Lechery and the Novel

Alain de Botton's The Philosopher's Mail project asks if it's okay to desire a stranger in public space without them knowing about it.

If you're asking yourself that question, then you're probably not a creep. In fact, daydreaming about attractive people you see in the street is healthy.

Daydreaming is a safety net that stops us going crazy from a sense of missing out. Rather than worrying only about the risks of escapism and unwanted lechery, we should be equally concerned about what happens when people don’t have daydreams. It is the inability to fantasise that can lead people to act out, rather than, dream their wishes. Fantasy is a critical safety valve. It’s a frank admission of the goodness and appeal of so much that one hasn’t got.

via www.philosophersmail.com

The writer, anonymous but displaying de Botton's characteristically gentle, reassuring way of presenting half-thought-out ideas, says novels help give expression to forbidden thoughts.

That is in part why we have novels. We think of the novel as a kind of art not because it avoids sex and erotic experience but because it joins up erotic excitement with a broader interest in who strangers are.

Fantasy has a political dimension as well, for it's very difficult to realize how circumstances could be different without fantasizing about change.

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