Sex in Every Branch

Voice Card  -  Volume 13  -  John Card Number 17  -  Thu, Apr 26, 1990 01:19 AM

This is ONE OF 3 responses to Vol 13 Drury 11 ("A Sex Fetish?")...


Your comment that there was sex in every branch of my conversation trees shook me up a bit, so I did some research.

In volumes 0 through 12, I penned a total of 312 voice cards. Of these, 23 (or about 7%) were about sex or love or something in that general vein. Another 26 included passing references to subjects distantly connected with sex (or included Crab Creatures in heat). FIVE OUT OF EVERY SIX OF MY VOICE CARDS HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH SEX!

This card, however, is not one of them. This card is entirely about sex. I could talk about C Compilers, but Paul and Roger already have that topic staked out. And I like arguing about things that have no hope of resolution. Sex is endlessly confusing!

Now then, in the last installment of our little debate, I managed to paint myself into a bit of a corner with my bold proclamation that sex and love are one. This caused Suzanne to make snide remarks about sex and love in Montana.

Allow me to clarify. I never meant to say that sex and love are the same thing, merely that sex and love are united as inseparable facets of the same basic phenomenon. Thus there is no sex without an element of love and no love without an element of sex (where sex is defined in the broadest sense as a need for physical touching).

Roger was right. These two words: sex & love, come with too much baggage attached. Let me use a somewhat more neutral term: touching.

Here, then, is my theory. I believe that all aspects of human interaction are rooted in biology. We have certain basic behaviors and tendencies that are hardwired in as the result of natural selection. Less sentient animals simply follow these tendencies without remarking on them, as do young children. But in those animals who have achieved self-awareness, these same tendencies EMERGE into the emotional plane where they are perceived as desires and are given abstract labels like "love".

It is important here to understand the concept of the "emergent property." Color is an emergent property. At the atomic level, there is no such thing as red or green. Redness is a property which EMERGES only at a higher level of organization. Like love, redness is a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Now, I believe that we are all hardwired with one central tendency which I shall call "the need to touch and be touched" (or "the touching instinct" for short). At the lowest levels, this appears as a simple need for direct physical contact. If a baby monkey is not allowed to touch or be held by its mother, IT WILL DIE. The need is that urgent.

As this instinct percolates up into the awareness of a sentient being, it takes on a thousand new shapes and touches every aspect of human behaviour. It becomes the bond that forms between a boy and his mother, it becomes the happiness that comes in petting a purring cat or a friendly dog, it appears as comraderie and esprit des corps and even patriotism, it helps define loyalty and herd instinct and a yearning for home. And from here it rises ever higher into ever more abstract contexts and forms the basis for man's many religions. The need for physical touching becomes the need for emotional, psychological, even spiritual "touching".

We have one rather nebulous term that tries to cover this vast territory: the word "love". Ironically, this word is so important, and means so many things, and is so heavily used, that it has become almost meaningless. So let's stick with "the touching instinct" for now.

So how does sex figure into this? I am willing to concede that the "mating instinct" is a more or less separate bit of hardwiring in most animals. But in human beings, the mating instinct and the touching instinct have become completely intertwined. And the special desire that men and women feel for each other is the first, and in some ways the purest expression of this combined instinct.

Love for one's fellow man, a yearning for home and family, a spiritual yearning for god or for some kind of contact with the universe: these are all abstract expressions of the touching instinct. Sexual desire, in all its many forms, is a more simple and concrete expression of the same touching instinct.

When I say that sex and death are the two great truths, and when I seem to be arguing for the paramount importance of sex/love, I am not saying that copulation is the most important of all human activities. I am saying that sex, INSOFAR AS IT IS REPRESENTS AND EXPRESSES THE TOUCHING INSTINCT, is fundamental.

It is this strange, pervasive, undeniable touching instinct that is so damn important. When I seem to focus on sex, you may argue that religion and politics and work and family and wars are all more important forms of human interaction. But I say that ALL of these things stem from the same root. They are all complexities which arise from the touching instinct. (If any of my loyal readers cannot see how these things are related, I will be happy to elaborate.)

