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Marxism in the Bedroom

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

More than a century ago, Oscar Wilde stated what may seem an eternal truth. “Everything is about sex except for sex. Sex is about power,” he wrote. But what power could this be? As Marx posits, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” and “the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it” (Marx, 1845). A society ruled by capitalists will not only have its economic system shaped by capitalism. As a self-reproducing whole, capitalism becomes more than a tool for market organization— it spreads as a mindset and becomes an invisible guiding force in every aspect of the societal life, including the most intimate. Applying Marxist concepts such as commodification, the market economy and alienation, one can see how capitalist ideology profoundly influences our sexual practices, preferences and choices.

Capitalism depends on the production of goods and their exchange for profit. Simultaneously, in order to remain in business, the capitalist constantly competes with others, improving his production by exploiting the labor of others, as well as other available resources. Our sexual lives mirror the marketplace in several fascinating ways. First, to find a sexual partner, one needs to subject herself to various practices aimed at gaining the interest of potential intimates. In the process of doing that, the person commodificates her body and/or self in order to sell it for the desired exchange value—in this case, sex. At a typical party, for example, women dress in revealing clothes and wear make up to emphasize their attractiveness. Both men and women to varying degrees attempt to bolster or hide different aspects of their selves, in order to meet each other’s expectations and go forward in the transaction of sex. Online dating profiles almost entirely focus on the display of photos and descriptions of physical appearance. These tools for self-promotion closely resemble the marketing techniques used to sell objects in trade of more traditional commodities.

karl_marx_pop_art_queen_duvetConsequently, the person simultaneously plays the role of a worker, commodity and capitalist. When one performs or manipulates her social image during an interaction, this requires effort and at least a certain sense of awareness of one’s actions which can be seen as constituting labor. Since the person decides to offer herself (including her body, time and consciousness) to another, she takes on the role of a “capitalist.” Yet, what has really been sold? Since neither the person’s body nor spirit changes its beholder (even though still commodificated to make the transaction of sex occur), then it must be sex itself. Sex, therefore, turns into a fetish, a commodity that is sought of itself and which people fail to see as anything more than a physical act.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx claims that: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations” (Marx, 1848). In saying that capitalism has stripped social relationships from emotionality, he believes: “It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation” (Marx, 1848). Indeed, the corporate mentality born by capitalism shapes how sex is viewed and practiced. When personal profit is its sole motivation, sex becomes a consumer item you purchase to be aroused and orgasm- a statement which rings true for many, yet breeds dissatisfaction and isolation. The more you consume, the better at the marketplace. The more sex you have, the better in the bedroom— or so it seems.

Having adopted the market value system, one takes its measures of value for his own, thus, prioritizing instrumental relationships as most significant. The US college student perfectly illustrates this philosophy. The majority of students seemingly find satisfaction for their sexual frustration in meaningless weekend hookups they usually do not even repeat. Why waste time and effort, after all, if you can get what you want at minimum price? The cost-and-benefit analysis, however, is the deathbed of affectional action where emotion reigns and inner feelings find expression.

e3486226The commodification of self, body and sex, together with the deprecation of non-instrumental relationships, inevitably leads to what Marx termed “alienation”. Just as with labor, in the realm of sex, alienation occurs on multiple levels. When having sex for the sake of sex, the human becomes both objectified and “a servant to his object”. Not only is his being reduced to his body, but his sweat, his moans, his movement and actions do not belong to him but are seen as pertaining to sex. His emotion is invisible. Alienation is experienced not only as an estrangement from the self, whereby the individual loses his human traits and becomes an interchangeable pawn in the sexual spectacle. It also occurs on an interpersonal level. When you see others as commodities instead of as living human beings with emotions and feelings, you cannot connect with them on a personal level and do not accept responsibility for harming them. Irresponsibility becomes a symptom of emotional numbness directly caused by the estrangement from feelings.

