Thursday, March 19, 2009

Negative Attitudes Toward Food and Sex Come From the Same Source

Yet again, Alternet has giving me blogging fodder. In the article in questions, Which Is Worse These Days: Being Called Fat or Whore by Charlotte Hilton Andersen, the author explores the idea:

In an interesting switch, food and sex have completely reversed their roles in society. And all within only a matter of two generations.

My response to the article follows below:

Negative Attitudes Toward Food and Sex Come From the Same Source

We must remember that our country's culture has a strong Calvinist streak running through it, starting with the Puritans.

Calvinism values ascetic self-denial and is suspicious of anything that even suggests excess, which would include food and sex. It takes a negative view of human nature, with its doctrine of "total depravity", which takes the view every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. Thus, all the basic drives that go along with being human, which would include the drive to eat and to mate, believing that such things, while necessary for the survival of the species, must be tightly controlled.

In both the instances cited in this article, food and sex, what is being resisted is hedonism, which is a worldview which values pleasure for its own sake. Eating and having sex, are both naturally pleasurable activities. A sex hedonist is a libertine, while a food hedonist is a gourmand.

Naturally, both forms of hedonism offend the Calvinist mentality, as Calvinism is suspicious of anything that indicates that people are having too much of a good time, as such pursuits take away from focusing on God.

Though most people today who take a negative attitude against those who enjoy sex and/or food "too much" in their opinion, are generally not consciously aware of the Calvinist roots of their beliefs, such roots are so deeply embedded in our culture as to be sacred cows.

Thus, many of those who rail against "whores" and fat people get emotional about it and take on a moralistic tone and cast sex and food hedonists as bad people deserving of public scorn.

And this is precisely what makes such attitudes so hard to root out; they are so deeping woven into our cultural fabric that most people are unaware of the religious roots of it all.

It would be better if people realized that everyone in this life has their own burdens to bear and that no one is perfect or in a position to act as moral judges to others. Pleasure for its own sake isn't bad, but self-righteously meddling into the private lives of others is.

The guiding rule should be, "If it doesn't infringe on your right to do differently, then it's none of your business." Simple enough, I'd think.

1 comment:

Roger said...

But what's the fun if you can't call someone a "fat whore?" ;-)