Interest read, Benjamin.
I have some observations, though.
You wrote that for many millennia there was no culture of romantic love. Yet in the article you linked we find the following:
“The evidence suggests that love is a universal emotion experienced by a majority of people, in various historical eras, and in all the world’s cultures, but manifests itself in different ways”.
And further down:
“It seems that love is a universal and biologically based emotion; when a man or woman is in love they know about this from their gut feelings, without words.”
Thus the term “romantic love” may have been of relatively recent coinage, but not what is signified by it (“Romantic love involves a mix of emotional and sexual desire: emotional highs, exhilaration, passion, and elation.”), which, per the same article, is a human universal that, even though molded by culture to a considerable extent, transcends it:
“Anthropologists now believe that romantic love, or at least passionate love, is a universal phenomenon and they found evidence of its occurrences in many cultures. Passionate love is a universal emotion, experienced by many people in the world’s cultures (Fischer, Shaver, & Carnochan, 1990; Shaver, Morgan, & Wu, 1996). Evolutionary psychologists contend that passionate love is innate in human nature and is based on biological processes that are universal, applying to people of all cultures.”
So I don’t know that it’s accurate to say that for millennia there was no culture of romantic love. Perhaps all we could say is that a different term was used to refer to it.
“Why do we tell stories about love and sex? Because the reality of our “love life” is humiliating and is the greatest source of human hypocrisy.”
Might this not be a matter of personal opinion rather than an incontrovertible fact?
“No, we revere our spouses and children and hold everyone else in lesser esteem because we’re held captive by chemical reactions which entangle us in legal arrangements. We want to start a family not because we choose to, but because we’re driven to by biology and by society.”
Yet there’s nothing we do that is not driven by biology and by society. Thus if we choose to devalue (or dismiss or reject) a particular predisposition of ours because it is so driven, then we must do so with respect to everything we do.
“Yet these degrading emotions and instincts…”
Might not considering such emotions and instincts degrading reflect a very personal perspective?
“No matter how much we take ourselves to be engaged in “lovemaking” rather than in rutting like animals, sex is an embodied experience. In my eyes, sex and sexuality are humiliating in the literal sense that they bring us down to earth and to our mere bodies.”
Would that not equally apply (though not quite so literally) to many other things beyond sex? Would you say that all our sensory experiences are humiliating because they bring us down to earth and to our mere bodies? Are we to reject all the sensual and sensory pleasures our short lives afford because they are barriers to our spiritual growth? Because they pollute our soul, so to speak? I know you’re not religious, yet I find this perspective surprisingly redolent of Biblical stuff about iniquitous concupiscence or something along those lines; a perspective that, in my opinion, can only have pernicious effects on our well-being.
“Sex is a physical act between objects with grasping arms, slobbering mouths, and engorged genitalia, between bodies that sweat, grunt, and groan with pleasure from friction.”
Would you say this is how most people would characterize human intercourse?
“Not just because we’re biophysical puppets, but because we’re minds that seek respite from the universal wilderness. As the troubadours said, we can transcend animality, acting as if the world weren’t so brutish and unfair, as if our ideals mattered. Our loved ones are indeed partners — not just in the business of acting out our social scripts, but in the Promethean crime against the inhuman natural order.”
That's a beautiful and inspiring paragraph. Still, it seems to imply a sort of spirit-body dualism, a dichotomy between our animality or our “base instincts” and our higher and nobler spiritual aspirations. This isn’t a real dichotomy, in my view. Our wish to transcend our animality, to seek respite from the universal wilderness, is itself embedded in our biophysical nature. What we value as more elevated or spiritual or transcendental is as much derived from our genes and culture, from nature and nurture, as everything else.