So, if the touching instinct is as fundamental as I claim, it would seem to be worthy of study. Understand this instinct and you will understand mankind. How then shall we study it? One approach is to do what a chemist would do in seeking to understand a mysterious new substance: begin by refining the substance to its purest form. My argument is that sex is the purest form of the touching instinct.

I am not the first person to come to this conclusion. Shakespeare, Homer, Socrates, and Plato were all there before me. And if you search into the heart of ANY religion you will find sexual language and sexual imagery used to express the most basic concepts. Even the Bible begins with Adam and Eve.

I hope this little treatise helps you to understand why I place so much meaning in so simple an act and what I mean when I say that sex and love are one. But so far this discussion has been rather dry and theoretical. Let me close with an assertion that I hope will stir up a more immediate reaction...

Until recently I thought, like you, that men and women were pretty much the same. People are people. And indeed, I still think this is true in most contexts. When it comes to eating and drinking, growing up and growing old, working and playing, men and women are pretty much the same.

But in the realm of dating and mating and sexual attraction, men and women have different roles to play, and different priorities, and different needs. Moreover, they do not understand or accept these differences very well, and this results in tragic misunderstandings. As you said, sex is one of the two usual "sore points in a marriage." And as everyone agrees, communication is the hardest and most vital part of any marriage. If we are ever to improve this vital communication and smooth these sore points, we must better understand and accept these differences.

Being the perceptive, understanding fellow that I am, I am inclined to believe that I have a pretty good understanding of the way women view sexual relationships. But my past experiences indicate otherwise. Try as I might, I am still confused and surprised and sometimes even enraged by these strange female creatures. So I can't say for sure what it is I don't understand about them. But I CAN say some of what it is THEY don't understand about ME.

I feel that most women don't understand why sex is so important to most men. Some women seem to think that the male sex drive is a mere physical craving, like a sweet tooth, and they sometimes despise men as weak creatures who are unable to control their appetites.

Other women seem to believe that men are obsessed with power and that sex is a tool men use to gain power over women. One woman told me that from her point of view, the sexual act is always an invasion!

As a result of misaprehensions like these, many women either consciously or unconsiously use sex as a weapon and cut far more deeply than they realize.

The truth is that sexual desire is always intertwined with the all-powerful touching instinct. If anything, this is even more true for men than it is for women. MEN NEED TO BE HELD. Men are not content to be told that they matter, to be told that they belong, that they are loved. They want proof. They want deeds, not words. For a man, sex is the proof of love, and of everything that comes with love.

Women, in my experience, don't seem to place quite the same emphasis on the act of lovemaking. One woman told me that she would be hurt if her boyfriend had another lover, but she would be devastated if he shared his innermost thoughts with another woman. And, she said, it would be exactly the opposite with him: he would be hurt if she shared her secrets with another, but destroyed if she shared her body.

When a couple quarrel and start to grow apart, the man may react by trying to have more sex. He may honestly believe that words only create discord and that the purest and most honest expression of love comes through lovemaking. The woman, on the other hand, does not feel comfortable having sex when her heart is troubled, and argues that they should have less sex and more talk. If the man reacts angrily to this idea, she may think he is being childish or emotionally immature and afraid to talk about feelings.

But this last charge is unfair. When women withhold sex, I don't think they grasp how deeply they hurt their men. From the male point of view, they are witholding not just sex, but love itself at the very moment when it is most needed. When this happens some men shout and some men sulk, but in any case they are helpless to do anything about it and so they suffer. And if this suffering is not assuaged it will fester and eventually poison the relationship.

The worse thing a woman can do is to dole out sex as a reward and deny it as a punishment. This is like teasing a hungry child with morsels of food. It is NOT an act of love and engenders not devotion but resentment. Few women do this on purpose, but many do so without thinking, because they just don't understand men's vulnerability in this area.

In the same way, men have to try to understand women's different needs and different vulnerabilities. A man feels secure AFTER making love, a woman wants to feel secure BEFORE making love.

I feel that there are clear biological reasons underlying these differences (See Vol 13 John 11) and that a man's approach to sex is not more or less correct than a woman's. The key observation is that there is a conflict built in to sexual relationships and that men and women are genuinely different, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually different. If we don't understand, accept, and respect these differences we will continue to hurt each other needlessly.