How Did Sex Become So Boring?

Mar 17, 2015
Feminist
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In 2008, veteran feminist Germaine Greer took to the pages of The Guardian ostensibly to remark upon a newly released biography of the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, but her critique quickly swerved into a skewering of the poet himself. 

Greer’s complaint with Rimbaud had nothing to do with the form of his poetry, but rather with the content: that Rimbaud’s purported obsession with anal sex shaped his oeuvre into something relentlessly boring. “To suggest that anyone would worship an anus is a consciously outrageous contrivance,” Greer wrote. “This is the point at which I lose patience, because a preference for the anus is actually as banal and ridiculous as any other sexual fixation.”

Nevermind that Rimbaud probably wasn’t as obsessed with anal sex as Greer claims; the verse she cites was written by Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud’s periodic lover, and the poet’s best-known work does not meditate on anal sex. Greer’s greater error was to ignore the political significance of poetry about anal sex. Writing so boldly on such a taboo subject in Rimbaud’s day could have serious consequences for a person’s life and career. Thus Greer’s sneer that Rimbaud and Verlaine were little more than “two drunks trying to scandalise their equally middle-class drinking companions by advertising their sexual preference” is something of a backward reading. Doubtlessly drunks and almost certainly fond of scandal, Rimbaud and Verlaine nonetheless lived before a time of “sexual preferences,” in which sex is considered a matter of personal taste. They lived, in other words, before sex was boring.

In Rimbaud and Verlaine’s world, for better or worse, sex had stakes. It reflected upon a person’s social standingbuilding status or destroying reputationsand had a decidedly political edge, influencing distributions of power.

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In Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine's world, for better or worse, sex had stakes.

 

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Ernest Greene
Ernest Greene
5 years ago

i should think Germaine Greer would encourage the worship of anuses. It might get her a few more fans.

Deep Throat
5 years ago

LOL

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