DANIEL PINCHBECK

Reflection

The Future of Love

I don’t believe that the system of conscripted monogamy as it exists now will be part of our future condition - some people will naturally choose it or gravitate toward it, but it will not be imposed on us or accepted as the norm. There won’t be any stigma to it, of course, and some people will be so constructed that it is deeply satisfying and good for them – or for many of us to explore during long periods of our lives. In general, when you look at the origin of human sexuality, it seems in all likelihood it was communal, much like we find with the bonobos. This point is explored in great depth in the book Sex at Dawn, which looks at the various ways we are anatomically as well as behaviorally related to the free-loving cooperative bonobo rather than the competitive alpha-dominated chimp.

Sex at Dawn offers many fascinating theories, well backed up by evidence from anthropologists, biologists, primatologists, etc. It suggests, for instance, that the original reason that women make much louder cries during intercourse than men was that these cries would attract other males, who would then have sex with the female in succession. This would allow for a “sperm competition” to occur in the uterus. The male capable of producing an orgasm in the female would be the most likely to succeed in reproduction, as the contractions help pull the sperm toward the egg. Since nobody in such a communal situation would be certain of paternity, this would mean that “Alpha Male” dominance would not arise, as it did in chimp society. Communal sexual experiences were part of the initiatory rites for Australian Aboriginals, women and men, during early adolescence, probably designed to break any tendency toward possessiveness that would threaten the cohesion of the tribe.

When we look at our world today, we can ask ourselves how well monogamy is working for us. I hardly think I know one man who is in a long term or committed relationship who doesn’t deeply desire other sexual experience - and in many cases finds furtive ways to satisfy those yearnings if they have the resources to do so, or suppresses them regretfully, if they do not. I think the construction of the monogamous pair-bond as the central, and still largely proscribed, form of erotic relationship is an outgrowth of particular social forms, private property, etc. It supports the patriarchal state, the culture of repression, the imposition of a model of scarcity, and so on. I know many indigenous cultures are monogamous - but these cultures are also products of particular historical and social processes. I know ancient Taoist traditions promote monogamy, but we are not ancient Taoists: we are living in a new and different situation, on a transformed earth.

I believe that part of the dharma of the West is to liberate love and sexuality from the baggage of the past. We saw the first phase of this during the “Sexual Revolution” of the 60s, which was incomplete. The whole idea of a love bond that is founded on suppressing another person’s innate desire or natural curiosity is immature and also creates frustrations that then lead to dissipation and a quest for distractions from the primal satiation not truly met. It therefore leads to a lack of presence and joy, to excess of cynicism and jadedness and disappointment, which also means that the individual doesn’t feel as connected to the vital current of life and the potential for an awesome future that all humans can share, and therefore doesn’t feel called upon to fight for the future of our world with all of their heart and their might.

I believe that love would, instead, be based on wanting your companion, partner, beloved, friend to have all of the desires and pleasures they have ever imagined or conceived of satisfied to the Nth degree. As in the Buddhist parable about heaven, sharing, as a model, would become complete, and the whole idea of exclusive possession consigned to the trash heap, like nationalism, patriotism, the Federal Reserve, religious Fundamentalism, etc. As the comedian Bill Hicks noted, the only choice we have is between love and fear: I think that truth needs to be rigorously applied. Obviously this doesn’t mean acting stupidly or in an unhygienic or dangerous manner, but exactly the opposite. It means that intimacy as well as sex should be brought up to the full light of consciousness and articulated between human souls, not explored in semi-comatose states of alcoholic inebriation, self-willed obliviousness, etc.

There are some human cultures where jealousy does not exist, where women have the right to choose whom they make love with at any time - one of these older, indigenous cultures still exists in China, and is described in Sex at Dawn. If some cultures have reached this state, then it is a state available to us now. In our culture, due to our alienated form of social structure and the artificial scarcity imposed on most people by the economic system, child rearing and the nuclear family structure are linked. In tribal cultures, children are raised more communally, thus putting less stress on the need for a monogamous relationship. The critic Slavoj Zizek has done an excellent job revealing how reinforcing the mythic structure of the monogamous couple / nuclear family unit remains the meta-myth of Hollywood films, which are tools for conditioning us into certain ideals and expectations. We have all been indoctrinated by this repetitive mass media, which works subliminally as well as consciously, suppressing our innate vitality.

What we saw over the last five decades was the capturing of humanity’s natural vitalizing impulses – and their truly liberational potential - by the corporate marketing machinery. The break out of the sexual constraints of the 1950s into the MTV Spring Break licentiousness of today, as grotesque as it is, still needs to be seen as a phase in a process of social and consciousness evolution – it is certainly not the completion of the process that needs to take place. As my friend Morgan Brent puts it, the corporate complex of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” is a control system. Our innate vitalizing impulses are contorted by this programming in cynicism and degradation. Instead of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” the evolutionary jump would be from “sex” to Tantric eroticism – the permeation of our desiring beings with the full light of consciousness, and the utilization of sex as a sacred gift for bringing about a transmutation and illumination of our awareness – and from “drugs” to plant teachers taken ceremonially and communally (the “Second Reformation” where the visionary experience described in religious texts becomes directly available to the individual, graduating from exoteric to esoteric devotion) – and from “rock and roll” to new forms of collective gathering where awareness and heart-to-heart communion is cultivated, instead of repetitive loud music pounded out from a stage that keeps people from connecting or speaking their truth to each other. (Not to say I don’t love rock and roll, because I do.)

Is it going to be easy to transition to a human, truly humane world where love is liberated, sexuality is no longer repressed, where sharing has become the basis for the new social compact? It may be easier than we can bring ourselves to imagine. But first, in order to conceivably bring it about, we have to imagine it - we have to yearn for it and be willing to fight for it, in our daily lives, in our social worlds. We also have to stop acting as prison wardens for each other, so fearful of anybody challenging or overturning accepted ideas or orthodoxies that we rush to mock or attack them as soon as they do so. People tend to fear the judgment of their peers more than almost anything: Even in some of the comments to my posts, I read a desire to shame or censure me that, to me, reflects and reveals the conventional programming that doesn’t allow people to speak or think freely. That is another fear we need to overcome, at this beautiful and difficult juncture.

portrait of me by my friend Fabrizio.

portrait of me by my friend Fabrizio.