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Sex: The Pursuit of Immortality at the Cost of Immorality?

It's difficult to deny the basic drives that have kept our species going strong.

With all of the publicity that the Ashley Madison “big reveal” has garnered and the fact that only 3 zip codes in the US can claim no memberships to the site, it is clear that we believe strongly in the power of “sexual healing” in this age of automation and isolation.

The Power of Sexual Conquest

While the purpose of sexual congress is traditionally related to survival of the species, today’s sexual meet-ups are often designed to be secretive, fantasy-fulfilling, and (as Erica Jong described it in her racy early 70s novel, Fear of Flying) “zipless.” Literal procreation is hardly the goal, though its prevention may be weighing heavily on the mind of one of the sexual partners, if not both.

Fear of Death?

When thinking about the furtive meet-ups that have been fostered so successfully and so far reaching by sites such as Ashley Madison or Tinder, it encouraged thoughts about a line from an old movie, “Moonstruck.” Throughout the film, a middle-aged, married, and cheated on wife, played by Olympia Dukakis, asked the question of why men cheated on their wives, particularly with younger women. The answer that finally satisfied her? “Men are afraid of death.”

That construct that sex is a way to conquer the fear/threat of death makes good sense. If the purpose of sex is procreation – and the instinctive drive for sex is all about survival of the species and your own personal gene pool – then finding a partner who is “better” than your spouse, in whatever way you define better, whether it is “younger,” “prettier,” “sexier,” “hotter,” and so on, makes good sense. You are aware at a deep level of your own physical limitations and you are upping the ante that any potential offspring would benefit from the genes of your partner.

Fear of Starvation?

Sex connects us to our primal past when instincts, not particularly modern and respected moral expectations, drove our behaviors. Overeating is probably another one of those instinctive drives that is based on the need to sustain health and physical stamina. However, the fleeting pleasure found in the delightfully satisfying consumption of food coupled with the pleasure of taste bud satisfaction that comes from feeding the belly can morph into a desperate bottomless hunger that can lead to obesity and crippled health for some people.

Fear of the Unknown Landscape?

Internet addiction is another one of those modern day epidemics that may be tied to an earlier instinctive drive to process the lay of the land and any potential threats before venturing into new or potentially hostile territories. The desire for information has turned into a world of 24-hour news broadcasts in which the same news may loop around incessantly, yet hold the attention of the junkie viewer round-the-clock. The addictive powers of social media are well-known. Users may lose track of time as they await responses to their posts/tweets/Instagram/profiles, while totally checking out of the “real world” as they await “virtual connections” and information updates.

Technology vs. Morality?

A recent news story noted that the “Paleo Diet” was probably the best diet out there – and definitely better than the proverbial “sliced bread.” Kidding aside, some researchers believe that it is unlikely that our digestive systems have caught up with the wide array of foods available today. I admit that I am somewhat doubtful that our bodies could be so slow to respond to the thousands of years of changing diets brought on by changing geography and agricultural developments. However, the Ashley Madison scandal and the human need for the power found through sexual conquest suggest that maybe biology IS destiny. Perhaps the “technological blitzkrieg” that has broadened our options and enhanced communication and connection have totally blown away the pace of our own genetic evolution or the speed at which we evolve beyond our animal instincts. Which leads to the question of how our species can evolve its moral responsibilities at a rate equal to its capacity to do lasting damage to its increasingly frayed ethical and social fabric.