Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Being and Nakedness: Crushing on Troubled (and Hot) Existentialists

Anne Tourney

To observe that life is absurd is not an end, but a beginning. – Albert Camus

I was a typical adolescent female in that I tended to develop rabid crushes on males who were safely unreachable. I was somewhat atypical in that the guys I crushed on were dead. Dead poets, dead novelists, dead philosophers – if they were eloquent, handsome, and deceased, they were crush-worthy, in my feverish teenage mind. In seventh grade I carried around a postcard with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s portrait on it, mooning over the introspective sensuality of his face. Later I replaced my Hawthorne postcard with a black-and-white photo of French philosopher and novelist Albert Camus, after reading The Plague in my high school French class. Maybe the switch was a sign of maturity: I had become realistic enough to see that Albert was more attainable than Nathaniel. After all, Camus had died a lot more recently.

But it was also Albert himself who drew me. Those keen dark eyes, that shock of glossy black hair, the lips twisted wryly around a cigarette. I’ve always thought of him as the “warm, fuzzy Existentialist,” not only because he was such a dedicated humanitarian, but because I had a much stronger desire to cuddle up with Camus naked.

I hadn't only discovered Camus – I had discovered Existentialism, with its stark metaphysical landscape, its rigorous standards of personal responsibility, its exploration of the alienated soul. I didn’t throb as fiercely for Camus’ French compatriot Jean-Paul Sartre, though Sartre’s vertiginous vision of human existence did and does make my flesh tingle.

Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.Jean-Paul Sartre


And I have to pay homage to Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who preceded the Frenchies in chronology and thought. He was known as the “father of Existentialism,” which makes sense, because he set a precedent for hotness in that school of philosophy.

Here is such a definition of truth: An objective uncertainty, held fast through appropriation with the most passionate inwardness, is the truth, the highest truth there is for an existing person. – Soren Kierkegaard

My crushes on brooding Existentialist men continued into college. I was a French major, and since the study of French literature and philosophy are intimately intertwined, I got heavy doses of both. Actually, I got most of my philosophy at the university pub, where I would seek out some messy-haired misfit sitting alone at a table in the corner, a draft beer in one hand and a copy of The Myth of Sisyphus or Being and Nothingness in the other, an unfiltered Camel spinning a vertical skein of smoke in an ashtray beside him. I’d wander over to his table, as if pulled by the centrifugal force of his intellectual intensity, and if my confidence were fortified by enough cheap wine, I’d try to impress him by tossing out a reference to Heidegger (mispronouncing the German philosopher's name in the process). If I weren’t drunk enough, I’d simply sit at an adjacent table and watch my outcast brood.

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. – Albert Camus

Brooding. Now we're getting to the hot, steamy core of my obsession. I’ve always been deeply attracted to intensity in men – physical, emotional, intellectual. Nothing turns me on more than a man of conviction, one who’s fully engaged in life. I love guys who not only read and write and contemplate with passion, but who propel those thoughts into action. Camus was active in the French Resistance during WWII. Andre Malraux was also in the Resistance, was passionate about the arts, and served as France’s Minister of Cultural Affairs. These men didn’t simply ponder the human condition, they bit into its troubled heart.

Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk - and to act. – Andre Malraux

But before a man’s thoughts explode into action, I wanna watch some brain cells smolder. He can brood about the absurdity of life, about the ultimate isolation of the individual, about the problem of moral responsibility, or about whether his boxer shorts are clean enough to wear on a first date: doesn’t matter to me, as long as he’s deliciously troubled. Just contemplating those pouting lips, that hooded gaze, makes me burn with the desire to tear off his clothes and invade his alienated state. And as he plunges naked into the abyss of being, I want him to plunge straight into my eager, open . . . . uh, library.

To prove that I’ve gained sexual confidence over the years, I’ll post drool-inspiring photos of a few men who are still unattainable to me, but sexily, broodingly alive. Okay, maybe they’re not pondering the question of whether existence precedes essence, but whatever they’re thinking about (probably not my nude body, but one can always dream), they look damn good doing it.

Rufus Sewell, looking gorgeous in black and white
while trying to make rational sense of human experience

Christian Bale, attempting to reconcile the
absurdity of life with his own smoldering hotness

Jake Gyllenhaal, undoubtedly contemplating
the slavery of the human condition

Who are your favorite brooding, troubled hotties?


