EXPLORING

SEX AND DEATH

BACK TO LA GROTESQUERIE

"There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image."

 

Marquis de Sade

____________________________________________________________________

Balancing mortality with sexuality sets up a dialectic for the interplay

between fear and desire as the perpetual human condition. Fear of eternal

damnation was placed beside desire for the 'eternity in a moment' of orgasm.

Herbert Marcuse has claimed, in Eros and Civilization, that 'timelessness is

the ideal of pleasure,' parallel to the timelessness of death.

 

Similarly, the loss of self during orgasm apparently mirrored

the loss of self in death. Sex and death both indicated

the limits of human control and were therefore to be feared.

   

Regina Barreca, Sex and Death in Victorian Literature, Springer, 2016.

____________________________________________________________________

“Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death."

T. S. Eliot, “Fragment of the Agon,” 

____________________________________________________________________

It takes an iron nerve to perceive the connection between the

promise of life implicit in eroticism and the sensuous aspect of death.

Mankind conspires to ignore the fact that death is also the youth of things.

Blindfolded, we refuse to see that only death guarantees the fresh

upsurging without which life would be blind.

 

We refuse to see that life is the trap set for the balanced order, that life

is nothing but instability and disequilibrium. Life is a swelling tumult continuously

on the verge of explosion. But since the incessant explosion constantly exhausts its

resources, it can only proceed under one condition: that beings given

life whose explosive force is exhausted shall make room for 

fresh beings coming into the cycle with renewed vigour.

    

Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality

____________________________________________________________________

 Humanity is not immune from this law of death as the cost of sex. [This] toll for

reproduction has particularly been borne by women. Unlike at the start of the

twenty-first century, when women held a seven-year life-expectancy advantage

over males in developed nations, historically, because of their high maternal

death rates, women were the shorter-lived sex.

 

Maternal death rates remain high in poor nations of the world,

where women are up to 200 times more likely than women in the

richest countries to die  as a result of complications of pregnancy,

abortion, or childbirth—the causes of one-quarter of all deaths

of those of childbearing age.

 

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

reported in 2001 that black women were four times more likely than

non-Hispanic white women to die of pregnancy related problems.

 

The Scientific Perspective: Death As the Cost of Reproduction,

The Encyclopedia of death and Dying.  www.deathreference.com.  

____________________________________________________________________

 

"For the wages of sin is death..."

 Romans 6:23

____________________________________________________________________

   

Terror Management Theory posits that sex is a ubiquitous human problem

because the creaturely aspects of sex make apparent our animal nature,

which reminds us of our vulnerability and mortality.


…We propose that the connection between sex and anxiety stems, at least in

part, from the anxiety associated with the fear of death. Therefore, the panoply

of difficulties associated with human sexuality may ultimately stem from its association

with the more fundamental problem of death. Indeed, in the French language orgasm

is sometimes referred to as le petite mort: the little death.


Sexuality is a reminder of their creaturely, animalistic nature.


Clinical theorists from Freud on have suggested that neurosis and many other

psychological disturbances are associated with an inability to successfully manage

anxiety associated with death and sexuality.

 

Goldenberg, Jamie L., et al. "Death, sex, love, and neuroticism: Why is sex such a problem?." 

Journal of personality and social psychology 77.6 (1999): 1173.

____________________________________________________________________

 

In my beginning is my end.

    

TS Eliot, East Coker 

 

  ____________________________________________________________________

Freud came to the conclusion that humans have not one but two primary instincts.

He called the life-favoring instinct Eros, one of the Greek words for "love," and the death instinct Thanatos, the Greek word for "death." He suggested that all living creatures have an instinct, drive, or impulse to return to the inorganic state from which they emerged.

 

This todtriebe (drive toward death) is active not only in every creature, great or small,

but also in every cell of every organism. He pointed out that the metabolic processes active in all cells have both constructive (anabolic) and destructive (catabolic) functions. Life goes on because these processes work together—they are opposing but not adversarial.
                         

"Death Instinct," The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying

____________________________________________________________________

The femme fatale, witch, or vamp represents an outlawed form of

female divinity, potency, genius, sexual agency, independence,

vengeance, and death power.

   

 Jane Caputi, Godesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power, and Popular Culture

 

____________________________________________________________________

  

Love and death seem to go separate ways in modern culture...

but the two are closely interwoven.

