A currently structured personal essay on a particular plague in my mind. And I say structured, because I had to submit it as a feature article for uni, and I’d run out of ideas for anything else to write about. That, and I was neck-deep in procrastination.
Am thinking of tinkering with this and making it more personalised for submission to Frankie. That said, I have been shunted before despite one initial interest in my pieces of work. ONE! Email me back again please!
I wonder if Benjamin Law considers himself an intellectual whore at times? I wouldn’t be surprised considering the profound number of readers gleaning themselves with his wisdom every time Frankie comes out. Oh Benjamin, if only your sexuality did not pervade me. We could be happy, you and I..
I’m An Intellectual Whore
The ability to lace words and ideas into an art form is steeped in seduction, for there is no denying the sexuality infused in the mere exchange of conversation. It is a universal concept to be sure, where participants are entranced by the quixotic allure of another’s philosophic thought. There is a shared interest between the two and the journey to an intellectual commonality is pursued, a process and an exploration towards a truth. But the other night, I listened to his voice at the other end of my mobile phone connection, and whose ideas I had come to worship and handle with as much fragility as my own vulnerable nature, and I quietly asked myself, at what cost?
When Woody Allen published the book Getting Even, the intellectual whore was born. Termed to describe the woman hired to philosophise and talk politics with a man married to an unintelligent specimen, the Whore of Mensa brought an intriguing antithesis to the notion of the streetwalker. According to Allen, this woman would be highly educated, often found pencilling ‘Yes that’s so true!’ in the margins of a Kantian textbook, quoting the psychosexualities of Freudian proportions, and spectacles pushed back on by the carefully extended forefinger. She would always be in a spot of financial trouble, hence the whoring implication for quick financial relief. A woman would possess such knowledge as to lure her pursuers into a world of mythology and futurist thinking, garnering such intelligence so as to be respected on a psychological level, if not a dismissively sexual one. Men were entranced by their bought moments of philosophical thought, yet were happy to return home to their doting, often less-educated and less-articulate wives. And so it is asked: what balance is this?
There appears to be a femininity in the pursuit of thought, despite the dominance of males in the sociological field. It is supposed that women were considered second-class citizens, to be seen but never heard, but it seems that this mild form of oppression is laced in an intriguing form of seduction. Indeed, Woody states this very plainly with his Whore of Mensa, where the denouncement of knowledge in a woman is on par to the social taboo of being a prostitute. An intellectual woman is commoditised, to be used and thrown away until the next desire for thought.
The extent to this engagement is dependent on money. “For three bills, you got the works: a thin Jewish brunette would pretend to pick you up at the Museum of Modern Art, let you read her master’s, and get you involved in a screaming quarrel at Elaine’s over Freud’s conception of women” chirps the Kaiser in Allen’s story. This woman of thought is a tool, cheapened by money, even though the man is submissive throughout the experience.
Such a person still exists in modern times. While financial transactions may at times continue to support the intellectual exchange between two often lonely individuals, the relationship has evolved into one that is free from financial stress. There is a contrast of commonality and disparity between two friends, for example, where one is the wide-eyed underling to the Flaubert quoting superior. In some ways, this has played out in teenage culture, and starkly so in the TV series Dawson’s Creek, which followed the lives of four small town teenagers. Joey is her best friend Dawson’s intellectual whore, called upon when required and dismissed in the presence of physical urges offered by his girlfriend Jen. He is the underling, she the superior, and yet her working class background underscores her intellect and relegates her to a similar social standing as Mensa’s whore. What is interesting, however, is how teenagers as a whole are a growing secular society, where their exchange of ideas is as stable as their hormonal sexual patterns. Such parallels inevitably lead to the notion of promiscuity, and again, we find that knowledge is an alluring, sexualised commodity where someone’s ideas and philosophies are borrowed to benefit the intellectual thirst.
