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H ailth e Re turning Dragon, Cl oth e d in Ne w Fire

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ou k now t h is l ov e st ory. A gal l ant k nigh t e s pie s a fair m aide n in t he dis t ant w indow of a forbidding-t ype cas t l e . Th e ir e ye s m e e t s m ok il y acros s t h e w it h e re d h e at h . Ins t ant ch e m is t ry. And s o good Sir K nigh t com e s t e ar-as s ing t ow ard t h e cas t l e , brandis h ing h is l ance . Can h e j us t gal l op up and carry t h e fair m aide n off?Not q uit e . Firs t h e 's got t o ge t pas t t h e dragon, righ t ?Th e re 's al w ays a part icul arl y nas t y dragon guarding t h e cas t l e , and t h e k nigh t 's al w ays got t o face and s l ay t h e dragon if t h e re 's t o be any carrying off. But and s o, l ik e any l oyal k nigh t in t he s e rv ice of pas s ion, t h e k nigh t bat t l es t h e dragon, al l for t h e s ak e of t h e fair m aide n. "Fair m aide n" m e ans "good-l ook ing v irgin," by t h e w ay. And s o l et 's not be naiv e about w h at t h e k nigh t 's re al l y figh t ing for. You can be t h e 's going t o e xpe ct m ore t h an a bre at h y "M y h e ro" from t h e m aide n once t h at dragon's s l ain. In fact ,t h e w ay t h e st ory al w ays goe s , good Sir K nigh t ris k s l ife and l ance agains t t h e dragon not t o "re s cue " t h e goodl ook ing v irgin, but t o "w in" h e r. And any k nigh t , from any e ra, can t el l you w h at "w in" m e ans h e re . Som e of m y ow n k nigh t l y frie nds s e e t h e s pe ct e r of h e t e ros e xual AID S

H ail t h e Ret urning Dragon, Cl ot h ed in New Fire

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as not h ing l ess t h an a s e xualArm age ddon a v iol e nt e nd t o t h e cas ual carnal copia of t he l as t t h re e de cade s . Som e ot h e rs , grim but m ore upbe at , re gard H IV as a s ort of t e s t of our ge ne rat ion's s e xualm e t t l e ;t h e s e guys now appl aud t h e ir ow n cas uals port -fuck ing as a k ind of m e dicaldare de v il ry t h at affirm s t h e indom it abil it y of t h e e rot ic s pirit . I cit e , e .g., an upbe at frie nd's re ce nt l et t e r on AID S: "...So now nat ure h ad inv e nt ed anot h e r im pe dim e nt t o h um an re l at ions , and ye t t h e rom ant ic urge l iv es. It de fie s al le ffort s h um an, m oral , and v iral t o e xt inguis h it . And t h at 's a w onde rfult h ing. It is , in fact , pos s ibl e t o be e ncourage d by t he h um an w il lt o fuck , w h ich pe rs is t s de s pit e al ls ort s of im pe dim e nt s. We s h al l ov e rcom e , s o t o s pe ak ." Cav al ie r s e nt im e nt s, et c. But I can't h e l p t h ink ing s om e of t oday's k nigh t s st il lunde re s t im at e bot h AID S's dange rs and it s adv ant age s . Th e y failt o see t h at H IV coul d w el lbe t h e s al v at ion of s e xual it y in t h e 19 9 0s . Th e y don't s e e it ,It h ink , be caus e t h ey t e nd t o m is re ad t h e et e rnals t ory of w h ate rot ic pas s ion's al l about . Th e e rot ic w il l e xis t s "de s pit e im pe dim e nt "? L et 's go back t o t h at k nigh t and fair m aide n e xch anging l as civ ious l ook s . And h e re com e s t he k nigh t , gal l oping cas t l e w ard, m am m ot h l ance at t h e re ady. Exce pt im agine t h is t im e t h at t h e re is no dange r, no dragon t o fe ar, face , figh t , sl ay. Im agine t h e k nigh t 's purs uit of t h e m aide n is W h ol l y unim pe de d t h e re 's no dragon;t h e cas t l e 's unl ock e d;t h e draw bridge e v en l ow e rs aut om at ical l y, l ik e a s uburban garage door. And h e re 's t h e m aide n ins ide , w e aring a V ict oria's Se cre t t e ddy and crook ing h e r finge r. D oe s anyone el s e h e re de t e ct a s h adow of dis appoint m e nt in Sir K nigh t 's face , a s l igh t ant icl im act ic droop t o h is l ance ?D oe s t h is v e rs ion of t h e st ory h av e anyt h ing l ik e t h e ot h e r's pas s ionat e , e rot ic e dge ? "Th e h um an w il lt o fuck "? Any anim alcan fuck . But onl y h um ans can e xpe rie nce s e xualpas s ion, s om e t h ing w h ol l y diffe re nt from t h e biol ogical urge t o m at e . And s e xual pas s ion's e ndure d for m il l e nnia as a v it al ps ych ic force in h um an l ife not de s pit e im pe dim e nt s but be caus e of t h em . Pl ain ol d coit us be com e s e rot ical l y ch arge d and s pirit ual l y pot e nt at j us t t h os e m om e nt s w h e re im pe dim e nt s , confl ict s, t aboos and cons e q ue nce s l e nd it a doubl e -e dge d ch aract e r m e aningfuls e x is bot h an ov e rcom ing and a s uccum bing, a t rans ce nde nce and a t rans gre s s ion, t rium ph ant and t e rribl e and e cs t at ic and s ad. Turt l e s and gnat s can m at e , but onl yt he h um an w il l can de fy, t rans gre s s , ov e rcom e , l ov e : Ch oos e . H is t ory-w is e , bot h nat ure and cul t ure h av e be e n inge nious at e re ct ing im pe dim e nt s t h at giv e t h e ch oice of pas s ion it s price and v al ue ; re l igious pros cript ions ; pe nal t y for adul t e ry and div orce ; ch iv al ric ch as t it y and court l y de corum ; t h e st igm a of il l e git im at e birt h ; ch ape ronage ; m adon-

