#0 – Is all you need love? (pilot) (en)

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Good morning, good afternoon, good night, Berlin, São Paulo and everyone else who decided to check out this brand new podcast! I’m Marilia Moschkovich, your host and creator of LIBRE and this is our first episode, airing in September 2019 directly from Berlin.

Today you will get to know a little more about this series of podcast episodes, about myself and, hopefully, about yourselves, too. In this episode I’ll introduce you to the main questions that the next seven episodes will try to tackle. Together, we will investigate love, relationships, sex and other aspects of social life that come with them: power, control and – why not? – violence as well.

If this seems a little weird to you, join me in this journey and open your mind: this is Libre.

Is all you need love?

What do we mean when we say “I love you”? Why does the mention of “love” make us feel special but, at the same time, it authorizes us to expect certain things (or even demand them) from another person? How do we learn all of this and why does it matter?

These were the questions I started asking myself in 2014 after ending an abusive marriage. I had already studied some anthropology during my Social Sciences BA and my MA, so I knew other societies didn’t understand all of this in the exact same way we do.

I also knew that the answer to these questions – and even the questions themselves – would only make sense in a specific historical period since love, like all human creations, is historically situated. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. My point is: I have been asking these questions and looking for their answers for quite a while now, and in 2018 I was selected for a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in order to share them with the world. As a German Chancelor Fellow I would have the opportunity to work with the Berlin Feminist Film Week not only podcasting but also curating sessions for the film festival that happens at the end of each winter in this peculiar city. So beware of the 2020 edition!

Back to 2018: I packed my things, gave my apartment in Sao Paulo away (schade, it was a great apartment!) and moved to Germany. Oh, right, and two weeks before my flight I also found out I was pregnant. That meant staying a little longer in Germany, but it also meant learning a lot from the experience of having a baby in a different country and in a non-monogamous relationship. It seemed that life was also interested in helping me find some of these answers, after all.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off
.It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!

[from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet]

One of the most famous products of western culture, the play Romeo & Juliet, by William Shakespeare, is quite an interesting piece to help us understand our conceptions of love.

I’m not sure whether you’re familiar with it but basically the play tells the story of a forbidden love: Romeo and Juliet are teenagers of rival families, and they fall in love with each other. The play is full of sonets and verses about a brutal passion, and the feeling that they need to be with each other no matter what.

No matter what: that’s exactly what leads to the fatal tragedy in the end. It wouldn’t be, of course, as romantic, if Romeo saw Juliet supposedly dead and instead of drinking poison he decided to grieve, get some therapy and move on to other relationships. The play only works as a romantic tragedy because we share the idea that there is only one true love, therefore if your ONE TRUE LOVE dies, there’s nothing to do but wether die yourself, too, or live a lonely and miserable life (which tells us another one of our conceptions about love: that this kind of love – the relationship-romantic-sex related love is different than all other forms of love and absolutely necessary if we want to be happy).

Well, it wouldn’t be so romantic either if the Friar’s note had arrived to Romeo and he hadn’t drank poison, and Juliet would have woken up, and they had gotten away and gotten married and had kids and started fighting because she took care of the kids by herself and he didn’t wash a single fuckin’ dish – cazzo, Romeo! Or worse, if she cheated on him and ended up dead by his hands instead.

From the Deutsche Welle international news, on the 22nd of November, 2018: “In Germany, in 2015, a total of 127,457 people in relationships were targets of murder, bodily harm, rape, sexual assault, threats and stalking. Eighty-two percent, or over 104,000, of these were women. (…) Three hundred thirty-one women were killed intentionally or unintentionally by their partners.”

The data on that same report, linked in our website with the transcription of this episode’s text, also shows that, in Germany, in every single day of the year of 2017, a man tried to kill his female partner or ex-partner. Two thirds of these guys were Germans, in case your xenophobia is aching to blame foreigners for such high numbers.
147 times they were successful. This means that gender violence in relationships kills one woman every three days in Germany.

In Brazil, in the first 3 months of 2019, around 200 women had already been killed by their partners or ex-partners. According to the World Health Organization, Brazil is the 5th most lethal country to women in the world. Isn’t there something really wrong about the way we love, if it ultimately kills us women?

Violence in relationships is often motivated by feelings that we learn are related to love and passion: jealousy, control, competition, debt to the loved one, sacrifice and many others.”If you love me, you’ll do this”, “If you do that it means you don’t love me”: in the end, our traditional relationships are filled with an endless attempt to prove this abstract thing called “love”. I’ll get more into that within a few episodes. Check our episode schedule and find out more about what’s to come.

For now, I’d like to highlight one of the many things we experience as a proof of love: fidelity, meaning sexual exclusiveness. This is such an important part of our conceptions about love that people even feel entitled to kill each other for breaking this contract, either legally or not.

Many European countries, especially the ones who were never socialist or communist, only decriminalised adultery – that is, when someone breaks the sexual exclusivity clause of a marriage – after the 1960s. Austria was one of the last ones, shamefully only in 1997. The case of Brazil is even worse: the law criminalizing adultery was only invalidated in 2005! In the United States, adultery is still a criminal offense in 19 states, which means almost half the country. In many countries, laws punish also (and sometimes only) a person who has sex with a married one, and not the person technically breaking the sexual exclusivity clause – this was the case in India until – suprise, surprise! – 2018. [check source]

Despite not providing legal grounds for punishment in many countries nowadays, adultery and/or infidelity is still seen as a legitimate reason for someone to act violentely whether towards their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. or the person their partner cheated them with.

