The excerpt, 12 Rude Revelations About Sex from Alain de Botton’s book, How to Think More About Sex got a lot of play. My guess is because it really does make you think more about sex. What struck me was the light de Botton shed on the disparities between sex, love and marriage – three things that are presumed to go together, when in fact, most of the time, they do not.
It’s not that attempts haven’t been made to sort out why sex, marriage and love can be so incongruent. In my blog post here on PT, Sexless Marriages Are Surprisingly Common, I grapple with the same issues. But what came into focus for me in reading de Button’s piece was the realization that it is marriage and sexuality that are inherently at odds with one another, not marriage and sex, per se.
Let’s face it. Sex is an act, and a potentially mechanical one at that. Any two people can insert Part A into Part B
. But sexuality, on the other hand, is another story entirely because it is behavior, which like other behaviors, reflect personality. In this case, a personality that is sexual in nature. But as is true with personality in all its forms, including social and professional, there is always the one we show to the world and then the truth of what really lies underneath. Rarely are they aligned. More often, they are mirror images of one another.
When it comes to sexual personality in particular though, we are suddenly having a conversation about sharing who we are in our deepest, most personal and private space, knowing what turns us on and being able to ask for it, having the capacity to express ourselves physically, and experiencing the freedom to communicate with our bodies openly and honestly. Does that mean love is a dependent variable in this equation? No. All of these things can happen in the presence or absence of love. But, it does mean that none of it is possible for people who haven’t taken the time to figure out, get to know, accept and like who they really are, for it is only then that communication in any form can be healthy, mutual and satisfying.
Suddenly this extremely complex matter is so simple: If the person you’re sleeping with doesn’t know who he or she is, chances are, neither do you. It’s no wonder then that people lose interest over time. If marriage (or any other long-term, committed relationship) serves as a mechanism for one to insulate one from him or herself, it extends to the partner, and there can be no real exchange, no human connection, sexual or otherwise. Instead, it's a trap that imprisons people. And so of course the sex dies. It’s not interesting. It’s flat, one dimensional, boring.
At the end of day, since you can have sex without sexuality, but you can’t have sexuality without sex, it makes sense that the fun of it would fizzle for many couples who can’t and/or won’t bring themselves to the bedroom…or dining room table, kitchen counter, back seat of a car or the nearest fire escape, as it were.
I hope you'll join me on: