There’s a reason why sports, video games, and WWE wrestling have so much appeal. They give us a chance to either participate or observe in a contest of wits, skill, or (in the case of the WWE) theatrics. If the rules are solid and not arbitrarily enforced by Roger Goodell, then the competition is fair and so too is the appeal.
This brings me to the never-ending competition between sex and love. Bear with me. I know that sounds like a complete non-sequiter from someone who made the mistake of writing a blog post while horny. I promise there’s a reason for this approach and it has little (relatively speaking) to do with being horny.
In reflecting how our attitudes about sex and violence are more erratic than a brain-damaged squirrel on crack, I feel compelled to highlight a conflict in which there are far more winners than losers. When it comes to sex and love, I like to think there are very few losers, at least for those who don’t learn about these topics through priests, mullahs, and porn.
When it comes to sex and love, it’s hard for anyone to come out a complete loser. Whether you fall in love or have a great orgasm (or several), you’re going to feel like a winner in some capacity. Didn’t find the love of your life? That’s okay. You still had good sex. Didn’t get sex, but found the love of your life? That’s okay too. Both are very rewarding.
As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I don’t just deal with sex and love. I have to dig deeper, fleshing out the fleshly passions of love and lust in a way that will appeal to a reader’s heart and loins. It’s not easy and I can’t say I’m really good at it right now. While I did manage to get a publisher to pick up one of my manuscripts, I’m still a long way from making it a full-time career.
At the heart of the challenge in making good erotica/romance is understanding dynamics between sex and love. Anyone who has ever sat through a health class not run by the Catholic Church or Texas public schools knows the basic mechanics of sex. A penis goes into a vagina. If done properly, it brings pleasure, intimacy, love, and (if the conditions are right) babies.
Love is a bit harder define. There’s no special class in school we can take to learn about love and even if there were, I imagine most of us would fail. That’s because the dynamics of love are so varied and vast. They can never fit into a text book, let alone be taught to a bunch of hormonal students who would rather be playing Pokémon Go.
Love is emotional. Sex is more physical. One can only be described through words and non-verbal gestures. One can be recorded, studied, and marketed into a multi-billion dollar industry. These differences are not trivial. There can, and often is, conflict between the two.
However, it’s not the kind of conflict that we see manifest in one too many bad sitcoms. It’s also not the kind of conflict that even the highest grossing movies of all time can adequately depict. It’s one of those unique conflicts that plays out in both fiction and reality, albeit with less Celine Deion music.
At its core, the conflict between sex and love is a matter of perception. We all know perception and reality are rarely on the same page, but more often than not, perception does tend t0 win out. The issue here is that sometimes, one person’s perceptions are at odds with another.
If two people have shared perceptions in sex and love, then there really is no conflict. They live in the same fantasy world. They share in the same experiences, both in and out of the bedroom. Ideally, a couple is on the same page in terms of how they perceive their love and their sex with one another.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where people get their hearts broken, celebrities couples break up, and where a man breaks up with a woman for not putting croutons on a salad. Unless those are some damn good croutons, that demonstrates some pretty flawed perceptions.
When it comes to sex, the situation is even less ideal. It’s not just the egregious double standards that modern society clings to for men and women. Whether you’re religious or a card-carrying hippie, your perceptions are going to clash with a biological imperative. As anyone who had failed miserably at sticking to a healthy diet can attest, biological imperatives tend to win out.
It’s very easy to confuse the pursuit of sex with the pursuit of love. There’s a good reason for that, at least with respect to the survival of our species. Unlike our brains, our genitals don’t really care how much or how little love goes into sex. Provided it gives us that toe-curling orgasm and all the baby-making side-effects that come with it, then nature could care less.
That’s not to say nature doesn’t give a shit about love. It most certainly does. In fact, it cares more than we give it credit for. Love, despite all its poetic value, does have an extremely pragmatic use. Love bonds people. It creates an intimacy that ties two (or more) people together in a profound, emotional manner.
Those intimate ties are vital not just for the rearing of children. They’re vital for our emotional and physical well-being. That’s not just the rosy assessment of an erotica/romance writer. There’s actual science to back it up.
According to WebMD, there are a multitude of documented health benefits to being in love and having a loving relationship with someone. Some, like less anxiety and better stress management, are mostly psychological. Others, like lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy, are real and tangible.
Like the health benefits or orgasms, nature has given us many incentives to pursue love. It’s good for the body. It’s good for the soul. It’s good for the survival of the human species. Evolution doesn’t get more potent (or sexier) than that.
So why is there conflict? Well, as numerous and varied as these incentives are, nature is still an exceedingly blunt instrument. How else can you explain some of the bizarre and disturbing animals that have evolved on this planet?
It’s because nature is so blunt that we flawed, poorly-wired humans struggle to tell the difference between love and sex. It leads to the kinds of situations where we think we’re in love, but we’re just really enjoying the sex. It also leads situations where we’re having great sex, but not feeling loved.
It’s a hell of a struggle, but in a world where 10 percent of the population doesn’t have access to clean water, it’s not the worst struggle you can have. It can still feel like you’re having your heart ripped out by a hungry shark. It can feel like your own genitals are conspiring against you. Those feelings are at the core of many erotica/romance novels, including some of mine.
As hard as they can be, most will probably agree the struggle is worth it. When both the journey and the destination involve feelings of great passion and the pleasure that comes with sex, then it’s definitely a struggle most would gladly endure.
So how do we manage this conflict? How do we deal with this constant clash between sex and love that plagues, even when we’re fully clothed?
Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time both reading and writing erotica/romance, it’s that there’s no one way to manage sex and love. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. Some people can even have some pretty odd tastes in both love and sex. Not everybody’s passions and proclivities manifest in the same way.
There really aren’t many constants or guidelines to go by. If there is one that stands out though, it’s that with this conflict, it’s possible to exploit the flaws in our caveman brains. It’s not that hard and while it won’t make for too many romance/erotica novels, it is fittingly pragmatic in the context of caveman logic.
We have sex because we love someone. We love someone so we have sex with them. Thanks to the bluntness of nature, it’s a two-way street by default. You can use sex to inspire love, just as you can use love to inspire sex. It doesn’t have to be a sub-par Ashton Kucher movie. I can be a real strategy to manage your love life and your sex life.
Even if that strategy doesn’t work, you still get some orgasms out of it so in the end, you both win on some levels. It may not make for an epic love story, but it’ll make the conflict more enjoyable in the long run.