Saturday, June 23, 2012
Minor Keys No. 13
How many men have a fantasy of a harem? It has been the stuff of literature and actuality over the centuries, whether based on a historical Persian model, the tribal realities we may still find in parts of the world, the brief epoch of free loving hippy communes or the strange megalomania of religious cults. The latter I have always found most unsettling. In my own journey through life, a reasonably varied and entertaining one, I have come across a number of individuals and communities with religious pretensions of the more esoteric kind who conflate sex and religious ritual with a perverse dynamic energy. I wrote in a recent Twitter one liner that it was a measure of a religion’s value to humankind, how it embraced sex (@profjacksanger). Sex has the capacity to be a wild demon, capable of reducing priest, nun, king, queen or law-abiding spouse from any stratum of society from God-fearing conservatism into obsessional irrationality. Whole kingdoms are thrown away as the lure of sex transcends the most ingrained social conditioning. Sex and power can hardly be divided. It is likely that hundreds of thousands of men and women alive today have more than a smattering of Genghis Khan genes, such was his prodigious sexual appetite. Indeed, you may come across a similarly driven individual in the third book of the Azimuth trilogy. And it is not just in the extreme embrace of lustful desires that we can see the odd relationship between sex and the theological. In the social control of whole populations religions have sought to maintain their hold via a vice-like control over the sexual instincts of their adherents with complex regulatory rituals and measures regarding what is permissible and what not. In Azimuth there is not just one minor character representing this awkward area of human endeavour but many, the numerous women living harmoniously with the man who saved them from sexual slavery and death. Their saviour is speaking here:
So here I was in this mountain refuge with so many women. None wanted to leave. They had been soiled by life. At first they thought they might set up a religious clan but I persuaded them otherwise. Believe in yourselves, I said. Make this retreat a place of delight, a sanctuary for your spirits. You will find god in other ways if that is what you need.
Their background, if we are searching for commonality, is that they are all village women from the fields. Their entire lives until their kidnap by armed pillagers would have been spent following a daily round with little exception, brightened only by feasting at births, marriages and deaths. Having been captured and their men and children killed, then taken to a mountain hideout, their future was condemned to be little more than slavery, abuse and death. Suddenly all this changed. Like a dervish, their saviour came with his sword in the night and dispatched all their captors. Now free they could have gone back to find husbands in other villages but they chose not to. They preferred instead a harem life with the one man they could trust. In return he gave them protection and education and he fulfilled whatever sexual and maternal desires they had. Life was now different. It was no longer a question of having implicit social roles. Each day could be entirely as they wished. The effect upon them was profound. To have lost their husbands and children was appallingly traumatic. To have found liberation and autonomy was utterly magical. Which life would they have chosen now that they knew both?
(Azimuth by Jack Sanger also in Kindle books at Amazon)