Thursday, May 15, 2008

Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing
Sexual Healing.mp3

This is a song that I think is rarely understood in the way that I understand it. Most people I know see this as a tongue-in-cheek yet still over-the-top declaration of nothing more than just wanting to bang a foxy young lass. But I see it as much more. In fact, I think this is one of the most romantic, sincere songs ever recorded. I would argue that Sexual Healing is in the same vein as Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire (see earlier post) as one of the most uniquely masculine expressions of affection, desire and need in the history of pop music. This song IS sincere, ladies and gentlemen. There is no joke about it.

First of all, the music should instantly tell you that this track is not coming from a frisky, playful place. In all honesty, it's an extremely melancholy song, musically speaking. It feels safe and secret, and brings us to a very private, intimate world of tenderness and warmth. Compare this to Let's Get It On. Let's Get It On is smooth as a chocolate swirl, but it is also much more upbeat than this. Even the title suggests a playfulness that Sexual Healing does not. Sexual Healing is not ironic in any way; it only seems that way to people who see sex as merely a dirty little secret in each of our lives. Sex is not just something people do for fun; it can serve a very deep, genuine and necessary role in our lives, and it can be truly beautiful, loving and, as the title of this song suggests, healing.

I think that this is particularly true for men. We are strange beasts, just like women. Sex is absolutely huge for both men AND women, and neither sex is more sexual than the other. Women love sex just as much as men do, everyone. But I think that it can play different roles for each sex/gender, and sex plays a uniquely strong role in men's lives. Again, sex is not any more of a man's activity than a woman's activity, and women are just as sexual as dudes are, but sex is at the forefront of men's minds in a much greater way, I think. Of course, I am not a woman, so I can't speak to this from personal experience, but based on my experiences with both, I can tell you that I think sex occupies a unique role in the life of men. Sex is everything, and it has such a profound mystique. Men crave sex constantly from everyone, but we rarely get to control when we get it. Men are always asking for sex in so many ways, and women are almost always in control of when they get it. It's like that scene in the show Coupling (the hilarious British sitcom), where a man and woman are having dinner on a date, and the man explains to the woman how men are in a unique position on dates, because they spend all night wondering whether they're going to get lucky, while the women know the answer for the entire duration. This is hilarious and completely and utterly true. This grants sex with this tremendous mystique, and women are like these sacred goddesses who are the sole beings in the universe who can give us what we want more than anything. Of course, no one knows what the hell to do to get them to give it to us, but sex is this thing that men are constantly craving that we can't necessarily have on will, unless we have a girlfriend or want to go to a prostitute (although that's not my scene and I have no experience with this).

For men, this gives sex this incredible mystique and power that I don't think women perceive in the same way. For women, I think sex can be a much more playful, strictly enjoyable experience, because they know, deep down, that they can get it whenever the hell they want it (don't try to deny it - you know this is completely true) if they are willing to perhaps lower their standards a bit. But any woman I know could easily fuck a different guy every single night if she wanted, and that's the facts, ladies and gentlemen. This is exactly why men and women act so differently at strip clubs. Women hoot and holler and laugh and giggle and just have a blast. Men don't. Men sulk and stare and don't have anything even vaguely resembling a smile on their face when they watch a naked woman stick her ass in their face. This is because this sexual desire is infinitely more intense because it is insatiable. I think that women can revel in the strip club experience because it is simply a microcosm of the dynamic that exists outside; there are men constantly strutting around saying "I got a bigger dick than the next guy and I wanna be your daddy" and they get to pick and choose at will. This microcosm exists with men, too. They are constantly staring and lusting after women that they can't have, despite their best efforts. It's really brilliant. I'm not a big fan of strip clubs, but I think that the dynamic they create is so interesting.

Anyways, this is just illustrative of how intense sexual desire is for men. Sexual desire can absolutely burn a hole in your skull (or "cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul", as The Boss says in I'm On Fire). Men feel deeply rejected when they don't have sex for a while. This is partially because men also often lack the same emotional intelligence that women have, or they at least are unwilling to display and utilize it. Women often are more used to talking about their feelings and asking their friends for emotional support when they need it. Men are usually very uncomfortable with this, and often just drink and talk about sports or The Big Lebowski or the girl with the big jugs at the end of the bar when they are troubled and need support. Men are also really weird about relationships in that they often don't understand about intimacy because of this difficulty in truly communicating. For a lot of guys, the penultimate point in a relationship is when you fuck a girl. Dating is about taking a girl out to dinner until she lets you fuck her. Some guys have no clue how a relationship can progress past this point. Seriously. I wish I could say this humorously, but I mean it really, really seriously. Now, I am not one of them and I think that a loving, intimate relationship is one of the absolute best things in the world, but this is the reality for a lot of guys. Men get whipped into a frenzy over wanting to fuck a girl, and that becomes the goal, whereas for a lot of women the goal can be to get to know a guy and then get it on once you know them better. Of course, there are many, many exceptions to this, but this is often the case.

