Don Juan, the ambivalent one, the wild man women love to hate or hate to love, the one they want to tame or not, the libertine who liberates sexuality from the everyday shackles of marriage, the maverick who rejects the mores of society to please himself, the nomad who promises freedom but delivers loneliness. Don Juan epitomises the essential conflict of masculinity, excitement or commitment; constantly on the move, he comes in through the window late at night but does not stay for breakfast.
But who is Don Juan? Is he a melancholic, searching for something he can never find and does not wish to? Inasmuch as we all model future relationships on our first love with our mother, do we imagine little Juan’s mother as a tease, unavailable, the joy of possession snatched away from him leaving the unremitting quest but no trust. So is the Don predestined to a perpetual struggle between life and death; does he yearn for the love that will kill him, yet fear it? His promiscuity embraces death but flees the pain. Is he Peter Pan, forever in search the Wendy he must reject in place of Lilith, la femme fatale, who will seduce and kill him? Or can we imagine him unfulfilled, getting old; a wine soaked depressive regaling all who will listen with of tales of conquest, sans teeth, his flirtations rendered impotent by repetition?
Don Juan is complicated; he disturbs us. On the one hand he represents excitement, power, liberty, joy, orgasm. On the other he is a coward; fearful that relationships weaken him. He will never commit or belong. He does not wish to possess. He needs to explore, seek out, live the adventure, continue the quest.
So what of Don Juan in the 21st century? In an age when technology has uncoupled sexual urge from reproduction and given women control of their own sexuality, has he been rendered redundant by a tipping of the scales of sexual power? Is there less risk in seduction and less meaning? Disconnected from social responsibility, coupling is ruled by the thrill of the moment, the sensation. So is everybody Don Juan? Is it a case of every man and every woman for themselves? We read that community and family are being eroded, less people are entering the commitment of marriage, more children are raised by single parents who are less available as role models or guides, young people are exposed to sex and pornography at a precocious age and are more likely to experiment with variations in sexuality. There’s no mystery any more. So has the Don not so much disappeared as become normalised, familiar and tamed and well, boring? Is he just as likely to be gay these days? Has our sexualised society become lost in adolescent fantasy? Psychiatrists tell us that more males are phobic of commitment. Sociologists report that career women cannot find partners to father their children. At a time when loneliness and depression are the common ailments among the young, has romantic love lost some of its passion?