the hero would be that who followed the parameters and duties established by his society. In modern day literature, a heroine is that female character that challenges the predisposed role which she is forced to assume. Anastasia was mistakenly assumed by society, that it is typical of women to embrace and use her inner sensuality to capture successful man like Christian Grey’s attention having as sole goal, his life of luxuries: The forbidden fruit. However it is through her natural rejection of such embodiment that Grey is the one in need to seduce her. Despite this rejection of female sexual representation, Anastasia also has flaws as Odysseus does. Meaning that they are not idealized heroes but rather, realistic heroes. Just as Odysseus is shown to be unfaithful to his wife Penelope, Anastasia is shown to be submissive to Grey, not just physically but mentally, as she feels it’s her duty to cure a psychologically troubled man through BDSM.

Another important critic, E.L. James makes towards modern society, is through Grey’s inability to show affection through anything else other than sexual encounters, reflected perhaps on our society’s recent “Hook-Up” culture. Essentially, the underlying moral of Christian Grey and Calypso’s story is how deceiving appearances are. Superficially Christian and Calypso would be the partner anyone would dream to have, they would appear to be the shortcut to a life filled with happiness and joy, “The hen of the golden eggs”, the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. But both E.L James and Homer stress the idea that a life of commodities, excesses: Gluttony, will not come free, as the price to pay may be higher than expected.

In both stories, these characters embody the Snake in the garden of Eden, the treachery behind psychological manipulation, at the expense of the Hero’s emotional and sexual company. It is up to our discretion and our judgement to discriminate healthy relationships from unhealthy relationships. Healthy relationships, associated with mutual voluntary ownership of the two parties, as opposed to unhealthy relationships, involving the possession of one individual by another. Nevertheless, the title of the series “Fifty Shades of Grey” reveals an even deeper truth about these two characters, and about human nature as a whole: that there is no such thing as “Black or White” people. We are all a scale of “Shades of Grey”.

LUST | The Dilemma: ‘To sex’ or ‘Not to sex’.

Crimina Carnis Contra Naturam

“But, in fact, a person’s sexual choice is the result and sum of their fundamental convictions. No matter what corruption they’re taught about the virtue of selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts, an act which they cannot perform for any motive but their own enjoyment. An act that is only possible for the confidence of being desired and being worthy of desire. It is an act that forces them to stand naked in spirit, as well as in body. They will always be attracted to the person who reflects their deepest vision of themselves, the person whose surrender permits them to experience a sense of self-esteem. Love, is then, our response to our highest values and can be nothing else.”
(Atlas Shrugged, Rand. 453-455)

        Sex, a concept whose definition mirrors an individual’s values and perception of human nature, unquestionably presents immense difficulty when attempting to define or entrap it in standard measurements.  However, there are functions and attributions to sex that remain constant to every individual. The father of modern-day economics, Adam Smith proposed his “Invisible hand principle” stating that human beings always act on their self-interest. Based on this premise, I argue that sex is not an act of selflessness unison, but rather it’s complete opposite. Sex, understood as nothing more than the appetite for enjoying another individual. The same way we have an appetite for food and water, we also have an appetite for human beings, also known as sexual appetite. The question then arises: Is there a way of satisfying our sexual appetite without trespassing the bounds of morality or when satisfying these, are we condemned to always incur in Immanuel Kant’s Crimina Carnis contra Naturam, Crimes of the flesh against our human nature?

Morality, defined as “the degree to which something is right and good.” Is in other words, the moral goodness or badness of something, and it plays a vital function in everyday human activities. Because no man is an island, men are born with the innate condition of being societal beings, and this implies that there are rules and parameters that a given society or community establishes to guarantee its self preservation; these including the sublimation of satisfying human desires, including sexual appetites. Sexual appetite, or Lust, is considered by western religion to be one of the 7 capital sins, the reason for this being that sexual appetite reduces a human being, with all of it’s intellect, greatness and potential; to be nothing more than a mere object of desire. Someone who has merely sexual inclination for another is unconcerned with their happiness and will even be willing to plunge them in great depths of misery, simply to satisfy their own self-esteem and appetite.

