Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 10, No. 6, 2011
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
David Solway
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




And surely this is the paradise of children,
that they are at rest in the present,
like frogs or rabbits.
Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Human existence is a rupture
in the harmony of the universe.

It is wonderful to look upon the things
of the world, and terrible to be them.

In our part of the world, it is usually happenstance that brings us to the encounter: a dog mounting another dog. In India and Nepal, it’s predictably monkey business. If we’re in the business of farming, we might be there to not only witness the coupling, but actively encourage it for the purpose of increasing the herd or, pace animal husbandry, perfecting the species. What is near universal in our bearing witness are the mixed emotions most of us experience watching animals copulatel. We simultaneously marvel at and envy their freedom from self-consciousness while trying to wish away the wish to be like them for as long as it takes to conclude their business. Since one of the ways we come to understand the world is anthropomorphically, we might experience unease or awkwardness as if we have infringed upon someone’s privacy – even though we know the dumb animal doesn’t give a neigh. If we are more than one person looking on, we might suddenly fall prey to the blush of embarrassment and shame associated with voyeurism.

After observing monkeys copulating, Paul McCartney composed the song, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” Since Sir Paul is a songwriter and not an ethologist, he left unanswered a huge question that raises not only the issue of privacy but the etiology of the private sphere. After all, there was the longest time when the notion of privacy, which the dictionary defines as “quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others” didn’t exist. And then, in a mere evolutionary blink of the eye, a new species comes along for whom privacy or the private sphere becomes not only a quasi essential requirement; it is deemed so indispensable that, in certain situations, its trespassing will not be forgiven and may be defended to the death. No surprise to learn that we are physiologically rewarded when, after a long day in the public domain, we remove ourselves to the private sphere: stress levels fall off, we enjoy enhanced immunity and the brain produces more serotonin, all of which are positive indicators of well being.

From our earliest years, we are encouraged to show, exhibit and display our skills, talents and accomplishments: singers want to be heard, athletes want to be seen, painters want to exhibit, proud parents advertise their children’s grades and deeds. From the tritest (the stuff of Guinness Records) to the most serious endeavour, for the occasion of our successes we want others to bear witness – except when it comes to the act we should be most proud of: coupling for the purpose of propagating the species. Yet we not only shy away from doing it 'in the road' (while doing almost everything else), copulating in the public domain is subject to (under Indecent Exposure Acts) criminal prosecution in almost every country in the world.

The German philosopher Schopenhauer situates the conundrum thusly: “But now the act through which . . . man arises is one of which all are, in their inmost being, ashamed, which they therefore carefully conceal; nay, if they are caught in it, are terrified as if they had been taken in a crime . . . it is an open secret, which must never and nowhere be distinctly mentioned”

Seeing that even the most evolved animals do not distinguish between the public and private spheres, we infer the private sphere is identified and named as such when life becomes conscious of itself, when man becomes ‘man,’ an object for himself (his understanding) and for others. But this development, however monumental, does not explain our preference for coupling in private since we deliberately place ourselves before the gaze of others when we are proud of what we do and accomplish. Of all the life- affirming activities that fall within man's purview, shouldn’t he be most proud of his natural inclination to copulate? Is this not man’s highest biological calling, the mother of all imperatives?

But alas, with self-consciousness comes the great separation or loss of innocence (fall into knowledge). For the first time in the history of life there is an ‘I,’ an independent self or ego that knows itself as it finds itself in a sea of others just like him upon whom he depends for his very survival. He quickly discovers there is no escaping the brave new paradigm that leaves him constitutionally vulnerable to any number of possible negative perceptions and judgments that originate both within and without: his unflattering position in a hierarchy, being aesthetically disadvantaged, or simply flawed and imperfect when compared to the very best or a younger self, one or all of which might have excited the need to conceive of and withdraw into a private sphere. But there would still be those exceptional males who would be positively viewed in every way by everyone and who, in theory, should be proud to flaunt their status, attractiveness and virility; but even these alpha males instinctively gravitated to the private sphere to conduct their coupling. Why?

Is the shame associated with and inclination to conceal our sexual desires and their fulfillment consequent to the influence of religion? Archeological and anthropological evidence suggests our preference for coupling in private long preceded any formal religious intervention, and that with all due respect to the word of God, man’s expulsion from the Garden dates back to when he became self-conscious, a blow from which he is still reeling -- into drugs, alcohol and the countless diversionary activities that serve to anaesthetize that segment of the brain where self-consciousness makes its unhappy home.

The Spartans, regarded as the greatest soldier fighters who ever lived, as part of their basic training, were encouraged to rape. In all wars, rape is one of the spoils of war that goes to the victor, and it very often plays out as a group activity. As a proud and unrepentant participant in the equivalent of gang rape, the vainglorious Spartan flaunted a trifecta of exceptional attributes: his physical strength, virility and patriotism (reconfiguring the enemy with his DNA). And while he was unambiguously demonstrating in the public domain what he could do and do very well, he was also revealing what he wasn’t doing: specifically, he wasn’t ‘making love’ as we have come to understand the term. In the act of rape, from the Latin rapere, seize by force, the Spartan’s brute behaviour was more consistent with the biological imperatives that govern animal reproduction where the notion of consent doesn’t exist. However crude and unbelaboured the act can be, making love precludes consent; it is a physically and psychologically more demanding and complex activity than mere coupling, where the latter subordinates the conscious will of the individual to the unconscious will of the species.

