Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sexual Freedom?

Anyone who has seen two children fighting over a single object in a room full of other equally fun toys can appreciate what philosopher René Girard was getting at when he described the human predicament as "mimetic desire"—we do not want what we want, we want what others want. While we would like to think that our deepest desires are unique to us and in some way define who we are, in reality, we are usually mimicking the desires of those around us. We all want someone else's toy.

With the advent of easy-access pornography delivered anonymously through the internet, the desires of others are increasingly controlling our sexual desires. Most of us assume that what we like or don't like sexually, our sexual preferences, come from within us, from latent desires we discovered as we gained sexual experiences. The reality is the opposite. Our sexual experiences accumulate as desires, training us to prefer what we've previously experienced. So as we vicariously experience sex-acts through pornography, we are training ourselves with powerful rewards of pleasure to mimic porn-like preferences.

The results are not pretty. Pornography is training more and more men desire sex-acts with women that are embarrassing, uncomfortable, or even painful for women to perform. Some people are discovering that they cannot orgasm while having partner sex but only through masturbation. They have trained themselves to enjoy masturbation more than anything else by having the majority of their sexual experiences that way and enhancing the experience through pornography.

When human beings open themselves to a broad range of sexual experiences, real or vicarious, the end result seems to be people who desire sexual experiences that are not mutually satisfying. This individualistic pursuit of pleasure through sex is commonly thought to be the way to enjoy sex to the fullest. But contrary to what most assume, research shows that it is married, not single, people who have the most sex on average, and married women are more likely to experience sexual satisfaction than single women.

What if, instead of becoming slaves to the influence of others desires, we reserved our all sexual experiences for one person with whom we shared a mutual, lifetime commitment; trained ourselves to prefer sex-acts that brought that person pleasure; and devoted a lifetime to getting better and better at pleasing each other sexually? Wouldn't that be (in the sense of developing unique sexual desires and fulfillment) true sexual freedom?

Of course, this is what Christianity, teaching sex only within the marriage relationship, has promoted for millennia. And not just that sex should be reserved for marriage, but that it ought to be regularly enjoyed in marriage. Perhaps it's an idea whose time has come.

This article originally appeared in the Clergy Comments column of the Fort McMurray Today (February 25, 2012).

Cross-posted to true love is....


  1. Ya I think that before I got married the stored up images of years of addiction to pornography and masturbation while in high school skewed my ideas of what sex really was for a long time into my marriage, desiring that which was absurd and unrealistic, wanting to mimic what I had seen years ago (though there is a lot of freedom in marriage, some things are just perverted). It takes quite a long time to revert one's mind back that which God blessed as good and Holy.

    ps. That picture looks raunchie! haha

  2. Nice topic.
    I think there is research to back this up as well.

  3. That image is not appropriate for an adventist's site. It's still porn

  4. The image was chosen because it represents the influence of multiple partners, while not showing any graphic nudity.

  5. David, I really appreciate this perspective. We need to be able to talk intelligently about the far-reaching consequences of what we see online. This is literally ruining people's minds and their marriages. For singles, it's ruining their chances of going into a healthy, fulfilling intimate relationship. Thank you for posting.