1. Because so much is still thought, said and written on the topic of sex, one can only conclude that it is still poorly understood and largely unresolved. As such, we need to re-examine established ideas on the subject (which we accept and repeat, often uncritically and without deep reflection). We need to revisit, for example, the criteria used for educating boys, especially more sensitive souls, who shouldn’t be treated as less virile because of it. Adult men need to be less demanding of themselves in terms of sexual performance, so they won’t be so devastated when they don’t achieve an erection. Male pleasure related to the stimulation of the anal region should not be viewed with prejudice or as an indication of homosexuality. Is masturbation really an inferior, secondary sexual practice?
2. I have insisted, since the 1970s, on the need to recognize sex and love as two autonomous and often antagonistic impulses. I repeat here that love is a homeostatic phenomenon derived from the attenuation of the pain of forsakenness that we feel from birth; it is a feeling of peace and comfort that we feel when we are close to our mothers (our first love objects) and, later, other special people who substitute them over the course of our lives. It is, therefore, a negative pleasure (derived from the end of the pain of forsakenness that precedes it), peace, and interpersonal. There is no such thing, from this point of view, as self-love. Sex, on the other hand, is a pleasure that does not depend on any kind of prior discomfort, and arises from the pleasant feeling of restlessness that appears spontaneously and solitarily at the end of the first year of life, a phase in which children touch certain parts of their bodies. Sex is a positive pleasure (it stems from a state of equilibrium and isn’t a remedy for any kind of pain), arousal, and personal. Sex and love have little in common!
3. Another distinction I have made for some time (and which is growing in importance in my reflections on the subject) regards the differences between desire and arousal. Desire implies activity, action directed outward, a quest for something we long for that is external to ourselves. [Desire is distinguished from need by the fact that the latter involves a lack that gives rise to physical or mental suffering and can even lead to death (food and water, etc. are needs). Unfulfilled desire only leads to frustration and psychological pain, which we should learn to tolerate]. Arousal is an inner state of restlessness that we interpret as pleasant and which can arise spontaneously, regardless of external factors (i.e. when a girl stimulates her clitoral region she feels arousal even if the action is not accompanied by erotic thoughts). Desire implies an external object, real or virtual, which can also lead to arousal, while arousal in the true sense doesn’t require this kind of stimulus.
4. During infancy, and from a strictly sexual point of view, we only observe phenomena related to arousal. Any desires that arise are related to amorous phenomena (the desire to be close to those who provoke a feeling of coziness, especially one’s mother). This is a clear illustration of the difference between sex and love, and it is evident that, at least in this phase of life, sex is always a strictly personal, autoerotic phenomenon.
5. Vanity, the erotic pleasure of showing off and attaining (generically and indiscriminately) some sign of others’ admiration and/or desire, first manifests – discreetly compared to what happens in adult life – somewhere around the age of 6 or 7. It is, perhaps, the only manifestation of sexuality in childhood that may appear to be interpersonal. It is not desire, however, as children don’t long to be close to those who admire them. Children become aroused when they realize they are admired and valued. It is an essentially passive phenomenon (i.e. they wear a new adornment on their body and become aroused when they realize that others have noticed them and admire their new appearance, altered by the presence of the object).
6. From a biological point of view, I believe there is a clear link between sexuality – especially male sexuality – and aggressiveness. This is backed by evolutionary psychology, since stronger, more violent individuals had greater chances of reproducing in primitive times when women were scarce (they didn’t live as long due to gestation and having to care for children and find food for everyone). As such, the genes of more aggressive males had greater chances of perpetuating themselves.
7. Children grow up influenced by the anatomical differences that they recognize between the two sexes. Most accept their condition, while a smaller group rebel and don’t like belonging to their anatomical sex, which can give rise to sexual identity issues later on. Our culture assigns a series of attributes and attitudes to each anatomical sex, thus defining male and female genders. Over the last few decades, the gender-gap has closed somewhat, such that boys and girls grow up less segregated and doing more and more of the same things. This has been, perhaps, one of the most important and positive advances of the decades following the 1960s.
8. The situation becomes more complex in puberty and early adolescence. In the past, this phase was highly frustrating for boys; it was when they started feeling visually aroused by girls, while, as a rule, girls didn’t share their desire. The situation was favorable for girls, who were the objects of boys’ desire and in a position to decide if they wanted to accept their overtures or not. The situation greatly improved for everyone when it became acceptable for boys and girls to hook up casually, as boys came to be accepted by girls of the same age and social group, which didn’t used to be the case. Girls got the opportunity to explore their sexuality and to lose, at least in part, their fear of getting swept away by it. Boys and girls grew closer in this aspect too. Things have become even more comfortable for boys since the rise of the porn industry and the abundant material at their disposal for masturbatory purposes. It has also decreased the fragility of their condition regarding girls. They can release their desire virtually.
9. In this context, they discover something fundamental and absolutely new in male psychology: desire is not an order! They can feel visual desire for girls without having to chase them down, grab them and rub up against them until they ejaculate. They can resolve their yearnings virtually: they masturbate and their desire fades. Girls aren’t usually as satisfied by masturbation (they still feel a residual arousal after orgasm), such that they remain interested in real encounters. Even though they might not feel visual desire, they still seek closeness with boys: girls – without visual desire – try to get close to boys, who, in spite of their desire, are becoming more and more passive. In an unexpected manner, the situation for males is greatly improving.
10. The whole so-called “sexual revolution” that began in the 1960s benefited women above all: women, who had already made great advances in terms of economic independence (and continue to do so), gained the same sexual freedom as men with the invention of the contraceptive pill and the free expression of exhibitionism, which came to be seen as their legitimate right. Individualism has also grown considerably and divorce has become much easier… All this has also brought about greater competition between men and women, together with the growing consumerism born of the desire to attract attention to oneself and to own new objects available on the market. The legacy of this whole revolution is rather mediocre.