Making love implicates a wide range of physical and emotional reciprocities and endearments that constitutes the bond that unites two people, a man and a woman, whose offspring will be their life’s principal project. When Homo sapiens begins to make love it is because he has already discovered himself capable of loving another person. The gestures and affections, verbal and non-verbal, that result in pair-bonding, are of a different order than straight copulation. Only in the former do we recognize the harmony of the spheres that characterizes loving couples.

As man learns to negotiate the hazards of self-consciousness, he discovers that he is two persons in one: a lusting and a loving one, and that the latter is more likely to win the heart and reproductive rights of the desired female. So when the occasion presents itself (a cave, a niche, a leafy cache), he quickly discovers he prefers to conduct his intimate life -- from courtship to conjugal relations -- in the private sphere. In other words he has already come to regard his loving and more gentle self as a betrayal of his virility, and he arranges his life so as not to be seen compromising a once inviolable sexual code of conduct. And while we can only speculate on the details that eventuated the reconfiguring of space into the public and private spheres, we know as fact that the preference for conducting intimacy in private is observed in every culture, primitive and advanced, in the world. Even during primitive fertility rites and festivals, copulating in the public sphere is extremely rare.

The reason we don’t do it on the road is that there isn’t a man in the world who, at the end of the hard day's night, doesn’t look forward to laying his weary head on the lap of his beloved. Man’s preference to conduct his intimate life in the private sphere is his confession that he is embarrassed by his own humanity, his capacity for gentleness.

As if to erase every trace of that softer self, in the public domaine he continues to go to great lengths to show that his animal self is alive and thriving. One only has to read the headlines or look at the world -- as it squirms -- through the popular metaphors of the day: ours is a dog eat dog world, the rat race, animal farm.

* * * * * * * * * *

Once upon a time there was an unselfconscious time when the children we were didn’t distinguish between being dressed or naked. We went to the bathroom wherever and whenever nature called. As with animals from one moment to the next, there was no beginning or ending; it was the best of times, the worst of times. And then one day we awoke, as if from an endless dreaming, and found ourselves in the world.



Email Address
(not required)

Yes, privacy doesn't really exist too much now, but I reserve the right to close the bathroom door. I'd take exception to your saying that animals will shit anywhere. Perhaps if the critter is in a cage, but for the most part, mammals will move away, for instance, behind a tree. The purpose of this is obvious - you know the expression, "You don't shit where you live." This expression refers to not bad mouthing neighbours etc., but I think does apply. When my cat is too lazy to go outside, she'll go in some discrete corner somewhere. Really, what animal, including human beings, wants to foul the nest? So I might argue that privacy for elimination may be hard wired in animals. (Funny to think, however, that an enraged chimp will shit in his hand and throw it at another." Now, that's direct, isn't it? As for sex - how does this fit in?: There is nothing more disgusting to a child, especially a teen, to think of his parents having sex. My own daughter, who tells me everything including tales of her own sexual experiences, will practically gag at even the most subtle mention of her parents' sex life. Why? I'm not sure this has anything to do with not admitting tenderness, as a child does want to know his parents love each other. So what's it about?
I suspect we are particularly private with respect to sexuality as it is essentially, and paradoxically, the least intelligible of human activities. I mean, one would be hard pressed to 'rationalize' the impulse to put one's nose up another's 'delight' . . . .or, to be more extreme, to have another urinate in one's mouth, as one of your previous articles so explicitly depicted.

But as we are not yet gods, and seemingly condemned to being reminded of our animality whilst in the process of propagating the species, we are ashamed of being seen doing 'it' . . .I would push this further and say we are even ashamed of ourselves doing it whilst actually doing it . . . and so we wish to be private even towards our very own selves, which is perhaps why most of us turn out the lights while at it?

The biggest of all myths is perhaps that sex is natural. To monkeys yes, it is totally natural,.but to us tightrope walkers ever reaching out towards the stars, it isnt quite so very natural at all.

also by Robert J. Lewis:
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene



BENEFIT CONCERT FOR HAITI, SALLE GESU, JAN. 20TH (Papa Groove, Ariane Moffatt, Bïa, Kodiak, Echo Kalypso, Doriane Fabrig (ex-Dobacaracol), Claude Lamothe, Ian Kelly, Pépé: Box-office 514.861.4036 = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
Montreal World Film Festival
2011 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 12-23st, (514) 844-2172
CINEMANIA(Montreal) - festival de films francophone 1-11 novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082: featuring Bernard Tavernier
CD Dignity by John Lavery available by e-mail: - 10$ + 3$ shipping.
Montreal Jazz Festival
© Roberto Romei Rotondo
Listing + Ratings of films from festivals, art houses, indie
Nuit d'Afrique: July 12th-24th
Canadian Tire Repair Scam [2211 boul Roland-Therrien, Longueuil] = documents-proofs
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis