Book Reviews, Love, Sociocultural Phenomena

Lean Sex versus Garden of Earthly Delights

Volkmar Sigusch (1940 – 2023), Neosexualities: Cultural Change in Love and Perversion

Part II

Let’s check what Volkmar Sigusch says about “The structural change of sexuality in recent decades”: «Bodily needs are satisfied nowadays without measure or art, and generally at a low level of rituality and reflexivity. Merely tranquilized, greed and curiosity remain present and can be rekindled without fuss at any time. And that is precisely what counts in our experimental, economically oriented exchange and knowledge society. The mechanism of selfish and short-term gratification appears to be the secret behind the durability of this social formation. The seemingly completed sexual form is incessantly fragmented in order to ascribe new desires and meanings to it, to implant new needs and knowabilities, to market off new practices and services.»[1]

Examining the sexual revolution

Our author very clearly pinpoints the sexual revolution, now a good 50 years old, and its effects on our society: «Particularly incisive was the cultural resexualization of woman as a genus. After the scientific sui generis denial to be a sexual being at all until well into the 1930s, she was now obliged to orgasm. In addition, the male body was put into service in terms of an aesthetic commodity. Let us recall the enormous psychologization of the heterosexual couple, with the partners locked up inside the «box» of their relationship, being supposed to constantly explore themselves and report on their condition, until both, exhausted, would withdraw into themselves again.»

«At that time, sexuality was endowed with so much power, some people were convinced that by unleashing it they could overthrow the entire society, as Wilhelm Reich had already promised in 1936. Others glorified sexuality as being the designated road to happiness par excellence. In general, sexuality was supposed to be practiced as early, as often, as diversely, and as intensely as possible. Generativity, monogamy, fidelity, virginity, and asceticism counted as the epitome and outflow of the repression to be opposed. The propagandists would not admit that this «liberation» was accompanied by considerable external and self-constraints, new problems and old fears. There is no question of that anymore today.»

«Neosexualities»

«The new self-practices, such as bisexuality, transgenderism, sadomasochism, or fetishism, are typical neosexualities, where libidinal sexuality in the old sense is no longer in the foreground. They are sexual and nonsexual at the same time, because self-esteem, satisfaction, and homeostasis are drawn not only from the mystification of the libido and the phantasm of orgasmic fusion from sexual intercourse, but equally or even more so from the thrill that comes with nonsexual self-exposure and narcissistic self-invention. …

This becomes empirically tangible at love parades and rave parties. The neosexuals advertise themselves there as seductive sexual subjects and lascivious sexual objects, generally, however, avoid actual physical, sexual encounters of the old kind. An altruistic community is evoked, but at the same time everyone stands apart from the community through outfit and behavior, each member is narcissistically and egotistically closest to themselves. Everyone is edgy and non-conformist, and precisely thereby integrated and aligned. … With all going smooth and spotless on weekdays, the weekends are given to designer drugs that dissociate body and soul and allow out-of-the-body experiences in order to let the beast of techno run wild through Berlin’s Tiergarten by the millions in a sight that reminds us only from afar of the promises and risks of the Garden of Earthly Delights

The burden of compulsive diversity

Sigusch also draws attention to the more negative aspects inherent to the compulsive unconventionality and compulsive diversity: «There is a new extent and intensity to the burden of having to manage intimate experiences and relationships in a self-determined and responsible way without the straightjacket of the powerful moral authorities of old.»

In this context, he mentions the new «morality of negotiation or interaction», through which sexual acts are negotiated by consensus in detail and in advance: «If this morality prevailed, it would be a next stage in the historical path of rationalizing sexuality and a remarkable victory of collective sexual inhibition, in a word, of social impotence. It would be the victory of egotism in the form of sexual democracy. … It’s as if people are sexually active, while they avoid everything suggestive of sexuality: Spontaneity and rulelessness, devotion and ecstasy, risk and subjectivity. If the content of sexual activity is replaced by its mere occurrence, it is no longer important what is done, but purely that it is carried out. Sexuality congeals into an entity and is mystified. … The revolutionary Eros of the Fordist era has turned into lean sexuality, which sides with post-Fordist lean production».

«Love can be neither produced nor bought. In a world of production and selling, precisely this makes it fantastic.»

Love has obviously become one of the last retreats for anarchic subversion!


[1] Volkmar Sigusch, Neosexualitäten. Über den kulturellen Wandel von Liebe und Perversion, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt a. M., 2005

  1. i could agree with you more:
    ‘Love has obviously become one of the last retreats for anarchic subversion!’

    much love for the newest year℗

  2. Sehr inspirierend. Liebe ist nicht käuflich, Sex schon. Insofern ist Liebe antikapitalistisch und somit subversiv. Sehr plausibel.
    Sex und Liebe haben schon deshalb nicht viel miteinander zu schaffen. Man hat ja mal versucht, sie durch eine Institution, die Ehe, miteinander zu verbinden.
    Der letzte Versuch in diese Richtung waren wohl tatsächlich die “Love Parades”, bei denen es sicher nicht um Love ging, sondern um Sex, der, beliebig verfügbar, ganz kapitalistisch betrachtet zu einer billigen Massenware wurde. Aber es war, wie Du richtig schreibst, kein Sex, der noch viel mit Libido zu tun hatte, sondern er war eher eine Mode.
    Die Liebe blieb von sexueller Befreiung unberührt. Aber was ist die Liebe?

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