Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Sport Nookie"

"I need sex."

This is a concept that's really starting to annoy the hell out of me. I hear this everywhere lately: in advice columns, in TV, in movies, even from my friends. Everybody talks about "needing" sex as if it was as critical to one's survival as air, water and food.

OK. It's natural to want sex. It is, after all, the most fluent language one Human being can "speak" to express love for another; this makes it our greatest pleasure. It's also necessary to the survival of our species as a whole; if everyone stopped having sex right now, our species would die off completely in a space of 100 years or so. So, as a species we "need" it, yes, but as individuals, we don't.

On the Golden Girls episode "Love Me Tender," Dorothy was having a sexual fling with a man she had nothing in common with except that they had great sex. Sophia felt Dorothy was cheapening herself doing this; Dorothy objected, saying, "I am a grown woman and I have needs." Sophia replied, "Needs! You need food. You need air. You need a better wrinkle cream. You don't need sport nookie!"

Sophia was right; one does not need sex to live. Yet, somehow, more and more people today are getting it into their heads that sex is something that people need.

There are people out there who never have sex their entire lives. Are they unhappy? Sometimes, but not always. For the most part, the only people who suffer in a life of celibacy are those who buy this notion of "needing" sex. Those who recognize sex is not a "need," however, are often quite happy celibate; some even choose a life of celibacy because they prefer the simplicity of a life not tied to the inevitable emotional complications of intense passion.

Despite that fundamental truth, I continually encounter person after person who, in the grip of loneliness, feel they "need" sex to fill the void or who "need" sex as a stress reliever, losing themselves in the endorphin rush to try to forget all their problems. Sex sought out as a "quick fix" inevitably bears no emotional connection or meaning to the person in your bed. That's because love takes time to develop; sexual attraction does not.

Two people can be attracted to each other the moment they meet then immediately jump right into bed with each other before they even know each other's names. Now the endorphin rush of touch and arousal feels good in the moment but it's a mere shadow of the feeling of being touched, caressed, held and joined with someone you truly love and who truly loves you.

Love is born from the heart, not the skin; it's not possible to love someone from the first moment you meet. If you go out seeking sex as a "quick fix" you won't find love; you'll just find empty pleasures of the flesh. In the end, it doesn't fill the void of loneliness and, when you come off the high of the physical pleasure, the stress is still there.

To further complicate matters, the endorphin rush of sex radically alters ones judgment. When we have sex with someone for the first time, our brains instinctively "imprint" on that person. At a subconscious level, the cave person within now thinks, "This is my mate." This is a powerful drive, forever altering the way you see that person. Unfortunately, the drive is so powerful that people tend to get confused and think that this drive is "love."

So here's what often happens: lonely people, desperate for love, look for it by seeking sex. When they find sex, the endorphin rush tricks their brains into thinking they're "in love" so they think they've found what they're looking for. They're so glad to have found what they think is "love" that they don't bother to examine it and realize that all they're feeling is shallow pleasure.

This illusion of "love" is so powerful that their endorphin-soaked brains even trick them into believing they love this person more than their best friend. If you really stop and examine that, however, you realize that this is not possible. A real friendship develops over many years. How can two people, only having just met or even known each other for a few weeks or months, possibly understand each other better than longtime friends in just a single night together?

Yet that's exactly what the endorphin rush of sex makes you believe in the moment; it's that powerful. The problem is, it is an illusion; in the final analysis, you really know this person no better after a night of sex than you know your next door neighbor you only see in the hall occasionally. Would you trust someone you barely know to handle you at your most vulnerable? Most of us would say no.

Yet those who get into bed and have sex with people on first meeting are doing just that. In bed with another person, the clothes off, nothing between your body and the body of the person before you but your skin and theirs, is probably the most vulnerable one Human being can be to another, not only physically but emotionally as well. The outcome of such an intimate act inevitably imprints itself in our souls at our most fundamental, primal emotional level.

Because that vulnerability is so deep, loveless sex isn't merely empty; it's dangerous. You're exposing your body and the most primal level of your emotional awareness to another person whom you know virtually nothing about. How do you know this person can be trusted with your deepest emotional drives if you know nothing about them?

That's why abusive relationships are so common. Blinded by the endorphin rush, addicted to it, wanting more, we overlook red flags in our partner's behavior. To complicate matters further, Western Culture's "romantic ideal" is "'till death do us part." We so much want that fairytale romance we see in the movies that we're willing to hang onto a relationship sometimes even when a person does things to us that, if anyone else had done to us, we would never forgive.

So, in the end, that "quick fix" can lock you into a relationship with someone who, far from making you feel loved, only makes you miserable, far more miserable than loneliness ever made you.

