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
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....