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.”

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”.

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.