European Sex Appeal
Michelangelo's "Adam and Eve"
"Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other." Marquis De Sade"
Take note: De Sade may have been twisted in many ways, but here he elucidates the typical European's realistic and unfettered attitude toward sex.
If you've ever traveled abroad and paid attention to foreign lifestyles, you know that Americans and Europeans take a vastly different approach to conduct between the sexes. And especially to sex.
My friend Swami Uptown wonders from Paris why the women there seem so much less threatened by men than those in say, New York. He's guessing Parisian women assume their country's men are more civilized. I think there's a broader theme.
The European culture is more civilized. Proud of its women. And much more appreciative of the female form. Which isn't to say there aren't problems between the sexes. They're just more honest and comfortable about sex itself -- avoiding issues which cloud so many American attitudes and relationships.
Swami notes, "In Paris, anyway, women--adults and teens alike--just don't seem threatened by men. They're not armored. It's as if they assume the men on the street present no threat.
In America--even in New York--women on the street seem...guarded. Defensive. They erect what Mrs. Uptown calls an "ice wall." American men must be scary. Who knows which one is a predator?"
I think American men are viewed as predators because American women have long been exploited as objects and thus as prey -- to be spied on, snickered about, slavered over and treated with disrespect. We're forbidden fruit, taught to flaunt and retreat, tease and withhold ... and American men grow up learning to leer and pounce.
America's enduring Puritan heritage with its tightlipped, tightassed, uptight culture of prudishness and pseudo-moral rectitude has bred a culture rife with sexual ambivalence, especially now in modern times. Our Melting Pot citizenry notwithstanding, we live in a Christian-dominated society here in the US -- sin and guilt and penance still strive mightily to overcome sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.
Europeans-especially the Italians and the French-on the other hand, have been cavorting happily for centuries in celebration of wine, women and song. Without guile and definitely without fake piety and self-conscious morality. Largely Catholic societies, they seem to have come to terms with a behavioral trinity of Sin, Repent, Move On.
In Europe, the human body is accepted as natural -- revered, in fact as one of nature's miracles. And rightly so. Throughout Europe, nudes conceived by history's greatest artists grace parks, squares, churches, public buildings for all to admire. And real women-and children-appear unselfconsciously naked on advertising billboards, in TV commercials ... and on the beach.
In stark contrast, Americans seem to fear and abhor the human body. Shame, not beauty, rules the mind, and the eye. American men are titillated-American women tortured-by freakish approximations of the female form in the guise of anorexic models and silicone-enhanced movie stars. Towns and cities across the US have seen protests over naked statues, art exhibits, beach dress codes.
The whole country went berserk when one small breast flashed on a TV screen for maybe 2 seconds. They were laughing at that in Europe. Not at Janet Jackson's studied faux pas, but at America's ridiculous, prurient overreaction.
The American culture takes sex so seriously. We examine it, analyze it, discuss it, simultaneously glorify and vilify it -- all the while Europeans spend their time just doing it. Openly and with obvious pleasure. Often admittedly overdoing it. They poke fun at sex too, because to them it's not a monument to National Mores, it's a function of Natural Behavior.
Many Americans would call the European attitude toward sex decadent. I call it enlightened. And very civilized.
Labels: Lifestyles and Levity