Healthy Sexuality

I William Wiser (wwiser@best.com)
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 14:07:56 -0800


I recently read a book called _Body and Soul_, dealing with the concept of
healthy sexuality. The author , Anne Stirling Hastings, discusses at length
her conception of natural sexuality and the many things that get in its way
in our culture. I found many of her ideas enlightening but I am left with
some unresolved questions that I consider important.

Hastings describes natural sexuality as a type of emotional energy that is
available and controllable. She claims that nearly all problems with sex
are a result of a society that inhibits the natural expression of sexuality.
She then paints a picture of what natural sexuality would be like. Some
of her conceptions include: free expression of sexuality by children with
adults looking on approvingly but not responding with their own sexuality;
free sexual exploration by children and teenagers among their peers; the
development of trial pair bonds that do not work out well enough to
maintain; the eventual formation of strong monogamous sexual bonds that
eliminate the desire to flirt outside the relationship.

I am persuaded by her arguments and can see how the situation she describes
is indeed in line with the biology and natural inclination of at least a
segment of the population. However, just because something is natural or
feels right does not mean it is the most practical thing to do. Given my
interest in living as long as I can and enjoying myself as much as I can, I
am interested in forming the best relationships I can and managing my
sexuality in ways that serve my goals. What are reasonable guidelines for
the productive use of sexuality?

Sexuality is a hormonal state, so it is very much like a mind-altering drug.
I have nothing against the recreational use of drugs, but I am aware that
they can be used in ways that are detrimental. Hastings claims that
most people use sex in ways that numb their minds and deprive them of the
greater pleasure that can be obtained by a strong monogamous bonding. She
believes flirting, affairs, multiple relationships, pornography, fantasy,
etc., weaken the bonding of couples and are engaged in because of sexual
damage experienced during childhood.

So here are my questions. Is it good to flirt? Is the heightened sexual
energy that results something that can be channeled productively, a
pleasant feeling that does no harm, or a needless distraction that
interferes with people relating to people in more worthwhile ways?
Is it good to use sexual energy to intentionally form bonds with selected
people (or for that matter anyone you like)? Is it good to use sexual
stimulation to enhance oneís work efforts? Is a strong monogamous bond
something to be avoided because it relies too much on one person; would it
be better to build multiple bonds? Would those bonds of necessity be
weaker? How practical is sexual bonding for small groups; can human
biology allow such bonds to be as strong as pair bonds? Are there other
sorts of bonds that would be more appropriate? Would it be best to use
sexuality to form bonds with anyone who has common goals (and is willing
to be sexual) or is sexuality something best reserved for only a few? Does
it make sense to use sexuality to persuade, barter, etc.? Am I thinking
about this too much? :-)

The book also brings up some other eye-opening ideas about sexuality:
* Heterosexual men sneak in sexual behavior with other men.
* Most people require unhealthy ritualize behaviors to avoid sexual shame.
* Legislating sexuality does just the opposite of what people intend.
* Lust interferes with healthy sexuality.
* A sex drive is really a sex addiction.
* Sexual behavior is very common but people often deny it.
* People respond sexually to many things that only resemble sex in some way.
* Many women are sexual with their children in destructive ways.
* Romance is just another form of sexual addiction.
* Our societies gender roles are the first cause of these sexual problems.

_Body and Soul_ did a lot to expand my understanding of human sexuality
and our culture (at least I think it did; Iíll have to watch myself and
others for a while to see if the theories pan out) but I certainly do not
agree with the author on every point. If anyone would be so kind as to
recommend other books that give good insight into human sexuality and
bonding relationships I would appreciate it. I hate to hear only one
side of an argument and I think that I would benefit from a better
understanding of human sexuality.

-Will Wiser <wwiser@best.com>