If, for example, muse relationships are part of the reward structure of intensive exploratory conversation (a reward structure I'm suggesting we don't understand very well: psychologists like Matthias Mehl at the University of Arizona suggest that people who engage in such 'deep talk' are happier, but we don't know whether that's because of the satisfaction of the exploration or of the bonding with the 'interactive partner' -- or because people who are more likely to engage in substantive creative exploration are better equipped to navigate their way to engaging activities satisfying to them), there are questions to be addressed about the relationship between our and our muses' ideas of satisfaction and utility.
Another question arises: Is the attribution of muse status partly a way we defensively navigate co-authorship? We experience intensive conversation in parallel tracks: the things that interactive partners are thinking about in tandem, and then our own reactions to our conversations and interactions. Much of the sexualization of muse relationships appears to arise as we try to figure out these relationships in the charged and unusually intimate process of probing the shape of the space between one person's thoughts and being and another's.
If sublimation is celebrated (as it so often is) for its capacity to transform 'base,' 'animal' desires into refined productivity, reverse sublimation seems dangerous (from some perspectives) not only because it encourages us to look more squarely in the face of inspiration, but also because of the way it releases the bounds that determine social utility, and particularly the social utility of productive individuals. Moral tales of muses seem often to emphasize the destruction of the artist by means of exploration of the muse, particularly by non-conformity to rules imposed as part of benediction (the inset illustration, for example, is Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky's ~1910 photograph of Ahmad Sanjar's 1157 mausoleum built to lure his fairy wife back after alienating her by breaking such rules) -- or they emphasize the destruction of the muse itself, and thereby the inspiring relationship, often through the process of being destructively consumed or subsumed in the relationship itself. Not enough individuated appropriation, perhaps.
Prosaic as this seems as a tentative resolution, then -- and prosaicness may be a significant issue when broaching the role that the heightened arousal of muses provides by way of what is required for the satisfaction of artistic production -- I cannot help wondering about the relative silence in the mythology of muses on reverse sublimation. Do we not hear about comfortable arrangements worked out with those who inspire us because these arrangements are never comfortable? Is there a machine function supporting otherwise unsupportable proximity to the productive unknown in the uncertainty of what we desire, and of not knowing whether it will fling us gracefully into the next paragraph or awkwardly into the relationship we thought (or felt) was simply the way into that next thought?
Ever a champion of the explicit, even I have a faint sense of the ways in which this particular defense mechanism protects itself from direct inquiry. Particularly when one's interest in the ideas at hand is strong, who wants to risk good conversation by pointing out that it's not actually about sex?
fills my absent thoughts,
tracing shapes of potential
dispositions: hours, elbows, keystrokes,
material bases of production.
Lenten in the almost early spring,
conversion and I cling together,
focused through magic
lenses of conversation, prosaic
enough to be not just sublime.
I resist myself when you talk,
unpry myself joint by joint
at each thought’s rush,
wish not to hold this talk so tight,
but cannot stop my desire for knowing something else.
My blank window gazing peoples with your dropped
words, and as I reword myself,
loosen my grip, I can revise the argument that
what we want is not each other
but this conversation.
Mehl, M. R., Vazire, S., Holleran, S. E., & Clark, C. S. (in press). Eavesdropping on happiness: Well-being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Psychological Science.