Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Very Mature Discussion About Love Potions

So I was reading io9 and they had a fine article about consent and love potions in the Harry Potter universe, mainly that love potions aren't consent to sexual acts. Whatever. It was one of about a dozen quaint posts I skim over every day between putting in job apps. However, this one was a bit different because a user named crashfrog framed the issue thusly:
Genuine love is no less a chemical phenomenon than any "love potion" might be, we know it comes about as a result of chemical releases in the brain you can't really control (indeed, that love is a non-volitional experience is pretty central to our conception of it), but for whatever reason we don't consider sexual consent under those circumstances to be invalid. If you consented to intercourse under the effects of a love potion, I can't see how that's any different than consenting to intercourse under the effects of just regular ol' love, both being chemical influences outside your control. 
If you ever have doubt in the goodness of the internet, know that many people took exception to this. The conversation continued on and we talked a bit about it before I actually looked up Harry Potter love potions and found they were pretty directly fucked up and not related very much to actual love.

I tried to steer the conversation onto a more theoretical route. After all, if exhaustion potions in Harry Potter worked like love potions, they'd break your kneecaps with a collapsible baton and rip out your lungs. I preferred to talk about about theoretical love potions which are magical substances that create a mental state biochemically identical to that of one human being attracted to another. I'm not clear on if it'd be "love at first site" love, "day of the marriage" love, or "50th anniversary I love you now more than ever" love, but it's the best working definition I can manage.

Love is not a random phenomenon. Biology and experience teach us who we can and cannot trust and rely on, subconsciously or consciously. It's not a foolproof system. Sometimes you open up to someone and they break your heart. Sometimes you can know someone for years and never realize how close you've become. People don't always learn from their experiences and for them the effects are as devastating as any misused love potion.

But if you live long enough, learn enough, and get lucky, you might find someone that you can trust or hire the A-Team. If it's the former, they might have values like yours. And if you're damned lucky, you'll be worthy of their trust too. Even with all that, you'll both be rubbish at first, but you'll have faith that you and the other can be and wants to be better. When it works out, you grow together like Baucis and Philemon.

Having that faith in someone else when they don't return it hurts.  It might seem random when you don't see it coming. You don't know if it's because they just lost faith too early or if you really aren't good enough. You know that if it blindsided you once, it could happen again at any time. The only things you can affect--the only things you can cling to when that happens--is whether you give up improving and whether you quit letting yourself believe that it's worth the risk.

When you give someone a love potion, they don't get to shrug off the effects. Their experience to date is ignored. They can be forced into trusting and believing in someone that they would otherwise know is willing to treat them like dirt, harm them, and use them for their own ends. Someone who is never willing to change or grow or become a better person. They will take risks they would otherwise never undertake, give things they would never otherwise part with. 

Sometimes that happens in natural love. It might seem right to objective onlookers and it's not. Other times, the opposite happens. Some people get hurt time and again because they love the wrong people. Ones who can't love them back. Ones who—and let's be honest here—they aren't worthy of. It might not seem fair to them people. They may cling to any excuse they can to make someone love them, but they will never, never be worthy of that love if they don't try to become better; they will not be able to trust and support someone else because they are too wrapped up in themselves.

Whether you do or not, love is something you can learn from.

In the tradition of all great Star Trek captains, I'd like to compare this to poker. Some people win big on the first hand and go home happy. Some people quit right before their winning deal and never know. Some play the same way every time, refusing to learn, and go broke. Some are just unlucky no matter how hard they try. Others work hard at it, pay attention to what successful players do, and drive themselves to not just win, but to be good enough to win.

You can pull a gun on the dealer and walk away with the money, but you're lying if you think you're a good poker player; you're a rapist.

crashfrog, if you are reading this, you can reply via comment or put up a link to a blog. If you wanted to post your rebuttal here on PIFC, we could work that out too. Just lemme know.


Derek said...

crashfrog's argument misses a vital point.

Not all chemical reactions in the brain are equal. This is why a human can resist the craving for a cheesecake while on a diet but not the addict's craving for heroin without being trained to do so.

Both of these situations require brain chemistry but to very different degrees.

VanVelding said...

Indeed. That's an angle that I certainly missed.