Friday, March 28, 2008

I Like a Good Fight


According to a Vanderbilt University study published in January, aggression causes the brain to release pleasure-giving dopamine, just like sex, food, and drugs.

The study may suggest why highly aggressive combat sports are so popular, at least as spectator sports--and especially in sexually repressed societies. It may also indicate why, for some people, aggressive behavior is a prelude to sexual desire. A fight can trigger the libido just like a porn film, dark chocolate, or two-martini lunch.

The effects must vary from person to person, and no doubt the forms and levels of aggression that have aphrodisiac effects must vary too--just as different folks differ in their tastes in erotica.

For instance, I'm turned on by a fight until blood is spilled or one of the combatants is seriously hurt, while I'm sure that slasher films produce an exciting, even if guilty, thrill for others. Some women indulge in rape fantasies, even when the actual violence and insult of real rape appall them.

When a sport is redesigned as entertainment--as in professional wrestling--erotic aspects become obvious, intrinsic features of the spectacle--glistening oiled muscle, skin tight briefs, latex, sexually charged insults, and deliciously long clinches, during which the combatants' bodies achieve maximum agonizing contact.

Just last night I noticed that I got a bit of wood watching an old Popeye cartoon in which the Sailor-Man and Bluto have a prolonged, yet bloodless rumble--more dust and sparks than real brutality--just as I did as a young boy watching the same cartoon, or one with Mighty Mouse or an old M-G-M Tarzan film. Hell, I even got buzzed when the original King Kong wrassled a T rex in shaky stop-motion animation.

And several times as a teenager I got embarrassingly excited when two young dudes starting slugging it out after school, especially when one or both of them stripped off their shirts to do so. And, though I'm gay, I've even found women's wrestling arousing.

Last year I read a couple of books which attempted to explain the allure of professional wrestling in scholarly if somewhat stilted terms. Both authors agreed that part of the appeal of the spectacle--especially to sexually ambiguous 15-year-old boys--is that it celebrates masculine dominance in highly sexualized codes and signifiers. The scenarios of pro wrestling have traditionally involved the triumph of more masculine protagonists over obviously less masculine jobbers. Nowadays, mixed-gender wrestling matches have allowed heterosexuality (and dominatrices) almost equal time in the squared circle.

My first homosexual experience was, as a teen, getting drunk one night with some friends and stripping down to our briefs to wrestle--after which, one thing led to another--though all parties silently agreed to "forget" the incident when the sobering light of day arrived. Even today roughhouse and wrestling are my favorite forms of foreplay.

No wonder, then, many athletes reportedly avoid sex before a match, but are horny as hell after they have given their opponents a proper thrashing.

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