It felt as though I had dropped a bomb yesterday.
After the last post was up, I have been receiving a number of questions about how I come to grips with the core idea of sex that seems to be quite different from the conventional belief. So, instead of writing the last installment of the trilogy On Sex which I originally planned to do, I would like to use this space, today, instead to answer some of the questions — therefore the topic of this post On Sex Part 2.5 (Q&A) — that have been posed to me in the past 18 hours ever since the On Sex Part 2 has been posted.
“What is the definition of love?” “Why are people making it so difficult to break the ice?” “What’s the function of sex?” “What is the metaphysics of sex?” “What’s the foundation of sexual morality?” There’re many more questions, in fact. I believe I have answered most questions somewhere in this blog (it’s really here and there in this blog; my guess would be in the Why I Give Up Love Trilogy) so I’ll let you decide whether you would like to return to those posts to find out about your answer. In this On Sex Part 2.5, I’d like to answer just two questions — these two questions are pressing questions that I believe deserve detailed answers.
Those two questions are:
Can sex and love be separated?
Should a non-possessive lover be okay if his or her partner dates and/or sleeps with other people?
In other words (and thanks to my colleague Matt for this question by the way) it is possible that you can “be in love” with someone, without wanting to have sex with him? (This may or may not mean that you would rather engage in a sexual relationship with someone else, as it could just be that you love someone but hate to think about the idea of that person so you’d rather not having sex at all as well). Most of us, in today’s society, are so embedded in the idea of romantic love that the modern society has given us, it seems naturally that sex and love should be a part of each other in order for them to be meaningful. Yet, to play devil’s advocate, it is possible to put sex and love in two different domains? If we say, “yes, it’s possible,” sex, in this sense, would just be a purely biological act whose only function is to satisfy one’s demand for a particular type of physical pleasure.
I want to start with my personal take on this.
My answer is actually the above: “yes, it’s definitely possible.”
There isn’t anything intrinsic about the relationship between sex and love — as one is emotionally/spiritual and the other could be (if we want to) purely biological. As the American actress Betty Davis (1908 – 1989) once said:
Sex is God’s joke on human beings.
I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic God, and I don’t remember when was the first time I heard this quote. All I remember is that it struck me to hard when I heard it for the first time that I felt as though I would need share it with everyone. I agree with Betty Davis, I even think to myself that, as a heterosexual man, my relationship with most people of opposite sex would be much much much better if I no longer need sex. So, sometimes I wish I am just an infertile man who can’t erect himself. In fact, if that happens to me one day, I would tell myself that which isn’t so bad: now I can see, talk, and meet women, as a purely rational man whose natural inclination is no longer driving him to feel excited by the possibility of to engaging physically and intimately with them. In fact, I’d make it very open so that they we could be clear from the beginning that the possibility of us going to bed is zero because I don’t have the physical capacity to do so. When that happens to me, I have a feeling that I would be able to spend more time writing since I will be less distracted, and that I would be able to get to know more people because I will no longer have to play the guessing game and try to speculate how the person to whom I am taking think of me. It’d be a great world to live in, actually! And this is why it would be so nice if we no longer need to have sex, and that’s why as Davis said, “sex is God’s joke on human beings.”
My relationship with any women would be completely intellectual, based on absolute friendship and unconditional respect for each other. When sex is on the table, and it is still so easy to get — meaning that sex is, make no mistake, probably the downright most enjoyable thing to do that requires nothing else, but two physical bodies of two people; so it’s both easy and economical — people of opposite sex tend to be less sincere because they don’t know what the other expect from them. If there’s no sex in the world, we would just be engaging with each other with much more sincerity, I believe. That said, and this is something I’d like to write in Part 3 of my On Sex trilogy, perhaps a quick-and-easy fix to remove sex from the loaded meaning that it currently possesses, which is precisely that it has to be more than just sex.
