Civilized Witchcraft

I’ve decided to empower myself by indulging in the worst of which man plasters across our TV screens.

By ingesting the entire entrée of modern nonsense, in a kind of Clockwork Orange-style Ludovico’s Technique, I can inure my faculties against the depredations of this lapsarian nightmare to which whatever created us abandoned us. Young people call this “self-care.”

The television show to which I refer is called “Couples Therapy.” The premise is straightforward: a New York therapist’s office is rigged with cameras. No script, just reliably cosmopolitan types revealing their innermost thoughts in a bout of civilized witchcraft.

According to the Guardian, which is to culture what mercury is to brain tissue, “Couples Therapy” is transgressive and definitely shatters taboo. Yes, our gangrenous culture, the one in which selling one’s body to strangers is lauded as “sex work” and billed as empowering, still pretends it has any taboos left to dismantle.

As for “Couples Therapy,” I ingested the maximum dose of seven minutes before I considered donating my eyeballs and eardrums to medical science.

“Couples Therapy” is a perfect illustration of a culture busy amusing itself to death.

The chief characters, I suppose, are a 51-year-old man named Mau, and his wife, Annie. The couple, plucked from the pages of the New Yorker, is in therapy with Dr. Orna Guralnik, owing to Mau’s possession of a sexual appetite akin to that of a late Roman senator skulking around the Suburra at 3 a.m.

Mau obsesses over his birthday like a hormonal teenager obsessing over whatever social pathology is trending on TikTok. His birthday, a magical date he shares with just 20 million others, the provenance of which he had no say, and which is the culmination of a chemical reaction and a calendar, was meant to be extra special.

With the gauzy self-assurance of a teenage boy who recently discovered a viable terminal hair where he desired it most, Mau slimes through the therapy session.

“So what I want is to have zero responsibility,” he says. “To have all the sex I want without any work on my part of any kind. Like . . . zero work, zero thinking about it, and it has to be both spectacular and enthusiastic and genuine.”

Mau’s wife got his special little day all wrong. She organized a dominatrix, and some form of ménage à trois, (apparently not a French summer dish,) only for Mau to jet off to Italy in a sulk. Apparently, this festival of bougie transgression was “too organized.”

Perhaps the couple could have played pin the tail on the Eastern European donkey? Donkey being a term for what Americans call an “ass,” which is what we starchy Brits call an “arse,” which is what the raffish French call a derriere. Discerning readers require no further elucidation.

I suspect Mau and Annie have a sign in their front yard proclaiming their progressive pieties.

Mau is such a liberated soul he indulges with his wife in a threesome with a dominatrix! How liberated can one be? And yet, when it came to the crunch, Mau made his excuses and slinked off to Italy, blaming his wife’s micromanagement for taking the jam out of his naughty little doughnut.

Like our confessional culture, Mau’s confessions aren’t confessional. Like our transgressive culture, Mau’s transgressions aren’t particularly transgressive.

What Mau thought was transgression was conformity to the prevailing liberal culture.

His professed sexual appetites are carbon-copied from the pages of the New York Times and other bougie pamphlets, which convince their authors while trying to convince their Culturati readers of their radical transgression against the status quo, despite their status as paid-up members of the bougie ruling class and arbiters of . . . the status quo.

Our confessional culture confesses nothing. Our revelations are mere parodies of what we think is revealing. We “confess” what we don’t actually think or desire. That is not a confession; it’s a marketing campaign for a personal brand. What so many think is transgression is the opposite—conformity. Confessing one shares the pre-approved whims of the cultural elite isn’t revolutionary; it’s radical chic.

After all, the potency of an authentic transgression lies in its authentic expression. A contrived transgression doesn’t make you transgressive, much like sticking feathers in your behind doesn’t make you a turkey.

Hiring a dominatrix is kind of like skydiving—an “extreme” pursuit resident within the famished imaginations of dullards feigning a zest for life by performing “dangerous” stunts which are, in reality, safer than driving and cheerleading. A dominatrix? How bourgeois.

Tattoos suffered the same gentrification. Years ago, a man with tattoos could reliably snap your forearm like a celery stalk. Now the more tattoos someone has, the more likely he drinks oat milk and peacocks his preferred pronouns.

Tattoos aren’t transgressive. Neither is, I can only surmise, employing a dominatrix to step on your testicles and call you a transphobe on your 51st birthday.

If Mau wished to be truly transgressive, he’d confess he’s too old for all this nonsense and that he’d sooner settle for a cup of tea.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Oxford Sour. Subscribe to Christopher Gage’s Substack here.

About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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