Just how much should love hurt? According to Christina Nehring, a lot. And you won't just hurt, you'll suffer. But oh will it be worth it.
In fact, you can expect to feel miserable, alone, on the edge of insanity... all for the plight of love and romance.
And sex? What sex? Nehring argues that the "availiablity" of sex in our age of internet technologies and mass mediated communications makes true love impossible; that romance depends on "other-ness, tension, and reserve." Well, I guess Nehring and I have different definitions of love and romance. It's difficult for me to imagine any deep feelings of companionship and compassion to come out of that blockade that she thinks must be built between partners.
Nehring uses the romance stories of centuries past as her models - Jane Austen, in particular. As a book nerd, I can even somewhat understand Nehring's sense of Romanticism and idealism towards love and romance, but I don't understand why this tortuous angst is required. Yes, love when it is towards an unwilling object, love when it is unreciprocated, is taxing on our emotions and bodies. But those are situations where the rational and self-respecting thing to do is walk away.
Out of all the things that Nehring says about the disintegration of love in our time, the most problematic to me are her sex-negative and even female body-negative opinions, paraphrased in an article by Laura Sessions Step for sexreally.com:
"It is not, for example, 'sex-on-tap,' or 'the relentless emphasis on sexual climax that…has a largely depleting effect on the life of the emotions.' 'When erotic intimacy is available at the tap of a mouse,' she writes, or, indeed, at the amiable request of one’s household partner (“what about a quickie before lunch, dear?”); when magazines nudge us to 'claim' orgasms as we do receipts at the end of our transactions at Starbucks; when Broadway hits like Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues have women hollering the names of their genitals and baking cakes in their shape, then sex has simply become too available.”
Wait... what? Since when does it make sense to link a woman's positive sense of self and body image with bad types of love? And, last time I checked, the Vagina Monologues have been nothing but positive for women all over the globe for over 10 years.
Sessions Stepp goes on, saying:
"Love is also not an equal partnership, in her view. It is the ardor of a college student for her professor, a young man for an older man."
This view on love is troubling. It means that we would be denied real human connection, openness, and comfort. It also would mean elevated levels of depression, partner abuse, and so on. I, for one, do not think that love means despair.
An interesting and maybe even enlightening or liberating exercise that I suggest all our readers do is to take a moment and think about what sex, love and romance mean to you. How do you define them? Do they involve two people? Can't they involve just you? Perhaps they involve more? I urge you to rethink those three vague ideas outside of their social constructions (p.s. this originally was an exercise in Dr. Sekile Nzinga Johnson's Psych of Women class in spring 2009, so I can't take all the credit for it!).