Intimacy as a Primary Human Instinct


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6338751.stm

As a society we prioritize sexuality over intimacy and commitment. A lot of that has to do with how relationships are portrayed and people are objectified in the media. And almost all of our mainstream media is unbalanced without a significant female presence.

I am not a fan of the idea that men are somehow wired to be unfaithful or objectify women. Most of the "studies" done in this area too often take social conditioning out of the equation and that’s just bad science. The fact that people are products of nature and nurture, and are extremely adaptive creatures, can’t be overlooked. We've also just barely touched the surface when it comes to mapping the brain and its wiring, so conclusions based on neuroscience alone can be considered circumstantial at best.

I would like to think that a man in a fulfilling relationship, one that has a combination of deep love and good, emotionally charged sex, (which are both equally important in a long term relationship) isn't sizing up every woman he sees as a prospective bed-mate. And if he is, it's not because it's hardwired. At least not entirely. It's because he's been programmed to objectify women and automatically see them as sex objects throughout the course of his life. One of his baser instincts has been perverted and exploited, most likely for profit. And it works, putting money in the pockets of everyone but him. Let’s remember there is a half naked woman on just about every billboard selling beer, bras, jeans, cologne, or whatever advertisers can make the public feel insecure about this week.

Various male-only activities often thought of as harmless in our modern culture like leering and cat-calling, porn use, and strip clubs are a big part of this social conditioning. These things are a way for men to show their “man card” to each other and be able to share some modicum of intimacy without homophobia coming into play. And why is that? Because our men are taught from very early on and often in subtle ways that real men aren’t emotional and in fact that emotions are a threat to masculinity. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth and not being in touch with the very things that make men human (and not just instinct fueled animals) may be the biggest cause of relationship strife, infidelity, and overall misery. 

One of the favorite phrases I often read in reference to male sexuality is that “guys need sex like they need food and water”. Well I argue that this is true for the bulk of humanity. People in general need sex, but not for the empty, vacant reasons we're taught to accept. Sex without intimacy just leaves you lonely and wandering for more. You might have scratched that physical itch, but the emotional scab is still there and seeping pus all over your good shirt. No amount of shallow sex will genuinely make a human being happy for very long. At least no human being who is the least bit self aware.

And as for women (speaking as a woman and from my experiences with other women) we tend to be quite fond of sex. In fact, some people have argued that women are the more sexual creature compared to men. I might agree being that we can quite literally be insatiable and ready for more just moments after while men are limited by their refractory period

But then why is there the stereotype that women don't want or like sex as much as men? I'd bet most women probably do want sex. But good sex. And lots of it. And not with the schmucks lying next to them who only pay attention long enough to cop a feel and beg for a quickie. Women want to be wanted and loved for who they are, not the size of their breasts. They want their partner's attention and genuine affection. They want to feel precious and treasured. But many men can't do that because they don't know how. And now we’re back to men being socially programmed to see women as little more than sex objects and we can see where this vicious cycle will take us. 

The bad news is this way of thinking is learned and perpetuated by young culture in colleges and bars all over the world and in the media. Women buy into it just as much, if not more, than men. We buy products to make us look like models, beat ourselves up for not being perfect, and flash our breasts to get the attention we so deeply crave that will somehow validate (at least momentarily) that we are good enough. It's like a scourge that comes just before an apocalypse. The good news: if it was learned, it can be unlearned. 

Vapid pseudo-scientists who suppose to sum up human sexuality without taking all of the expressly human factors into consideration are missing the big picture. Quite plainly, people need emotional intimacy and that intimacy is created and reinforced through physical human contact. In fact, intimacy is one of the first things our brains are wired for. Newborns who do not create an intimate touch-based bond with a caregiver often fall ill and sometimes die. Even with adequate care and feeding. This tells us that love and the feeling of being loved is essential for life itself; that without it we can literally wither away and die even when all of our other needs are met. No one ever died from not having sex. 

So sex alone is not a need that we must fill in order to survive. But intimacy and bonding are. Perhaps sex then serves a much grander purpose than procreation alone. It facilitates and strengthens the bonds of love and real emotional intimacy which appears to be crucial to our overall health and happiness. But when there is no love or intimacy in sex, it does not fulfill this need. Instead it tends to permeate our lives with sickness and unhappiness which forces us to seek intimacy elsewhere.

Obviously more than sex is required for a healthy, emotionally satisfying relationship. But when one man and one woman utilize sex for one of its original purposes as an intimate bonding activity that accentuates their emotional connection, both people can be healed of their suffering and truly be happy, healthy human adults. Isn't that worth a million meaningless sex partners and more?

The media and scientists looking to gain professional esteem (and sell books) by sensationalizing human sexuality would have us believe we're just sex crazed animals; slaves to our baser instincts that are hardwired to spread our genes and nothing more. This prevents us from ever really actualizing what is so amazing about being human in the first place and robs us of our true potential. We must always remember that we also have free will, rational minds, and complex emotions that allow us the capacity to love at enormously extreme levels. That love can change our lives, the world around us, and perhaps even the world at large. Find me another animal that can do that.

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