I was reading a review of Steven Soderbergh’s new film Magic Mike which, much to the excitement of thousands of undersexed (or, perhaps, oversexed depending on your point of view) desperate housewives around the country, chronicles the story of several male strippers as they scrape their way from blue collar jobs to fame and fortune. As I read Mr. Buckwalter’s thorough review, one aspect of the films plot really stood out to me: namely, the romantic yearnings of the lead character (and successful stripper) Mike who falls in love with the one girl who refuses to jump into bed with him. Mr. Buckwalter explains in more detail:
“Mike takes Adam — a shy young screw-up he meets at a construction job — under his wing, shaping him into a dancer in his own image, much to the consternation of Adam’s sister Brooke(Cody Horn), who inevitably becomes the one girl Mike can’t immediately charm into bed. She’s a symbol for the something more Mike wants out of life, the something that’s always frustratingly out of reach.”
We see this same theme in many great romance stories: the flirtatious sex magnet who sleeps around with any woman standing within a twenty yard radius suddenly realizes he’s madly in love with the one girl who never gives him the time of day; as he pursues her he realizes the one thing he’s missing in life is true intimacy. This goes to show that all too often we confuse our sexual appetite with our deepest and truest human desire for real, meaningful, lasting intimacy–the one thing which always seems, “frustratingly out of reach.”
Our sexual appetites pressure us into believing, if only subconsciously, that the most satisfying or exciting relationships in life are erotic ones. The media preys upon this weakness in our character and proceeds to add fuel to an already blazing fire. This erotic desire, however, is one completely self focused and detached from the thought of others–a form of narcissistic lasciviousness whose only goal is the satiation of one’s lusts. “It’s just business,” they say, “it’s not personal”–and thus we come face to face with the tragedy of it all: we endlessly seek after impersonal forms of sexual gratification in our desperate attempt to satisfy our true desire for intimacy.
For our souls desperately cry out to be intimate with the One who truly satisfies our deepest longings. We are all like the maiden who has lost her beloved:
“Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer . . .” (Song of Solomon 3:1).
We feel lost and alone and impersonal, self-centered, erotic love will never give us the type of personal loving intimacy that our souls long for. In fact, a fundamentally impersonal erotic love will always leave us empty and alone because it is built upon the shifting sands of a finite vacillating reality–mere biological processes and chemical reactions. Sensual pleasure, devoid of the spiritual, becomes mechanistic and degrading. Your senses, so strong, so vivid, so powerful today will deteriorate and when they are gone you will be alone and the work of your hands will seem meaningless. As the Preacher learned so many thousands of years ago:
“whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun . . . so I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me . . .” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, 17)
We may deny ourselves no pleasure, but without the true intimacy we long for, without ultimate meaning saturating our lives, everything indeed is vanity–for if we embrace a world of heartless, impersonal erotic love as the end of our existence then we are no different than a soulless dying flame hopelessly flickering on top of a melting candle . . . just waiting to be extinguished.
Let this not be our end. Let us set our hearts affection on true intimacy with the Lover or our souls, the One who holds all things together, the One who bled for us. Only then will we find lasting contentment: spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and, yes, even erotically.