Interaction Ritual Chains

Randall Collins writes in this 2005 book:

* “Every dog will have its day” is more accurately “every day will have its dog.” Incidents shape their incumbents, however momentary they may be; encounters make their encountees. It is games that make sports heroes, politics that makes politicians into charismatic leaders, although the entire weight of record-keeping, news-story-writing, award-giving, speech-making, and advertising hype goes against understanding how this comes about. To see the common realities of everyday life sociologically requires a gestalt shift, a reversal of perspectives.

* Energy and action are always local, always processes of real human beings doing something in a situation.

* We should see individuals as transient fluxes charged up by situations.

* Deference is what individuals do toward others; demeanor is the other side of the interaction, the construction of a social self.

* For Goffman, there is no privileged reality standing outside of situations, but only a chain of situations and preparation for (and aftermath of) situations.

* one becomes labeled as mentally ill because one persistently violates minor standards of ritual propriety. He went on to draw the irony that mental patients are deprived of backstage privacy, props for situational self-presentation, and most of the other resources by which people under ordinary conditions are allowed to show their well-demeaned selves and their ability to take part in the reciprocity of giving ritual deference to others.

* Bloops and blunders, moments of embarrassment, rendings of the presentational façade, frame breaks, all these were studied as ways of demonstrating that the ordinary reality of everyday life is not automatic, but is constructed by finely honed interactional work. Goffman was concerned with sophisticated deviants for the same reason. He studied confidence artists because these are professionals attuned to the vulnerabilities of situations, and their techniques point up the details of the structures of normalcy that they take advantage of in order to cheat their victims. He analyzed spies and counterespionage agents because these are specialists in contriving, and in seeing through, an impression of normalcy; the fine grain of normal appearances becomes plainer when one sees a secret agent tripped up by minor details (Goffman 1969). Goffman’s topic here seems exotically adventurous, but his conclusion is about the crushing pressures of keeping up normal appearances, and the difficulty in contriving them; spies and counterspies often fail because of the difficulty in managing high levels of reflexive awareness or layers of self-consciousness in presenting their false cover, while being on guard against give-aways, all the while giving off an appearance of normalcy. Here again, the extreme instance highlights the mechanism that produces the normal. Life follows routine rituals for the most part because it is easiest to do so, and full of difficulties if one tries to do something else.
Goffman has a reputation for a Machiavellian view of life: individuals put on false fronts, which they manipulate to their advantage. Life is a theater, and actors use their backstages in order to plot how they will deceive and control others on the frontstage.

* The everyday reality of class conflict on the factory floor—the supervisor trying to get the workers to work harder, the workers putting on a show of compliance during the moments when they are ceremonially confronted by the manager—is a kind of theatrical performance; both sides generally know what is real or unreal about the situation; both put up with it, as long as the show of respect is maintained. 11 The show of cooperation is the situational performance through which conflicting interests are tacitly managed.

* The central mechanism of interaction ritual theory is that occasions that combine a high degree of mutual focus of attention, that is, a high degree of intersubjectivity, together with a high degree of emotional entrainment—through bodily synchronization, mutual stimulation / arousal of participants’ nervous systems—result in feelings of membership that are attached to cognitive symbols; and result also in the emotional energy of individual participants, giving them feelings of confidence, enthusiasm, and desire for action in what they consider a morally proper path. These moments of high degree of ritual intensity are high points of experience. They are high points of collective experience, the key moments of history, the times when significant things happen. These are moments that tear up old social structures or leave them behind, and shape new social structures. As Durkheim notes, these are moments like the French Revolution in the summer of 1789. We could add, they are moments like the key events of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s; like the collapse of communist regimes in 1989 and 1991; and to a degree of significance that can be ascertained only in the future, as in the national mobilization in the United States following September 11, 2001.

* The Presentation of Self model might be taken as an egocentric contriving of one’s social demeanor: one puts on one’s face, like putting on one’s clothes, in order to make a certain impression; it is a model of impression management. A whole field of research has grown up around this interpretation. But Goffman’s point is that demeanor is part of a reciprocity among participants who are all contributing to a situational reality.

* When ritual proprieties are broken, the persons who are present feel moral uneasiness , ranging from mild humorous scorn, to disgust, to, in extreme cases, labeling the violator mentally ill. Ritual equilibrium can be restored by apologies, which are part of the flow of deference rituals in conversation (Scott and Lyman 1968; Goffman 1971). This is an everyday version of Durkheim’s analysis of the punishment of crime, which is carried out not for its effect in deterring or reforming the criminal (effects that may well be illusory), but as a ritual to restore the sense of social order (Durkheim 1895/1982). Whatever operates on the large scale, Goffman indicates, can also be found in the small.

* This socially derived emotional energy, as Durkheim says, is a feeling of confidence, courage to take action, boldness in taking initiative. It is a morally suffused energy; it makes the individual feel not only good, but exalted, with the sense of doing what is most important and most valuable. Durkheim goes on to note that groups hold periodic assemblies to revivify this feeling, drawing again on his point that sentiments fade out over a period of time if they are not resuscitated by another experience of collective effervescence. I would add that this feeling of emotional energy has a powerful motivating effect upon the individual; whoever has experienced this kind of moment wants to repeat it.
A final item in the list of ritual effects is morality . The individual feels moral when he or she is acting with the energy derived from the heightened experience of the group.

* Intense moments of interaction ritual are high points not only for groups but also for individual lives. These are the events that we remember, that give meaning to our personal biographies, and sometimes to obsessive attempts to repeat them: whether participating in some great collective event such as a big political demonstration; or as spectator at some storied moment of popular entertainment or sports; or a personal encounter ranging from a sexual experience, to a strongly bonding friendly exchange, to a humiliating insult; the social atmosphere of an alcohol binge, a drug high, or a gambling victory; a bitter argument or an occasion of violence. Where these moments have a high degree of focused awareness and a peak of shared emotion, these personal experiences, too, can be crystalized in personal symbols, and kept alive in symbolic replays for greater or lesser expanses of one’s life. These are the significant formative experiences that shape individuals; if the patterns endure, we are apt to call them personalities; if we disapprove of them we call them addictions. But this usage too easily reifies what is an ongoing flow of situations. The movement of individuals from one situation to another in what I call interaction ritual chains is an up-and-down of variation in the intensity of interaction rituals; shifts in behavior, in feeling and thought occur just as the situations shift. To be a constant personality is to be on an even keel where the kinds of interaction rituals flow constantly from one situation to the next. Here again, IR theory points up the dynamics of human lives, their possibility for dramatic shifts in direction.
IR theory provides a theory of individual motivation from one situation to the next. Emotional energy is what individuals seek; situations are attractive or unattractive to them to the extent that the interaction ritual is successful in providing emotional energy.