As the enlightenment philosophe Immanuel Kant proposed in his Lecture on Ethics: of the duties to the body in regard to the sexual impulse, in this type of interaction, a person who is the object of someone else’s appetite is exposed to the risk that once this is appetite fulfilled, the individual is casted away as one casts away a lemon that has been sucked dry. In this sense, both individuals have “partial” rights to each other, for by not acknowledging the humanity of the other party, and reducing each other to be objects of indulgence; they have rights to nothing more than the sexual organs of the other; it is impossible for a person to be both the proprietor and the property, he is either or, not both. As Kant proposes, a man’s desire for a woman is not directed towards her because she is a human being, but solely because she is a woman. Her humanity is of no concern to him, for it is her sex the sole object of his desire. In this logic, these individuals incur in the lowest of human interactions for they do not interrelate as human beings but as things, and can thereby be used as such by anyone else.

In this way, humanity is sacrificed to sexual appetite. It is to dishonor someone else’s human nature, by making the other’s humanity an instrument of their lust, placing them at the level of animal nature. The Enlightenment philosophes praise reason as the sole element that distinguishes and separates men from the beasts and satisfying the desires of the flesh, incurring in Crimina Carnis Contra Naturam, at the expense of someone else’s humanity degrades human kind to a state of equality to the beasts, for it represents our inability to rationalize through our natural impulses. 

Nevertheless, sexual appetite is after all a subject of human nature. However, there is a way in which a human being can enjoy another one within the boundaries of what is considered moral. It is possible to use someone as an instrument of one’s service, to use someone’s intellect, sex, powers and body and yet not incur in immoral interactions. Just like in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract, in which the citizen has the duty and responsibility to obey the government and this must in exchange serve and protect the citizen; One can have full ownership of the whole person, by granting that person the same rights over the whole of oneself. This is obtained when someone dedicates himself or herself to the other, dedicating not only their sex, but also their whole person. As proposed by Kant, in this type of interaction the two individuals become inseparable, for their joys and misfortunes, victories and failures are shared mutually. In a utilitarian view, by handing over the rights of one’s whole self to the other and in return obtaining the full rights to them, one gains oneself back again; for I now have identical rights to the person to whom I have given myself as property, and these individuals are now part of a unity of will. One doesn’t just have partial rights to their sex, but to the entirety of their being: their power, abilities, intellect and their humanity are now all found at your disposition, at expense of yours. In this case, sex, argued as the appetite for enjoying another human being, becomes a moral interaction if and only if, one doesn’t simply enjoy another individual’s sex, but everything else that compiles them. 

Another question arises: what happens when one of the parties grants full rights to the other person, but this one in return only grants partial rights to themselves? Is this a moral or immoral interaction? For starters, one of the parties is acknowledging the humanity of the other and as a way to request rights of the person subject of their love, the person offers rights over himself or herself, and based on what we have discussed, this is within moral boundaries. However on the other hand; the other person has no intention of granting rights over himself or herself, but yet demanding rights of the other individual and utilizing their abilities to their service, and yet manage to not place themselves at the other’s disposition. This then becomes an unequal interaction and is then considered to be immoral.

In the painting “Leda and the Swan” (1741) The rococo painter François Boucher succeeded in portraying a rather graphical depiction of the greek mythological story of Leda, wife of the king of Sparta Tyndareus, being seduced and later having sex with the god Jupiter shaped as a swan. This story for one becomes a true representation of the capital sin of Lust, by incurring in both adultery and zoophilia (cross-species sexual activity, or sexual orientation, between human and non-human animals) Crimina carnis contra naturam, immorality, bestiality in its highest expression.

Just as previously discussed, one of the parties is reducing one of the individuals to nothing but a mere instrument of their service and desires. As proposed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract, when either the citizen or the state incur in a breach of contract, it grants the state the right to punish the citizen, or the citizen is granted with the right to rebel against the regime. Likewise, in this type of interaction, when one of the parties fails to meet the terms on their end, a breach of contract has been incurred and the other party, king Tyndareus, can then choose to remove all rights granted to the other individual, to Leda, and hence terminate all interactions.

However, there is an aspect of human relationships that must not be overlooked. Nature does not grant humans equality in intelligence, strength or beauty, and this also including the capacity to altruistically care for another individual. In other words, humans do not care or love others in the same measure, for every person is a universe of their own. For this reason, it is inevitable that in human relationships one party will demonstrate love and compromise with a greater measure than the other. This type of love is further discussed in Viviana Baldo’s literary recreation and analysis of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book “The little prince” In a dialogue between two characters, the little prince and the rose:

“ (…) And thus, love will never be a cause of suffering. When we love we give without asking anything in return, just for the pure pleasure of giving. To love is to trust that no matter what happens you will be there, not because you owe me anything, not with selfish possession, but to be there, in silent companionship. To love is to give you a place in my heart for you to stay as a father, mother, brother, son, a friend and have certainty that in yours there is a place for me. Giving love does not deplete love; on the contrary, it increases it. The only way to repay such love is to open your heart and let yourself be loved.”