For centuries, philosophers, cultural theorists, historians,

anthropologists, representatives of various religions, psychologists

and medical doctors have been trying to offer

some guidelines how to deal with these problems,

especially death, and the problems related.

We look for new experiences, for doing things, meeting people,

entering into various relations, building relationships, advancing in

our profession, occupation, etc. All these belong to Eros.

But there are situations in which man has to act aggressively,

to defend his interest, or do something hazardous.

Sometimes man also needs peace and quiet.

According to Freud, Thanatos is responsible for such states.

   

Wiszniowska-Majchrzyk, Marta. "Eros and Thanatos — Desires and Fears." SVEIKATOS MOKSLAI, 22, no 2, (2012) 107-113.

 

____________________________________________________________________

  "Liebestod," German for "love death," is the title of the final, dramatic music from

the 1859 opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner. When used as a literary term,

liebestod (from German Liebe, love and Tod, death) refers to the theme

of erotic death or "love death" meaning the two lovers' consummation

of their love in death or after death.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebestod

  ____________________________________________________________________

The rapid growth of industrialization and subsequent urban

development in Victorian Britain irrevocably altered social organisation.

The challenges to orthodox Christianity and the perceived threat to patriarchy in the development of the women’s movement received a backlash in

the resurgence of reactionary ideology of ‘deviant’ female sexuality,

through metaphors of infection, contamination, predatory behavior 

and pathological sexual desires.

 

Indeed, the concept of women as harbingers of infection,

addiction and  ultimately death, collides in social concerns as

well as in symbolic form in art of the period.

William Acton’s The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1857)

promotes a moral paradigm of female sexuality which constructs male sexual

desire and activity as natural and innate, and female

sexual desire or pleasure as pathologically deviant

the product of a diseased mind and body…

   

Drawmer, Lois. "Sex, Death, and Ecstasy: The Art of Transgression." Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil 28 (2006): 39.

 

____________________________________________________________________

mort d'amour: Cardiology Death due to coitally-induced cardiac overload,

which may occur in anyone with underlying cardiac disease, especially with HTN,

arrhythmias, or cerebral aneurysms. See Coital coronary.

  

McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

 

____________________________________________________________________

If you are reading this, you were clearly born, weather sex or

science made you, you are here with us today and you will surely die.

 

No one makes it out alive. What is on the other side?

Perhaps we find out, perhaps we don't.

What we do know, is that in this life we will experience death and quite likely, sex. 

  

Auburn R. Meisner, LMSW

http://www.intimateinquiries.com/blog/sex-death-why-so-taboo

____________________________________________________________________

  

“Sex and death are the only things that can interest a serious mind.”

  

W.B. Yeats

____________________________________________________________________

The anxieties associated with sex in all societies have also been

linked to the fear of death (Brain 1979). Sex is linked to aggression and

causes men to kill other men; it is thus a source of disorder and death.

The sexual organs are also very close to the anus, which is a source

of corruption, disease, and death. The smell of sex can thus resemble that of

feces and is a reminder of death. Sex itself can be a corrupting agent;

filth can enter into the human body through the act of sex.

 

Humankind became aware of germs only relatively recently, but

sex has historically been the cause of numerous diseases that can lead

to bodily discomfort, pain, and—in the case of diseases such as syphilis—

incapacitation and death. In modern society, AIDS has solidified the link

between sex and death; it has been associated with higher levels

of death anxiety in gay men as well as among doctors and

health workers who treat patients with AIDS (Bivens et al. 1994;

Essien et al. 2000; Hayslip, Luhr, and Beyerlein 1991).

 

It is no small wonder, then, that humans have such anxiety

surrounding sex. In all societies, sex is the most regulated behavior.

Rules surrounding sexuality constitute the strongest taboos in almost

all human societies and are at the core of many religions.

Sexual morality became one of the cornerstones of the Christian Church.

It was one of the major themes of the writings of the apostle Paul, one of the

principal authors of the New Testament, who himself confessed to an ongoing

struggle with the sins of the flesh. Sin is yielding to the desires of the flesh,

becoming a slave to passion, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Greeks despaired over death precisely because life

and the body offer so many pleasures (Choron 1963).

They also realized that completely succumbing to the

body’s demands for pleasure is the path to death.

Moore, Calvin Conzelus, and John B. Williamson. "The universal fear of death and the cultural response." 

Handbook of death & dying (2003): 3-14.

 

____________________________________________________________________