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.

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.”

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.