11. Nowadays, we are seeing a renewed perception of the importance of love, along with the awareness that people have advanced very little in this area. We are also seeing an increase in casual sex, a condition that is more favorable to men due to the refractory period (during which men are unable to ejaculate again immediately following orgasm). A large number of women try to follow in men’s footsteps and the vast majority find themselves frustrated with the experience and give it up. Casual sex is obviously a personal phenomenon and usually exacerbates feelings of loneliness in those who practice it.
12. A curious aspect of this era of casual sex is that players (more selfish men, who can lie and get involved with others without remorse or concern for any suffering they may cause) are greatly admired. They have a more aggressive approach and are more successful with women, who are flattered by the vehemence with which they show their desire. From this point of view, more mature men, who try not to hurt their partners and who are more competent in love, are deeply envious of players! Because they are sensitive and try not to be invasive, they are seen as less sensual, which deeply upsets them.
13. The chapters on male homosexuality are the most complex and seek to consider a large number of factors, both innate and psychological, in addition to cultural stances on virility and the issue of homosexuality. They deal with biological elements (more or less aggressiveness, physical appearance, body shapes, etc.), psychological elements (identification with one’s biological sex or not, from the most tender age), and cultural elements (critical attitudes of families and other children towards more sensitive boys, which lead to strong feelings of humiliation and, consequently, anger at the male figures who put them down so much). *The relationship between aggressiveness and sexuality has already been discussed in a previous chapter (item 6). This can often occasion a change in the direction of desire toward the object of this anger. Another variable that cannot be ignored is our society’s hostile, close-minded attitude toward anal pleasure, which is undeniably present in male sexual physiology. From a practical point of view, the exchange of caresses between people of the same or opposite sex are equally satisfying for both men and women.
14. Female homosexuality travels a very different path. Many girls who grow up with penis envy (approximately 50% of women do not identify with the characteristics of their gender; the numbers are changing quickly due to the dramatic changes in the traditional roles of men and women), discover in puberty the sensual power of being female (being the object of male desire), such that, especially the most attractive ones, change their attitude toward their gender and seek to enjoy the benefits of their condition of superiority. Only a small number continue to identify with the male gender and, as they evolve, may become less interested in men and more interested in women. There is much less social prejudice regarding physical intimacy between two women than there is between two men, such that it is easier for them to make overtures and be accepted. Seeing as how intimacy is, as I pointed out earlier, equally as gratifying, many may establish their preferences based on the emotional ties that they establish with same-sex partners. The number is increasing and is, perhaps, due to growing cultural pressure on women to be very thin, elegant, attractive, etc. When those who are not interested in being slaves to vanity establish satisfactory emotional ties, they often choose this path. In this case, it is a true choice.
15. Currently, the number of people interested in virtual sex is on the increase. The number of teenagers, especially boys, who consider it more interesting than casual sex is growing. It is a tendency, and involves relief through masturbation, which is treated more and more as something natural. Satisfaction is achieved quickly, safely and less onerously. In relationship websites it isn’t uncommon for people who were apparently seeking sex above all to become sentimentally involved. I believe these encounters should be treated just like real-life ones. The problems people complain of in the virtual world (lies, for example) are just as common in the real world. Virtual sex clearly illustrates how sex is, above all, a personal phenomenon, in which the other person, real or imagined, only serves to provoke arousal (through visual stimulation or fantasies in service of an “interaction” that doesn’t actually take place).
16. The relationship between casual sex and more conservative attitudes in our society is examined at this point in the text. Casual sex is, as I have said before, a practice that favors players and the women who, because of penis envy and immaturity, decide to take advantage of the sensual power they discover during adolescence. It favors, therefore, more selfish individuals, which is extremely harmful for the moral shaping of society as a whole. Additionally, it directly fosters consumerism. Women in particular are stimulated to intensely desire every accessory and adornment capable of making them more attractive to men. Men, on the other hand, have to display signs of economic power, a condition that makes women much more willing to accept their overtures.
17. I believe we need to reconsider the way desire (which, in my mind, should be treated as secondary, less important than arousal) is currently worshipped, strongly stimulated by psychoanalytical psychology, since it assigns value to casual sex, selfishness and emotional immaturity. Desire favors more aggressive individuals, makes victims of the more generous and naïve and is essentially aristocratic in nature: it benefits wealthier, more attractive individuals in detriment of the majority, who do have no exceptional characteristics.
18. The book focuses on arousal, that is, sex as a personal phenomenon in which the other person, real or imaginary, if there is one, merely serves to spark off an individual physiological process. Arousal is a democratic phenomenon, since it doesn’t depend on an exchange of stimuli (so superficial that they can’t be understood as interpersonal). It is inoffensive, because it doesn’t foster competition and unchecked consumerism. The conditions for a true interpersonal relationship only arise when there is an emotional involvement that can complement the sex. This is also a democratic condition, because one couple’s emotional happiness doesn’t affect other people’s chances of obtaining it. In loving relationships, sex is secondary. In the world of desire, it is the protagonist!
19. Perhaps the biggest advances we have seen have to do with the situation of women, who are more independent and free in every sense. We still don’t know exactly what the result of this will be, as men haven’t kept pace with them. The sexual practices of both sexes are now defined by the porn industry and I don’t know if they are as satisfying as they are touted to be. Advances in love have been small and quality relationships are still very rare. In short, we still have a long way to go and I believe that it will really only be possible when we understand our own psychology better. What we have learned to date hasn’t had the repercussions we expected, and we must continue to seek out better paths.
Translated by: Alison Entrekin