Sexual fantasy is as old as civilization (as opposed to as old as the race), and one of its outward and visible signs is pornographic literature, an entirely middle-class phenomenon, since we are assured by many investigators (Kinsey, Pomeroy, et al.) that the lower orders seldom rely upon sexual fantasy for extra-stimulus. As soon as possible, the uneducated man goes for the real thing. Consequently he seldom masturbates, but when he does he thinks, we are told, of nothing at all. This may be the last meaningful class distinction in the West.
Nevertheless, the sex-in-the-head middle classes that D.H. Lawrence so despised are not the way they are because they want deliberately to be cerebral and anti-life; rather they are innocent victims of necessity and tribal law. For economic reasons they must delay marriage as long as possible. For tribal reasons they are taught that sex outside marriage is wrong. Consequently the man whose first contact with a woman occurs when he is twenty will have spent the sexually most vigorous period of his life masturbating. Not unnaturally, in order to make that solitary act meaningful, the theater of his mind early becomes a Dionysian festival, and should he be a resourceful dramatist he may find actual lovemaking disappointing when he finally gets to it, as Bernard Shaw did. One wonders whether Shaw would have been a dramatist at all if he had first made love to a girl at fourteen, as nature intended, instead of at twenty-nine, as class required.
In going back over one’s past one remembers all too much foolishness. Yet how can I forgive anyone else if I don’t forgive myself? And how can I believe that now, as I have become and matured, I am no longer a fool? If “judge not that you be not judged” means anything, it means that we must look at human affairs, including our own, as we look at nature:
In the scene of spring there is nothing inferior,
Flowering branches grow naturally, some short, some long.
Our deeds, our feelings, our thoughts, and our sensations just happen of themselves, as the rain falls and the water flows along the valley. I am neither a passive and helpless witness to whom they happen, nor an active doer and thinker who causes and controls them. “I” is simply the idea of myself, a thought among thoughts. Taken seriously it gives the illusion of being something apart from nature, a subject reviewing objects. But if the subject is an illusion, the objects are no longer mere objects. Inside the skull and the skin as well as outside, there is simply the stream flowing along of itself. The bones flow too, and their inner texture has the same patterns as moving liquid. In nature there are neither masters nor slaves.
Illustration by John Collier: Portraits of members of The Who, for a review of their album Who Are You, Rolling Stone, 19 October 1978. Drummer Keith Moon (upper left) had died two months earlier; his portrait was complete.