Loving Beyond Beauty

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This piece by Caleb Luna (they/them) gets at an issue that increasingly seems to me to be *the* sticking point for a radical politics rooted in the erotic, in love. What happens to bodies marked by the majority as unbeautiful? Urging people to redefine their idea of beauty, as corporate marketing campaigns sometimes do, misses the point. That still makes beauty the measure of worth. It’s not enough to say, “You too are beautiful, body that society relentlessly devalues”; what’s radical and necessary is to say, “Your human value has nothing to do with your beauty or unbeauty, your human value is inalienable, and yet you’re still a body and your body is still good.”

I’ve often been kinda terrified about how alone I’d feel if nobody I find attractive found me attractive. I’ve worried that my tendency to date conventionally nice-looking able-bodied white people, when once in a while they’ll have me, just doesn’t scale: if everybody did that or tried to do that, so so so many people would be frustrated and alone.

And hey wait: so many people ARE frustrated and alone! It’s almost as if a neoliberal market logic applied to the sexual “marketplace” results, for some, in what Michel Houellebecq calls “absolute pauperization.” It’s almost as if the neoliberal privatization of care, the political consensus that people are mostly responsible for themselves and it’s not the role of the community to look after all its members, means that people who don’t find mates — whose bodies make it difficult to find mates — are pretty royally fucked.

But speaking of fucking, you want to fuck who you want to fuck, right? You do. It’s hard if not impossible to “reeducate” desire. But the identification of sex with care — the reality that, as Luna points out in their piece, a lot of people direct a disproportionate amount of their emotional energy towards the person they’re fucking — is a problem. Of course you should show as much care as possible to whomever you’re fucking. But a radically loving politics needs to go further.

Maybe it means building more friendships that are as committed and emotional-energy-intensive as good sexual relationships. Maybe it means fucking those you care about but who aren’t socially marked as beautiful, and also worshipping beauty (because beauty is amazing) and fucking those it abides in. Probably it doesn’t mean monogamy, which deals in a logic of status and possession and will-to-babymaking that causes many people, for both social and biological reasons, to prioritize beauty. (My partner and I aren’t monogamous and I still happen to think she’s beautiful, but I would love her and want to take care of her and be taken care of by her even if she weren’t.) Certainly it doesn’t mean pretending, because we want to protest oppressive forms of “objectification,” that we’re not bodies. That’s wrong. We don’t *have* bodies. We’re not spirits that borrow bodies. That’s Christianity. That’s Plato. That’s metaphor. We’re bodies.

I dunno. But it seems to me that the fundamental political question is an erotic one, that a politics that enables people to live fully human lives must both affirm beauty (because beauty is amazing) and refuse to make it a necessary basis for care.

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