Sex also mimics labor in that those who carry it out become estranged from it. When during sex the individual “does not affirm himself but denies himself,” (Marx, 1844) he, thus, attends only to his primal desires, and not his spiritual ones. This reduction is, indeed, catastrophic for “he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal” (Marx, 1844). By the virtue of possessing consciousness, however, once he becomes aware of his treatment as a sexual object, the human grows incapable of accepting this perversity. Sex, then, becomes an activity one does not do voluntarily, but is forced to engage in. This coercion he feels, at the very least, stems from the biological urges of the human being which he needs to attend to every so often. The worker has to remain a worker in order to make a living despite his alienation from the labor. Likewise, when an individual feels exploited in the sexual act, yet is forced to engage in it (whether to satisfy a biological need, to procreate or receive other reinforcement), sex is committed as an act of self-sacrifice and mortification.

Capitalistic ideology profoundly affects the sexual relations in society as illuminated by the examples provided. Evidently, Capitalistic sex, as well as the system it stems from, does not allow both parties to win. When you have adopted the capitalistic mindset, you expect to either exploit or be exploited. In the way Marx sees the only solution to the alienation of labor to be the overthrowing of capitalism, the only way to liberate sex from its capitalistic influence, is to replace the capitalistic ideas that govern it with a set of values that will inspire people to treat each other with respect and dignity. This requires our society to place a value on relationships, regardless of their usefulness, in order to create solidarity- in and out of the bedroom.


  • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” Manifesto of the Communist Party. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved March, 17, 2015 from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm
  • MARX, KARL. 1844. “Estranged Labour.” N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved March, 17, 2015 from https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/labour.html

Race in Sex

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Maggie Nazer“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” Oscar Wilde has got it right. Sex is a complex social issue which embodies layers of hard-to-handle gender and social status controversy. Adding politics of race in the equation only serves to further on heat up the already problematic topic of sexuality. Exploring how racial matters influence sexual perceptions, stereotypes and misconceptions, however, is more than needed. It is an eye-opening process that gives insight on the ways devaluation of people is done in present days, dating back to the slave era. Evidently, Afro-Americans and individuals from other racial and ethnic groups present in the States have gone a long way since the abolition of slavery. Yet sexuality is everything but “race-blind” as seen in both the prevalence of endogamous marriages and the “white-supremacist” nature of many interracial marriages; the objectification of both women and men of color in interracial sex and porn; and the domination of widely spread sexual stereotypes discriminating the same groups.  

Since in 1967 the US Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation laws (laws prohibiting individuals from different races to marry) unconstitutional, the public approval of interracial marriages has risen with eighty percent- a figure worth our admiration, yet failing to tell the whole truth about the persistent racial and racist issues affecting deeply the way people connect and build relationships within and outside their race. The 8,9% number of interracial marriages can be considered rather low for a country as multiethnic and diverse in population as the USA. While the popular modern trend of “cohabitation” should undoubtedly be considered, it is also an easy solution to the problem of dealing with the reaction of the society which respects the abstract idea of an “interracial marriage”, but is still immature as to how to react when faced with it.  Another example of racism in action in the context of intermarriages is the legal union between rich white men and poor women from developing countries or different racial backgrounds in general. Popular among American and European men this practice reinforces superiority claims from whites, while encouraging poor women to consider voluntary prostitution and arranged interracial marriages as tempting options to secure a living. “Bride-hunts” conducted by wealthy white men in countries like Thailand, for instance, or their respective parallels in one’s own country reinforce the racist stereotypes which often qualify women of color as the negative  “submissive, easy, pleasing” or even the positive “motherly, perfect- house-wives”, in addition to creating the contrasting image of white women depicted as “feminists and unsuitable for family life workaholics”. The case of “marriage squeeze” offers yet another opportunity to look at racial and sexual issues within out-marrying. “Marriage squeeze” stands for the trend executed by “well-educated”, “wealthy”, “desirable” Afro-Americans to marry white women rather than women from their own race because of the higher societal status white women inherit. Leaving more than 50% of Black women between 30-35 unmarried, this practice also contributes to the reinforcement of the racist perceptual superiority of white women.

