Temperance and the shameful

Temperance deals with things that can be shameful or not, but when not shameful they tend to be very strong principles of intimate interpersonal connection. This is pretty clear with sexual arousal: to show sexual arousal in an inappropriate or unwelcome context would be a shame that the person could never live down, but to show no arousal among some intimates would be just as swiftly destroy interpersonal connections.

What is obvious with sexual desire is also true of the lesser shames. It’s embarrassing and degrading to lose all control in the face of food, but proper use is not just eating appropriate amounts but eating meals and feasts with others. Alcohol at its best is not just the amount drank but the extent to which it facilitates conversation and cheer, or at least warm feelings toward others. The social character of alcohol is one of its main advantages over other sorts of intoxicants, though it doesn’t have this character entirely apart from social convention (much about temperance is keyed to social convention).

Temperance has a special connection to the mouth, not as the organ of speech but as the organ of ingestion. This is clear in food an alcohol but it is just as true of sexual desire. We kiss because to put anything to the mouth is to want it to become a part of one’s being.



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