Olivia Knight said...

I don't know how bright I can be (in the intellectual or shiny sense) with a mind numbed by multiple submission letters & mail-merges... but as this is a topic very dear to my heart I thought I'd just squeak.


I'm rather in love with Derrida but he's more of a Gandalf figure than an angrily brooding hero.

Hmm, will meditate on brooding men, try to clear my admin-addled head, and return soon...

Janine Ashbless said...

Anne, I can hear the sound of readers' jaws dropping and eyes bulging all over the planet. I've got to say, brilliant post - and it made me laugh and laugh.

I had a bit of a crush on Descartes at one point. It's to do with intellectual courage, isn't it? The courage to face our worst fears (loneliness, meaninglessness). Descartes had the courage to doubt everything. Everything he could - the existence of the external world even his own body (it's old-hat to modern people brought up on The Matrix but at the time it must have been bloody terrifying), to discard everything until he got down to one thing he couldn't doubt: I think.

Sadly he ballsed it up after that point.

It's courage, and brains, and absolute honesty. Hot.

Of course since then I've got rather more interested in muscle, violence and big cocks. Sad how your youthful idealism dies, isn't it?

Portia Da Costa said...

I know nothing about existentialism, but I love a moody, troubled hero when I see one. My beloved Robert Goren is a perfect example... there's a dark and angst ridden quality about him, always there beneath the surface, even when he flashes his angelic smile.

Generally, I love it when a man looks emotionally tortured and brooding... even if he's really just deciding whether to scratch his arse or not. LOL

Alison Tyler said...


Wow, wish I'd known you in high school! I love the mental image of you carrying around your postcard of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I have a series of signed photos from Alan Alda, dark and brooding (all right, not so much, but closest I can think of) doctor on MASH. I started crushing on him at eleven, or so. And, um, I actually haven't stopped.


Janine Ashbless said...

Ooh look - more pictures of a brooding Dane contemplating his solipsistic wretchedness.

Janine Ashbless said...

Poor man. Let me give him a hug.

Jeremy Edwards said...

What an impressive mixture of philosophy and lust, Anne! I can't imagine anywhere else one could encounter an essay quite like this. And what a great title.

I would be remiss, in this context, if I didn't insert a shameless plug for a story I've written called "Existential Wendell." It's slated to appear next month.

Alison, when I was a kid I basically wanted to be Alan Alda's Hawkeye (minus the war and the surgery). I know it's probably hard to believe that I could have wanted to emulate a wise-cracking, sex-obsessed antihero . . .

Portia Da Costa said...

Two for the price of one... brooding angst *and* jowls!

Vincent contemplating the meaning of his next cheeseburger...

Vick said...


Kate Pearce said...

Alan Alda...I love him. always have always will...We should form a club

Deep moody men?
Honestly? I want to give them a good slap, direct them toward a barber shop or a shower, flick the fag out of their mouths and tell them to get over themselves...

Maybe this outburst is because I currently have 3 moody teenage boys occupying my house?

Madeline Moore said...

Anne, you are a real boon to Lust Bites. This is a wonderful essay. I thrilled to the multisyllabic philosophical terms, swooned over the brooders, and laughed out loud at lines like this one: 'I had become realistic enough to see that Albert was more attainable than Nathaniel. After all, Camus had died a lot more recently.'

Janine, I was a Descartes junkie too, back in the day. I walked out of my first Philosophy 101 class touching walls (is this wall really here) lifting my eyes to the heavens (am I dreaming, or awake) removing my eyeglasses (does this change who I am?) and pinching myself (do I exist? I think I do.) It was mind-blowing, which was and is my favourite state.

The new breed of brooders has already been well picked over. I too love a brooding man, though I've grown up enough to know that behind the veil of cigarette smoke and half-closed lids might lurk a very disturbed mind. Still...I loved Leonard Cohen when he brooded, and love him even more, now that we're both older and he's become serene. I'd have to say, in general, I go for the serene now rather than the troubled. The troubled ones are so much...trouble. Also incapable of loving a woman and often lousy in bed. They sure do look good tho...

Thanks for this post, Anne. It's a keeper!

Alison Tyler said...

Oh, good, Kate! The club so far is you, me, and, um, Jeremy.

My favorite of his movies is Manhattan Murder Mystery. But here is a pretty good picture, as well.

