I’m drawn to the transcendent in all its forms. Give me stories of the great athletes of consciousness: mystics, ecstatics, mad lovers; poets, painters, musicians that charge our imaginations and open our hearts. All these give us snapshots, glimpses of what we could or might be. That’s a bit of upbeat news. So two cheers for what Mark Twain called the “human experiment.” But what of the third cheer? you ask. For balance, I feel the need to note the dark side, the monsters and grotesques beside the saints and geniuses. So alongside the wonders, I collect tales of extreme depravity—shockers that lurk beyond the pale--‘live and learn’ moments.
I had such a moment reading an article by Sara Yahr Tucker that describes a recent, disturbing trend in medical settings. We’ve heard a lot lately about men in power who sexually abuse women. Well, this takes us to a new level of depravity--reports of obstetricians that sexually abuse their pregnant patients—even as the women are in the throes of giving birth!
Evidence for this horror is based on eyewitness reports from doulas, women professionally trained to assist other women during childbirth. One doula describes her astonishment when she observed an obstetrician arrange himself behind a woman who was giving birth, then plunged his hand in her uterus, clearly getting off sexually. According to Tucker’s report, these are not isolated cases but the phenomenon is near “epidemic.”
Nature of course is full of what seem moral monstrosities, like the praying mantis who unites with her mate sexually and then has him for dessert. “Hey honey!” he says, “That’s not very romantic.” The praying mantis replies, “Let’s just say the romance was short-lived. Gulp. Burp.”
It may be that our depravity potential will always be a drag on our transcendent potential. To see that with a clear eye is called realism. Obstetricians that rape the women they are assisting in childbirth? An epidemic? Is one of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings of hell coming to life in America?