Hence, I think sex and love are not, and do not have to be synonymous at all. Yes, you can want to have sex with a stranger. In fact, most of us get that feeling all the time (and that is why there’s a phrase “sex sells,” especially in advertisements, right?). Yet, first of all, although I believe that sex and love are not the same thing and one (namely love) does not necessary have to be the prerequisite of the other (namely sex), I nevertheless think it’s useful to have a feeling for the person with whom you’d like to have sex. We human beings are weakest, most passionate, most vulnerable, and most irrational when we engage in a sexual intercourse. So, letting someone you don’t trust see, feel, and experience your body in that state is extremely risky (d0n’t you think so?). It’s almost as though you are opening your entire physical and mental body to another person to do whatever he or she wants with it. Why would you want to do that with someone you don’t trust? Isn’t that just insanely risky? I think it is risky, and that’s the reason why I only have sex with someone whom I trust — and often, if not always, someone whom I trust is the person with whom I could imagine being in a loving relationship. And why is trust so important? It saves you from the vulnerability that you creates for yourself to be in when you have sex. Personally, I believe that I can only have sex with someone I truly trust. Therefore, by that belief, I could never have had sex with a prostitute, or someone I have only met for a short period of time since I know myself well enough to know that it often takes quite some time for me to trust someone truly. So, for me, through trust, I connect love and sex.
That’s just my reason though. Most people I talked give a qualified no to this question: “love and sex have to be together. period.” The most common argument that they make often goes like this:
Sex without love is like two (or more) swines having sex; both swines are driven only by their natural desire which they can’t control, and we are human beings who aren’t like that.
It’s true that for millenniums, human beings have tried to distinguish themselves from animals. The philosopher Immanuel Kant uses reason as the single most important factor that distinguishes us — “rationale beings” from animals. He even goes so far as to say that such honorable title of rational human beings can also be stripped of if we don’t act rationally; for example, Kant regards suicide as an act that exists outside of reason so those who commit suicide are not rationale beings. They are simply just “beings.” As many social scientists (e.g., social and evolutionary anthropologists) have also argued, the invention of eating utensils and complicated process of food processing is no less than creation of layers of cultural elements to accommodate the consumption of the “culturally” cooked food. The reason why such cultural sensibility is so important is because we human beings want to remind themselves how we are different from the “naturalistic” animals who eat food raw using their natural body parts, such as their mouths (to eat directly from the ground) and their paws (to put the food directly into their mouths). When someone eat with their hands or without mannerism, many of us automatically tend to see them as “eating like an animal.”
Like eating, sex is also something that both human beings and animals share. Human beings have the urge to assign explicit significance to sex, also to distinguish themselves from being animalistic. The idea of human sexuality which is to be radically different from that of animals, then emerges. A set of rules (made, of course, by human beings themselves) to make the difference between them and animals becomes more and more obvious as society develops. If what defines animalism is the purely and contentedly natural desire and instinct to have sex, we human beings feel as though we can be different by using reason to monitor such instinctual desire.
We have also been telling ourselves that by closely and carefully monitoring such desire, we are doing ourselves some good deeds by staying away from troubles — namely our instinctual inclination to imposing our own’s desire onto other physical body without a consent, which could lead to many problems at many levels from crimes (e.g., rape) all the way to the ambiguity in the structuring of a society (e.g., giving birth to someone whom you won’t have the ability to take of). Since the building block of society consists of the notion of family, community, (and the avoidance, at all cost, of incest is also there to prevent people from engaging in something, e.g., an activity, that would lead to biologically and genetically hazardous results) casual sex, in this sense, could lead to all kinds of problems. A more sophisticated argument (often made by anthropologists and sociologists) involves the idea that sex is a means of reproduction. Since reproduction is important to the continuation of a community, the action that leads to it, then, has to be sacred because the meaning of reproduction as such is tied to the notion of the transcendence. One of the most convenient way to make something scared is to make it difficult to get, so tying it to something rather vague and conceptual, at least on the surface, provides that sense of delirious difficulty. Having sex is also related with procreation, and that’s why religions and religiousities have also been playing a very important role in demarcating a clear boudary between lone and sex.
Now, let’s get to the second question. I do remember that I have written at length about my love affairs with what I call “a non-possessive” love (and I believe that which is in the Part 3 of Why I Give Up Love trilogy). The logic is quite simple: You can’t possess a person: A person is free.
The only things you can possess are objects. So, when you’re possessing anyone at all you are reducing that person into a mere object that you can have control over. I think it’s utterly unfair for anyone to reduce someone with whom he or she believes to be in love to a mere object to be possessed in that way. That said, as I have outlined earlier in this post that I don’t just have sex with whomever I feel like having sex with, and it has to be someone whom I trust, what kind of “sex” would that be? I’d say it’d be, first and foremost, a non-possessive sex since, under the same logic, a possessive sex would be the kind of sex that one of the partner, or both, is/are the possessable object(s) of the other. On the other hand, I don’t go around having “non-possessive sex” with whoever I meet because I believe that there should be something that allows me, at least, to feel safe when lying next (or on top, or below, or sideway, or whatever — you get the point) the person with whom I have sex. Hence, does this mean that I am sort of contradicting myself when I think that people should not feel as though they are capable of possessing entirely the right of his or her counterpart to have sex only with themselves (which sort of implies that the person should be free to have sex with whomever they wish as long as there’s a true sense of trust there), but at the same time I don’t go about and do that?