The above examples illustrate not only the prevailing racist issues surrounding the practice of marrying outside of one’s race, but also the constantly occurring objectification of men and women of color within the context of interracial sex. Objectification is a philosophical term that stands for the treatment of people as things. It is exercised through the assumed ownership of humans, the denial of their autonomy and their treatment as interchangeable tools. The wide-spread modern myths of black men’s sexual prowess and black women’s submissiveness and sexual appetite are easy to name examples of racial and sexual objectification that are historical offspring of the slavery period in the US. Slave breeding practices and statutory rape laws both enhanced sexual debasement and cruelty against African-Americans who were considered moveable property across the United States. These inhumane practices led slaves to either confront their masters, and thus be beaten and tortured, or accept the savagery and use it as a way to secure protection. The English regulations executed in the colonies stated that “Indians and Blacks, as well as their children, were prohibited by law from defending themselves against abuse, sexual and otherwise, at the hands of Whites” (Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Failing Our Black Children: Statutory Rape Laws, Moral Reform and the Hypocrisy of Denial (2002)). Additionally, after the termination of the Atlantic slave trade slaveholders forced coerced sexual relations and reproduction between male and female slaves and favored Black female slaves who produced a lot of children. Since the laws declared that every child born by a slave mother became a slave, masters attempted to increase their profits by becoming “slave breeders” and reducing their costs on purchasing human labor. Exploited by their mistresses and used as walking “sperm banks”, male Afro-American slaves held a similar disadvantageous position: they did not own their bodies. Even worse: they were perceived as if they were only bodies.

Sadly, objectification of people is still prevailing. And despite no one is protected, marginalized racial groups are even more vulnerable to sexual stereotyping and dehumanization. While it is already hard to be a woman and not be perceived as powerless and submissive, imagine being an Asian, Latino, African-American or even an Eastern-European woman. It is important to note that stereotypes play a crucial role in sexuality and result in serious psychological and social repercussions which endanger the well-being of individuals within the society, create misunderstanding and disturb the natural processes of creating connectedness between humans. Stereotypes kill intimacy and establishes sex as a mere physical process in which people are reduced to their body parts and are limited to exhibit only certain sexual attitudes. When people are put in categories, rather than seen holistically, the relationships they create are castrated. Robbed of genuine appreciation for the uniqueness of the other person, they can only reach mediocre levels of substance, depth and, thus, satisfaction. Unfortunately, men and women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds not only suffer from sexual prejudices, but also reinforce them. Black men, for instance, are commonly described as very athletic, muscular and promiscuous, and often try to maintain these stereotypes through stylizing their bodies and adopting behaviors perpetuating the very same attitudes which are destructive and limiting to them.

In a world obsessed with sex, race is a factor which cannot be underestimated. Exploring race within the framework of sexuality reveals layers of unsettled social polemics and points at various challenges which are yet to be overcome on our way to becoming indiscriminate. Nevertheless, it serves as motivation to be more aware and mindful of the ways we objectify both ourselves, and others; more committed to being truly authentic and more sensitive to the factors which prevent us from creating valuable human connections.


Creative Autobiography

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DSC_0419This is my “Creative Autobiography”, prepared for my Arts Course this fall semester, called- “The creative process”, led by Middlebury College professor Claudio Medeiros. He asked us to turn this in, so that he can get to know us through our initial creative experiences. Here is what I came up with…

Creative autobiography
Of Maggie Nazer

  1. What is the first creative moment you remember? My first most meaningful creative act was creating a garden in front of my block of flats and getting everyone excited and willing to help me do it. The space was covered in long grass and trash and I succeeded to clean it all with the help of my friends  and we planted flowers and made table and chairs by putting stones together. This created a wonderful playground for us and also a great view for all the passing by people who lived in the block. I was in the third grade, when I started this very first project of mine and yet this garden is present up to this day.

2.       Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it? Yes, many people, in fact. It was clear that it had an impact as well as people appreciated the environment we improved and created.