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Dav id Fost er W al l ace

na/ w h ore com pl e xe s ;s yph il is ;back -al l e y abort ions ;a s e t of "m oral " code s t h at put s e ns ual it y on a t aboo-l ev e lw it h de fe cat ion and apos t as y... from t he V ict orians ' dre ad of t h e body t o e arl y TV 's one -foot -on-t h e -fl oor-at al l -t im e s rul e ;from t h e aut om at ic ruin of "fal l e n" w om e n t o back -s e at t us sl e s in w h ich girl frie nds s t ruggl ed t o de ny boyfrie nds w h at t h e y be gge d for in orde r t o pre s e rv e t h e ir re s pe ct . Grant e d, from 19 9 6's pe rs pe ct iv e , m os t of t h e ol d s e xual dragons l ook s t upid and crue l . But w e ne e d t o re al ize t h at t h e y h ad s om e t h ing big in t h e ir fav or: as l ong as t h e dragons re igne d, s e x w as n't cas ual , not e v e r. H is t orical l y, h um an s e xual it y h as be e n a de adl y s e rious bus ine s s and t h e fie rce r it s dragons , t h e s e rious e r s e x got ; and t he h igh e r t h e price of ch oice , t h e h igh e r t h e e rot ic v ol t age s urrounding w h at pe opl e ch os e . And t h e n, w h at m us t h av e s e e m e d s udde nl y, t h e dragons al l k eel e d ov er and die d. Th is w as j us t around w h e n I w as born, t h e '60s "R e v ol ut ion" in s e xual it y. Sci-fi t ype adv ance s in proph yl act ics and ant i-v e ne re al s , fe m inis m as a pol it icalforce , TV as ins t it ut ion, t h e ris e of a cul t ure of yout h and it s gl and-int e ns iv e art and m us ic, Civ ilR igh t s , re be l l ion as fas h ion, inh ibit ion-k il l ing drugs , t h e m oral cas t rat ion of ch urch e s and ce ns ors . Bik inis , m inis k irt s . "Fre e L ov e ." Th e cas t l e 's doors w e re n't s o m uch unl ock e d as bl ow n off t h e ir h inge s . Se x coul d final l y be uncons t raine d, "H ang-Up"-fre e , j us t anot h e r appe t it e : cas ual . I w as t oot hl e s s and incont ine nt t h rough m os t of t h e Rev ol ut ion, but it m us t h av e seem ed l ik e ins t ant paradis e . For a w h il e. I w as pre -cons cious for t h e Rev ol ut ion's big part y, but I got t o e xpe rie nce ful l y t h e h angov er t h at fol l ow e d t h e e rot ic m al ais e of t h e '70s , as s e x, div orce d from m os t price and cons e q ue nce , re ach e d a k ind of s at urat ion-point in t h e cul t ure s w inging coupl e s and m e at -m ark e t bars , h ot t ubs and EST, H us t l e r's gyne col ogical s pre ads , Ch arl ie 's Ange l s , h e rpe s , k iddie -porn, m ood rings , t e e nage pre gnancy, Pl at o's R e t re at , dis co. I re m e m be r L ook ing f or M r. Goodbar al l t oo w e l l , it s grim account of t h e e m pt ine s s and s e l f-l oat h ing t h at a de cade of ram pant cas ualfuck ing h ad brough t on. L ook ing back , I re al ize t h at I cam e of s e xual age in a cul t ure t h at w as s t art ing t o m is s t he v e ry dragons w h os e de at h s h ad s uppos e dl y fre e d it . If I'v e got t h is righ t ,t h en t h e cas ualk nigh t s of m y ow n bl and ge ne rat ion m igh t w e l l com e t o re gard AID S as a bl e s s ing, a gift pe rh aps be s t ow e d by nat ure t o re s t ore s om e crit ical bal ance , m aybe s um m one d uncons cious l y out of t h e col l e ct iv e e rot ic de s pair of t h e pos t -'60s gl ut . Be caus e t h e dragon is back , and cl ot h e d in a fire t h atcan'tbe ignore d. I m e an no offe ns e . Nobody w oul d cl aim t h at a l et h al e pide m ic is a good t h ing. Not h ing from nat ure is good or bad. Nat uralt h ings j us t are ; t he onl y good and bad are pe opl e 's v arious ch oice s in t h e face of w h at is . But