Years ago, I copyedited a manuscript for a pretty well known writer, and he called me “Hawkeye.” Made my day. I mean my year.


Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Along these lines I bet you brooding men fans would enjoy the Swedish actor Max von Sydow -- one of Ingmar Bergman's main men, priest in the Exorcist, tragic hero of "Pelle the Conqueror", and of course, dead by now. pics

Ally said...


That was so great, I loved it. Brooding men, yes please brood. Come here and let me make it all better.

Needy men although they can be a pain in the ass, are great for women like me who need to be needed.

I've had a secret crush for quite a while on an unobtainable, brooding, half lidded, lusty looking, hot, needy, guy; Who if asked how he is, will answer "Suffering". Mmm "sigh".


3 moody teenage boys occupying my house

Take a deep breath, it will all be over soon, just keep saying that. In their late teens and early twenties they are so busy learning life that they will forget to make time for you.


Ooo count me in. Hawkeye, as a teenager gave me some amazing fantasies, he always made me horny, and it kinda creeped me out that I was hot for an older man my mother had the hots for. He has that I'm a bad boy twinkle.

I loved this post. Other hot brooders, Keanu Reeves, Orlando Bloom and I couldn't agree more with Johnny Depp.

LMAO, just watched "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" last night, seriously fucked up and very funny. Johnnys best performance ever, but very unsexy (don't ask me how).

jothemama said...

I know it's not subtle but it has to be David B as Angel, he broods so prettily.

And as I might have said before, Ronon Dax fomr Stargate Atlantis!

I 'll accept that he may be posing, rather than brooding in this picture.
I must get someone to teach me how to do links.

I'm a little ashamed that thought I did Philosophy on College, I;m referencing pop-culture hotties from the fantasy genres here, but feck it, hot is hot.

Anonymous said...

Yez and no. Well you know brains aren't really my thing. Tortured, however, kind of is. Angel was a great suggestion a guy who is tortured but not *too* brainy.

He certainly dressed the part

Kristina introduced me to Chad White (not literally). Here's a very existentialist pic of him.

But really and truly, I do like some clever boys - there is Gaius

Gwen Masters said...

What a great post!

In college, I could have fallen in love with my philosophy professor, had he given me on iota of inkling that he was attracted to me. The way he talked about purpose, about the struggles of man versus society, made him all seem dark and mysterious. He understood all that he was talking about, and begged us to understand, too...pacing the floor, running his hands through that just-long-enough hair, sometimes shouting out a point he wanted to get across, debating fast and furious with the other brooding loners who loved to sit in the back row in every other class but in his, they were right up front.

I fell in love with his words and his thoughts. His body wasn't half-bad, either, and like I said, I could have fallen for that, too.

It wasn't until I was married and almost graduated that he mentioned how sexy I looked in that little black dress.

Existential bastard.

God, I still lust after that man.

Janine Ashbless said...

Oh Gaius! Haven't seen pics of him in ages. But Ronon Dex, I mean ... PHWOAR! Brooding, with muscles and dreads and beard! Aaaaaaah....

Ahem. Not very intellectual of me.

My main problem with all the angst-bunnies is that I couldn't cope with the cigarettes. Yuck.

Janine Ashbless said...

No offence intended to any smokers out there, of course.

Ak, bollocks, and I've been so good and polite for weeks...

If you want revenge, just say "I don't like dogs," or something.

Robert Seddon said...

I take it you're not a fan of the recently retired Prof. David Cooper, who maintained in his textbook on existentialism that Camus wasn't properly an existentialist.

The trouble sometimes, notoriously with Nietzsche, is that 'in philsosophical writing' and 'in person' can be quite different... Maybe that's an advantage of dead people as fantasy figures.

Madeline Moore said...

gasp! Speaking of 'brooding types my mom had a crush on that I fancied too', it would be remiss to the extreme not to have this megabrooding man on the list: Omar Shariff as Dr. Zhivago in the eponymous movie.

Stacy S said...

Johnny Deep.

Just Craig said...

I too enjoyed Alda's Hawkeye, then my older brother took me to see the movie MASH (He's 8 years older than me, that was the only way I could get in because I was twelve or so.) Well, from that point on I did Donald Sutherland's whistle from the movie at strategic points in conversations. Most kids in the seventh grade didn't get it.

