So It’s Time To Write About Sex Again BECAUSE…
I object to the lack of objectification.
I have been reading posts from enlightened men about their own struggles with masculinity, and their deep respect for women, and how that can be shown. I applaud their efforts, and am thrilled real life heterosexual men are sharing with heterosexual women and each other questions and answers on how to be men and how best to relate to women. However, I noted a scornful answer to Philip Becker who asked if erotic literature could serve as a healthier alternative to porn. The answer, by Tony, is that a solid marriage is a healthier alternative to porn. Philip answered that they were likely comparing apples to oranges. There is so much embedded (see what I did there) in the question and the answer, my struggle is where to begin in responding to both.
I will be writing more on sex and sexuality as it pertains to non-binary persons in subsequent posts. This one skews more binary due to references to anthropological studies on attraction between men and women. However, the advice on using porn and erotic literature to enhance sexual experience and connection applies to all sexual beings.
In Object Relations theory, objectifying is where connection begins. Babies first perceive the mother as object; the source of food and comfort. Skin to skin contact enhances the comfort. Both baby and mother release oxytocin during breastfeeding and skin on skin contact. This leads to love, bonding and connection.
Oxytocin is the bonding neurotransmitter which is also released during sex.
Babies and mothers are already in close proximity to begin this process. How do adults bring themselves into proximity to create the bonding protocol? They start by objectifying the “other.” And where did objectifying begin? It began as we sought comfort as infants, and then eventually realized that the object of our comfort and food was an actual human being. The sexual component began in our animal nature which drives us to propagate the species. Males looked for females with baby producing characteristics. Women with wide hips and a small waist. Modern research indicates this is still the basis for initial attraction of men toward women, as much as we might prefer this not be the case. It’s one reason women my age work to look “young.” We are, in part, striving to continue to project baby-making capacity even when we are long past making babies. Because, as sexual beings who don’t have sex only to procreate, we want to continue being desirable. Women in our distant past looked for men with strength to protect and provide food for nursing mothers and the children. While we have since progressed to being attracted to intelligence and sensitivity, our hormones still respond to bodies. Hence the current fascination with working out and building muscle. (Yes, we women do that too. A good team was necessary to protect our offspring then and is necessary now).
Part of the sexuality of humans always has an element of objectifying. So, if the man who asked if erotic literature can serve as a substitute to his objectifying real women through porn, the answer is no. Human beings will usually objectify first, and look for the other characteristics second. It’s in our biology. So what can erotic literature and enlightened porn be used for? Many, many things.
For many generations, Porn and erotic literature have been outlets for what we felt were shameful aspects of our individual sexuality. We can indulge in it, find an individual release, and not have to share our secret fantasies with our significant others. It can still serve that purpose, but it is a very lonely sexuality.
A more current use is to actively share our interest in erotic portrayals of fantasies with our significant other. This serves the purposes of creating intimacy and removing shame. It can educate our partners about our sexual fantasies, and provide opportunities for role play. It can be an opening for discussing what really works for each person, rather than the solitary viewer or reader believing what is shown and described is the only or perfect way to have sex. Much of male produced porn from the past is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to female desires and ways to orgasm. So sharing can be educational. Within a relationship, being an object can sometimes even be fun.
I had a therapist once who said partnered sex should be letting the “inner child” play. First and foremost, it should be fun for both. Second, it should include imagination and freedom to experiment. Third, there should be no shame in consensual sex between adults. Fourth, fun, joy and laughter lead to intimacy.
Sex is likely the most primal and complicated human component. Our sexual fantasies, desires and feelings are personal and our own, and can be fully lived out just within our own minds and bodies, without including others. It is enjoyable for its own sake, if a bit lonely. It is probably this mental component that makes human sexuality so much more nuanced than that of animals. However, since our sexuality and fantasies are fostered and influenced by our first sensual interactions and bonding, and by all of our experiences as we mature, sharing those with another is as much a part of sharing intimacy as staring deeply into the eyes and soul of our partner during sex.
In truth, I believe objectifying only fantasy partners through porn or literature denies our real partner a large part of our sexuality and ourselves, and the fun of role play. Just as seeing our real partner as nothing but an object denies us deeper intimacy. Subject your partner to some objectifying, and allow them to do so with you. On other occasions, practice tantric sex while staring deeply into each other’s eyes to increase connection. On others, cuddle all night. Tell your fantasies and play at acting them out. Deep love and deep play are not mutually exclusive. And this is what creates that solid marriage Tony recommended.