Passion Isn't PC

Our modern approach to romantic connection fails to take this into account.

Posted Jul 11, 2020

One fabulous thing about working as a sex therapist in the 21st century is that the women and men in my practice are empowered. Raised by mothers who fought for women’s equality in the 1960s, my female clients do not experience themselves as victims of men. My male clients see no benefit in overpowering women. Most of my clients thoroughly enjoyed expressing sexual assertiveness in college and in the early years of their marriages.

These are couples who appear to “have it all,” who are doing “all the right things,” but are totally disappointed — and bored — by their sex lives.  Lack of passion in their long-term relationship is their #1 complaint.  “We are best friends” my hetero couples lament.  And most know precisely what they are missing between the sheets. They had a variety of previous lovers and experienced hot, primal sex – at least, when their romances were new. They aren’t afraid to experiment sexually - if going to a strip club, watching porn together, talking sexy, or having a threesome would help, they’d have no trouble doing it. Some are in sexless marriages.  Others fear that an extra-marital affair will become an inevitable alternative.  They wonder if their lack of shared passion means that they don’t really love their partner.  Ultimately, folks blame themselves or their partners for their failing sex lives.    

Two decades ago, as a newly minted sex therapist, these paradoxes mystified me. How could sexually open people who love and respect each other and want sex still struggle with their passionate connection? 

And then it dawned on me – how could we understand passion without acknowledging our essential animal nature?  We share an astounding 98.5% of our DNA with chimps.  I recalled that fact from biology class years ago, but never slowed down long enough to consider its implications for our modern bedrooms.  We are animals, governed in part by the animalistic features of our biology.  Here-in lies the missing link.  What was missing for my couples in long-term relationships was their willingness to own this primal, animal aspect of passion.

In sum, our minds have evolved to understand sex in much more mature, complex ways than our primate ancestors.  However, our bodies do not concern themselves with logic, sensibility, or good judgment.  Our sexual selves are much more primitive –largely unconcerned with our evolved morals and values.  What excites people can be inconsistent with the image they hold of themselves.  Passion just isn’t PC. 

Scrutinizing what people find sexy only supports these truths.  Nearly every romance novel ever written, the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, the Magic Mike movies, the Twilight series, most Hollywood movies, and even much pornography attest to one simple principle – primal sex is hot.  Most women, most of the time, find sex satisfying when they can let go and surrender.  Most hetero men long for partners willing to let go between the sheets. This means that until she’s comfortable being sexually vulnerable, she’s relegating herself to reading about great sex in her romance novels rather than enjoying it in her own bed.

We are thrilled by the contemporary celebration of dominant women as depicted in more recent Hollywood movies and popular TV.  Yet as erotic and satisfying as female dominance is to both men and women, it doesn’t necessarily translate into satisfying sex for her if that is the only approach to sex she is comfortable with.  That’s because, for many women, this is only part of what she longs to experience sexually.  And without learning the balance of letting go, recurring sexual dominance will ultimately leave her feeling cold or sexually empty. Similarly, most men place a high value on receptivity and responsiveness in their sex partners, as well as sexual assertiveness.  Modern hetero men adore all aspects of feminine sexuality. They experience her letting go not as passive or weak, but as both an act of sexual boldness and vulnerability.

This recipe for passion necessitates that she has a solid, confident, sexually grounded partner.  If he’s hesitant or careful between the sheets, she’s unlikely to feel the safety required to let go.  Her sexual self feels invited by his bold, sexually assertive style, not by his caution.  Unless she experiences him first as a sexually confident man, she will lose respect for him, she won’t trust him enough to surrender, nor will she enjoy consuming him sexually. There is no pleasure for her in dominating a weaker partner.   

These are the challenges many clients bring to my therapy practice today. The politically incorrect truth is that our attempts to neutralize his sexual boldness and her sexual vulnerability have taken many hetero folks further from their goal of sexual satisfaction. Her sexual satisfaction requires that both partners access the animal inside them. 

Mother Nature isn’t concerned about being politically correct or making long-term relationships sexy and inviting.  Because of this, her approach to primal, passionate sex creates conflicts for modern men and women who embrace politically correct ideals. Her tactics are at best inconvenient, if not awkward and even uncomfortable for us more advanced humans. (See my blog post How Couples Can Access Their Most Primal, Passionate Selves for help).  

Exciting sex- primal sex - emanates from the more ancient biology we share with other mammals. This ancient biology comprises parts of the brain that govern our most basic functions, those of sleeping, eating, and sex, as well as our most fundamental, non-verbal interactions with others.  Human bodies continue to respond to sexual triggers as our ancestors did, thousands of years ago.  Our modern combination of an evolved cerebral cortex coupled with our primitive sexual biology presents interesting and often challenging scenarios for us all. Today’s modern approach to romantic relationships fails to take this critical reality into account. Mother Nature crafted these dynamics as part of a sexual dance – wherein each partner plays a role that triggers the other’s passion.  Exhilarating sex happens in mammals when enacting her primal tango.  Paradoxical as it may seem, rather than a cognitive endeavor, sex therapy may involve men and women learning to bring their more animalistic, physical selves into the bedroom. 

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