As the legendary Jeff Murdock explains in Coupling: "Do you know what would be the best way to wipe out all of humankind if you were a space alien with a special kind of mind ray? Make women telepathic. Because if they suddenly found out about the kind of stuff that goes on in our heads, they'd kill us all on the spot. Men are not people. We are disgustoids in human form. Women think we're normal, like them, because we talk to them like normal people. You know, we say 'Hello. How are you? Haven't seen you in this place before. What kind of music do YOU like?' But all the time in our brains, we've got the word 'breasts' on a loop. If we ever lost control for a second we'd all start shouting, 'BREASTS! BREASTS! BREASTS!'"

This is gospel, ladies and gentlemen. It may be sad, but it is true. Now, this doesn't mean that men are categorically incapable of feeling emotion beyond desire, but desire is pretty fucking dominant in the mind of a man. And to someone such as myself (and I think, judging by his music, Marvin Gaye), women are goddesses. They aren't just pieces of meat that you hope will let you fuck them. But even as strictly sexual beings, their power, beauty and meaning are awe-inspiring. Men can go two ways with their intense desire: they can embrace its emotionality, or they can attempt to deny it, instead opting to just try to bang bimbos they don't give a shit about.

I personally have to vouch for the former approach, which is what Sexual Healing is all about. In this song, sex is an act of love, warmth, caring, tenderness, empathy and, yes, healing. It's also important to note that Gaye has addressed this song to one woman, rather than many or a universal one. This is about his lover, and it is an admission of his need for her. He feels broken, and only she can fix him. She serves a completely unique role of nurturer and giver in his life, and he would be incomplete without her. And what is the refrain of the song? "Heal me, my dar-ling...". This song isn't even vaguely sleazy, insincere or misogynistic. This song is, in fact, empowering to women. Gaye is admitting that he would be lost without his woman, and - I believe - that he loves her very deeply. This is profoundly beautiful, especially in our culture. So many people have such a bizarrely puritanical notion of sex as this dirty little secret, but here Gaye is singing its praises and exploring how beautiful and powerful it can be. He is also making himself completely and uniquely vulnerable.

There was a time when I had a female friend that I cared very, very deeply about (well, I'm still friends with her). We had been friends for a while and although I had admitted that I dug her, I had never really expressed how I felt about her. We spent some time together and I told her about how deeply I cared for her, and how special she was to me, and this made me feel incredibly vulnerable. But I have to tell you - one thing that I said made me feel very, very vulnerable, and it was when I told her that I wanted her. And this is one of the most powerful and tender feelings I had for her; that desire to hold her, and kiss her, and lay my cheek on her stomach, and taste her, and make love to her and worship her body that I might experience it as fully as I wanted to. And believe me, there is nothing sleazy about it. I wanted to share my body with her, and to have the honor of her sharing hers with me. It was beautiful and incredibly tender, and making love to her would have been truly beautiful and healing. But admitting that desire was absolutely crucial, because for me it was a huge part of my feelings for her. There are many women for whom I feel a less powerful and tender sexual desire, but that one was special because it was truly an extension of the feelings of adoration and affection I had for her.

In this sense, Gaye is not even putting himself in a position of power. So many songs about sex - especially by men - are about how magnificent they are in the sack and how they can get any chick to suck their dick (I'm thinking of a lot of recent rap here). This song is completely about how truly wonderful and amazing his woman is when she makes love to him, and how much it means to him and how much he needs her and would be lost without her. This song is as honest, unique and beautiful as they come, ladies and gentlemen. And believe me - it takes a lot for a man to admit something like this in the way that Gaye does in Sexual Healing.

Just listen to it. This song is as tender as raw beef. I tell you, too - I associate this song heavily with a certain woman who used to be in my life. When I really got into this song it made me think about her a lot, and it still does. And honestly, it just makes me wish I could share that kind of sexual intimacy with someone. Isn't that one of the most wonderful parts of a relationship, when you really, truly feel that you can just share each other's bodies with one another? When sex becomes just this wonderful thing that you can give to each other - and each other alone - and you just exchange it constantly, back and forth, forever? It can become as spiritual and loving and yes, healing, as talking. Sometimes all you have to say to each other is just sexual. You have no words - just action. And it's completely understood, everything that it means. And it's not because you have no words to share; usually it's best when you have an unlimited number of words to share and things to talk about. But eventually the words are just too much, and you have to heal each other. You have to make love. Everything melts away into the other, and you give and take everything from each other that you can possibly give. I hope you know what I mean, and that you have been fortunate enough to experience such wonderful sexual intimacy.

I was out with a bunch of dudes tonight, and I had a blast. It was truly awesome. Of course, we are all horn dogs and couldn't stop thinking about women. I bombed with one and got another one's number. All night, you think about sex and how great it would be. It would be healing in its way, but not in the way that Gaye is talking about. Gaye is talking about making LOVE. Not just fucking, but making LOVE. Where sex is tenderness and expression and voicing everything you need to say and need to let go of. This is sex shared with someone you care about deeply. This is a rare and beautiful thing, and something you don't find at a bar on a Saturday night.

This song is absolutely gorgeous, and gives voice to so much that is so hard to say.


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