* IR theory is not a model of a wind-up doll, programmed early in life, which ever after walks through the pattern once laid down. It is a theory of moment-to-moment motivation, situation by situation. Thus it has high theoretical ambitions: to explain what any individual will do, at any moment in time; what he or she will feel, think, and say.

* Intellectual life is an exciting adventure when we try to push it as far as we can. There is surely more emotional energy in exploration than in conservatively standing pat and trying to avoid extending our understanding beyond the boundaries set up by intellectual taboos. IR theory, as an intellectual enterprise, is a set of symbolic representations riding on its surge of emotional energy; it is the intellectual version of effervescence that gave élan to Durkheim and his research group, to Goffman and his followers, and to today’s sociologists of emotion and process in everyday life.

* As the persons become more tightly focused on their common activity, more aware of what each other is doing and feeling, and more aware of each other’s awareness, they experience their shared emotion more intensely, as it comes to dominate their awareness. Members of a cheering crowd become more enthusiastic, just as participants at a religious service become more respectful and solemn, or at a funeral become more sorrowful, than before they began. It is the same on the small-scale level of a conversation; as the interaction becomes more engrossing, participants get caught up in the rhythm and mood of the talk.

* There are four main outcomes of interaction rituals.

1. group solidarity, a feeling of membership;
2. emotional energy [EE] in the individual: a feeling of confidence, elation, strength, enthusiasm, and initiative in taking action;
3. symbols that represent the group: emblems or other representations (visual icons, words, gestures) that members feel are associated with themselves collectively; these are Durkheim’s “sacred objects.” Persons pumped up with feelings of group solidarity treat symbols with great respect and defend them against the disrespect of outsiders, and even more, of renegade insiders.
4. feelings of morality: the sense of rightness in adhering to the group, respecting its symbols, and defending both against transgressors. Along with this goes the sense of moral evil or impropriety in violating the group’s solidarity and its symbolic representations.

* Individuals are attracted to the most intense ritual charges they can get, indifferent to lesser rituals, and repelled by others…

* During the fall of 2001, for example, there were sometimes moving TV memorials for 9/11 victims. These long-distance rituals can give a sense of shared emotion, solidarity, and respect for symbolism. Examing this more carefully: what details give these effects? The main effect appears to come from camera close-ups of the faces of members of the crowd, rather than of the ceremonial formality itself. Television here approximates bodily feedback, in effect allowing members of the remote audience to see others like themselves, picked out in the moments when they are displaying the most emotion and the most engrossment in the ceremony. Conversely, we would expect that where the TV cameras focus on disaffected members of the audience, who are looking bored or away from the scene, the remote audience would feel greater distance, witnessing a failed ceremony.
Television is a combination of picture and sound, and these need to be teased apart. The reader may easily perform the experiment. Turn off the sound of the TV while watching a ritualistic event, such as an athletic contest. Alternatively, move away from sight of the screen, leaving the sound on. Palpably, the stronger sense of involvement, of being pulled into the action, is from the sound. A burst of cheering from the crowd, the mood of anticipation of upcoming celebration, will pull the absent viewer back to the screen. Compare the situation where one is watching the picture without the sound: if the action seems to heat up—the team is making its drive, the clock is running down, the baseball team has men on base—there is an irresistable tendency to turn the sound back on. What is missing is not primarily the verbal explanation of the meaning of what is happening, the voices of the announcers, since the experience of watching verbal captions on the screen is not a substitute for the sound; above all, one seeks the sound of the crowd, to share fully in the sense of excitement. This is essentially what the lure of the game-spectacle is all about: the pleasure of those moments of having one’s own emotions raised by a noisy crowd expressing the same thing.

* After a particularly exciting or up-lifting moment of vicarious participation, one wants to seek out someone else to tell about it. Thus, if one had been alone watching a game, a political election, or other engrossing public event, one wants to find someone else to share one’s excitement with. If the excitement is strong enough, it isn’t sufficient merely to tell the news, even in a loud, enthusiastic, repetitive voice. At peak moments of victory, or suspense followed by dramatic success, the excited viewer reaches out to touch, hug, or kiss someone.

The same pattern is visible in sports celebrations and in other victory celebrations, as depicted in the famous photos of kissing and hugging on the street at the announcement of victory in World War II. Sports victory celebrations are events of predictable intensity, since there is a regular schedule leading up to championship games. At peak moments, built up emotionally in proportion to the amount of tension through the series of previous contests, there takes place an informal ritual in which the players touch each other repeatedly while repeating a few simple words or cries of victory. The bigger the victory and the more the suspense, the more body contact, and the more prolonged contact: the range goes from slapping hands, to body hugs, to piling onto a heap of bodies at the playing field.

* What motivates people to witness games is primarily the experience of being at a highly successful ritual: successful because it has been contrived so that the ritual ingredients will all be present to a very high degree, especially the occurrence of strong emotion in a setting where it can be amplified by bodily interaction within the crowd focusing attention on the action of the game. The leisure time of modern societies—since the mid-nineteenth century when a sufficiently large group of spectators became available, free from the constraints of household and work—has become dominated by this species of deliberately invented ritual, designed to provide moments of ritual solidarity that previously would have been provided by religion, warfare, or political ceremony.

* The main experience of the pop concert is the mood of the other fans; this is a textbook case of mutual buildup of emotion through bodily feedback in all its modalities. The same applies to a classical music performance, although the mood is more sedate, in keeping with the difference in social-class tone and atmosphere. Here, too, it is the experience of being at a special event—the hush of attention before the orchestra starts, the collective focus on the musicians—that makes the experience at the opera or the symphony a more significant experience than listening to the same music privately at home. This is not simply a matter of being seen by other people at a high-culture event—since under contemporary conditions these crowds are typically anonymous, in contrast to the more enclosed high-status communities in previous centuries who recognized each other at the opera—but comes from the subjective feelings of the ritual experience. The hypothesis is that participants have a stronger identification as persons attached to high culture if the crowd has been enthusiastic in response to the performance, than when the collective response is weaker; and that the effect of ritual intensity is stronger than the effect of being recognized by other people.

* The successful media evangelist broadcasts not just the preaching or the events at the altar, but a large crowd at the worship service: the cameras make an effort to portray the congregation into which the remote viewers and listeners can project themselves. Broadcast evangelists become media stars; this further enhances their draw as sacred objects that audiences want to be close to. There is a rush to attend the service in person, indeed precisely when it is being broadcast, as if this amplifies the halo of being in the center of religious action. The draw of close personal contact—as close as big crowds allow—operates for traditional as well as evangelical churches; tours of the pope draw enormous crowds.
Religious services, like other collective experience of ritual, vary in their intensity. Distance media can provide some of the sense of shared attention and emotion, which give a feeling of attraction, membership, and respect. The strongest effects are reserved, however, for full bodily assembly. Conversion experiences—coming forward to be born again, or otherwise committing oneself to a life of religious dedication—happen primarily at big evangelical meetings (Johnson 1971). Personal presence in a crowd, worked up collectively to a strong shared emotions, gives the impetus for reshaping one’s identity. The downside of religious conversion confirms the pattern as well. A considerable proportion of persons who are born again drop out of religious participation within a year; many persons are born again numerous times (Bromley 1988; Richardson 1978). It is the big, intense religious gatherings that bring forth the emotion and the shift in membership attachment; as one settles back into the routine of smaller and less collectively emotional church services, and then drifts away from attending, the identification and the emotional energy also fade.

* When video conferencing becomes widely available, there will be opportunity to test the intensity that can be reached in social rituals carried out by a combination of remote voice and picture. My prediction is that parties and visits will not go away; that remote hookups however vivid will always be considered weak substitutes for the solidarity of actual bodily presence.

* the tendency to drop ceremonious forms in email—greetings, addressing the target by name, departing salutations—implies a lowering of solidarity. Email settles into bare utilitarian communication, degrading relations, precisely because it drops the ritual aspects.

* the more that human social activities are carried out by distance media, at low levels of IR intensity, the less solidarity people will feel; the less respect they will have for shared symbolic objects; and the less enthusiastic personal motivation they will have in the form of EE.

* Bodily presence makes it easier for human beings to monitor each other’s signals and bodily expressions; to get into shared rhythm, caught up in each other’s motions and emotions; and to signal and confirm a common focus of attention and thus a state of intersubjectivity. The key is that human nervous systems become mutually attuned…

* A good micro-conversational example of the buildup of collective effervescence in natural rituals is shared laughter. The sounds of laughter are bodily produced by a rhythmic repetition of breaths caught and forcefully expelled; at the height of hilarity, this happens involuntarily. Most laughter (and its strongest intensity and pleasure) is collectively produced. Once laughter begins, it can feed upon itself.

* Laughter illustrates both the collective and rhythmically entraining aspect of micro-interactional ritual. 10 It also points up a central reason why people are attracted to high-intensity interaction rituals: perhaps the strongest human pleasures come from being fully and bodily absorbed in deeply synchronized social interaction (McClelland 1985). This is why shared laughter—otherwise merely an uncontrollable interruption of breathing patterns—is so pleasurable. It exemplifies the more general pattern of collective effervescence, and explains why people are attracted to high-intensitly interaction rituals, and why they generate feelings of solidarity. The symbols that represent these interactions hold deep connotations of pleasure for group members, and this helps make them sacred objects to defend, as well as reminders of group interactions that members would like to reestablish in future encounters.

* In a successful conversation, the gap between one person ending their turn and the next person starting is typically less than 0.1 second… successful talk has no gaps and no overlaps; no embarrassing pauses between speakers or within utterances, and a minimal amount of struggle over who gets the floor to speak at any one moment. What we mean by successful talk here is that it is socially successful, a conversational ritual generating solidarity among the speakers.

* Ritual solidarity breaks down when no one wants to talk; the focus of attention evaporates into thin air. It also breaks down when the participants want to maintain a focus of attention, but they dispute who is going to be in the focus…

* that both speaker and audience are caught up in a rhythm; the speaker’s rhetorical utterances have a pattern of stresses and pauses, repetitions, and accretions (this is what gives public speaking a distinctive rhetorical tone), which let the audience know that something is coming, and at what moment they can join in with maximal effect. Similarly on the audience side: recordings of applauding or booing show that the audience builds up its noise in a distinctive rhythm; a few initial voices or handclaps unleash a rapid acceleration of noise as the full audience joins in; whereas abortive applause fails at a certain moment in this temporal sequence if this rapid acceleration has not taken off, tacitly signaling to others that if they join in they will be exposed in an isolated minority instead of joining triumphantly in a shared focus of attention. For similar reasons, booing is harder to bring to a critical mass of participation, and drops off in a shorter time than applauding. As is generally the case in micro-interaction, solidarity processes are easier to enact than conflict processes.

* In his book Talk’s Body (1979), the ethnomethodologist David Sudnow compared the experience of learning to play jazz piano with the experience of producing a flow of words at a typewriter keyboard. Both, he noted, are bodily activities that become successful when it is no longer a matter of transcribing notes (either musical or verbal) but of throwing oneself into the rhythm of making musical phrases or sentences.

* Rhythmic coordination and emotional entrainment are necessary ingredients of an IR; but it also requires a mutual focus of attention.

* Being in a crowd gives some sense of being “where the action is,” even if you personally are not part of any well-defined action; the lure of the “bright lights of the city” is not so much the visual illumination but the minimal excitement of being within a mass of human bodies.

* The contrast between the firefighters and the street crowds [on 9/11] shows a highly focused, high-solidarity group drawing emotional strength—not blatant enthusiasm, but a quiet form of EE—from going on together with a difficult task; while less focused, low-solidarity crowds show shock, and in the thinnest parts of the crowd, fear. The solidarity that the firefighters already have, and that they recycle and increase through their experience of working together in the disaster, is just what is lacking among the crowds in the streets; the latter have no prior identity, only the momentary focus on the building they see on fire, and later on, collapsing. They lack social strong support, and lack anything to do that has ongoing collective significance.

* Persons who join religious cults typically are not to any great extent acquainted with, nor committed to, the beliefs of the cult before they join it. They are initially attracted to the cult because they are brought by friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Their belief grows as they take part in the cult activities. In mainstream churches as well, those who have the strongest adherence to its doctrines are those who have the most personal friends who are also members; social ties brings ritual participation, and this brings belief. And those without close ties in a cult or church tend to drop out, and their belief fades away.

* We operate through an emotional magnetism toward and repulsion from particular thoughts and situations in the flow of everyday life; we are seldom reflective about this, and are often grossly inaccurate in our assessments when we are reflective.

* What holds a society together—the “glue” of solidarity—and what mobilizes conflict—the energy of mobilized groups—are emotions;

* As the focus of interaction becomes progressively more attuned, the participants anticipate each other’s rhythms, and thus become caught up “in the swing of things.” Participants feel sadder in the course of a funeral, more humorous as part of a responsive audience at a comedy show, more convivial during the buildup of a party, more engrossed in a conversation as its rhythms become established. All these are versions of “collective effervescence”—even if that has a connotation of happy excitement, the more general condition is a high degree of absorption in emotional entrainment, whatever the emotion may be.

* Persons who are full of emotional energy feel like good persons; they feel righteous about what they are doing. Persons with low emotional energy feel bad; though they do not necessarily interpret this feeling as guilt or evil (that would depend on the religious or other cultural cognitions available for labeling their feelings), 6 at a minimum they lack the feeling of being morally good persons that comes from enthusiastic participation in group rituals.
Feelings of moral solidarity generate specific acts of altruism and love; but there is also a negative side. As Durkheim pointed out, group solidarity makes individuals feel a desire to defend and honor the group. This solidarity feeling is typically focused on symbols, sacred objects (like a tribal totemic emblem, a holy scripture, a flag, a wedding ring). One shows respect for the group by participating in rituals venerating these symbolic objects; conversely, failure to respect them is a quick test of nonmembership in the group. Members of the ritual group are under especially strong pressure to continue to respect its sacred symbols. If they do not, the loyal group members feel shock and outrage: their righteousness turns automatically into righteous anger. In this way, ritual violations lead to persecution of heretics, scapegoats, and other outcasts. Such events bring out clearly yet another transformation of emotion by rituals: from specific initiating emotions to their intensification in collective effervescence; from collective effervescence to emotional energy carried in individuals’ attachment to symbols; and from symbol-respect to righteous anger.

* Exercising ordergiving power increases one’s EE insofar as it coincides with being in the center of attention of a situation of emotional entrainment rising to a palpable level of collective consciousness, which is what I call a status ritual: intense versions of this coincidence include military officers in combat, athletic coaches in the course of a contest, and somewhat less dramatic occasions in business and professional activities where there is a shared level of intensity among the participants.

* Order-givers and order-takers also share an orientation toward dominant symbols, but again with a different blend of emotions. Ordergivers identify themselves with the sacred objects of their organization; they respect these symbols as ideals, and are foremost in requiring other people to kowtow to them too. This is the conservatism of dominant classes, their self-appointed motivation as upholders of tradition, as restorers of law and order, and as righteous uprooters of heretics and deviants.
Order-takers, on the other hand, have an ambivalent attitude toward the dominant symbols. They are alienated from these symbols, and privately speak and think of them cynically, if they can get away with it. 9 Thus the modern working class is generally alienated from the business ideals of their bosses, and troops ridicule the rhetoric of their commanders. These symbols become, so to speak, negative sacred objects; when and if rebellion is possible, a suddenly liberated order-taking class wreaks vengeance on the symbols that they formerly had to bow to.

* . Specifying the argument of Durkheim’s Division of Labor in Society , low diversity should produce local solidarity, strong attachment to reified symbols, literal-mindedness, and a strong barrier between insiders and outsiders. There is high conformity within the group, along with strong distrust of outsiders and alien symbols. At the other end of this subdimension, there is participation in a loose network consisting of many different kinds of groups and situations. Durkheimian theory predicts the result of cosmopolitan network structure is individualism, relativistic attitudes toward symbols, abstract rather than concrete thinking.
Stated in terms of emotions, this implies that persons in cosmopolitan networks have relatively weak feelings of conformity to group symbols; emotional coolness of tone; and generalized trust in a wide range of interactions. When symbols are violated or ritual procedures go badly, members of tight, localized groups respond with anger and fear.

* there is a major difference in outlook between high-level performers (consistent winners) and lesser performers (losers). The difference is manifested in the details of behavior: winners are meticulous in performing their routines in ways that they have deliberately developed; they have built up their own rhythms and stick to them in the face of competitive opposition. The winners make themselves the focus of attention; they set the expectations around themselves. Losers, however, let the winners become the focus, and adapt their micro-behavior toward them. This implies that a winner (perhaps dominant persons generally, in dominance contests more widely as well as in athletics) has a sense of control throughout the situation: winners maintain and build up their own rhythmic coordination, their anticipation of what they will do, setting the micro-rhythmic pace. Losers (and persons who are subordinated in dominance contests) allow someone else to break their own flow of anticipation of what will happen in their own activities. These dominated persons can cope with the situation, can maintain some anticipation about what will happen only by focusing on the other person as the lead, rather than by projecting their own volitional future. In effect, such a person can recoup some emotional energy from the situation by becoming a follower, attaching themself to someone else’s lead. 15 The more they resist such attachment, the less emotional energy they will have.

* Winner focuses on the goal, loser focuses on the winner.

* a “sacred object” means the object upon which attention of the group is focused, and which becomes a symbolic repository of the group’s emotional energies. When someone feels oneself in this position, they have a store of emotional energy for their own use; it makes that person “charismatic.” For others, the person who is a “sacred object” compels attention. They become spectators to that person. Their attitudes as spectators can vary. If they throw themselves completely into acquiescence, they become compliant admirers, who want to attach themselves and draw some flow of the “sacred” emotional energy for themselves (like fans asking for an autograph).

* The positive emotions become intense largely because of a contagious buildup during an interaction ritual. This is the case with enthusiasm, joy, and humor: all of these build up in social situations as the result of a successful ritual.

* Frequently, the positive emotions (joy, enthusiasm, humor) are generated by a group leader, an individual who takes the focus, who is able to propagate such a mood from his or her own stores of emotional energy. This individual thus serves very much like an electric battery for group emotional expressiveness. Persons who occupy this position in IR chains are what we think of as “charismatic.” In general, “personality” traits are just these results of experiencing particular kinds of IR chains.

* because anger in its intense forms is an explosive reaction against frustrations. Truly powerful persons do not become angry in this sense, because they do not need to; they get their way without it. To express anger is thus to some extent an expression of weakness. However, persons who are powerful can afford to become angry; their power-anger is an expression of the expectation that they will get their way against the obstacle. In the case of a social obstacle—the willful opposition of some other person—it is an expression of the powerful person’s confidence that he or she will be able to mobilize an enforcement coalition to coerce the opposition into compliance, or to destroy the resistance. Previous stores of EE thus determine when and how someone will express explosive anger. 18
The most violent expression of anger occurs when one feels strong in overcoming a strong frustration. If the frustration itself is over-whelmingly strong, the feeling is fear, not anger. Persons who are weak do not manifest anger in the same way. It is only when they have enough resources to be able to mount some resistance (or at least some social privacy, a separate social circle in which they can utter symbolic threats) that weak persons, order-takers, have anger. This follows from the principle that the core of anger is the mobilization of energy to overcome an obstacle. It is only when there are enough social bases of support to generate EE that one can react to a frustration (in this case, being dominated) by mobilizing anger. Persons who are too weak (i.e., in their IR chains they lack resources or space in which to mobilize any other socially based EE), do not react angrily to domination but succumb to depression.

* One can predict that righteous anger is proportional to the amount of emotional charge of membership feelings around particular symbols. The amount of such charge, in turn, is highest where the group has high social density and a local (rather than cosmopolitan) focus. Where the group networks are diffuse and cosmopolitan, on the other hand, the short-term emotion felt at disruption is embarrassment on behalf of the disrupter—resulting in status exclusion, unwillingness to associate with that person, rather than in a violent ritual punishment to restore symbolic order.

* Persons who are at the center of attention gain EE, which they can use to convene and energize still further gatherings, thereby making themselves yet again the center of attention. In this way, powerful persons re-create their power from situation to situation, while those whom they dominate re-create the low energy level that makes them followers and subordinates. Status group leaders re-create the energy that makes them popular; groupies, fringe members, and outcastes are carried along in their positions by the repeated flow of lower EE.

* The simplest version of stratification is an energized upper class, lording it over a depressed lower class, with moderately energized middle-class persons in between. Take this pattern as an ideal type; it does yield a crucial point, that stratification generally works because those who dominate have the energy to dominate situations in which they encounter other persons. The winning generals are usually the most energetic ones; so are the richest financiers; in the specialized realm of intellectual domination, the stars of world science, philosophy, and literature generally are what I have called “energy stars” (for evidence on generals, see Keegan 1987; on philosophers, Collins 1998).

* My argument is far from holding that the upper classes are uniquely energetic individuals; they are products of processes that affect all of us, and in which all of us (very likely) are pretty much interchangeable. About any such dominant energy star, it is possible to say, there but for the grace of God (i.e., the luck of IR chain trajectories) go you or I. Dominant persons are not intrinsically heroes, but it is socially significant that they often appear as such.

* A general characteristic of EE is that it gives the ability to act with initiative and resolve, to set the direction of social situations rather than to be dominated by others in the micro-details of interaction. And it is an emotion that allows individuals to be self-directed when alone, following a smooth flow of thoughts, rather than a jerky or distracted inner conversation.

* EE is a consequence that carries over after the individual has left the situation.

* When an individual enters an interaction, EE is visible in the moments leading up to the high point of entrainment (whatever level that may be). That is to say, the high-EE person takes the initiative in setting the tone of the interaction, and the low-EE person lags behind or follows passively. EE must be observed in the dynamics of how the individuals lead or lag in the interaction, apart from the observation of how much entrainment finally results. This peak level of entrainment is a measure of collective effervescence.

* Bodily postures and movements . High EE is generally expressed in an erect posture, moving firmly and smoothly, and taking the initiative in relation to other persons. Low EE is indicated in postures and movements that are shrinking, passive, hesitating, or disjointed. Since high EE is social confidence, it is manifested in movements toward other people, especially movements that take the initiative and that lead to establishing a pattern of rhythmic coordination. Low EE, conversely, is found in movements and postures of withdrawal, and low initiative; low-EE persons in a social situation show a pattern of following others’ nonverbal leads, or a freezing of movement. Conflict at moderate levels of EE may be indicated by a rapid or jerky alternation between orienting toward and away from the others. Scheff and Retzinger (1991) describe this pattern, which they interpret in terms of the self-oriented emotions of pride (turning toward the other person) and shame (turning away).

* EE is seen in the eyes, as in the case of bodily postures and movements, as a temporal pattern for each individual as they approach the situation. Initiative or lack of initiative can be seen in establishing eye contact; high or low EE is manifested in dominating or avoiding mutual gaze.

* Voice. The amount of enthusiasm, confidence, and initiative (high EE) versus apathy, withdrawal, and depression (low EE) can be measured paralinguistically, that is, in the style rather than the content of talk.

* Hormone levels . Mazur and Lamb (1980; see also Kemper 1991) have shown that the experience of dominating an interaction has continuing effects upon hormone levels (especially testosterone). These hormones may provide a physiological substrate for medium-run flows of EE across situations.

* This touches on the problem of fellatio and cunnilingus. Seeking genital pleasure explains why someone might enjoy having their penis or clitoris sucked; but why should some persons find it highly erotic to perform oral sex upon someone else?
Anal sex raises similar questions. One might account for anal penetration as penis-pleasure, in the case of the male penetrator. But if there is pleasure in passive anal sex in both homosexual and heterosexual intercourse, what is the mechanism of pleasure?

* Why should intercourse be preferred over masturbation? Apparently there is some additional source of pleasure in another person’s body besides the genital climax. Again, if male masturbation is motivated simply by penis-pleasure, why is it typically accompanied by fantasy, and often by viewing pornography? Sheer organ-specific physical pleasure would seem to require nothing but tactile stimulation; yet these representational (shall we say symbolic? if so, of what?) aids seem to intensify the physical experience as well as increase their frequency. Moreover, the incidence of masturbation correlates postively with availability of sexual intercourse, not negatively as one might expect if there is a fixed quantity of biological sex drive to be used up (Laumann et al. 1994, 137–38). Instead, masturbation seems to stimulate other kinds of sex as well (as does pornography). Sexual turn-ons of one kind seem to sensitize sexual turn-ons of other kinds; it appears that sex is not merely an internal drive but a variable quantity that is controlled or constructed from without.

* Both Freud, and his follower in this respect, Norbert Elias, hold that the civilizing process has brought about increasing repression of natural sexual functions, a view that I will show is historically erroneous.

* Humans can live with rather modest amounts of sexual behavior, and when sexual behavior expands, both in quantity and in range of objects, that is due not to a primal omni-sexualizing drive to release sperm but to social processes that create sexual drive.

* In eroticized cultures, males make this distinction quite sharply, and do not prefer having sex with women who display only maternal traits. In eroticized societies (like the twentieth century), having large numbers of offspring (or indeed any offspring at all) is what the most erotically active are concerned to avoid.

* the most important feature of human biology is that humans are hard-wired not simply for genital pleasure or the tendency to propagate one’s genes but, above all, for the kinds of pleasure in emotional entrainment and rhythmic synchronization that make humans pursuers of interaction rituals. The human nervous and endochrine system, and many other features including skin bareness and sensitivity, have been evolutionary selected so as to make humans, compared to most other animals, much more attuned to individualized social interaction, and to forming many kinds and degrees of social ties with each other—and, above all, attuned to the prolonged interactional pleasures of sexuality. Contrary to the evolutionary biologists who see males and females as radically different, the former as selfish gene scatterers and the latter as mateselective and protective mothers, I suggest that both males and females share the same biological hard-wiring that makes them mutually sensitive to the interactive buildup of attention and emotion in IRs.

* Prostitutes almost always demand their money up front, before performing; customers agree to this, apparently because the strength of their desire for sex is stronger than their willingness to calculate and bargain. In other words, the cooler head is on the side of the prostitute, hence the better bargaining position. 6 For the same reason, prostitutes are in a better position to cheat their customers than the other way around. This is one reason why prostitution has a bad reputation; in addition to being condemned by moral puritans and advocates of exclusively marital sex, it also tends to have a quality of overt distrust and cheating.

* Third: customers of prostitutes tend to find the most sexual satisfaction where the interaction is least like a distrustful, commercial transaction, that is, least like prostitution. Such are encounters where haggling over money is minimized, sexual performance is carried out as specified, interaction is sociable and friendly, and the prostitute becomes genuinely aroused rather than faking it. 7 An example of the latter would be mistresses, who are further along the continuum specified by Zelizer (see note 4 of this chapter) toward long-term, multi-transaction relations. A related observation is that men often consort with prostitutes to have sex with women who are more beautiful than those they ordinarily have access to; my hypothesis is that there may be a negative (or zero) correlation between sexual satisfaction and the beauty of the prostitute. That is because the most beautiful prostitutes have high market demand, hence they receive more deference and can demand more (both monetarily and behaviorally) from their customers; hence beautiful prostitutes tend to cheat their customers more, engaging in more haggling and more shirking of performance. Less attractive prostitutes, conversely, have to put out greater effort in making themselves saleable; their lesser haggling and greater willingness to perform sexual work make them more pleasant to interact with, and thus produce more sexual satisfaction. Even in sex with prostitutes, interpersonal solidarity (personal liking) correlates with sexual pleasure.

* Rituals produce outcomes such as social solidarity and symbolic significance only to the extent that the IR reaches higher levels of intensity. This is blatantly apparent in the case of sexual IRs. Sexual intercourse often fails to be an IR of much intensity…

* In love-making we can clearly see three aspects: rhythmic intensification, rhythmic entrainment, and rhythmic synchronization.

* Rhythmic intensification is the central physiological mechanism by which sexual excitement builds up. Copulation is a steady stroking of genital organs against each other; it is this rhythm which builds up excitement, with increasing speed and pressure, and leading to climax. The buildup of measurable bodily processes is strikingly similar in both males and females, including heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, and rapid breathing, reaching their maximum at the moment of orgasm or ejaculation. Both male and female genitals undergo vasocongestion or engorgement with venous blood; this produces a similar change in color both of the glans of the penis and labia minora to deep red or purple. In both sexes there is a two-to-four-second anticipation of the onset of orgasm (a long spasmic contraction in the female, a feeling of being unable to control the ejaculation in males), with both undergoing a series of three or four major contractions at 0.8 second interval. …female orgasms may go on longer or more repetitively and involve many more spasms than male ejaculation, up to 12 or 15 contractions for a very intense female orgasm as compared to 3 or 4 typically for the male…

* Sex is so far from normal bodily interaction that it is no surprise that it can produce the strongest of all forms of solidarity. In enormous contrast to ordinary bodily interaction, making love allows a person to touch someone else’s body; in high-intensity love-making, this may involve exploring, manipulating, doing things to every part of the other’s body. And this bodily access tends to have reciprocal effects, as each partner mirrors or extends the action by doing it back to the other’s body. Of course there are degrees of reciprocity: some love-making is more one-sided, often with male active and female relatively passive. IR theory says that the degree of reciprocity is a principal determinant of the degree of excitement and pleasure.

* Even in intercourse, the man is not just getting pleasure in his penis from the woman’s vagina; he is copulating with—making love to—her entire body. Conversely, the woman gets pleasure to the extent that she feels her partner’s body copulating in rhythm with her.

* Sex produces solidarity in the very small, two-person group. This special kind of intimate solidarity is called love.

* sexual intercourse is the ritual of love; it both creates and recreates the social tie (since Durkheimian rituals need to be repeated periodically, as solidarity runs down in the interim), and symbolizes it. That is, it stands as a marker announcing both to participants, and to nonparticipant outsiders, that this is a very strong personal tie. Sexual access thus is the key boundary marker, and the primary test of loyalty.
2. Sexual IR, like other IR, produces emotional energy. In this respect, sexual IR is like other IR in transforming one emotion into another. In the general case, ritual transforms whatever initiating emotion the group shares and focuses upon, into an outcome emotion, the feeling of solidarity and individual strength as group member.

* The morality of sex is the feeling of rightness of sexual possession, of access to the other’s body and the exclusion of all other persons. Since ritual creates moral standards, the primary violation is sex with an outsider, and its response is moralistic, righteous anger. This is a very localistic morality, enacted in righteous anger toward those who violate it, and generally overriding the moral standards of the wider social group, which condemns violence.

* The Durkheimian model holds that solidarity and the other outcomes of rituals are time-bound, fading away with the passage of time if they are not repeated. Sexual IRs too must be repeated regularly to keep up the sexual bond. Persons in stable couple relationships typically have sex about once a week (Laumann et al. 1994, 88), even at relatively advanced ages. This is the same order of time as the weekly scheduling of religious rituals, suggesting that both kinds of soidarity rituals operate in the same way. Both imply that strong rituals keep up strong group relationships only for about a week. 11 Very strong religious believers or cultists have even more frequent ritual assemblies, and the same is true for lovers in very intense relationships. Kinsey (1953, 395) showed that most couples had a period in their lives when they were having sex once a day or more (about 10 percent having sex three or four times a day); this was probably the period of establishing the relationship, the climax of courtship. The temporal pattern apparently exists in all ritually mediated intense relationships; mutual participation in the ritual is most frequent when establishing the relationship, then falls off to a routine level.

* Since the IR model is a matter of variables, sex that involves relatively little mutual focus and shared emotion will be less satisfying. Sex with a prostitute is often low-intensity IR; as it approaches higher intensity, it takes on overtones more like love (even though it may not be possible to follow it up into a longer relationship). Similarly, casual sexual relations can go either way. I suggest as a hypothesis that highintensity sexual relations, even if begun only with personal pleasure in view, tend to produce attachment, which eventually is socially indistinguishable from love. This is the theme (sometimes exploited in literature, also in life) of the hard-bitten, cynical individual who nevertheless becomes ensnared in a sexual relationship, thence into marriage and conventional symbols and feelings of solidarity. This may be a major way in which modern males, with their overtly individual-pleasure orientation, orientation, become seduced by their own seductions.

* how can we explain when individuals seek low-solidarity sex? I suggest that the motive for seeking a great deal of selfish genital pleasure is built up by ritualized social interactions that give high social prestige to having a lot of this kind of sex. The key IR focused on sex, in this case, is not the copulation of the male / female couple, but the talking, posing, and jeering about sex that takes place in the all-male group, or sometimes in a larger community of social reputation that I will call a sexual scene. Thus the performance of any particular act of sex is affirming solidarity with that group membership rather than producing solidarity within the couple. Selfish sex remains a social symbol, but in this case representing prestige in the eyes of the larger group.

* Thus handholding is a typical mark of a love affair; it is used by those who are already sexually intimate as a kind of prolongation of contact, and also as an early, initiating step toward more intimate touching. Holding hands can serve as a signal to others that a relationship exists, operating as what Goffman (1971) calls a “tie-sign” in public. Even more importantly, holding hands is a signal sent by the participants to each other;

* Why are some kinds of kissing erotic? The general pattern of sexual IRs holds: erotic kisses are those in which there is more rhythmic intensity, more reciprocal interaction in which each participant builds up the excitement of the other. Erotic kissing is prolonged; mere relationship kisses are brief, cutting off elaboration and sense of rhythm. Tongue kissing is especially erotic because it involves penetration into the other’s body, and thus represents itself as especially close and unusual; because it especially forcefully intrudes itself upon the other’s attention; because it can lead to reciprocal interaction, calling forth the response of the other, which is a key to erotic intensity. When one tongue stimulates the other tongue into action, there is the reciprocal effect that leads to buildup of excitement. Here again the interaction component is more important than tactile pleasure per se, although it may be hard to separate and hence the latter may be taken for the former. Lips may be soft and thereby pleasurable in some degree to touch, and sensory pleasure may be enhanced by perfumes (but also reduced by bad tastes and smells); but tongues per se are probably not especially sensually pleasurable apart from their motion in response to each other.

* tongue kissing (and other kinds of prolonged mouth-on-mouth sucking) interferes with breathing; and since breathing is the single most apparent rhythmic activity of the body, these kinds of kissing both increase the intensity of one’s own breathing, and that of one’s kissing partner. Again the key dynamic appears: getting close to, or even into, another person’s body so as to provoke their bodily action in response to one’s own, setting up a cycle of mutual arousal. Thus there are two components of sexual excitement: first the excitement of passing normal social barriers on closeness; then the self-reinforcing cycle of excitement as mutual rhythmic intensification occurs.

* micro-analysis, I would argue that the various forms of erotic breast-contact—squeezing, stroking, sucking—create two forms of excitement.
First is the excitement of crossing a culturally marked intimacy step, baring and touching that which has been prohibited and studiously avoided in other socially acceptable touching rituals such as hugging and patting; this is enhanced by the anticipation elicited by clothing styles that focus attention on partial breast-display as a show of feminine beauty. This is the psychological excitement of getting hold of something that is an emblem of sexual desirability and social prestige. In fact, touching breasts per se may give little tactile pleasure, but the IR mechanism operates so that the excitement is interpreted as a pleasure that is felt to reside in the physical object, the flesh of the breasts, in the same way that the psychological pleasures of kissing are felt to be in the physical sensation of the lips.
A second possibility is interactive; that is, breasts are sensitive and hence a lover manipulating a woman’s breasts gets her aroused in some way. That arousal might not be sexual turn-on, but if a key part of the erotic IR is to start off a train of mutual excitement, even a nonerotic (and nonsensory) excitement can play into the chain of feedbacks that leads to high sexual arousal. The male lover plays with the woman’s breasts in part to invade what was sexually private, in part to get a response from her, which in turn builds up his own response. In many interactions, of course, the intrusion may be coercive and unsuccessful in building up mutual excitement; in a successful erotic IR, on the contrary, there is mutual entrainment of emotions and bodily sensitivities.
The problem of oral sex, as noted, is not with the pleasure of the recipient but of explaining why a person finds it sexually exciting to lick, suck, and kiss another’s genitals. Once again there are two components. The first is the familiar antinomian dynamic; there is excitement just because it has been forbidden or unavailable. Clothing display and practices of modesty keep the genitals hidden above all else, sometimes confining copulation to the dark.

* Kissing the genitals, or licking and sucking with lips and tongue, combines this penetration into the ultimate backstage, with a ritual we have already discussed. Oral sex is also a form of kissing, the most intimate on that progression. Thus another motivation for oral sex is symbolic, representing the ultimate form of intimate possession. A male lover may feel that to totally possess the other is to possess her (or sometimes his) genitals, not merely in the most common fashion of genital intercourse, but in the extension of ritual contact to this most intimate zone. The same motivation may explain why an individual may want to receive oral sex. In the case of male-passive oral sex, the sensory pleasure of being sucked is probably less than vaginal (or anal) intercourse; teeth and palate are not naturally soft and pleasure-giving. But even if the sensory pleasure of having one’s penis sucked is less than that of bodily penetration, it may be both more exciting because more antinomian and more unusual, and symbolically satisfying as an emblem of the ultimate intimacy.

* Oral-genital sex also illustrates the mechanism of mutual intensification, almost in an experimental fashion since (unlike kissing or intercourse) there is genital stimulation only on one side, with psychological stimulation on the other. Sucking another’s genitals is a way of bringing the other person to a sexual climax; it is an extreme form of palpably and visibly having the other’s sexual response under one’s control. Although there are cases in which this is not exciting for the fellator (prostitutes who routinely perform blow-jobs as part of their repertoire; wives, girl-friends, and rape victims who are cajoled or coerced), it appears that the active performer of oral sex often finds this exciting.

* solidarity). Heterosexual anal intercourse presents another analytical problem, but also a quasi-experimental comparison: here there is full-body contact (the generalized love component, as well as full-scale bodily possession), but genital pleasure is confined to one side. The attraction of anal intercourse for heterosexuals may be largely in the antinomian excitement, that is, its status as “kinky” variation, but it may involve enough shared excitement to make the IR solidarity mechanism work.

* In summary, there are three main ways we can theoretically explain the mechanisms that bring sexual pleasure from nongenital and nonreproductive variants or forms of sex.
1. Intimacy ritual . The degree of body contact operates as a graduated series, a ladder of symbols that correspond to the degrees of social intimacy between the persons who touch each other in these ways. Relatedly, parts of the body tantalizingly displayed in clothing styles as a public display of social status (e.g., breasts) can become symbolic targets for rituals of possession.
2. Intense mutual feedback amplification . Bodily techniques for arousing the other person feed back into raising one’s own arousal, and building up the spiral of mutual arousal. The higher degrees of erotic interaction are produced by getting into the center of the other’s attention, turning on their body to involuntary rhythmic intensification, and riding physiologically on their arousal. This works best by playing on physiologically sensitive areas, but can operate through almost any part of the body. The erotic is interference with each other’s body by mutual intrusion on one another’s subjective attention via stimulating excitement and pleasure, sometimes via the medium of other emotions.
3. Enhanced emotional ingredients to initiate buildup of sexual excitement. Exciting or dramatic activities start off the individuals (separately, not yet in shared buildup) to bring the initiating emotional ingredient to a sexual IR. These can include the drama of sexual negotiation, chase, and play; conflict and pain; and the antinomian excitement of breaking taboos.

* Why should the highly active erotic elite be so few? In part, for mundane practical reasons: it takes time and energy to have a lot of sexual affairs; since that is time out from work, such erotic elites must have considerable leisure or financial resources. In addition to time spent in negotiating, there must be considerable accumulated investment in erotic skills and techniques, and in erotic self-presentation. Having multiple sexual partners is correlated with relatively low frequency of intercourse; that is because there are relatively long periods in which they have little sex while establishing a new relationship. In contrast, persons with steady sexual partners tend to have higher frequency of sex, since they spend less time in search and negotiation.

* In practical reality, an individual who wants to be part of the erotic elite has to make a choice between number of partners and frequency of sex. Highest frequency occurs in monogamous relationships, but these are rather common and not erotically prestigeful; so the highly visible forms of erotic prestige come from pursuing multiple partners, even at the cost of lower frequency. There may be even further compromises to be made: high prestige comes from visibly beautiful partners, but to acquire multiple partners is easiest by exploiting the non-elite of the opposite sex, in the relatively less beautiful range. The idealized image of the person who has a steady diet of sex with a variety of beautiful partners is difficult indeed to realize.
Although the higher reaches of erotic stratification are remote and in a sense rather artificial, embodied images so to speak, and although the proportion of the population whose sex lives are highly active is small, this prestige hierarchy nevertheless has an effect on persons ranked throughout. Particularly among young persons living in public sexual negotiation scenes, there is a high level of attention paid to erotic stratification criteria, and acute awareness of who occupies what rank in the community’s ratings. Erotic ranking moreover tends to spill over into all social relationships. Males and females tend to pair off at similar levels of erotic attractiveness, or to confine their round of affairs within the same rank level (Hatfield and Sprecher 1986). I suggest that same-sex friendships also tend to occur within similar erotic attractiveness rankings (I know of no formal study of this, but it fits personal observation). This attractiveness-level-segregation tends to occur because the social activities are organized by flirtation and sexual carousing. The erotic rank hierarchy is not merely a ranking of attractiveness but of sociable activity; those highly ranked attend more parties, and are at the center of the gatherings with the most prestige, the liveliest sexual effervescence.
The popular crowd is the sexual elite. Being in the center of attention gives greater solidarity, closer identification with the symbols of the group, and greater self-confidence. Conversely, those on the outskirts of the group, or who are excluded from it, manifest just the opposite qualities. Being part of the sociable / erotic elite produces an attitude of arrogance; 21 the elite know who they are, and the enclosed, high information structure of the scene makes visible the ranking of those lower down as well. The elite, at its most benevolent, is oblivious to those lower ranking; they may also engage in active jeering and scapegoating, or make the erotically inept or unattractive the butt of ingroup jokes. The informal slang of all such groups marks out the different ranks: the lower ranking are known as “nerds,” “wonks,” “plain Janes,” “dogs,” etc.

* the twentieth century became the most widely eroticized century to date, growing increasingly eroticized throughout the century.

* The shift in the modern mass media toward increasingly blatant sexual representation, including the outburst of pornography from the 1970s onward, explicitness about sexual matters formerly taboo in public discussion, and the politicization of erotic matters by the feminist, lesbian, and gay liberation movements, all rode upon the tide flowing from the display of erotic ranking in youth scenes. The eroticization of youth culture has become so widely influential because, as public education has grown, the youth sex / sociability scene has expanded to include virtually the entire population and for longer periods of their lives. It also reflects the increasing egalitarianism of youth culture, that has quite self-consciously played down class and ethnic differences (such as through the homogenization of dress styles and the permeation of the casual leisured style into almost all situations), leaving their focus on the main activity, the display of erotic attractiveness ranking. 22 The result of this focus on idealized sexual symbolism, and on noting everyone’s rank within it, has been the increasing amounts of sexual activity of all kinds. We see this in the spread of the onset of sexual activity to increasingly younger ages; the overall incidence of intercourse; the spread of various ancillary sexual practices (Laumann et al. 1994). It is no doubt implicated in long-term increases in rape. Given the correlation between pornography and masturbation, one would expect incidence of masturbation to have risen as well.
Finally, I would suggest that the upsurge of the gay and lesbian movements has also been affected by the increasingly focused eroticization of youth culture. For the heterosexual elite in the youth scene did not entirely dominate a ranking of erotic non-elites emulating them, deferring to them, or retiring ashamedly before them. It also motivated social movements of rebellion against the simple hierarchy of the erotic party culture. The hippie movement of the 1960s may be seen as one such movement; for a few years at least, it fostered an alternative center of collective effervescence, partly by alliance with political protest movements, partly by dramatizing its own techniques of carousing and its own explicitly flaunted sexual participation. In other words, for a time the movement upheld an alternative scene, a network of gatherings that had erotic as well as other forms of sociable prestige. No doubt there was a fair amount of idealization of what went on in such scenes, and many of them may have been mythical imagery. Eventually, the techniques that gave the hippie movement its charisma and its emblems of identity (drugs, rock music festivals, clothing styles that repudiated the sexual self-presentation of the prevailing youth culture) were taken over by the mainstream youth culture, and the old style of erotic / sociable hierarchy reasserted itself.

* The counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s offered new possibilities because they provided an alternative scene, a network of effervescent gathering places on a wider scale. The national gathering places of the civil rights / anti-war / hippie counterculture movement also provided room for a self-consciously energized gay movement, as well as for the lesbian movement, whose new scenes were found at first within the consciousness-raising groups of the feminist movement. These political movements provided the structural conditions under which homosexual erotic energy was built up. I am suggesting that these movements did not merely take preexisting closet homosexuality and bring it into the open, but built up this specific kind of erotic energy so that the amount of homosexual activity increased during this period.

* Sexual passion is not primordial but a form of emotional energy, specialized toward particular symbolic objects because of the way in which they have become charged up with attention in particular types of interaction rituals. IR theory and erotic interaction mutually illuminate one another. Sexual pathways are IR chains just like any other.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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