Is All Sex Created Equal?

What's in a one night stand?

In an article that touted the benefits of one-night stands for women, the writer, Abigail Wick, responded to one of her reader’s queries about the positivity of one night stands, by stating and I quote: “my philosophy about life is seeking pleasure and avoiding needless negative emotions. There are so many means by which to sustain this path of non-harmfulness to oneself and others–for some it’s long-term love, celibacy, free-love, whatever. All of it’s good, (emphasis mine) just so long as it’s healthy and happy!” If I was in any doubt as to how this current age will be defined in the future on matters of sex, I doubt no more.

When it comes to the issue of sex, we seem to be living now in the STANDARD-LESS age; an age where we seemingly apply more care and forethought to the care of stray animals then we do to the guarding of our own sexuality. But then again, that in itself may be an antiquated notion. Sex by several of today’s proponents is whatever you make it; it carries no intrinsic core value other than what you may choose to give to it; if you’re so inclined. Of course people have equal rights and the freedom to do whatever they want with their penises and vaginas. They could rub them against a tree, a chair, a sharp object, cut them off, gouge them out, or put them in or around 1,000 different people. But really, to suggest that all choices in life are equally “good, healthy and happy” is as ludicrous as saying that our actions are devoid of consequences; regardless. People can choose to sleep with whomever they want, whenever they want, but to try to convince intelligent people that the context within which we have sex is inconsequential, is ludicrous. How could all sex be healthy and happy?

This argument is tantamount to saying that there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy eating, or that the distinction between wholesome, organic food and food that is laced with harmful chemicals and preservatives is just a figment of the imagination. What about the other things we measure; like schools, health plans, financial investments, record-deals, contracts, parenting skills and the like? We have implicit standards for such things by which we judge whether they are good or bad. We know that some things in life are unfavourable; even when we like them, even when they make us smile (like sweet, gooey desserts, tons of fried chicken and loads of pizza!).We also know that some unpopular things, like regular exercise and whole-grain cereal, are also good for our health; even though they make some of us cringe.

The point is that standards and our ability to judge what is wholesome, beneficial or a “best practice”, are implicit aspects of what make human beings discerning creatures with superior intelligence to animals. We don’t just operate on instinct; we have the ability to think things through and to judge and act in our own best interest. Why pray tell are we trying to fool ourselves that sex is any different? There is all manner of sex but don’t let’s trick ourselves into believing that all sex is equal. Because sex is wildly orgasmic does not mean that it is necessarily “good, healthy and happy” as Miss. Wick would have us believe.

Are casual encounters as harmless as they are cracked up to be?

There were some other interesting elements to Miss. Wick’s argument. She maintained that 50% of women felt that uncommitted sex was more free or liberating. According to her, it gave them “a chance to explore (their) sexuality without the fun being bogged down with heavy meaning.” At the same time, she admitted that women love pair-bonding, and as such only a small percentage, 25%, felt that they were able to have sex without becoming attached. So in essence, a whopping 75% admitted to getting attached through sex.

If my Maths serves me correct, this means that of the 75% who felt that sexual connection was unavoidable, 50% still insisted in pursuing casual encounters. This is virtually the same as using a drug which you know is bad for you but you do it nonetheless because you are addicted by the high it gives. When we pursue something which we know intuitively is not the best for us but are chasing the thrill it brings, we tend to call this dysfunctional behavior. Yet where sex is concerned, we are afraid or unwilling to admit that a life of one-night stands (pursued for the thrill despite the experience of connection) is indicative of an area of dysfunctionality.

As I’m at pains to point out in my book “How To Have Mind Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain!”, Oxytocin is the “love hormone” which fosters the feeling of belongingness and connection during the sex act. It intensifies feelings of intimacy; particularly at the point of orgasm. The hormone doesn’t care whether you’ve known your sex partner for two minutes, two months or two years; it just does what its supposed to do! Theresa Crenshaw M.D in her book “The Alchemy of Love and Lust” refers to Oxytocin as some sort of hormonal “super glue”, which makes the idea of casual sex a difficult pill to swallow. Its existence goes against everything that is taught about the meaninglessness of sexual encounters.