But I digress...

Great post Anne. There's something special about a woman who gets crushes on dead men!

I must admit, I was a brooding man until my mid thirties, right down to the dangling cigarette. Then I made the realization that life, though it has its up and downs - and there certainly have been some downs - is a freaking ball. I even quit smoking.

What, me worry?

Anne Tourney said...

Thanks, everyone, for indulging my fetish for brooding men today. Whether they're existentially troubled, or whether they're simply worried that someone will perceive how much their nuts itch, I find a guy who looks like he's thinking to be incredibly attractive.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who had a crush on a professor who wore black sweaters, Gwen. (Did you ever wonder if it was the same black sweater that he wore every day?) And Janine and Madeline, thanks for confessing your crushes on Descartes -- it's not often you encounter a thinker whose insights can lift you to heights of erotic ecstasy.

You know, I can't believe I wrote that whole friggin' post, and never dropped the word "angst". Damn it! That's one of my favorite words!

Finally, for all of you who've dropped your dangling cigarettes and/or your brooding tendencies (Kate, I hope those teens of yours get through this stage quickly), how I envy you. If I could give up my tendency to brood and my smoking at the same time, I'd be a much happier woman.

Which makes me wonder, does anyone find brooding women sexy? If so, I'm depressed and single :).

Ally said...

Yes Anne,

Brooding women are hot too.

Milla Jovovic She does anything hot.

Also some other nice brooding, chix pix, are Gretta Garbo and Rosario Dawson

PS. I love to do macros too, love your photographs.

Janine Ashbless said...

Resident Evil 3 is out soon! More Mila! More zombies!

Just Craig said...

Anne, I may have given up on the cigarettes and my brooding ways, but I still enjoy a sexy, brooding woman.

Some habits, thankfully, never relent.

Just Craig said...

This message has been brought to you by the word "fubbk".

I have no idea what it means, but it is the verification word that came up after my last post. I just liked it so much, I had to share.

So today, lets all ponder "fubbk".

I now return you to your usually scheduled blog...

angell said...

Dunno who I could add to that delicious stable of brooding men - I'm busy wiping the drool off my chin and my keyboard, and desperately keeping my thighs pressed together so I don't develop a wet spot on my skirt.

Sorry - have to hit the bathroom.

Can I join the Alan Alda fan club - cuz I've had a crush on him for as long as I can remember.

OOH - as I'm dashing off to the ladies - I thought of one.


Now, he plays for the other team, but still HOT.

Alison Tyler said...

Ah Angell, yes to Victor Garber. I saw him onstage in a performance of Art, which also starred Alan Alda. Can you believe my luck?

And we are now merging troubled and hot existentialists with my older man fetish. (Alan Alda fan club to meet every third Saturday at the Trollop Salon.) Would Frank Langella count?

But for the ultimate in cigarette dangling and brooding (although not so much existentialist-ing, I can break my rule of lusting for men my senior, and simply stare at him.

God, I hope these links work.


Jeremy Edwards said...

Actually, Alison, it looks like you might be able to justify his existentialist-ing relevance, at that: Wikipedia tells me that he starred in André Gide's The Immoralist, and that Gide was an influence on Camus and Sartre.

(Goofing off by browsing Wikipedia? Me??)

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Wasn't the "Story of O" written for one of those French philosopher types by his mistress, who didn't want to lose him and who wanted to show she could write the kind of stories he liked.

angell said...

Umm Alison - I hate you. :)

I sat through six weeks of ART here in Toronto with a delicious Stephen Ouimette playing Ivan.

Had no idea Garber was doing it until a friend of mine told me. By then it was too late to go.

BUT, Victor came to a performance of Mamma Mia and it was the first time I'd been struck dumb by anyone. I'll blog about the story some time.

kiki said...

Jake Gyllenhaal
just doesn't seem sullen or moody to me - probably because of the links that i've put here (if my html worked).

no matter what i do, i just can't get him sullen. he just makes me giggle.


ps - i love love alan alda. can i be in the fan club too?

kristina lloyd said...

Great post, Anne! Sorry I'm so late.

And hey Karl - I think 'the mistress' got something out of it too!

Alison Tyler said...


Crazy girl, linking each part of the name separately. I don't remember when I last laughed that hard! But you're right. Definitely difficult to think brooding after watching those clips!