Ellen Willis

There are two kinds of sex, classical and baroque. Classical sex is romantic, profound, serious, emotional, moral, mysterious, spontaneous, abandoned, focused on a particular person, and stereo typically feminine. Baroque sex is pop, playful, funny, experimental, conscious, deliberate, amoral, anonymous, focused on sensation for sensation’s sake, and stereo typically masculine. The classical mentality taken to an extreme is sentimental and finally puritanical; the baroque mentality taken to an extreme is pornographic and finally obscene. Ideally, a sexual relation ought to create a satisfying tension between the two modes (a baroque idea, particularly if the tension is ironic) or else blend them so well that the distinction disappears (a classical aspiration). Lovemaking cannot be totally classical unless it is also totally baroque, since you cannot abandon all restraints and so attain a classical intensity. In practice, however, most people are more inclined to one mode than to the other. A very classical person will be incompatible with a very baroque person unless each can bring out the other’s latent opposite side. Two people who are very one-sided in the same direction can be extremely compatible but risk missing a whole dimension of experience unless they get so deeply into one mode that it becomes the other.

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