Claire Daniel, author of “The Power and Science of Sexual Touch” confirms that Oxytocin ruins what should have easily been a quick “get away”. In other words, it doesn’t allow us to “get up and go” without leaving some part of us behind. If this act of emotionally connecting and then disengaging takes place over a series of one night stands, how emotionally healthy can this be? What about those who never manage to disengage (75% of women)?  Sex seems then not to be as meaningless and casual as we would like to make it, since our hormones are in serious over-drive, working so hard to connect us with our sex partner. And I have a serious problem with a philosophy which suggests that women come into true sexual liberty when they begin to mimic the sexual behavior attributed to males for centuries. Does the woman (or man) who hops from bed to bed really remain untouched or emotionally unscathed by this activity?

I admit that some women may believe that they are good at ‘disconnecting’ after they have had anonymous or casual sex but our hormones confirm that we are not necessarily wired to experience sex in connectionless mode. If we agree that there are intrinsic standards in all areas of human experience, then let’s get rid of the “standarlessness” that we so easily attribute to sex. The quest for pleasure should never be an end in itself. It should instead be tempered by a reflection on our actions and their consequences. All sex is therefore not necessarily created equal.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO CUT THE CRAP OUT OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Okay, so the old year has passed. You are virtually over the excitement of fireworks and New Year’s resolutions; been there, done that. Life has more or less settled down to the routine to which you are accustomed. If you’re anything like me and Michelle Obama, January born, the New Year provides a doubly fresh context for review and renewal. After all, we start straight off the bat, one whole year older (and hopefully wiser, stronger). But whether or not we are blessed to be born in the first month of the year, we can all take this time to learn from our past mistakes and to put our experiential wisdom into practice.

Some of you may have as your primary goal this year a more meaningful, intimate relationship or marriage. In my own corner, I want to bring more balance or equilibrium to my marriage. This simply means that I want to reduce the level of discrepancy that can occur when one partner is steadfastly pursuing their goals. For example, I’m a fairly committed blogger and writer and I actively work at updating our websites, doing research and planning/designing courses and the like. This often takes me away from my bed; literally. So this year my goal is to get better at what I do while not sacrificing the valuable time I should spend with my husband. My husband should of course have his own priority area which he thinks would improve our relationship from his end.

If we pursue our relationships on automatic pilot instead of with thought or intention, then we run the risk of missing valuable “growth-moments”. Who wants a crappy relationship which fails to thrive simply because we don’t pay it the attention it deserves? Ultimately, the “relationship” does not exist out there in a vacuum but is a creature of the behaviour of the couple involved. We can only know what we want to improve, if we spend time reflecting on our mistakes with the goal of ensuring that they are not repeated. These areas do not only involve what we do but also how we respond to what is done to us.

The following are a few pointers to help all of us get rid of the unwanted crap which invariably pollutes our love lives.

