I Mean Sex

I unexpectedly signed up for a gym yesterday. The salesman asked what my motivation was.
I said, “I had sex the other day and I got really wiped out in the process.”
“That’s the most honest answer I’ve ever heard,” he replied sincerely.
And that was my honest answer. The other night, I’d hooked up with a girl and I became so exhausted from the process—the same process that had previously been handled with ease—that I was willing to sign up for a gym immediately.
There’s a couple possible takes on this. One is that my base desires are still motivating. I’ve been getting weaker and weaker muscularly over the last couple years. My ex and I were not terribly sexually active for much of our last year together. And what sex there was wasn’t particularly acrobatic. I didn’t feel a need to strong. We’d always end up doing the spoon-screw—both on sides, me in her from behind. It’s sort of nice because it’s like a more salacious spooning. But ultimately, it was the default position because it was so easy to maintain. There was no straddling, no suspending, virtually no thrusting. It is the lazy man’s sexual posture.
And in the months since our split, I’ve only made a couple forays into full penetration. Frankly, I’ve been nervous about my ability to stay off the road of another unhealthy relationship. A pattern in the past has been to sleep with a girl really soon after meeting and if I didn’t really piss her off or make her feel sleazy because of the alacrity with which I bedded her, I found myself in a long-term relationship with her.
I’ve now been focusing on relationship building, which for me has been a non-coital affair. I’ve figured (correctly it would seem) that sex often represents a point of no going back in a relationship, if, that is, there is a pretense for an ongoing thing. In other words, if I were to meet a girl and we had some things in common—we both composted, wrote in our journal and liked the movie “Nashville”—then the implications of sleeping with her are different than meeting someone with whom I had little in common with like the girl the other night.
Anna (not her real name) is nice. She’s cute, lean and tall (my type if you’re wondering). She’s a designer and teacher so we ample fodder for small talk. But have little in common. We don’t talk about our perspectives on the world—or perhaps we do, but there’s so little overlap as to seem like a non-conversation. She doesn’t seem to care much about meditation or contemplation or the evolution of consciousness or the various other things I think are my emotional mainstays. The basis of our relationship is almost solely physical and this singularity of purpose is refreshing.
But what need does sex really fill? Okay, the act itself pleasurable (if somewhat more exhausting than I’d care to admit), but ultimately it’s highly ephemeral. A male orgasm is a few seconds. There’s some good build-up, but really even in its more drawn out versions, it’s a not a big time consumer.
To rehash my musings on structures—looking at how most people become so caught up in the structural aspect of something (be it identity, religion, science, etc.) that they lose touch with what they’re providing structure for—what is sex a structure for?
Again, there’s the base answer: orgasms feel good. Sex is a structure for pleasure. But I can orgasm pretty good whilst masturbating. As a bonus there are no overt emotional entanglements to untie.
Piggybacking on the pleasure theory, there’s the biological response: sex is a structure for procreation. Humans (and other animals) have an evolutionary mechanism that compels us to procreate. The orgasmic and pre-coital excitation is a motivation to do so. This also explains why I would sooner sleep with a woman I am physically attracted to without emotional connection than I would the opposite—someone I was emotionally connected to but physically unmoved by.
But this seems like a partial answer too. On a conscious level, I have no interest in procreation (and I don’t think there’s much interest underneath that level). I’m pretty infantaphobic. I could believe that having the potential to procreate, even if there was an intellectual override, could be a strong motivator. But it still doesn’t seem to encompass a complete explanation of why I care so much about securing a sexual partner (or partners as the case seems to be).
A few years ago, I was thinking about the notion of results. I’ve been in a few situations where there is a strong emphasis on results—grades, sales commissions, registering people for courses, etc. Results are quantitative measures of progress. Ideally, this quantitative measure is correlated with as qualitative shift. High grades correlate to greater intellect. Faster running times correlate with greater strength and endurance. Big commissions correlate to better salesmanship and product quality. In each case, the external result is a proxy for internal shift.
Then I thought about intercourse as a result. Like commissions and grades, it’s quantifiable—I have had sex with one person. Like these things, it’s a quantifiable, external behavior that ostensibly indicates internal progress. It is also unique in that it’s a closed feedback circuit; if someone has sex with me, it is my progress, not the collective progress of a team or a movement. It’s all me.
But what is that progress? What do more sexual partners correlate to? Does it mean that we are more lovable, more attractive, more masculine, feminine, more alive? I think my real motivation is often clouded by this last reason: I have sex to prove I’m alive. Through sex, I create a correlation that says, “Because this woman has agreed to have sex with me, it means that I am worthy. I will use this ‘thing’ called copulation as a demarcation of my presence here on earth. If I leave with nothing else, I will have had this act [or preferably acts] to show that I was here, and she laid witness [no pun intended] to this result and was [ideally] glad of it.”
But the correlation is always perceptual, not causal. That is why sex is so often unsatisfying (as are high grades and strong sales commissions). We build up this erroneous correlation to motivate ourselves, but when the result is achieved, we are underwhelmed. I’m no more intelligent because of my high grades. I’m no more successful because of my high commissions. My existence feels no more validated after having sex than it did before.
It’s all a big ruse we play on ourselves to buy into a notional reality. The truth is, most of us don’t know what we’re doing here, so we internalize these result-intensive modes of living—be they philandering or earning—as meaning manufacturing structures. But we make up the meaning, not the structures, nor the results that perpetuate the structures. In other words, I can manifest love, success, attractiveness and my existence with or without doing a damn thing. How? By believing so. By making nothing mean as much as the supposed something means.
None of this is to argue we should sit still and not seek results. It’s more to divest ourselves of the hard correlative relationship we draw between the result and internal shift. The result is just a result—it’s another structure to support something. It’s a sentence or a paragraph in the story that is our life—merely a conveyance for an experience of life.
A few questions in closing: what would sex look like unburdened by the correlation between it and existential validation? What if we could just sink into the act, fully aware that the structure and its copulative result don’t mean anything—that they are just artificial structures to support a more immediate experience of love, of giving, or living, things we can only give ourselves? Might it be a bit lighter, a bit nicer?

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