Sex has Us
“We don’t have sex. Sex has us.” This statement, which came up in one of Dan Savage’s recent “Savage Love” podcasts, has been working at me for several weeks.
This reality is easy to forget in my day-to-day life. I’m the boss around here, says my rational mind, I make the decisions; I go to work, nurture my relationships, pursue hobbies, make dinner, it’s all very orderly and under control. Within bounds. In many ways, sex drives me. It drives most of us, to some degree or another, and in ways we’re not entirely aware of, much less in control of.
Sex drives many of my thoughts, my desire to date, to get sexually involved with people, to masturbate, to fuss over my appearance, to read and view erotic content online, to give a second thought to the hot-but-not-caring guy I went on a date with, to write this blog, and so on. Why on earth would I spend my time this way, if sex didn’t make it a necessity, a very deeply ingrained part of my makeup? I could achieve a lot more in the world, outwardly, if I was really in control and “I had sex” rather than sex having me.
I used to live not far from an abbey of Benedictine nuns. Far be it for me to comment on the sexual experience of nuns, but it’s probably fair to say that outward sexual expression is minimized in their daily lives. I was always amazed at how renouncing sex could free up someone’s time.
Those Sisters were powerhouses. They were nurses, social workers, community organizers. They served locally and abroad. They spent hours nurturing their fellow Sisters, and of course a huge amount of time was devoted to their spiritual lives. Some made art, others planted vegetables in the large gardens around the property, and they were very involved in the local community. They also watched a lot of movies… the tiny local library had a massive film section that the Sisters were major patrons of.
As reflected by the aging population at the abbey, however, most of us aren’t interested in joining a religious order that requires celibacy, or otherwise diverting our sexuality in favor of other pursuits. In its most positive incarnation, though, such a lifestyle can serve as a fascinating example of the creativity and productivity that a life without sex can yield. Asexual lives, religious or non, would be another, but that’s not something I feel knowledgeable enough about to comment on.
The times I’ve felt sex “having me” the most strongly are… surprise!… in the midst of sexual activity. Sometimes I’ll be making out with someone new, and the rational/cautious part of my mind is saying, “Take it easy. You don’t know this person that well yet. Don’t do something you’ll regret later. Please keep your clothes on. If it’s a good connection, you’ll have more opportunities later.”
But, if there is any sort of chemistry with the person, another voice (it feels like it comes from the back of my head) also chimes in, loudly and clearly declaring, “YES. This is what I want. Give me MORE.”
It’s sex having me. It’s something very deep, very ancient, a voice speaking up for sex because it knows it’s the secret to continuing the species, and that’s it’s job, so it’s in favor. The voice doesn’t care if I, as an individual, am emotionally ready for this, or if my partner is, or whether it’s late and I have work in the morning, or anything but its single-minded purpose of getting me laid.
The voice can be very powerful. I can get into a haze of desire such that when my partner asks for feedback or for consent to take things a step further, it can be hard to process and respond clearly. The chemicals of lust are gushing through my body. I have to take a moment and clear my head and make sure I’m making decisions that all of me, not just the loud voice of Sex, can get onboard with. This is one reason why experts often advise people to talk about what they do and do not want to happen in bed *before* things start heating up.
Overriding my better judgment in favor of Sex can lead to feelings of regret and unhappiness later, when it leaves me feeling attached to a partner who isn’t right for me, or plunging a relationship to a depth of intimacy it isn’t ready to sustain. So keeping lines of communication open within myself, remaining aware that the two voices may be saying very different things and that I can make a decision that acknowledges both of them, has become something I know I need to be mindful of.
It has to be an ongoing dialogue, because unless I’m going to decide to have sex with Everyone Indiscriminately or Nobody Ever, decision-making has to be done on a case-by-case basis. It takes real self-awareness and self-acceptance to make those decisions wisely, and there are many factors to consider and fine lines to draw to stay happy and whole, while allowing for missteps and experiments that may or may not sit well later on.
Feeling free to do what the voice of Sex wants me to is thrilling. When my head and heart are in alignment, and I’m ready to go, the voice can shout “MORE!” and my whole self can respond “YES!” with joy and excitement. And that feels pretty fucking fantastic.