Thursday, December 27, 2012

Friendship, sex and morality

"Science" is at it again, telling us things we should have been able to guess without being told:
New research suggests that there may be some truth to this possibility—that we may think we’re capable of being “just friends” with members of the opposite sex, but the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for “romance” is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the most inopportune moment.
This from an article entitled "Men and Women Can't Be 'Just Friends'".

The thing we should notice right away is how morally evasive the language is in that quote. The "opportunity" is lurking? This as if an opportunity for "romance" is something that happens to you, as if "opportunity" was an intentional, willful being waiting to trip you up, as opposed to, for example, something you yourself might be held accountable for.

Again and again we're told that sexuality is a major part of our personality and yet again and again we read articles that treat the practical consequences of this as if they were unexpected discoveries. Heterosexual men are attracted to women. We are attracted to all desirable women. And heterosexual women are attracted to all desirable men plus they have the added complication of sometimes being attracted to other women in a way that heterosexual men are not attracted to other men. There are no exceptions. It doesn't matter that the person in question is someone you are not supposed to be attracted to—that she is just a  friend, that he is your best friend's boyfriend, that she is your niece, that he is your son—the attraction is there and it is real.

There are powerful social taboos in place to help keep these things from getting out of hand but don't kid yourself, take them away and all hell would break loose.

And it is important to remember that the more you care about a person, the stronger the erotic pull will become. Remember the old line about the girl who has personality? Well, it's true. Years ago I read an interview with a photographer named Peter Gowland, who was famous for what used to be known as "glamour" photography. He said he made a point of evaluating a model before he got to know her because personality was so powerful that it blurred his ability to judge whether a woman was "objectively" beautiful. And it's just as true in your life—the very things that make friendship better make the sexual attraction stronger.

We comfort ourselves with the notion that sex is a purely physical thing and that the intellectual and spiritual aspects of friendship are something else. The truth is that these things make us more attracted to one another. Any real friendship between a man and a woman will increase the sexual attraction between them.

You wouldn't guess this following the culture because Hollywood treats the intellectual and spiritual as the opposite of erotic but watch carefully the next time you see two people fall in love and you will see that it is just these things that make the erotic possible. But in real life a relationship based on shared interests has more real erotic power. Any time your lover tells you that he or she spends time with another person because they can really talk, you need to worry.

Religious moralists make the same mistake from the other end of the telescope. They worry that fantasy sex is the enemy of erotic love, failing to see that fantasy sex only works because it systematically excludes the possibility of a real relationship. It's the real relationship that we need to be careful about. If your wife helps herself reach orgasm by imagining she is chained to the wall of a dungeon while men in leather masks have their way with her then you have nothing to worry about and she has nothing to feel guilty about. If, on the other hand, she sits on the couch and moons about how her work partner Joe, if she wishes he was there so she could really talk about things, then you both have a problem that needs to be fixed right away.

I started off by saying that science was merely telling us something we all already knew and that is what should comfort us. Our sexuality really is omnipresent and we are, or should be anyway, comfortable with dealing with the consequences of this. Romance and sex aren't opportunities that lurk around the corner; they are choices we make. You can make them consciously or you can drift into them. You can allow a friendship to just develop and suddenly find yourself kissing the person and wonder how things got this far. This happens all the time.

Or you can choose to be consciously aware of what you are doing and develop the sorts of habits and and practices that will ensure such a thing doesn't happen.

The odd thing is that the better not provoking erotic love when it is morally required that you should not, the better you will be at making it happen when you really want to.

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