  1. Utilize confrontation wisely: If we are constantly unhappy with the up-turned toilet seat, or with our partner’s propensity to be a workaholic; if we are bored stiff with sex or hate the fact that we have virtually no romantic couple time; then now is the time to open our mouths wide and speak. Suffering in silence or being a relationship martyr is dis-empowering and self-destructive. Practicing the fine art of loving confrontation with disarming ‘I feel’ statements, as opposed to harsh accusations, can go a long way towards improving relational quality.
  2. Take responsibility for our own happiness:  Cutting the crap out of a relationship is a two-sided deal because both partners share equal responsibility. While one may be responsible for outright change, the other is equally responsible for facilitating that change. Admittedly, it is very easy to blame someone else for our own misery. It is, however, equally important to look within to see where we have let ourselves down. Very often we can internalize our life-disappointments and project this unhappiness unto our spouse. Taking responsibility for our own peace of mind may mean deliberately letting go of past hurts in the relationship, forgiving parents or siblings and seizing the possibilities of the present.
  3. Practise self-love: As women we want to be loved and told that we are beautiful, sexy and desirable. Amazingly, some of us can’t stand the best bone in our own bodies. We are filled with self-loathing and self-rejection every time we stare at ourselves in the mirror; which is fairly often. If we are unable to say to ourselves “girl you look fine”, then why on earth would we expect our man to tell us this. Low self-esteem and self-recrimination are tangible states of being which affect the way we carry ourselves; they breed a negativity which does not exactly encourage compliments. Even when we may ‘over-do’ fashion or make up in an attempt to cover up our negative feelings, we can come across as insecure and lacking in depth. Starting with personal honesty is always best. Admit why we may ‘hate’ ourselves then renounce this negativity by walking in the exact opposite. This can be achieved through daily declarations which affirm that we are indeed beautiful; fearfully and wonderfully made. If there is anything we do need to change, then we can actively pursue this while understanding that our worth is not tied to our looks. A confident woman, who loves her inner self and her body, makes for a more dynamite lover and by extension this breeds a better relationship.
  4. Pursue dreams: Some of us, particularly from conservative or religious backgrounds, have been taught that it is vain or even self-serving, to focus too much on ourselves. As a consequence, we usually place the needs of others before our own; ALL THE TIME. Of course I wholeheartedly believe that there is a juncture in our lives when this is entirely necessary. When we have babies and small children we learn about this all too well. Even when our children have grown into adolescents or young adults we know instinctively that we would sacrifice anything to ensure their happiness; and this is perhaps as it should be. But there is nothing wrong with also pursuing what makes us happy or fulfilled; as long as it’s legal and no one is being hurt. Women, who constantly sacrifice their dreams and goals and never share such with their partners or children, run the risk of becoming angry and resentful. This could present in the relationship in a number of ways; chief among them being a bout of starvation in the sex department. Such women withhold sex or fail to actively participate, as a means of inadvertently punishing their partners for their unhappiness. In so doing, they are, however, also robbing themselves of the sexual enjoyment which is their right. When we feel happy and fulfilled we bring a positive energy to the relationship which is infectious.
  5. Shed unrealistic relationship expectations: I am a big believer in love and finding “the one”. Of course this does not mean finding a perfect soul-mate who will meet our every emotional and sexual need; this is a myth. I, nonetheless, think that there is a partner who is perhaps more suited to us than everyone else out there. There can be a sense of purpose or even destiny in partnering with someone who does share our vision and values. No one, however, is perfect. We should therefore shed unrealistic expectations. These can include beliefs that our partner should anticipate our every need, read our minds even before we speak, know exactly what we mean when we do speak, be the perfect lover, kisser, gourmet chef, provider, leader, handyman, disciplinarian, planner and the list can go on. While there may be such men somewhere out there on Mars, I haven’t met many of them. Of course I am not abdicating men of their responsibilities, but expect that a marriage will involve loads of mistakes, personality flaws, wrong decisions and hopefully some couple-growth in the midst of it all. Accept that neither of you is perfect and determine to improve together.

Ultimately, “cutting the crap” out of our relationships, involves cutting the crap out of ourselves. We need to flush away our own “stinking thinking” or flawed perceptions, so that we can emerge better individuals. While some may argue that from Dec 31st to January 1st, is just another twenty four hours, we normal human beings need times and seasons to make sense out of life. Let’s use this time to review, renew and to become re-energized for a better relationship in 2012 and beyond.

Your Relationship Health-Check

It's important to know how healthy or unhealthy your relationship is.

Whether you’ve been with that guy for a long or short time, whether you’ve been thinking about marriage or have already tied the knot, now is perhaps a great time to give your relationship a health check. Just as there are known indicators of physical health, relationships carry their own set of indicators, which let us know whether or not they are functioning as they should. Healthy relationships by their very definition are likely to fill us with a sense of peace and well-being; they build our self-esteem and affirm that we are worthy of being loved. They easily confirm that we have made a correct relationship choice or that our hard work on the union, has paid off.

Conversely, a negative relationship scenario breeds unhappiness, depression, instability and uncertainty. While we can spot such a relationship a mile off, we can yet become hooked on it. The truth is that many of us experience our relationships in automatic pilot, giving little thought to what the “state of our union” is telling us. We live and let live because we cannot imagine being on our own. We are so desperate to be connected or are so “in love with love”, that we are willing to tolerate almost anything, in the name of a “love relationship”.

