“She seems really into this new guy,” said one woman I overheard gossiping with her friend.
“I don’t think this is anything important,” the other woman responded. “It’s just sex.”
Well, gee, I thought to myself, sex can be pretty damn important, deserving of more than a mere “just.” It certainly has been in my life, both personally and professionally.
I think most people agree that the ideal of important relationships, in fiction and in fact, are those that include both feelings of love and their expression in acts of sex. Yet most of us can think of major love affairs that were chaste. Great books were written about some of them. So why aren’t the opposite—relationships that consist of mostly a sexual connection without the love factor—given equal importance?
As an adult I’m sure you can attest to the power of sexual attraction. When there is a strong magnetic pull toward another person, good sense often flies out the window. Bad choices abound. Nothing “mere” about that physical WHAM that can strike where there is animal magnetism. If the actual physical connection does not disappoint, if she feels just as soft and wonderful and he feels just as hard and wonderful as we imagined, the resulting fireworks can be immense. Certainly such a joining is not a “mere” something or “just” something; it is what it is—a very powerful connection. And if it doesn‘t last a lifetime, so what? The memories usually do.
I think this disparaging of sex and its power comes from several sources. Traditional religions have created a dichotomy of body vs. soul, physical vs. spiritual. This binary schism pervades much of our thinking, e.g. good vs. bad, heaven vs. hell, straight vs. gay. This ignores the great middle ground were most things lie—not all bad or all good, both this and that or a blending of them both. So that if “pure” love is spiritual then physical love or even physical pleasure must be base, animalistic, and definitely the lesser of the (only) two extremes.
When a sexual attraction or ensuing relationship based on it does not evolve into a great love affair, the proverbial love and marriage and a baby carriage, at least one of the parties involved can be bitterly disappointed. So if it didn’t turn out to be a Great Love it was ‘just’ sex, less than what was hoped for.
Maybe the locution of “just sex” is linguistic shorthand stemming from a traditional religious perspective or a personal disappointment, but like many current linguistic shorthands (“amazing” for something way short of awe inspiring and “no problem” as a substitute for the more gracious “you’re welcome”) it grates on me. Sex and the enjoyment and celebration of it have been my life’s work for more than 30 years and constitute some of my personal happier memories. It surely merits way more than a dismissive “just” in my book and I hope it does in yours as well.