One day my guilt appeared to me:
obscenely naked with empty breasts.
She did not offer her body,
rather, she had me watch,
Please, I want to.
thrusting her gaping orifices at me –
at me – towards the screaming.
And she would not stop.
27 June 1985
Guilt is an acquired taste. Like Guinness or Bovril. I can’t stand Guinness or Bovril but guilt doesn’t upset me nearly as much as it once did. I would never write a poem like ‘Personification’ nowadays. I still feel guilty—and guilt isn’t always a bad thing—but I’ve become desensitised to it. In fact guilt can become a part of the pleasure. Proof you’re doing it right. What do most people feel guilty about? Even in this permissive society I’d still wager it’s sex that tops the list.
I have standards and when I don’t live up to them I feel bad, I feel disappointed in myself and, when it’s particularly bad, I feel guilty. That is as it should be. The danger lies in feeling bad about something you’ve done because it would disappoint someone else. That’s not automatically wrong. We’re social animals and so there are times when we need to do what’s best for our partner or our neighbours or our countrymen. Lying to your wife could be a cause for guilt or dropping litter or refusing to go to war.
I was brought up to equate sex with guilt. Sex was something you felt guilty about. If you didn’t feel guilty you weren’t doing it right. I have never forgiven my parents for that. They took something rather wonderful and conditioned me to feel bad about it. Of course it was okay to have as much sex as you wanted when you were married, within reason. Yeah, even there they managed to spoil it.