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What Every Couple Should Understand About Passionate Sex

Lust requires that we understand and accept our animal nature.

Key points

  • Most of us don't like to think of ourselves as animals, let alone primates.
  • The fact that you are a primate has much to do with what turns you on, and whether or not you enjoy your sex life.
  • Our current efforts to evolve our sexual selves must include the fact that we are still animals with animalistic sexual inclinations.
4 PM production/Shutterstock
Source: 4 PM production/Shutterstock

It’s early morning and you are about to pour your first cup of coffee. You gaze out of the kitchen window and your eyes settle on something large and dark, ambling across the grass. You squint: Are you really seeing what you think you are seeing? You blink. Your pulse starts to race and you feel a rising panic in your body. You scream – you can’t help it – and your hands shake so violently that you can hardly hold your cell phone while you simultaneously check the lock on the back door. The 911 operator does not believe you when you shriek “There’s a gorilla in my back yard!”

It's hard to believe that you share about 98% of your DNA with a creature causing you this much panic. Most of us don’t like to think of ourselves as animals, let alone primates. We prefer to understand ourselves as higher beings — human beings, to be exact, not at all similar to the apes roaming the wild terrain. But reality tells a different story, whether we chose to acknowledge it or not. As a sex therapist, I have come to understand that this reality has much to do with what turns you on, and whether or not you enjoy your sex life.

In fact, if you are like many (most?) people, the hottest sex you have is the sex most connected to your animal self. Think of it this way: Rationality, cognitive critique, and analysis aren’t what you’ve associated with hot sex. In general, the more analysis and cognition you bring to the bedroom, the more boring your sex. That’s because hot, lusty sex emanates from the more primal, ancient parts of our brain – aspects we share with primates and other mammals. Those primal sexual urges have been honed over hundreds of thousands of years–before humans developed language, modern culture, or politically correct ideals. And while we can willingly and eagerly adapt our thinking to our evolving culture, our ancient brain biology isn’t so malleable. Bodies still favor more basic sexual triggers that have worked for millennia. (To learn more, see Men and Women Talk Differently About Sex in my Therapy Room.) As a result, most people find that raw, primal sexual expression feels the most sexually intense – stuff like cheating, porn, and dominance play. This fact keeps me in business, because it generates tremendous moral distress and conflict in people.

Here’s what I see happening: When an issue creates emotional conflict, people often deny it in an attempt to diffuse it. But therapists know that denial actually has the opposite effect. Rather than weakening the sensation, it amplifies it. You’ve seen this in your own life: You deny your hunger, and then you end up binging. You deny minor marital problems, and you end up divorcing. Ignore your anxiety for long enough and you develop panic attacks. Ignore your need for sleep and you fall asleep at the wheel. Our sexual inclinations follow these same laws of nature: Deny your primal sexual urges long enough and easy outlets for primal drives like porn or cheating become irresistible.

But that’s just today’s challenge. Tomorrow’s challenges are likely to be even more compelling. That’s because sex tech specializes in meeting our primal sexual urges more efficiently and effectively than most human partners are willing or able to allow. And like all tech, sex tech is advancing faster than most of us can comprehend. In a few decades, sex robots will be poised to receive primal sexual energy, no problem. And this breaks my heart, because as scary and uncomfortable as our more primitive sexual urges can be, people long for them in the privacy of their bedrooms. I know this because I hear about it every day in my practice. The lack of raw sexual energy between committed partners results in boring sex, low libido, infidelity, and people preferring porn to sex with their partner. (And by the way, my posts about how to generate more primal sexuality with your partner have been my most popular here: See How Couples Can Access Their Most Primal Sexual Selves and How Couples Can Reconnect To Their Primal Passion.) Primal sexual energy is truly the secret sauce in a satisfying sex life.

But loving couples have a challenging time making space for a more primal sexual energy in their bedrooms, for many reasons. It can feel vulnerable to demonstrate passion more openly. It’s harder to generate more primal desire with a partner you know well. It can be embarrassing to acknowledge what turns you on. Plus much of what generates more primal passion is politically incorrect.

The problem we face now is that as we attempt to force sex into a politically correct framework, we are making this primal energy more shameful. Urges we perceive as shameful will more likely find expression outside of long-term committed relationships. They will be channeled to porn, unfamiliar partners, and in a few decades, sex robots. Sex robots will be intoxicating partners because they will be outlets for our most potent, primal sex drives.

But we don’t have to watch this train wreck from the sidelines. We have time now to begin a realistic dialogue about our primal sexual inclinations, and how to manage them productively rather than deny them and ultimately engage them destructively. I am pro-sex tech. But more specifically, I am pro-using sex tech to enhance rather than detract from human intimacy. To do this successfully, we first must embrace a more realistic understanding of human sexuality.

Our current admirable efforts to evolve our sexual selves must include the fact that we are still animals with animalistic sexual inclinations. Denying this won’t serve humanity, and it won’t serve you, if you are hoping for an exciting sex life with a committed partner over time.

Facebook image: 4 PM production/Shutterstock