Thursday, 31 May 2018

Appetence - seems it's all we need.

I hate to admit that the word appetence is new to me. Despite my English degree, this word has escaped my notice. I had to look it up. It wasn't in my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary so before I resorted to on-line versions, I dug out my battered, Chambers Etymological and there it was, defined in all its glory: 'Appetence - n - a seeking after: desire, especially sexual desire'.

As I browsed the list of words that follow, I found, 'Appetite  - n - a natural desire: desire for food, hunger.  From Latin appetitus. See 'appetence'. There is a very interesting difference that you may have spotted - appetite is described as a 'natural' desire: appetence is not. 

Yesterday evening I was dining with my son and because I enjoy the early evening antique programmes, the TV was on in the background. When the advertisements came on, there was one that drew my son's attention. A young man and girl in her bedroom, about to have sex when her father comes to the door. The young man makes no attempt to put his jeans on - he takes some chewing gum from his pocket, sticks it in his mouth and simply says, "Hi I'm Tom." I have to say that I find this comical. My father would have murdered him and I can't imagine that he'd get a smile from the father of most young girls - at least I hope not. It was my own son's reaction to the advert that really struck me as interesting. He said, " Everything is about sex now Mum, isn't it?" 

It's true. Everything - certainly when it comes to advertising - is about sex. I would like to tell him that this is something new - but of course the advertisers will tell you that 'sex sells'. I only have to think about the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey and its subsequent success as a movie blockbuster. Sex sells. It's a fact. But it is healthy? Selling chewing gum or toothpaste to young people with the implication that it will get them a brief encounter on a train or a pat on the back from a girl's father doesn't seem healthy to me. Perhaps I am old fashioned. When I was a girl, a man in black could climb into your bedroom but at least he was only leaving a box of Milk Tray. My Dad would still have murdered him.

The advertising industry did not begin the interest in the pursuit if sexual desire - it merely tapped into it.  E L James was not the first writer to capitalise on the appetence (see I am getting the hang of this now) of the general population. We can go back to the 18th Century to the writings of the Marquis de Sade when looking for the source of the problem.

He was held in he Bastille before being moved to an insane asylum, His cell was searched and a copper cylinder was found in a crevice in the wall: it contained the manuscript of an unfinished novel called The 120 Days of Sodom or The School of Libertinage. Even when incarcerated for his extreme sexual behaviour, Sade continued his appetence with the thirteen year old daughter of his jailer. 

The once unpublishable novel has now joined the ranks of Penguin’s Classics for the first time, and its author will take his place alongside the great figures of world literature – many of whom would no doubt turn in their graves at the news that their club now counted Sade among its members. Yet many of the surrealists and great writers of the modern age have been influenced by his works. It seems that the pursuit of sexual desire has always 'sold'. 

I am not going to lecture anyone but to me the beauty of an intimate relationship is in discovery. The modern high street abounds with kinky lingerie and shops selling sex toys.  I believe that if sexual desire is corrupted by sadism it can only end badly. In the film about Sade starring Geoffrey Rush, he was denied writing materials but continued to write in his own blood on his cell walls. He would constantly shout about obscene acts until in exasperation they cut out his tongue. 

 So here I am - the new Mary Whitehouse, setting out to censor the advertisers. My son is 29 and worries about the overt sexual nature of advertising. Perhaps it's about time we all did.  As the books states, appetence, unlike appetite is not a 'natural' desire. By the way - if you have copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, please don't give them to charity shops, they have been given so many that they have to be put on pyres and burned, for the sake of future generations.

I won't apologize for the lack of a poem on the subject. I am working on it quietly - in my own time.  
Thanks for reading. Adele  



Steve Rowland said...

No holds barred... not even the half-lotus ;-)

I agree that advertising which exploits and sexualises is quite cynical - but then so is most advertising anyway; the worry is the impact it has on young and impressionable people who haven't learned to dismiss it for what it is.