In many ways, the underling revels in the joys offered by their intellectual prostitutes’ ideologies and theologies, and yet find it difficult to define their own way of thinking. They choose to steal etches of individuality, bought and harvested from their encounters with the highly intelligent and highly unaware. Such ideas are hybridised to fit their own mentalities and emotions of the day, absorbed like a drug to a feverish addict until they are replete for the day. They buy and take from multiple partners without any qualms.
It is somewhat alarming that on the social networking juggernaut that is Facebook, a group is devoted to this class of intellectually unassured citizens. Catergorised under ‘self-help’, the group description asks, “if a person is smart and is articulate, do you forget that they might not be the prime physical specimen and think they are the reason for the sun and moon?”, before launching into the ever-enlightening backhand of “have you ever been turned on by deep and engaging conversation and yet had no physical interest in the person?”. Just like prostitute is frowned upon, ‘intellectual whores’ are considered on par with their physical counterparts. Of course, it is all laughs and satirical joy, but there is the undeniable notion of sympathy dueling with disapproval. It comes with being intellectually promiscuous, at least as far as so defined by the group.
There is a social difficulty in balancing the physical features of a person with their intelligence, a notion manifested in the stereotype of the Nerd. It seems that while a person may be perfectly capable of developing a philosophy, this does not necessarily translate them to aesthetically pleasing citizens. Is it questionable then, that this particular mode of intimacy is by no means a substitute for that other tryst?
There is an overwhelming desire that underscores this ‘use and abuse’, or ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ mentality. In many ways, the desire for knowledge and new ways of thinking is embedded in human DNA, for without thought, how is there progress? The near animalistic nature of desire is what drives this person, a purchaser of thoughts, onwards in a journey to satisfy their perpetual crave for new philosophies, as a necessity of modern existentialism. It is this thirst for knowledge and thought that far exceeds the capacities of fulfillment by any offerings of physical sexual rapture, regardless of how such a thirst may be laced in sexual qualities. The very idea behind intellectual promiscuity is philosophy, which in its most basic form is ‘philo’ – lover – and ‘sophia’ – of knowledge, and it is this ongoing process that sits, perpetually unsatisfied so long as there are ideas in existence and philosophies to pursue and discover.
But here comes the crux – explained with the ease of example with Dawson’s Creek. The tension between Dawson and Joey became a romantic relationship of such enamour and purity in the pursuit of thought, that it eventually imploded, lashings of distrust and personal taboo seeped beneath their perfect white sheets. Their love of knowledge could not exceed their conflicting admiration for each other. Behind their carefully disguised philosophies lay Love’s Puppet, driving them apart instead of closer together. It is this conflict of interest that complicates the barter, and both parties are ultimately losers. They trade each other for other partners after being found out, and leave the past where it began: in the past to be hastily forgotten however deeply the experience may have left on their perceptions of similar with other partners.
To consider myself an ‘intellectual whore’ is often a discomforting thought. Despite such misgivings, and considering my current situation with a man of four and twenty and his relationship with a girl six years his junior, I have come to accept my role as a provider and entertainer of thoughts. It is at the expense of my own romantic worth, but I happily take my momentary hours of conversation, connected by the extent and capability of coverage afforded by our telephone service providers. For the moment, I am quite content with the ideas and thoughts that leave me satiated in the twilight hours of night.
And now the question begs: what becomes of the intellectual whore? They seek out innumerable ideas, sleeping with them, trying out different positions to see which ones work most effectively in reaching their intellectual climax, only to leave them in the morning, gathering the fragments of these memories, freshly used and abused, and perhaps guilt on behalf of both parties, more so on the soul of the whore. This is the realisation that one has screwed over not just their partner in crime, but themselves. It sinks like the flurried haze that laces the initial encounter – minus the wide-eyed enthusiasm and the naivety possessed by the wide-eyed school girl, and heavy with a growing dissatisfaction and the indescribable desire for something deeper than a satisfying thought. From here, they move on into the morning, hunting the next intellectual fix so that they may amend, if not justify the one before.