People often look back on old fashioned romantic values, saving sex for later in the relationship (waiting until one is married traditionally), with a dismissive eye. "This is 2009, not 1909," they'll say. Granted, perhaps the rules of conduct back then were a little too stringent but, in principle, I think our forefathers were onto something. There is value in letting a relationship develop unfettered by the blinding endorphin rush of sexual pleasure.

Worse yet, the idea that one "needs" sex doesn't only create bad relationships; it also can damage otherwise good relationships. Consider the case of a man and woman, happily married, then the wife say loses her sex drive because of some illness or emotional problem. If her husband subscribes to the theory that one "needs" sex, what happens? He pressures her into having sex even if she doesn't want to; occasionally, this can even lead to rape.

In a recent "Annie Mailbox," I actually read a letter from someone who said that one partner denying another sexual pleasure in a relationship is "abuse." That, actually, was the catalyst that started the posting you're now reading. Reading that angered me. If you love someone, really love them, then their presence in your life should be fulfilling enough. You can always give yourself sexual release if you want it that badly, but you can't give yourself love.

That being said, I do agree that someone deliberately withholding sex as a punishment is abusive; I'm speaking here of people who simply don't want sex for whatever reason. One should never feel "obligated" to have sex. Old chauvinistic attitudes about a "wife's duty" to her husband are born, not out of "need" but out of selfishness. Emotionally healthy sex is always about showing love to the other person, not seeking your own selfish pleasure.

Myself personally, I haven't had sex since August 2006, just shy of three years ago. Am I suffering because of this? Not at all. I may not have sex but I do have love. There is someone in my life now that I love more than I've ever loved anyone and they love me. The fact that our relationship isn't sexual is irrelevant; their love is the most precious thing in my life. I'm happy with that.

It's so much more fulfilling to feel loved than have sex.

That doesn't mean I haven't been tempted; I have been. There have been times when I wanted sex badly enough that I thought of having a cheap one night stand. I am, after all, only Human. I haven't actually had a one night stand, however, because I have never been in bed with a woman I didn't love and I want to be able to say to any woman I'm with in the future, "I don't go to bed with women I don't love."

I have never had sex with a woman I didn't love. When I get into bed with a woman, I'm there to show her how much I love her. A friend of mine recently offended me deeply when he implied, if I was rich, I would "buy" the love of a woman I love. "I'm a man, John!" he said. "Don't insult my intelligence and tell me you wouldn't try to buy her love if you could!"

Sex can be bought; love cannot. It's not possible for me to buy love and I would never buy sex; I never want a woman to touch me in that way unless she wants to because she loves me.

My friend above sometimes accepts the "services" of women whom he pays for sex. If that's what he wants in life, more power to him, but I sometimes worry about him. He's never going to find love that way and he's putting himself at risk of being hurt. Despite the insult, he is a good friend and I don't want to see him sell himself short just because, like so many before him, he feels he "needs" sex badly enough to pay for it.

I feel sorry for anyone who pays for sex. Anyone who does that cannot understand love and the true intimacy of the sexual act.

Sex is, in the end, the most profound way one Human being can express love for another. It's a powerful force and, like like all powerful forces, it must be respected. Sex must not be treated as a commodity that can be bought. It must not be treated as a need one's partner is obligated to provide. It must be treated with respect as the ultimate language of love and the progenitor of new life.

In the words of Sophia Patrillo, we don't need "sport nookie;" we need love. Sex is not love; one can have love without it.

Being loved is far more fulfilling, than sex alone could ever hope to be.


  1. Mandy (your sis ^_^)1:50 PM

    You are absolutely right. Not to air Mom's private life, but she has gone for years without it (mind you, maybe some sex would, or at least, might have, lightened her up, lol).

    While I was reeling from D, and then S, I wanted nothing to do with sex, or at least took care of it myself when I did. Luckily, and, yes, I am glad for it, my new friends broke through that shell, and, while one might argue that my situations have developed a little quickly, there was some time to have very long, at-length chats and face to face talks before things progressed any further.

    As a teenager, I made some bad decisions and some mistakes, but I can't change the past, and I also don't really regret it because, surprisingly, one of my friends absolutely loves that I have experience.

  2. Marcy1:55 PM

    This is so funny. I didn't read this until after I'd sent you that e-mail. How weird that we're on the same wavelength with regards to casual sex.

  3. Mandy (your sis, again)2:02 AM

    Well, let's just say that since that writing, that idea craptacularly blew up in my face when I got hooked on that friend, and now, to make a very long story short, he wants nothing at all to do with me. Hurts like a mofo.

    As you know, the other guy who it started out that way (but actually I just wanted to be friends, one night stands I can recover from but after that I usually get hooked) are still together. No idea for how long though. :(


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