         Human relationships tend to be seemingly unequal. In this case, the truly honest and only moral manner to be reciprocal to someone willing to demonstrate love in great measure is to allow oneself to be loved. This type of interaction finds itself within moral boundaries as both parties recognize each other’s humanity and assign each other’s value beyond their sexuality, and thereby these two individuals find themselves in mutual ownership.

Though sexual appetite will always remain to be part of our nature. People limit themselves when speaking of these vices, for a reason: because it creates a sense of familiarity, tolerance for them, and perhaps even suggesting the individual engages in them. We must then hold shame towards our human nature to a certain degree, rather than fully embracing it. We must study and understand our human nature, so it may be then tamed under reason, mutual respect, and empathy for others; this way we will prevent ourselves from incurring in any Crimina Carnis Contra Naturam. It is only through the sublimation of our animalistic desires that one day we can make ourselves human beings worthy of having someone become ours, to have someone not simply grant us the right to penetrate their sex but to enter their spirit; and if in our regard, the person worthy of our companionship, in exchange, we will willingly allow them to enter our lives, minds and spirits and inevitably, become theirs as well.

WRATH | Female Misandry.

“Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”

– John Steinbeck.

        It seems as though it was a whole lifetime ago, that there was a time when I was madly in love with my Barbie Dolls. I remember a time when I couldn’t wait until christmas morning so I could open my eyes, rush through the stairs, and unwrap as many presents as fast as I could, all while being surrounded by the people I love the most: My Family. My infatuation with barbie and her pink utopia diminished several divorces later. I began to despise Barbie, her perfect life and even, every girl that reminded me of Barbie. For unknowingly, as a child I had associated and compared my own happiness, and life to that of Barbie’s ideal and perfect world. In my young and naïve eyes, looking physically different from Barbie was an immediate “No-Entry” into Mattel’s pink Garden of Eden. As we all mature, gain self-confidence and acceptant of human differences, Barbie, ken and her pink castle, were forever stored in the attic of my past, rotting along with floppy disks and other obsolete objects. Only to haunt us all again.

     The Barbie Phenomenon has caused across the globe the societal impact of empowering and motivating women into pursuing whichever field or profession women dreamt of. It seemed as though Mattel had eradicated the 19th Century’s misogynistic idea of “Femme Fatale”, with Barbie. The question is: “At what cost?” During the 20th Century,  a difficult time period marked by constant wars, and the psychological trauma men endured after witnessing the horrors of the war, women had to become resilient and strong, like the soldiers in battlefields, by working and holding entire households on their shoulders, as we see in J. Howard Miller’s famous poster “We Can Do It!” (1943) Barbie without a doubt, succeeds in embodying the working women of the 20th century.

        Now, in the 21st century, a new question emerges: Has barbie evolved with  the needs of our time? Is Barbie still modern? Is Barbie still “Avant-Garde”? I argue that in a way Barbie, the owner of the Volkswagen, the pets, and everything around her; sold to young girls the idea that men (Ken) could also come as a promotion once you saved enough lunch money to buy “Barbie’s Mansion”-  batteries not included, condoms sold separately – the invisible tag 21st century bachelorettes see stamped on men’s foreheads: Men, viewed as real life Kens, or most commonly called: “Boy toys.” The artist Dina Goldstein, shows in her In the Dollhouse Series, The perfect relationship of Barbie and Ken being brought down as Ken begins to reject the role Barbie has set for him: The role of being “Her Bitch”. It seems as though, the longer women linger unto the, what I like to call the “Barbie utopia”, the more women inadvertently begin to simulate being real life barbie dolls, and viewing their partners as male dress up dolls and or “trophy husbands.”I would argue that in today’s world, a large majority of girls can be found guilty of emasculating men, through their misguided fight for equality in feminism. In other words, feminism’s problem in 21st century should be targeted towards preventing women from psychologically castrating men.

