Schizophrenic Sex: Power and Promise


Sex is everywhere we turn — openly, brazenly commodified: magazines, television, billboards . . . Self-consciously attempting to craft New Rules, and proudly post-modern, our public efforts at creating a 21st century, non-judgmental morality have become somewhat schizophrenic.

Do we need Viagra or are we plagued by Violence Against Women? Cosmopolitan sells magazines promising to dish on “Six sex slipups that keep you from reaching peak potential,” while college orientation focuses on Date Rape.

Same market space; same audience. Timeless tales; epic themes. Actually, is this century all that much different than the first one?

* * *

We watched HBO’s new series Rome on Sunday night and two scenes are etched on my memory.


Lucius and Titus

The first is a scene between two of Caeser’s soldiers, Centurion Lucius Vorenus and his subordinate, Legionnaire Titus Pullo. Preparing to sleep out on the cold ground one night, their conversation turns to women. Titus discovers that Lucius has not slept with a woman other than his wife during the seven years that they have been away from Rome, and mocks his virility. . .asking the Centurion why he doesn’t just take and “enjoy” the women of the regions they’ve conquered, like the other men.

Lucius responds: “When was the last time you had a woman who wasn’t crying?” And he turns his back on Titus.



The next scene centers on the political manipulations of Atia, Caeser’s niece. Caeser has given her the task of finding a wife for the widowed Pompey. Atia, seeing an opportunity for political gain, forces her daughter Octavia to divorce the husband she loves to marry Pompey.



Atia waits in a litter while Octavia embraces her husband and says goodbye. Clearly devastated, Octavia tears herself away and joins her mother.

Atia brusquely says: “Why I think I saw tears in his eyes, Octavia! Such a fuss.”

Octavia replies: “He loves me.”

The scene that soon follows, where the servants remove Octavia’s clothes to present her to Pompey is almost too painful to watch.

* * *

In my mind I juxtapose two powerful images of tears:

“When was the last time you had a woman who wasn’t crying?”

“Why I do believe those were tears in his eyes!”

* * *

In our culture of commodified sex, it is good to remember this history of sex as power and promise. It’s a force of Nature unequaled in its power for both good and evil.

Sex without boundaries causes real loss.

A history of using women as sexual playthings or political pawns is partly what has given us the anger behind feminism.

Even so, it’s equally important to remember that throughout history, keeping themselves “only unto each other” has been an imperative of “one-ness” . . .in the giving and receiving of sexually exclusive love, men and women have discovered joy.

In God’s design, sex provides a powerful pair-bond. It is meant to cleave two into one in a profound mystery beyond our understanding.

“What God hath joined together, let no man tear asunder.”

Without that boundary, we’re left with tears.


Thanks to Mudville Gazette, Open Post.


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10 Responses

  1. Sex and boundaries

    Charmaine Yoest has a thoughtful piece up – she uses a few scenes from the cable-TV film ROME to explore the idea of boundaries within sexual behavior and how the lack of such boundaries will only diminish rather than enlarge. Good post.

  2. Linky Love-Part 2

    Now, many of you know about the little ‘Vagina Monologue’ thing. This has been an on going issue for about a month. That piece was written to a teenage girl, and the hate mail and negative comments I received were irrational and implacable

  3. gsk says:

    How beautiful, Charmaine. Imagine all the impressionable young girls/women who were also watching and could compare those scenes. We happened to have been blessed to know real love, they still wonder if it exists. That’s for all of us to remind the world: it does exist and is worth waiting for!

  4. Pat Patterson says:

    This scene, between Lorenus and Pullo, was also important because, as mentioned, a soldier was rarely allowed to marry. Upon discharge most Roman soldiers married their common-law wives and settled where discharged, thus serving as a reserve in the provinces. The one thing a discharged soldier never lost was his copper or brass discharge plaque to prove his right to freedom and the vote. A centurion like Lorenus would have always carried a plaque that proved his general or the praetor had given permission for him to marry. Though I have to admit I thought that Pullo was called pollo, rather a odd nickname for a soldier.

  5. Tony says:

    Nice post, but not to be picky, I’m confused about something probably not important:

    Titus discovers that Lucius has not slept with a woman other than his wife during the seven years that they have been away from Rome, and mocks his virility. Lucius asks Titus why he doesn’t just take and “enjoy” the women of the regions they’ve conquered, like the other men.

    Was it Titus or Lucius who didn’t sleep with other women?

  6. charmaine says:

    Shoot. Thanks, Tony. That is all messed up. Going in to fix it now!

  7. E.M. says:

    Your post is awesome. Now if only I could get the message out to other chickies my age….:o)

  8. charmaine says:

    getting the word out to “other chickies my age”. . . Em, here’s me being a total political science geek: I see this as a “collective action” problem!! 🙂

  9. Pat Patterson says:

    Just a reminder that Ray Stevenson finally has a big budget film, Punisher War Zone, coming out where he gets to show a more broader range in acting skills than as Titus Pullo strangling his common life wife Gaia. Just kidding, every 15 year old boy in my class has been asking me about the film for months, many had seen Rome and really liked all the different ways Romans killed each other.

    BTW, the principal writer for Rome was Bruno Heller who is now the producer and head writer for The Mentalist. Let’s see, a mystery set in The Great Valley of California, written by an Englishman and starring the very lucky and very Australian Simon Baker.

    Really O/T-But in reference back to manual vs automatic I got a chance to drive a race prepped Porsche GT3 RS at Laguna Seca with the electronic transmission. No muss, no fuss and after my five laps I felt I had driven a car much smarter and definitely more valuable than me.

    The next day I got to drive a similar car which the owner had put a six-speed in and aside from being terrified of stripping the gears I really couldn’t sense any real difference except at the start for a little bit. Well, actually a lot because I spun the wheels and filled the cab with smoke from the burning tires in four gears before finally getting the hang of it. The owner, an old surfing friend, kept telling me not to worry about destroying the tires as he had put an old threadbare set on and didn’t tell me. Though he admitted when we got to 175 mph that maybe the old tires weren’t such a great joke after all.

    Best wishes for Christmas from one with little faith though with great admiration for those that do have it.

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