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A Few Observations on Sex

07/10

“Surely the reason humans were designed with so much sex energy was to insure that the species would be propagated. I mean, other animals have a mating season; we mate all year round. It’s ridiculous how much time we spend obsessing over sex.”

This theory was put forth one humid summer morning by one of the pysch techs—let’s call him Byron—at the clinic where I worked. Byron was one of the more bizarre members of our staff. He was a small, owlish, young man, who wore wire-rimmed glasses, and parted his short, slick black hair in the middle of his head. He had a BA in Psychology and was planning to go for his MA in the next years. He enjoyed b movies and sometimes spoke of them as if he were a connoisseur of mediocrity. Once I was invited to one of his parties. For the event he rented a projector and an eight milometer copy—this was before DVDs—of a movie called The Bed-Sitting Room, an English film about the aftermath of a nuclear war where people turn into pieces of furniture.

“Of course it’s a joke,” he went on to say, “that people here talk to me, or any of us, about their sexual problems. What do we know? We read the books, but most of us have our own sexual issues to deal with.”

About half of our patients talked to us about their sexual problems, and we in turn discussed their sexual problem at our morning staff meetings. The other half never talked about sex with any of us, but that didn’t keep the psychiatrist, and some of the other staff members, from theorizing about what their sexual problems might be.

In the two years I spent working on the ward the picture I formed about sex and mental and emotional problems was something like this: if sexual problems weren’t at the root of mental and emotional problems, then they, at least, went hand and hand with many disorders. The disorders I’m talking about are problems like depression, paranoia, manic-depression, obsessive behavior, and emotional trauma.

Of course you don’t have to work on psychiatric ward to see that as a society we are obsessed with sex. Our television shows and our movies, particularly our comedy, will paint the same picture. Really all you have to do is step into public; a popular concert, a department store, a sporting event, a political debate—these are all good places to observe our society’s preoccupation with sex.

This is from the writer Rodney Collin: ‘Sexual energy is the finest energy normally produced and conducted through the human body. This means that it is also the most volatile, the most difficult to store or keep under control.’

To me this also means that sex plays a big part in our sense of who we are. This is so because our feeling of identity is largely dictated to us, not by our daily, commonplace moments, but by our most intense experiences. Intense experiences, sexual or otherwise, push us into ourselves in way that other, more humdrum experiences cannot. They force us to think and feel at a level that either exhilarates or, in some cases, frightens us.

And since the energy from sex is just that, energy, it has a tendency to animate our movements, our thoughts, and our feelings. A man and a woman who are flirting will stand and move in a particular way, and they will speak in way that they feel is attractive—whether it is or not. They want to emanate sex energy. They want to be sexy.

The energy from sex can also be used for activities that have nothing to do with sex. It can be used, for instance, to write a song or a poem, to excel in sports, to sell a car, to debate a political theory, or to preach a religious point of view.

Again problems arise because of the intensity. Sex energy may be attractive, but it doesn’t automatically bring with it other qualities, like a balanced judgment, or an ability to listen impartially to others, or a capacity for love and affection. As we all know, believing in something passionately doesn’t make it right. Judicial choices are not often made in the heat of passion. But at the same time, inspired choices need passion. The difficulty is bringing all our faculties—our passion, our best thoughts, and our most generous emotions—to bear on our problems and relationships.

Here’s Rodney Collin again, ‘Nothing negative, either in thought or emotion, should be allowed to touch it (sex).’ If, for instance, a man associates competiveness or violence with sex—as is so often depicted in certain kinds of popular movies—it is inevitable that these feelings of violence will spill over into other parts of his life. In same way if a woman associates the feeling of being a victim with sex, it is equally unavoidable that these feelings will affect her work relationships, her friendships, and her self image.

Much of the comedy in romantic comedy is based on the idea that our attractions go against our opinions of what we think we want in a sexual partner. Just look at Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth Bennet, but he thinks she is beneath him and is repulsed by her family; and on her side, Elizabeth Bennet is attracted to Mr. Darcy, but she thinks he is conceited and is outraged by his attitude of superiority in relation to others. The book is a comic demonstration of how sex, or attraction, is stronger than our opinions.

Sex is often seen in terms of control or liberation, both of which become problematic when taken to an extreme. Trying too much to repress sexual desires, leads to the energy of sex overly affecting the rest of our lives. This in turn tends to result in extreme behaviors like overeating, rushing, impatience, chattering without thinking, and, in general, a volatility (or certainty) in relation to subjects that require, not passion, but balance, generosity, and considered thought. Sexual promiscuity on the other hand tends to lead to a kind of emotional apathy in relation to other important aspects of our life. The passion for life, art, friendship, family, and work are used up in the pursuit of pleasure.

Abnormality, or perversion, in relation to sex is probably best understood as connecting pain, anger, violence, fear, or anything that is naturally negative or repulsive to sex. Both the road of indulgence and the path of repression can lead to abnormalities in sex. In indulgence there is a greater and greater need for stimulation, so the energy from violence or pain is sought to stimulate sex. In repression the stress of non-expression is likely to connect the stimulation of sex to emotions like panic, or fear, or past memories of sexual trauma. Unresolved sexual trauma will bring much to the sexual act that is unnecessary and negative. I have spoken to women who have suffered sexual trauma (like rape) both in my capacity at the clinic and in my life, and thought a few of these women were strong enough to have a normal sex life afterwards without talking to a therapist, I think they are probably exceptions.

Sexual urges and desires are an undeniable part of our inner experience; what is difficult is to let these desires stand on their own for what they are, and at the same time have an emotional life that is not dependant on our pursuit of pleasure.

Of course we reveal our sexual health most clearly in our intimate relationships.
In the best case scenario our emotional life counterbalances sexual desire. The pursuit of bodily pleasure is softened by feelings of love and tenderness. The urgency of my pleasure is offset by a deep-seated empathy for our partner. This is again from Rodney Collin: ‘Sexual desire is not the only form of love. It is tremendously important, and may carry deep spiritual love on its tide. But when it diminishes, the other forms of love must not be thrown away with it.’

In our culture, which worships youth and hides, and is even ashamed of, old age, far too much emphasize is laid on sexual prowess. Why not? It’s attractive. It’s sells products and movies. It’s sexy. But when we grow up, we will hopefully want more. Let’s look again at our first quote from Rodney Collin: ‘Sexual energy is the finest energy normally produced and conducted through the human body.’ We might even say automatically produced. Sex is important in itself, but it is also important because it demonstrates the possibility of a higher energy. The energy of sex brings us to a place of intensity, but without emotion—and here I mean positive, mature emotions like empathy, compassion, and gratitude—the act of lovemaking inevitably leaves us uninspired and empty. Joy and fulfillment are not tied to pleasure. Pleasure brings us to the place, if we’re lucky it makes us ecstatic, but love and relationships require more; they require an ability to be there for others and some capacity for selflessness.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/10 8:51 am

    Quote: the act of lovemaking inevitably leaves us uninspired and empty

    Not inevitably.

    Consider Keats’s lines from Bright star:

    No – yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

    Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

    To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

    Awake for ever in a sweet unrest

    Is it not sweet to melt into each other’s arms after having given each other sexual pleasure?

    One of the commonest sexual problems is premature ejaculation. This is of course not just a problem for men, but for their partners also. A simple and effective approach to this is for the man to consider only his partner’s pleasure, not his own. It requires practice and work, but is very effective. Then it is like listening to music when you actively listen to the base line – you will hear the melody anyway, but much more richly.

  2. 07/10 4:43 am

    I do not usually respond to posts but I will in this case. Truly a big thumbs up for this 1 C CLass IP hosting!

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