        Philandry, the opposite of misandry (the hatred for men) is defined as: “the fraternal love and admiration for men”. It was during college, that I noticed how on our weekly wine down sunday nights my best friends and I would find ourselves starting a conversation revolving around the thought of “Ugh, I hate men, they are so stupid”, we would tell stories and have a good laugh but slowly, as the evening progressed, those initial thoughts suddenly transform themselves into “Man, sometimes I stop and wonder why God didn’t make me a man?” Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand, speaks on Feminity’s essence being “Hero worship”, an intense type of admiration which can only be experienced by a woman of strong character and independent value-judgments.

“…And the anger began to Ferment.”

-John Steinbeck. Grapes of wrath.

Only a “clinging vine” type of woman would consider admiration towards a hard working man a synonym of inferiority, of dependence, and obedience; this will lead to her becoming not a love or admirer, but rather the opposite: A misandrist, an exploiter of men. The feminist movement would be advised to practice mindfulness when defending women against misogyny, for a new problem may emerge, women taking justice by their own hand, (As we see represented in the Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi “Judith Decapitant Holopherne” 1614-1620) led by anger and incurring into one of the three deadliest sins: Wrath.

ENVY | Female Misogyny.

“Misogynist: A man that hates women, as much as women hate one another.”
Henry Louis Mencken. American Journalist

       “She’s such a bitch, she changes boyfriends like she changes underwear.”, “What red dye is that, “Red Whore”?, “Girl, What’s your major? ‘Hoe-ology’?” Do any of those sound familiar, or can you at least relate one of those? It seems as though being a feminist is the new requirement to be accepted in the contemporary female society. The first question I ask any newly self proclaimed-feminist member is “What does feminism stand for?” the answer I hear is: “Equality.” It then raises the question: “Why aren’t men and women equal?” The second answer I hear, has something to do with “Equality of Opportunity.” Well, Question: Are dogs and cats equal? Are stallions and butterflies the same? How about sharks and lions? Can they do the same things? Did nature endow each one of them with the same abilities as the other? Can dogs fall from incredible heights and walk perfectly fine as if nothing happened like cats can? Probably not. If you were to judge how superior is the stallion to the butterfly in it’s ability to fly, what would your ultimate verdict be? Likewise, If you judged the superiority of the butterfly over the stallions’s ability to pull heavy carriages, what would your final verdict be? What does this teach us about nature and the world, in general, for that matter? That there is no such thing as “Equality of opportunity”, as nature does not grant equal beauty, intelligence, nor strength to living organisms. If this is true for nature, and arguing that human beings are part of nature, why would men and women be an exception?

      The idea of Le Femme Fatale, was born in Paris during the 19th century amongst philosophers and artists, and based on the unjustified belief of Eve’s ( and women in general) responsibility on the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden. It was then argued that women were nothing mere seductresses that distracted men from their daily duties and responsibilities. We must remember that during this time women were barely educated and high employment positions were almost strictly reserved for men. Women dedicated themselves mostly to prostitution, housewives, entertainment, or in restaurants as waitresses or bartenders, as we see in  Edgar Degas’ “A bar at the folies-Bergere” (1882) or Claude Manet’s “Olympia” (1863) . Two hundred years later, in the 21st century, I argue that despite the significant improvements in employment opportunities, and that despite that women have even acquired positions of presidency as Angela Merkel has in Germany, Le femme are still Fatale.

     The question is: “‘Fatale’, fatal, to who?” I would argue that in the 21st century, women have become distractions to themselves and competitors amongst each other, not for employment or in academia, but for men’s attention. In other words, women have become “Fatale” to themselves, the capital sin of Envy at it’s finest. I once had the privilege and honor to speak to Dr. Germaine Greer, leading feminist figure of the 20th century and author of The Female Eunuch, at the Hay Festival 2010 and asked her on her thoughts on The Barbie Phenomena to which she brilliantly responded, “Barbie is more about racism than it is about sexism. But Sexism, on the other hand, has less to do with what men think of women, and more of what women think of themselves.” To any woman, or young college girl, with the intention of defending her rights of equality before the world, my best advice in where to begin, would be to change and help yourself first, before attempting to change the world. Instead of belittling, empower other women. Instead of hiding and taking shame in your sexuality, proudly embrace it. As I responded one morning to some nosey, rude girl neighbor as I was proudly strutting through the parking lot during what I love to call My Shameless Walk-Of-Shame –  “There’s no shame in the game. Don’t hate the player, Girl. Hate the game.”