Cheating: by the way, have you noticed how meaningful the expression “cheating” in English, is? As if relationships are games to be played, competitivelly and “saving yourself” to that one person is a sacrifice done in the name of love. If you’re not enduring the harshness of not living your sexuality freely, you’re “cheating” in this game. Infidelity is seen as a individual moral problem, and not as part of a system – but I’ll also get to that later, in a different episode.

My point right now is that we learn all of this since we are born, when we learn the very basic categories of our existence such as “family”, “mom”, “dad”, and more. Media – movies, newspapers, ads, etc. – are nowadays major vehicles of transmitting our lethal beliefs on love, starting with Shakespeare and passing through many cultural products from the past hundreds of years.

More recently, the Netflix series “YOU” approached the theme in an interesting perspective.  In that series, all typical romantic lines become quite dark when we see them being taken to an extreme point by a violent stalker and murderer. Despite it being an exaggeration, as fiction, it is also somewhat true. As the data I mentioned shows, women are killed by their partners and ex-partners more often than we like to admit, and mostly in the name of fidelity, jealousy, passion and love.

In the 1970s in Brazil, feminist activists used the slogan “This is not love” to talk about domestic violence [more on feminist studies about gender violence in Brazil here]. I’ll dedicate a special episode to Love later on this year, where we’ll go through the idea of love from a critical perspective. For now let’s just stay with the question in our minds: if we learn that love entitles us to the other person’s full sexuality and therefore their bodies, but imposing our control over their bodies isn’t love, then what is love? Is there really a “pure” form of love?

“Love is a fire that burns yet burns unseen,
A wound that injures, yet without distress,
A happiness that is not happiness,
Sorrow that is no sorrow yet is keen;
‘Tis rather not to love than love, I ween;
To wander among men companionless,
To deem no blessing that which still doth bless
And count that gain which but our loss hath been.
Love is a voluntary imprisonment,
Service to one who is not victor rendered,
Loyalty to one upon our death intent.
Yet since love to itself hath not surrendered,
How can its favour breed in men content,
Or in their hearts find service freely tendered?”

(Luis de Camoes, translated by Fidelino de Figueiredo)

The poem of Luis de Camões, written in the 16th century, shows as well as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the ideal of love in western culture. “Love is a voluntary imprisonment,Service to one who is not victor rendered,Loyalty to one upon our death intent”: Sacrifice and loyalty until death – it’s all there.

Although some researchers argue that the perception of love at that time in history, in Europe, wasn’t that having such characteristics love was a desired sentiment or a nice thing to feel, but rather something to be dreamed only, an unachievable noble motivation (and hence the word noble here, as the expression came indeed from medieval societies), and had nothing to do with marriage (thus Romeo and Juliet and their impossible love).

Nowadays the discussion on loyalty and fidelity have expanded and many people understand it as something more than just a clause of sexual exclusivity between partners. As this is a pilot episode, of course I won’t get too much into that now either and I really hope you come back and hear our next episodes, published bi-weekly until December! I’d like to point out, though, that one of our main tools to question traditional romantic love is to compare everything we learn about it (including what we learn that we’re allowed to feel because of it) and friendships. After all, why don’t we bother if our friends have other friends, when we do definetely bother if our – let’s say – “romantic” partners have other romantic partners (and whether we like it or not, sex is indeed a big deal here)?

Feminism has historically challenged many of our most naturalized notions around sex, sexuality, gender, family roles, and more: Olympe de Gouges in the French Revolution, Emma Goldman with the anarchists in the beginning of the 20th century in the United Stated, Lou Salomé in Germany a little later, Alexandra Kollontai in the Soviet Union… These are some of the authors we’ll mention and sometimes analyze during our next episodes as well.

More recently, not exactly in the feminist movement but also not really apart from it, what I call “modern non-monogamous communities” have also brought these issues up as a political and cultural matter. In another episode I’ll explain better what I mean by “modern non-monogamous communities” and why call them that way, but for now it’s enough to say I’m talking about polyamorous people and related groups/movements. These communities have challenged one of the most basic rule of our love system: monogamy, with a small M, meaning the unspoken rule that says we can only have romantic and sexual “commited” relationships with one person at a time. This is why non-monogamy is a central theme of this podcast, too.

Once, at university, a professor I had in Philosophy asked: “Do we need a social rule to stop people from eating construction bricks?” And well, no, we don’t and so this rule doesn’t exist. His point was that if we need a rule telling us not to do something, it’s because that something is at least attractive to us somehow. Some people even ask if humans are or aren’t by their nature, monogamous. And this is the theme of our next episode, to be aired two weeks from now.

Other episodes yet to come are “A brief history of sex and marriage”, “Love and other fake feelings”, “Poliamory and other forms of non-monogamy”, “Monogamy and Capitalism: the rule of the Family” and “Non-monogamy: la vie NOT en rose”. [check the calendar here]

I hope you have enjoyed this first date and you’ll come back for more. And since we’re on that topic: share these dates with your friends, I’m sure the more, the merrier! See you in two weeks!