4. Cowardly Concupiscence

If the last century should be remembered for anything besides its banality and destructiveness, it should also be cited for the advent of mass-market sexual teasing. Never before has sexual innuendo been so pervasively woven into everyday experience, from fashion, to magazines and TV as a part of global advertising—quite often consumed with avidity by men and women who are sometimes even prudish in most other aspects of their lives. In this brand-aware genre of sinning, men seek out women as emblems of their social standing or leverage their power to harness women into sex. Conversely, some women lead the dance quite on their own, seeking out men of wealth and power by becoming the ultimate objects of desire. One might say that even against some formidable competition from the past—the Golden Age of Whoredom is actually now.

As he finished the text, Marten glimpsed a man’s coarse, angular face coalesce into a silvery, medieval mask, exposing a hopeful, dog-like smile. It seemed to be pleading for a better fate before it exploded into a series of bubbles over the quicksilver swamp.