3.       What is the best idea you have ever had? Starting a youth charity and volunteering organization and thus creating an active platform for exchange of inspiration, skills, service and more. Deciding to write a book including real life love letters or conversations about the nature of Love, relationships and more in addition to personal narratives which aims to show how my perception on Love had changed over the time- moving from pain-control-ownership-based relationships to alternative, conscious relationships in which partners are viewed primarily as individuals and not only as parts of a couple and love is viewed in the context of personal and mutual growth, unrestrained and free.

4.       What is the dumbest idea? I think there are no dumb ideas.

5.       Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?

6.       What is your creative ambition? To finish my book soon and publish it (short term). To keep developing my creativity, intuition, my sense for arts, beauty, fashion; to be able to express myself better artistically, to develop my own psychological and therapeutic art instruments.

7.       What are the obstacles to this ambition? Lack of time and opportunities to work on it specifically.

8.       What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition? Creating agenda, watching out for opportunities…

What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat? I used to travel a lot so I hardly had any repeating habits as every day used to be completely unique. Thought travelling often can also become a habit.

10.   Describe your most successful creative act? See N3.

11.   Describe your 1st successful creative act- See N1

12.   What are your attitudes towards:

  • Money- I do think that money are important. When people don’t have the money to meet their basic needs, they feel miserable, inconfident and restricted. They can not pay that much attention to arts or sports, literature or entertainment If their needs for food, shelter, etc. are not met (The hierarchy of needs, Maslow). Money are a great way to exchange value as well- in the present world money are the material form that your creative energy, diligent work and sweat transforms into.
  • Power- I believe in the power of human actions, inspiration and enthusiasm. As well as the power of intentions, positive thoughts and shaping your Universe through being able to find the lesson in every situation.
  • Praise- I don’t like praise, because I think it does not lead to anything constructive. What I have observed is that when people praise someone it is as if they look at him as a hero- a super human, rather than an individual who succeeds to overcome himself and create himself no matter of what he has started with.
  • Rivals- I used to be very competitive. When I was in the States for the first time on an exchange program in Wake Forest University, however, I experienced a massive decrease in my confidence- I felt despite all my emotional intelligence, experiences and skills, I could not compare to the factual intelligence of my peers, my English suffered as the more I tried to push myself to talk well in English (and I did have a high level of expression in English), I only sounded worse. I realized that If my confidence is based on the comparison with others, I will always suffer badly. Because there will always be someone better than me in one thing or another. I believe that each of us is a unique mixture of experience, characteristics, skills. And rivalry should be within- in your personal attempt to challenge yourself, your preconceived ideas, expectations, your very “natural” attempt to attach and secure yourself.
  • Work-is a great opportunity to develop yourself and practice happiness, If it is revolving around some passion of yours. Should be stimulating or made stimulating.
  • Play- you can play as you do almost anything. Depends on your attitude towards things.
  • The Divine- I believe that God is in each one of us and in everything that surrounds us at every moment and at any place.
  1. Which artists do you admire most? Robin Williams, Shimshai, Bob Marley, Vladimir Dimitrov Maistora, Claude Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Lenny Cravitz, Ayn Rand, Oscar Wilde, Plato…

From the list you can see I do not really have much background in arts- but I want to learn and I want to become able to appreciate visual art and be deeply touched by it.

14.   Why are they your role models? I wouldn’t say they are my role models, but I am impressed by their being so authentic, revolutionary in their own ways, deep, sensitive, aware.

15.   What do you have in common with them? I am just aperson, yet I know that a single person can have a great deal of impact.

16.   Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?My mother, friends, poetry, music..

17.   Define muse. Someone who inspires you to create and express your Potential to the fullest.

18.   Who is your muse? Different people at different times- people with passion, and will, determination and positive aura. Many times I’m my own muse as well- I am proud of my achievements, of succeeding to practice the values I care about and tryong to be an open book and share as much as possible.

Thank you for reading! :)
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