Welcome to stren #56. Today I want to consider the relationship between love and sex. A significant source of our problems is mistaking erotic love for mature love. Love and sex have distinct qualities. They can be experienced together or separately. Together, they can be glorious and mutually enhancing. Though our language commonly associates them, like health, wealth, and happiness, they need not go together.
People can be healthy, physically wealthy, and yet quite unhappy; they may have poor health, be materially limited and yet enjoy each day. Sexual attraction need not include love and vice versa. Mature love is the catalyst to the most fulfilling sex.
1. Mature love is an unconditional gift for the benefit of one or more individuals. We originate mature love in our freedom organ, our mature cerebral cortex, and transmit it from within to without. Mature love is a self-initiated intentional act.
2. Eros or sexual gratification is primarily a response to stimulation of nerve endings prewired by nature. Stimulation signals pleasure areas located in the older part of the brain to turn on and thereafter be consciously experienced and interpreted in our cerebral cortex.
Sexual urge and filial love are regulated by chemicals. They may be turned on or turned off by hormones. Sexual appetite is also learned in higher species. We have sensory receptors located primarily in the skin and concentrated in certain areas of our genitals. These receptors are connected by nerves to the oldest portion of the brain, and produce signals that switch on what I believe to be the single most common and the third most intense physical pleasure we can experience. It may be surpassed only by direct stimulation of pleasure centers localized in the brain and the sustained emotional “high” associated with certain drugs. Once this most intense pleasure is experienced, our appetite may become voracious. Behavior that is rewarded is repeated! Think how our behavior might change if babies were born instantly and orgasm came nine months later.
Sexual pleasure is quite non-discriminating towards the source of the stimulation. Our genitals lack eyes or a brain and transmit signals in response to varied sources. Mature love, while having powerful emotional ties, is more strongly influenced by the last to develop “thinking” portion of the brain, our freedom organ. And while loving actions may be acquired from role models, love creation is a more conscious “willing” act that grows with mental and emotional maturity and the development of our skill in thought control. Infatuation, somewhat like the attraction of one magnet to another, may be a mental and emotional by-product of sexual or other emotions. It does not have the same voluntary giving quality as love.
If sexual contact is interpreted negatively, like any experience, loss of appetite and distaste may follow. I have been told by many heroin addicts that when going through withdrawal they may find that orgasms are energy-draining and not at all pleasurable. We are interpretive creatures whose use of symbols powerfully influences our experience. I find it of great interest that the same area of our older, automatically regulated brain that is dedicated to pleasure is intermingled with the instinct for physical aggression. This makes sense. If we had sexual urgency but lacked the drive to pursue it, our species would become extinct.
Another striking characteristic of erotic love is nature’s design that keeps our sexual interest dormant for over a decade until puberty, brings forth its calling with overwhelming intensity, and then draws it back in later life. Eros is one of many “clocks,” like sleep/wake cycles and menopause, that nature’s genes wire prior to birth. Ritualistic sexual behavior is present in all species whereas mature love requires the presence of the sophisticated mature cerebral cortex. It is critical to understand that mature love is a voluntary, intentional act that we may initiate as we free our will power from the control of nature and our nurturers, from instinct and tradition. Eros is a given; mature love is an opportunity and a responsibility.
Do we fall in love or crawl into love? The distinction is important! “Falling” is governed by gravity, a force outside of our jurisdiction. “Crawling” is powered by our own will, an act we choose. Nature has deemed procreation basic to survival of a species. It so powerfully pre-programs its subjects to engage in reproductive activity that copulation is ritualistically pursued even when life itself is at risk. Common sense is commonly ignored. Win/lose confrontation for mating rights is readily observed, most transparently in the animal kingdom. Genes overlap the location of aggression and pleasure centers in the primitive portion of all brains, add features designed to attract a mate such as chemicals, and rituals that assure that procreation will occur and that newborns will be nurtured to a state of self-survival. Nature demands that we “fall into sex.” We also call this “infatuation” and, mistakenly, “love.” Thus, I say, “We fall into sex; we crawl into love.”
Our nurturers and societal traditions add to nature’s gravitational pull for “falling into sex.” Money or its material equivalents are required for survival. Sex is a very saleable commodity. Sexual activity commonly results when a payer offers money and/or security to a needing payee; love may be of secondary importance. What is the message in the hit song, Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend? Society rewards sex, even when love may be limited or lacking, by offering economic benefits and social and religious pressure to come and stay together “until death do us part.” Marriages of convenience are widespread! Unconditional concern for the “other” is often lacking in nature’s plan. You have heard the term “selfish lover.” Intercourse is for one’s own gratification with little or no regard for the other.
Extending the dependency on others that we all require during our prolonged immaturity is common, and can include emotional as well as physical dependency. Approval from others may be compulsively sought. In the extreme, the needy individual becomes a “love junkie.” This was clearly expressed by a promiscuous young woman who abhorred sex but confessed, “I couldn’t resist anyone who told me they loved me, even though I knew they didn’t mean it.” To the credit of self-mastery, we often create love from the incentives to procreate that have been provided by nature and our nurturers. What begins as the instinctive need to “get laid,” to get pregnant, or to securitize physical needs and wants, becomes the incentive that inspires mature love.
The enthusiasms that are hard-wired into us by instinct and tradition, such as erotic love, sustain our dependency. Frustration follows when these commands remain unfulfilled or uncompensated by self-mastery. Such dependency is expressed in many of our popular love songs: Prisoner of Love (Perry Como), You Always Hurt The One You Love (Mills Brothers), I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Elvis Presley), I Can’t Stop Loving You (Ray Charles), Saving All My Love For You (Whitney Houston), Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer), I Just Can’t Stop Loving You (Michael Jackson), Can’t Live Without Your Love and Affection (Nelson), How Am I Supposed To Live Without You (Michael Bolton), Can’t Help Falling In Love (UB40), You’re My Everything.
Nature insures at least minimum competence in fucking; most of us “get it” with minimum instruction. This is hardly the case for mature love, which we must create through a gradual, active willing process. Advertisements for techniques to enhance sexual pleasure are ubiquitous, but where does one “buy” a course on becoming an expert mature lover? Our establishment has yet to institutionalize education for its populace on the basic skills of mature love and the newer way of thinking (ANWOT) essential for our survival. We are unlikely to change our educational system until enough citizens recognize the difference between love and sex. Mature love is such an important issue that I recommend you give it considerable attention and share your views with others. I urge you to give some priority to the next strens on the skills of mature love. Popularizing mature love will have a powerful influence on making our world a safer, more enjoyable home.