I think the best way to go about answering this question is to return to the very meaning of “possessive love.” Let me provide you with two examples. One of my ex-girlfriends was obsessed about possessing me. She wanted to possess my time, and also my right to live the life the way I’d done so before I met her. She didn’t like it when I worked because she believed I should be spending more time with her. She didn’t like it when I spent time with my family for the same reason. On the other hand, she spent time with her family and had a true love affair with her job, so she could spend as much time as she wished with her work and her family. So, because she thought of me as an object to be possessed, she had all the rights to do whatever she saw fit, but I could not and had to follow her rules. That was a deal breaker for me. The other example is a good friend of mine who wanted to get out of an unhealthy (and abusive) relationship, but the only reason holding her back was, according to her:
The fact that we have been together for a very long time. I felt as thought he’s mine. And I can’t imagine my life without him.
When I inquired further about this relationship, she burst into tears. She said there’s nothing good about it. He may be cheating on her as we spoke. He had no interest any more in her physical body, and the love and the respect that were there when they were dating was nothing more than archaeological facts. She wanted to leave this toxic relationship, and she believed that if she was able to do it her life would be better (as she’s an attractive person with a very kind heart). What held her back here is what Sartre (again, who else) would call “bad faith.” The feeling of wanting to possess someone so badly made her believe that her life as such cannot exist otherwise and therefore she had to endure living her life that was not entirely hers. This desire to possess the one who love is bad for both of you. It’s difficult to say which comes first between her boyfriend’s decline in his interest in her, or her over possessiveness. But there seemed to be some correlation here. The more she’s possessive of him, the less he wanted to spend time with her. The less he spent time with her, the more she felt as though he needed to be hers, although just mentally. The irony is that, as she said that he could be having an affair right now, he apparently didn’t give a damn about her possessiveness. He simply didn’t think that she owned him, and may even be hinting at that so that she would be the one to call for a break up as opposed to being him. Every time I saw this friend of mine in the hallway of our workplace, she looked as though she was living the last day of her life, which wasn’t the case just a few months earlier. This “possessive love” should go to frame. It’s not just useless, but also immoral, in my opinion.
So, let’s get back to my very first argument again. I think we can live in a “non-possessive world” — and yes, I’d like that because that world sort of has my name in it (kidding). Seriously. Non-possessive love is not necessary an orgy of casual love and irresponsible sex — that’s not what I meant by non-possessive love.
For me non-possessive love is the true love in the sense that each of the two people would be non-possessively giving to one another without the desire to take anything from the other person. Because a human being cannot be possessed, the only way to keep the love is, then, definitely not by ways of signing a paper (e.g., marriage certificate; and everyone in their right minds know how useless a marriage certificate is in keeping two people together) or by seeking other people’s approval (e.g., by telling the world that this person is her “boyfriend”; that’s downright “bad faith” — how could you love someone who thinks of you as an object?), but to respect each other from within, and want to develop oneself to be better in the everyday of his or her waking life, and in various capacities both in his or her profession as well as in treating each other (so learning more about each others’ basic biological and physicality would be key here). Living together this way, these “non-possessive lovers” would both feel the sense of dignity in each other. But most important, they would both feel that there is no reason whatsoever, to not wanting to be someone with such a heart of gold, for the rest of time.
This way, despite the decline in superficial physical beauty, or other form of decline, the development of companionship will continue to run throughout the relationship. For those of whom who know me (through this blog and outside) would know that what I hold dearly is Jean-Paul Sartre “open marriage” with Simone de Beauvoir. I think it’s beautiful. There were ups and downs for sure in their relationship (for those who wish to know more, Sartre’s Witness to My Life, and Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography is a must!) but that which is the case in any marriage either open or close anyway. The fact that matter to me here is that what bond them together is not some kind of magical power or legal status, but their love to develop themselves intellectually so that they could engage both purely in an intellectual way and under the guise of romance whatever they shall want to define.
Do you agree?