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1st February 2020

By Gustave Courbet - Unknown, Public Domain

Commissioned in 1866 by Khalil Bey, a collector of erotic art stationed as an Ottoman diplomat in Paris, Gustave Courbet’s famous painting, L’Origine du Monde, was owned at one time by the psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, before being taken in lieu of a tax bill by the French state and placed in the Musée d’Orsay. The image, combined with that title, could not state more unequivocally and obviously what we all know – that the life of all of us was once dependent on a woman and her impregnation by a man via the sexual act.

From Courbet let’s move on to Thomas Aquinas about whom GK Chesterton wrote this in his St Thomas Aquinas - The Dumb Ox :

To (the) question “Is there anything?” St Thomas begins by answering “Yes”; if he began by answering “No”, it would not be the beginning, but the end. That is what some of us call common sense. Either there is no philosophy, no philosophers, no thinkers, no thought, no anything; or else there is a real bridge between the mind and reality.

Courbet’s point, then, is an inescapable reality. Deny it and you might as well cease to exist.

From Chesterton let’s move on to Dr Johnson who was talking about the effects of drinking on people:

...let it be considered, that there is no position, however false in its universality, which is not true of some particular man.

Johnson reminds us that there is such a thing as universality in most spheres from which, by definition, a small number of exceptions diverge. Given that life is a good thing, the universal is usually deserving of interest not to say celebration and to apologise for it would seem ridiculous.

In spite of this, in our time, we are plagued by a tail-wagging-dog syndrome whereby we are more or less bullied into exhibiting a monomaniacal obsession with the exceptions (this is not to say that the exceptions do not exist, of course, or that their wellbeing is a matter of callous disregard to us). Whence this syndrome?

A preoccupation with ‘unfortunate’ minority groups is usually sold as big-heartedness, good manners and proper solicitude for the disadvantaged. When it is pushed to the extreme, though, one can’t help wondering, whether those minorities welcome the role in which we cast them as deserving “underdogs” or being subjected to such an ecstasy of caring by us. Do they ever, also, wonder why we are so eager to advertise our ‘correct’ disposition towards them or whether we are just using them?

To return to Courbet, sex affords excellent examples of such obsessions. We are constantly and doggedly reminded in news bulletins and BBC drama productions of the brave struggle of the LGBTQ community as though failure to regularly and actively ‘educate’ us in a far from subliminal way will result in some kind of catastrophe. When this strangely off-kilter emphasis is added to the welter of supposed sophistications and refinements now surrounding the subject of sex it is not surprising that we are confused about or have completely lost sight of what it actually is in the universal and original sense.

To return to philosophy, Aristotle invented the idea of the 'final cause'. The final cause of a house – what it is for - is to give shelter. The final cause of sex is to increase human being. What is the sine qua non of sex that allows it to fulfil this cause? What defines what it is without which it wouldn’t need to exist at all? The one thing that is required is heterogeneity or the ‘otherness’ of the two sexes to each other. This is because things are disposed such that unless one sex brings a gamete into proximity with the gamete carried by the other in order to create a zygote being does not increase. Without the male-female complementarity (called 'affective and ontological complementarity' by Pope John Paul II) life ceases to be perpetuated. This is what hetero means.

Because of this all humans swim in the element of sex in all their dealings, humanity is defined by being sexual and cannot be imagined otherwise.

To recap, by means of hetero-geneous sex (a tautology in my book as sex cannot not be hetero) the well of human being forms into the fountain of human life. It is incontestable that some of the water splashes to the pavement on the periphery as homosexual or transgender humanity (who, of course, also use sex as a vehicle for love). The mere fact that they are human means they should be accorded every respect and protection. However, to make them central at the expense of the hetero-sexual ‘community’ is to perversely prioritise those peripheral splashes over the thundering geyser issuing from the earth that propels them into the air and into life.

In the political sphere this might make us wish to reconsider recent events. It was just and admirable that, after centuries of discrimination, homosexuals were granted in 2004, for the purpose of according them the rights of kinship, hospital-visiting and inheritance that hetero-sexual couples enjoyed, admission to  the legal status of civil partnership. This addressed the needs of an important minority. However, curiously, in falling over itself not to appear to be ‘the nasty party’, David Cameron’s Conservative government then took this one stage further in the same-sex marriage bill in 2013. In doing this minority gay marriage was made the equivalent to the ‘universal’ hetero-sexual unions without which the gay ‘particulars’ would not even exist (we now tend to see sexual identities as a range of dainties on a smörgåsbord from which we choose. This is to forget that the bord  or table that underpins them all is hetero-sexual reproduction. Even in vitro fertilisation mimics the hetero-sexual relation). In my view this happened, partly because of a Conservative government's strange wish to apologise for its conservatism but also for reasons of mawkish sentimentalism. One could also accuse the noisier members of the gay community who exploited their underdog status to the maximum in order to hog the limelight and elbow the givers of life off the podium.

As a result of all of this, in a bizarre over-compensation, we have re-configured society away from prioritising and celebrating first and foremost the universal. We have rejoiced in sidelining and dethroning nature itself, upon which the whole shooting-match depends all in the name of proving and loudly advertising the credentials of a brand of anxious, busybody solicitude that has little to do with our real hidden virtue. Mrs Jellyby comes to mind.

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