It seems like an easy question with an obvious answer which we should all have worked out by now… Why do we have sex? But I’m not so sure the answer really is so obvious; or at least, I think the obvious answers are just the tip of the iceberg.
Clearly as a species like all other animals we are predisposed to wanting and liking sex in order to procreate and keep the human race going. But equally clearly this is not what motivates us to have sex all or even most of the time. I must have had sex or engaged in sexual activities thousands of time by now but I never once desired or intended to get pregnant as a result and I don’t think any of my partners intended for that to happen either. Moreover there are millions of gay people who are passionately attracted to people of the same sex while knowing that their sexual activity cannot result in procreation. This does not diminish their lust or desire at all.
The next big reason given for having sex is that it is an expression of love. I am sure that is often true and I do think that some of the best sex I have ever had was with people I was in love with. The bond of love certainly gives a new dimension to having sex, it opens many doors to pleasure, trust and understanding and the emotional connection can be magnified many times by making love. Loving sex can be a beautiful, transcending experience as a millennia of poets have been trying to put into words. But… I am sure I am not the only one who has also had amazingly satisfying sex with people whom I was not in love with. Indeed sometimes I have had great sex with people who in all honesty I didn’t even like very much, people with whom “love” might actually have been a hindrance. The idea that sex is only about love or can only be pleasurable within a loving couple type of relationship is actually a complete fallacy.
So if it is not all about procreation or love, perhaps it is just about pleasure; about fun. Most of us do find sex pleasurable after all. Well yes and I have known a few people (mostly men it must be said) who would be happy to leave it at that. Fucking is fun, it’s the best natural high we can get… But there are a lot of things that are fun and very few of them seem to hold quite the same sway over us as sex in all it’s forms, or to have the same degree of psychological impact. Even when sex is bad it affects us at a very deep level, indeed unwanted or forced sex; rape, can be devastating.
In my opinion sex is largely about psychology. I am not a psychologist so I don’t pretend to know all the processes involved but I do know from experience that sex is far more than love, fun and procreation. And I’m the kind of person who wonders about things; fetishes for example…
Now some fetishes are obviously sexual and it wouldn’t be hard to interpret them as variations on our basic instinct to desire sex. But why are some people turned on by the sight and smell of rubber? Can such a fetish really be traced back to a primordial instinct to procreate? Are those who derive sexual gratification from dominance or submission (or both) merely imitating the actions of their cave dwelling ancestors or is something deeper going on? What aspect of love or basic instinct leads some people to get sexually turned on by the sight of others smoking or the feel of hot wax on their bodies? Why do some people enjoy a much higher degree of pain than most? Why do some people get sexually aroused by completely un-sexual objects, modes of attire or situations? Why are high heels sexy to some? Okay, I can see there may be some residue of the instinctive desire to fuck at the root of many of these things, but what does the fact that these instincts have got so bound up in other things tell us?
Well I think it is all about psychology. I think sex opens up gateways and routes to our deeper selves. As such sex is a powerful tool for self discovery and self improvement. Perhaps it is a sweeping statement, perhaps it is a personal prejudice but personally I find people who lack sexual experience or who shy away from anything much beyond the missionary position to be quite shallow in other aspects of their life. Conversely I find those who are more open, experienced and experimental in their sex lives to be generally wiser and more rounded and grounded in other aspects of life.
I think sex helps us to learn and grow as people. It teaches us psychology at a deep level. It helps us to know and understand ourselves and others better particularly if we are willing to explore our darker sides as well as the light. Sex makes us more whole as individuals and more understanding in relationships and as members of communities.
All of the above may be fairly obvious, it’s just that it isn’t always said. For thousands of years and still today in many parts of society everything about sex was controlled by religious authorities. Sex could be about procreation and love but only within certain parameters supposedly set by god but actually enforced and ministered by men. As religious influence waned it became acceptable to talk about sex in less dogmatic terms. In the sixties it seemed to become almost exclusively about pleasure without a great deal of responsibility or understanding.
And now perhaps it is time to say sex can be about more than love, fun or procreation. It is a valuable part of our growth and development as responsible people. Indeed these other aspects of sex can be reason enough to indulge in it and enjoy it.