April 16, 2011

The Sex Shortcut. ~ Sasha Aronson

Photo: Snicky

These days, it seems that if you’re not having lots of sex, you’re missing out on something. If you’re not “in love…” oh boy, are you out of the loop.

But what about the fact that sometimes ‘getting some‘, or ‘landing the one‘ can be at the expense of other amazing, important, human experiences that life has to offer?

Ok, so one of the rare instances in life when it’s possible to feel deeply connected with another human being is during sex. I think that’s why most Americans expend so much energy pursuing and maintaining romantic relationships.

As a result of the emotional side-effects that sex has, I’ve come to know many people who don’t even attempt such levels of connectedness with anyone other than the person they are physically intimate with. This sort of closed-off-ness is a cryin’ shame; the world could be a much better place if people valued platonic human connections more. Plus, exclusive, sexual relationships seems to create an “us vs. them” mentality, which is staunchly oppositional to the more peace-loving “we are all one” ideology.

Photo: Melissa Adret

As a result of the ‘mate for life’ message that modern American society drills into our heads from the day we’re born, I feel that I’m often interacting with a lot of ‘half people.’

For example, if I meet someone whose boyfriend happens to be M.I.A, that fact inevitably comes up, in a somehow apologetic manner. As in,

‘I’d totally be more animated and interesting…if my other half were here.’

It’s as though people have grown so intent on being half of a well-functioning couple, that they’ve abandoned trying to be a complete, freestanding individual.

Another way to look at this same issue is via the sex act itself. Sex has this undeniable draw – it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s … sex. Sex is the biggest argument I can think of as to why people spend more time with people they could probably, maybe, or possibly have sex with, over someone with whom they can’t.

Photo: Zoetnet

For example, I might rather spend the afternoon at the farmer’s market with Cute Boy than with my Friend Sue. Sue may be funnier, but there’s a chance Cute Boy and I can get it on. Or if that example doesn’t speak to you, a lot of people find cuddling to be a really compelling reason to hole up indoors with someone who is fun to be around and sexually attractive, as opposed to just fun to be around. In either case, there’s a reason why Hollywood doesn’t make a ton of movies where the leading lady’s life is changed by a fun, funny, new girl friend. The lack of sexual tension would probably make it a snoozefest, huh?

I know that “two heads are better than one.” I know that being really close to, and sharing your life with someone, and knowing that there is at least one person who is always going to be there for you no matter what, is very appealing. I’m not trying to knock that – it’s a beautiful experience. I’m simply saying that sometimes when people become enmeshed in that sort of relationship, they don’t necessarily realize that they are giving up something else that’s special and important.

Photo: Flavio

Sex is so appealing these days because it’s one of the few times amidst our daily grind – for those of us who are not transcendentalist Buddhists – where it’s possible to feel content and blissful. A number of people seek out Yoga and meditation practices in order to achieve these very sensations, so sex can be a very compelling shortcut for the rest of us.

But, the rub is that people get so high on the sex/intimacy kick, that when it fades, there’s a pretty harsh comedown. And, when the sex they’re having with that ‘one special person’ starts to plateau, people aren’t sure where to turn to reclaim that sense of inner-peace. I’m in favor of finding inner-peace on your own, with your friends, and/or through spiritual practices. Leave sex to its reproductive and recreational place.

Photo: Lululemon Athletica

People choose sex and romance because it’s the convention, and it’s easier to pair up than to sit with just yourself, and to experience the feelings, anxieties, and finally serenity that comes with that practice. “It takes real bravery to get to know your own shit and find diamonds” (to borrow a great quotation from fellow ej blogger, JC Peters).

At the bottom of everything, we humans are all just afraid. We’re afraid that we alone are not enough, and also afraid to miss out on that great white hope that is “love”.

But, as painful as mistakes and hardships can be, they are the stuff of life. They are what build your physical and emotional muscles, making you stronger, more adaptive, and hopefully, more courageous. Love comes in many forms, and I hate to watch people settle for something that looks and smells like what love is supposed to be, but isn’t it at all.

Photo: Dizznbonn

When I see people retreat to the safe cocoon of a monogamous relationship, it saddens me somewhat; they might not know the other iterations of love they’re missing out on, and the individual growth they’re forsaking.

Some monogamists conflate giving up important parts of their identity with ‘compromise.’ They take a stance as if to say, “ok, for the sake of my relationship, I’m going to stop developing as an individual.”

It is a beautiful thing to grow together with a partner, and to build a life side-by-side. But there is plenty of time for that. It is also a beautiful thing to remain true to yourself and the person you will grow into, and to the people who mattered to you before “the one” or “this one” came along.

True love is infinite; there is always enough of it to go around. If it feels as though the different types of love might be battling it out in your life, you may want to take a look at what it is you’re giving up in order to make a relationship work.


Sasha Aronson has a degree in Literature from Colby College. She worked for publishers in the Big Apple, but prefers living mindfully and adventurously in Boulder, Colorado.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Joshua Mar 4, 2014 9:38pm

great post. I think it is not only a sex shortcut, we live in a culture where we are not raised in extended families, so we have less models of multiple relationships. Our schooling and economics are more competitive driven and individualized that team or compassion oriented. We are not taught about compassion and kindness that much in school. So we are only left to feel needy and only have roles in our society where we aim towards some couple orientation. Everything written is so true sex is one of our main drives many people do make that drive override other social relationships at times, however in addition we are not practiced in other relationships for many cultural reasons. Therefore if many people were for some reason to give up and become monks and nuns, because of lack of social practice and compassion and other things they might still fail in compassion and knowing how to form health relationships with multiple people. Therefore I think we should have a multifaceted approach to break through our bubbles culturally and socially in many areas, and this includes a great deal of us all training in compassion and going out of our bubbles to break through and see the equality of all people, who are just like ourselves wanting to be happy. We should really question our social norms and dare i say economic and market driven agendas, and see what brings more happiness in society. I think many cultures such as many Native American tribes had many strong monogamous families yet also had very compassionate and socially oriented citizens who nurtured each other beyond nuclear family. So although sex is part of this there is also probably more to it.

Amanda Suutari Mar 4, 2014 1:17pm

Beautifully written, great reminder and reflection back to us about our habits, tendencies and desires that keep us stuck.

Lizzy Scully Jan 9, 2014 8:36pm

I love this post!

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

elephant journal

Elephant Journal is dedicated to “bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society.” We’re about anything that helps us to live a good life that’s also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant’s been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter’s Shorty Awards for #green content…two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? Send to [email protected]