Wed 21 Nov, 2012 02:09 am
We all have secrets we do not wish made public. Any of us can be threatened with exposure of infidelity, or sex addiction, or flirtatious communications, or addiction to embarrassing pornographic images, or alcoholism or bipolar disorder, or even our discussions with our doctors, psychiatrists or accountants -- about our most personal information.
It is hard to imagine fully what the loss of sexual privacy means to private life -- and to the human condition.
In the film "The Lives of Others," set in East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down, the state listened in on lovers doing what lovers do: quarrelling, engaging in highly intimate acts of desire and passion, and sometimes, yes, betraying their spouses. But what is clear from the depiction is that whatever private pain such betrayal as infidelity causes, the general pain and the deadening quality for everyone, of living in a society in which there is no privacy -- and no sexual privacy -- is far, far more destructive and more distorting of the human condition.
Sexual privacy is absolutely necessary for human beings to have basic dignity, and that includes the space to make mistakes or do things one may regret. A third of couples, husbands and wives, report that they have committed infidelity. What if all of those marriages were subject to surveillance and exposure?
What if the power regarding who tells you that your spouse has betrayed you, becomes not a private struggle in private life, but a matter for the state to decide? And how many people in marriages that might have survived an infidelity, might have their lives and relationships further shattered by the state, as it can do now, from knowing the details of every single e-mail or credit card record or gift?
Finally, add to this toxic mess American Puritanism and prurience. It is easy to look at what seems to be a man, a mistress and a furious wife, and to assume that one knows all about what has gone on.
But often such situations are complex. Women commit adultery as often as men do, though the media are full of stories asking: Why do men cheat? Indeed, women initiate divorce more often than men do. Female unhappiness in intimate relationships is rife in America, because of some basic misunderstandings of female desire that I have detailed in my new book.
It is not our place to judge and condemn, or to cast the first stone. A new understanding of the dangers of the Patriot and Espionage acts should show us why it is more important than ever for couples to be permitted to experience the pain and betrayal of a possible infidelity in private, without the power of the state breathing down the necks of all involved.
The feminist Naomi Watts NAILS IT!