«A mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. ‹I will be yours,› she told him, ‹when you have spent a hundred nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden, beneath my window.› But on the ninety-ninth night, the mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away.»
«I was wearing a black tank suit with a V-neck cut down to my navel, and everyone kept staring at me: the women in disapproval and the men in lechery. I could feel Adrian’s semen slimy between my legs and leaking out into the chlorinated pool. An American donating English semen to the Germans. A sort of cockeyed Marshall Plan. Let his semen bless their water and baptize them. Let it cleanse them of their sins. Adrian the Baptist. And me as Mary Magdalene. But I also wondered if swimming right after screwing would get me pregnant. Maybe the water would push the semen up behind my diaphragm.» (Erica Jong, Fear of Flying, Glasgow: Grafton, 1974, p. 116)
«In short, you women of all ranks, whether of noble, bourgeois, or lower birth, be ever vigilant and on your guard against the enemies of your honor and integrity! My ladies, see how men accuse you from all sides of so many vices. Make liars of all of them by proving your virtuousness. Beware of deceitful flatterers who try to steal your highest good, which is your honor and your immaculate reputation. Oh, my ladies, flee, flee from the foolish love they urge on you! For no good can come to you from it. Rather, rest assured that however deceptive their seductive lures, their end is always to your detriment.» (Christine de Pizan, cited from the concluding paragraphs of The Book of the City of Ladies; Earl Jeffrey Richards, translator, New York: Persea Books, 1928)
«For this is the right way to proceed or to let yourself be led in matters of love: Start from an individual expression or form of beauty. Climb higher and higher for the sake of that beauty, as though climbing the steps of a ladder. Ascend from the first to the next, and then to all forms of beauty. From beautiful forms, go on to beautiful practices and conduct. From there, continue to the study of beauty until you arrive at that knowledge that is of nothing else but pure beauty. And that is where you will finally recognize and know beauty itself.» (Diotima, according to Socrates in Plato’s Symposium, c. 380 BC)
Volkmar Sigusch (1940 – 2023), Neosexualities: Cultural Change in Love and Perversion
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.»
«Young people today vacillate quite confidently between undramatic fidelity in love relationships and dramatized events full of thrills. Their neosexuality, which will become generalized, is more of a feel-good lust than the libidinous lust of old. It is self-optimized and self-disciplined. Due to its high degree of egotisms, it can indeed be referred to as self-sex, which is also concurrent with the enormous social and emotional revaluation of masturbation in the past decades. Masturbation is the only sexual practice that has gone from being a persecuted, frowned-upon no-go to being appreciated by both men and women in the course of the 20th century.» (Preface)
«At the heart of the hyper-modern imagination is the desire of desire, the fact that one is kept in a state of perpetual desire, and chooses to defer the gratification of one’s desire precisely in order to maintain one’s desire and to maintain the desired object with an aesthetic shape. … a desire that feeds itself and has little capacity to operate the shift from fantasy to daily life.»
Eva Illouz, Why Love Hurts. A Sociological Explanation, Cambridge: Polity, 2013, pp. 234, 237.
«One of the main transformations of sexual relationships in modernity consists in the tight intertwinement of desire with economics and with the question of value and one’s worth…. By this, I mean that generalized sexual competition transforms the very structure of the will and desire, and that desire takes on the properties of economic exchange: that is, that it becomes regulated by the laws of supply and demand, scarcity, and oversupply.»
«Ultimately, my aim is to do to love what Marx did to commodities: to show that it is shaped and produced by concrete social relations…»
Eva Illouz, Why Love Hurts. A Sociological Explanation, Cambridge: Polity, 2013, pp.58, 6.
Roland Barthes’s texts on love are incredibly beautiful, profound, and always radically to the point. With love for detail and relentless analytic precision, he unveils all our joys and fears, as well as our sophisticated systematics of self-deception that we develop on the way to love faute de mieux.
«For only who can perceive and assess his own experience can also be close to others, and only who can be close to others can also be loved. It’s as simple as that, and as difficult.» (C. Schuldt, Der Code des Herzens)
«I tell you now that everyone should honor Eros, that I myself do honor to all matters of love with special devotion; and I encourage others to do the same. Now, and for all time, I praise the power and vigor of Eros, to the limits of my ability.(Socrates to Phaedrus, in: Symposium, c. 380 BC)
At first, I was ashamed when I started to use dating apps for my erotic encounters a few years ago. To approach potential lovers or partners in this way seemed too undignified and anonymous to me. In addition, the required self-promotion reminded me too overtly of the lonely-hearts ads in newspapers and magazines of my youth, which were always a welcome target of our ridicule.
«Modern man has a personality problem. Because our modern everyday life is such a big role play, people can never bring their whole individuality into society, always only parts of it. In nearly all areas of society, the modern individual is forced to play certain parts, be it as a hot dog vendor or as a superstar. Only this disguise gives them access to society. ‹Whole› people, by contrast, are usually asked to ‹wait outside›. In a way, split personalities are the norm nowadays. Except in love, where the whole person gets a chance. This promise of wholeness makes love a modern agency of meaning-making.» (Christian Schuldt, Der Code des Herzens. Liebe und Sex in den Zeiten maximaler Möglichkeiten («The Code of the Heart. Love and Sex in Times of Maximum Opportunities»), Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt 2004, Chapter IV, Ich liebe, also bin ich («I love, therefore I am»)
«This attitude—that nothing is easier than to love—has continued to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love. If this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do better—or they would give up the activity. Since the latter is impossible in the case of love, there seems to be only one adequate way to overcome the failure of love—to examine the reasons for this failure, and to proceed to study the meaning of love.» (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, Ruth Nanda Anshen, ed., Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1956, Chapter I, pp. 4–5)
For Germans, there is ultimately no way around quoting Goethe, who had something to say about everything and everyone. And in this case, good old Goethe is positively inevitable, having provided us with what became immediately upon publication in 1774 one of the greatest hits of world literature on love: «The Sorrows of Young Werther». Among many other things, Goethe says in this work:
«What is the world to our hearts without love? What is a magic lantern without light? You have but to kindle the flame within, and the brightest figures shine on the white wall. And if love only shows us fleeting shadows, still it always makes us happy when we stand there like children enraptured by the wondrous phantoms.»