H ail t h e Ret urning Dragon, Cl ot h ed in New Fire

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our ow n h is t ory s h ow s t h at for w h at ev e r re as ons an e rot ical l y ch arge d h um an e xis t e nce re q uire s im pe dim e nt s t o pas s ion, price s for ch oice s . Th at h undre ds of t h ous ands of pe opl e are dying h orribl y of AID S s e e m s l ik e a crue l and unfair price t o pay for a ne w e rot ic im pe dim e nt . But it 's not obv ious l y m ore unfair t h an t h e m il l ions w h o h av e die d of s yph il is , incom pe t e nt abort ions , and "crim e s of pas s ion," nor obv ious l y m ore crue l t h an t h at pe opl e us e d rout ine l y t o h av e t h e ir l iv e s w re ck e d by "fal l ing," "fornicat ing," s inning, h av ing "il l e git im at e " ch il dre n, or ge t t ing t rappe d by inane re l igious codes in l ov el ess and abusiv e m arriages. Atl eastit 's notobv ious t o m e. Th e re 's a ne w dragon t o face . But facing a dragon doe s n't m e an s w agge ring up t o it unarm e d and ins ul t ing it s m om . And t h e e rot ic ch arge of h azard s urrounding s e x and H IV doe s n't m e an w e can cont inue t o e ngage in s port -fuck ing in t h e nam e of "courage " or rom ant ic "w il l ." In fact , AID S's gift t o us l ie s in it s l oud re m inde r t h at t h e re 's not h ing cas ualabout s e x at al l . Th is is a gift be caus e h um an s e xual it y's pow e r and m e aning incre as e w it h our re cognit ion of it s s e rious ne s s . Th is h as be e n w h at 's "bad" about cas uals e x from t h e be ginning: s e x is ne v e r bad, but it 's al so ne v e r cas ual . O ur s e xual re cognit ion of w h at is can s t art w it h t h e cons cie nt ious us e of prot e ct ion as a ge s t ure of l ov e t ow ard ours e l v e s and our part ne rs . But a de e pe r, far brav e r re cognit ion of j us t w h at k ind of dragon w e 're facing is now s t art ing t ot ak e h ol d, and far from Arm age ddon is doing m uch t o incre as e t h e e rot ic v ol t age of cont e m porary l ife . Th ank s t o AID S, w e 're e xpanding our im aginat ions w it h re s pe ct t o w h at is "s e xual ." D e e p dow n, w e al lk now t h at t h e re alal l ure of s e xual it y h as about as m uch t o do w it h copul at ion as t h e appe alof food doe s w it h m et abol ic com bus t ion. Trit e t h ough it (us e d t o) s ound, re als e xual it y is about our s t ruggl es t o conne ct w it h one anot h e r, t o e re ct bridge s acros s t h e ch as m s t h at s e parat e sel v es. Se xual it y is , final l y, about im aginat ion. Th ank s t o brav e pe opl e 's re cognit ion of AID S as a fact of l ife , w e are be ginning t o re al ize t h at h igh l y ch arge d s e x can t ak e pl ace in al l s ort s of w ays w e 'd forgot t e n or ne gl e ct e d t h rough non-ge nit alt ouch ing, or ov er t h e ph one , or v ia t h e m ail ; in a conv e rs at ionalnuance ; in a body's pos t ure , a ce rt ain pre s s ure in a h e l d h and. Se x can be e v e ryw h e re w e are , al l t he t im e . Al l w e ne e d t o do is re al l y face t h is dragon, yie l ding ne it h er t o h ys t e rical t e rror nor t o ch il dis h de nial . In re t urn, t h e dragon can h e l p us re l e arn w h at it m e ans t o be t rul y s e xual . Th is is not a s m al lt h ing, or opt ional . Fire is l et h al , but w e ne e d it . Th e k e y is h ow w e com e t o fire . It 's not j us t ot h e r pe opl e you h av et o re s pe ct .
Nov e m be r, 19 9 6

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