The following checklist, while not exhaustive and definitely not scientific, can provide a fairly good gauge for where our relationships are health wise. Each measure represents a specific “relationship ideal”. While we may each have peculiar or individual relationship ideals, there are several commonly shared ones, which we know intuitively, define a healthy relationship. Please feel free to also add your own ideals which I may not have mentioned.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 0-4 represents “unsatisfactory” on a particular measure; this behaviour never happens, is virtually non-existent or happens only occasionally; 5-7 is “moderate” or “average”; this means the measure is sometimes true but not dominant enough to be a defining characteristic and 8-10 represents a high level of satisfaction or of “relational health” since the particular measure always or almost always defines the relationship. The higher the score is on a greater number of measures on our checklist, then, presumably, the healthier that relationship is. Where any behaviour identified is practiced more by one partner than the other, then the score there can only be moderate at best. We admit however, that many of our relationships are in active progress and have not or will never likely “arrive” with a perfect 10. By the same token, health can also indicate having an awareness of what is critical, knowing what needs to be worked on and having an active plan to do so.

This information should hopefully encourage us to make some critical decisions to enhance or improve our relationships. It may even indicate where we need to make critical changes in our own behaviour or where in extreme situations, we may need to move on.

In order to assess your relationship’s health, please score each of the following items from 1-10, to indicate how healthy your relationship might be. Another interesting spin on this, would be to have your partner independently score the checklist and then compare notes. It would be instructive to note whether your perceptions of your relationship are the same.

HEALTH CHECKLIST

  1. Couple time: You each enjoy spending quality time together and this is a priority in your relationship. You therefore make deliberate plans like date-nights, shared recreation and the like, to strengthen your couple-time together.
  2. Emotional and sexual boundaries: You are each aware of the need to establish emotional and sexual boundaries with members of the opposite sex.  This means that you deliberately avoid volatile situations like late night dinners with work colleagues, secret Facebook accounts, internet chat room friends, sharing intimate relationship details, sexually flirtatious behaviour and the like.
  3. Demonstrations of love and affection: You each find tangible ways to demonstrate love and affections which include (but are not limited to) hugging, kissing, gifts (in and out of season), favours, caring for the other during illness, helping with chores, sharing home and parenting responsibilities, and vocalising love
  4. Partner priority: Your partner and his or her happiness is your priority. You demonstrate loyalty to each other and your friends and family know how important you are to each other.
  5. Shared goals: While you each may have diverse or individual goals which may be career oriented, academic or some other type, there are common couple/family goals which you share and can work towards together; for example owning your own home, securing investments, planning a trip etc. Even where goals are individual, there is mutual support given.
  6. Shared values: Basically you share the same fundamental beliefs about God, life, morality, politics, rearing children etc. Even where cultural/social differences may see some distinctions in beliefs, these are “liveable” and are not critical enough to cause a serious divide in the relationship.
  7. Clear expectations: You have each communicated what your expectations are in the relationship or the communication about expectations is on-going. These may include issues like marriage, gender-roles, children, financial responsibility, plans for retirement, savings, family worship, sexual experimentation, and emotional and sexual fidelity.
  8. Individual identity & completeness: You each know who you are; you have come to terms with certain issues from your past and are whole or complete individuals. Even if this is not entirely the case, you are actively working towards defining who you are and your own happiness.
  9. Communication: The channels of communication between you are clear. You are each expressive of your own opinions, even when these are different from your spouse’s/partner’s. You not only talk but you are both keen listeners who have learned to also interpret your partner’s body language/facial expressions.
  10. Sexual compatibility: You are each sexually aware of your own needs and desires but see great sex as a work in progress. Having a great sexual relationship (even if you are abstaining until marriage) is paramount to you. You are both open to discovering more about sex and sexual responsiveness. You each see sex as the ultimate expression of a committed love relationship and believe that it is the highpoint of your marriage (where applicable).
  11. Management of Negativity: You are both able to manage the challenges or negative scenarios (differences of opinion, disappointments etc) which can happen in a relationship, without becoming negative or abusive. You attempt to deal with anger and disagreements without allowing them to escalate.
  12. Absence of abuse: You do not physically strike or insult and berate each other.

While my unscientific checklist does not yield a total score which will determine that your relationship is healthy or unhealthy, you are free to examine individually or as a couple your performance on each item. This will assist you in determining what is unsatisfactory in the relationship, what is just average and what you can take a bow about.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.