Monday, September 7, 2009

Sex and Intimacy

We just got Fios TV. Not just regular Fios TV, but the EXTREEEEME HD version. I'd been fighting it for years. I'm not a big TV fan generally, choosing instead to squander my free time meandering around the blogosphere. Many moons ago, we did have cable, but when we moved into our current residence, we ditched it.

I didn't miss it. Not having it saved us money, and with two young boys in the house, it meant one less negative input to worry about.

After years of gentle pressure, I finally decided to give fiber optic tee vee to my wife for her birthday. This last week, late in the night after it had been installed, she and I waded into the endless depths of pay tv.

Those depths went down to some rather darker places than I'd anticipated, places that provided some pretty compelling motivation to figure out and engage the parental controls.

The wife and I were particularly struck by what appeared to be an ongoing graphic documentary series on the various manifestations of human sexuality. I will not be providing a link here, much to your undoubted disappointment. What was most interesting was how...well...utterly unarousing the show was. It was engaging on an anthropological level, but it was about as erotic as watching someone gut a flounder.

That wasn't because of the absence of nekkid people. There were plenty of nekkid people, sometimes large piles of nekkid people. There were nekkid people on stage, nekkid people in boxes, nekkid people hanging from the ceiling, all while doing the things one would expect, and occasionally things one would not.

It was because of a total absence of intimacy. Human sexuality is a complex thing, and something deeply hardwired into our nature. It's part of our animal nature, but it's also part of the way that we relate to other beings. Though "having relations" is inherently relational, much of the way our culture approaches sexuality now is utterly depersonalized. Oh, desire is there, in a meat-self sort of way. But the desire is utterly indiscriminate, disconnected from any interest in the person inhabiting the flesh. Folks who engage in this sort of sexual expression will argue that they are liberating sexuality from shame. Do what you want! Whenever you want! We're free!

But while the ethic of shame has no place in a healthy sexuality, our society is well on the way to losing a sense of the importance of intimacy. Though we've found all sorts of ways to "know one another Biblically," we increasingly decouple this intense, passionate, and fundamentally creative experience from healthy emotional and spiritual connections with others. We are not interested in knowing them.

In doing so, we haven't freed sexuality. We've rendered it meaningless. And that's a significant loss.


  1. Great post! (No "eprops" on here?) My wife and I just recently 'ditched' cable and have enjoyed far. The withdrawals haven't kicked in yet I suppose. I can still meander around C-Span on the web.

    Sexuality as simply a means to gratify oneself was something I struggled with for years during my years of substance abuse. Oft times the two go hand in hand. It was a sense of shame in regards to the way I approached sex in general that aided me in turning the corner, so to speak. So shame has it's place, especially when too often folks tend to live a 'shameless' existence. Things get ugly when that happens.

  2. Very true!

    Sexuality should only be a small part of a relationship, it goes deeper than that, or should.

  3. It had been thought that the connection between sex and intimacy was due to the immaterial and the material; the spiritual and physical. This is why the sacred often required sexual sacrifice -- to connect with the gods or goddesses. It was a way for two to become one. Even now, we use the phraseology, though we now connect to our spouses instead of transcendent beings.

    There is something to be said for the connection between sexuality and intimacy and something deeper in the grey when that link is broken, whether due to variants of physical or sexual abuse, emotional neglect, or simply because there is such a strong emphasis on the two that the individual decides to sever the connection (him)herself for a number of reasons. I've been down many of these roads and then wandered off them, finding not shame, but freedom because of the shame from the forced intimacy from choices that were not mine.

    With regard to intimacy in sex, there are many who simply will not give it and those who will not take it. It can't be something that is pushed onto anyone. And human sexuality in all its many forms is a beautiful thing, even if it isn't understood by everyone. If it's overanalyzed, it becomes too clinical and too technical. It's like studying a painting with a jeweler's glass: Every detail is seen with great magnification. Every flaw is focused on. Each little brush stroke. The ink pigments and subtle gradients. What type of canvas was used. Or if it's a reproduction. If the whole thing is in fact a fake; a computer print-out. You miss the overall quality, the image... the very reason what was created; why the painter made what was made.

  4. You're absolutely right Rob! Wonderful post! Keep up the good work! You're doing very well!