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Swept off one’s feet

There’s something erotic about flight. It’s the dreamy abandonment of all sorts of gravity, including physical and moral law, when one is simply “swept off one’s feet.” Diane Ackerman on similarities between sex and flying

books Updated: May 21, 2012 15:04 IST

There’s something erotic about flight. It’s the dreamy abandonment of all sorts of gravity, including physical and moral law, when one is simply “swept off one’s feet.”

Throughout the ages, witches have been portrayed as aerial evil (they applied hallucinogens to their vaginal mucosa with a broom handle, which is how witches came to be associated with flying broomsticks).

The idea of flight has thrilled, terrified, inspired and affected people from the beginning. Airplanes have changed our lives forever, especially our love lives.

Now we can date over many time zones. Our relationships with our parents have changed: we see them often; there’s no need to divorce when we marry someone from a far-flung state or country. This has also changed our gene pool; we won’t look the way we do now for long.

Voluptous dance
Flying has changed how we imagine our planet. If I wished, I could leave Manhattan and be in Calcutta for afternoon tea. My body isn’t limited by its own weaknesses when it comes to moving rapidly through space.

Lovers can fly to a romantic city just for atmosphere. It has redefined a date. People often fly in their dreams. In my nightmares, when villains are chasing me, I escape at the last excruciating second by suddenly lifting off the earth and flying just out of reach.

Freud felt that flying was dream code for sex. Flying in airplanes fills up one’s senses, massages the body with low-level vibrations, sometimes scares one enough to keep adrenaline flowing.

It is most peaceful and serene, it can feel like a soft, voluptuous dance among the clouds, even if you are seated in a hard metal cockpit.

Sex and flying have more in common than exhilarating sensations—they’re both taboo. Flagrant sex is a social taboo. Flying is the biological taboo of our species. Humans are land creatures who can walk, run, swim but cannot fly.

Except in our dreams, we are forbidden from entering that Eden. So it’s small wonder that we long for the forbidden gift.
Sex is a form of naked flying in open air — you lose touch with the ordinary, let go of all restraints, and release your grip on earth and reality. You do this, paradoxically, through an even more heightened sense of touch.

(Excerpted from A Natural History Of Love by Diane Ackerman)