You don’t have to look too far today in our society to see that sex has overtaken many aspects of our culture. It is on the television, on the covers of many magazines, in almost every corner of the internet, and our children seem to be immersed in innuendo and direct sexual content.
I would not call myself old-fashioned, nor would those who know me, but I feel that our culture’s attitudes and behaviors about sex are out of control, and we seem to be more and more desensitized the more we are exposed to this. I will say that I believe that human body is a work of art and should be appreciated. I am not in favor censorship. I am in favor of good taste and mutually respectful behavior that models and emulates a respect for ourselves, each other and our bodies.
Many of you may have heard the song Your Body Is A Wonderland by John Mayer, which I am sure, has inspired many a couple to be moved to an amorous exchange, to put it lightly. However, in our culture I feel very concerned by the trends that we are seeing with our teens and young adults. What I feel that I have observed is that too many people, young and old, are treating their bodies like amusement parks, letting almost anyone take a ride who in interested. What I feel that we are losing is our self-respect, blurring our boundaries and don’t understand what love and intimacy truly is.
We are humans that seek pleasure, and many a medical scientist and/or fan of Sigmund Freud would state that seeking pleasure is part of our hard wiring. We can look back to our roots as animals and find neurochemical reasons why we would seek pleasure. I also look at us from an intelligent design view and can see why sex would be made to feel pleasurable.
What I always tell people is that even though we may have roots that connect us to the animal world, we also have a brain that functions at a higher level. The gift of our frontal lobe is that we can use our ability to reason to help manage our unavoidable more primal and animalistic tendencies. The goal of this blog series is not to become moralistic and judgmental, it is to challenge people to consider their intentions, values, emotions, attitudes, and choices. I hope you will evaluate yours.
How Do I Love Thee?
Let’s first look at our concept of love. We have one word that describes so many different emotional states, and this lack of attention to detail to this very important concept is a major problem in our culture, IMHO. There is a popular urban legend that says that Eskimos have more than one-hundred words for snow, and while the figure has been grossly exaggerated, the idea is that concepts that are important to a culture will have much more specificity than those that aren’t as important.
So, just how do we “love” things? Let me count the ways. You can love your mom, your dad, your kids, your sister, your brother, your friend, your uncle, your aunt, your cousin, your teacher, your boss, your student, your country, your team, your school. You can also love a sunny day, an ice cream cone, the beach, skiing, baseball, football, as well as your pets. Some even say that they love sex.
The question is, even with this short list of things we may say that we love, do we love them the same way? I think not. Yet we use the same word to describe so many states of emotion. Do we have some words that describe different states of love? Yes, but our use of the word love is somewhat careless and leads to a lot of confusion that I firmly believe affects our relationships and attitudes toward intimacy and sex.
It has been said that Sanskrit had ninety-six words for love and ancient Persian had eighty. Greek has three: Agape, Philos, and Eros. I will explain those, because it takes a takes a lot less time to convey the point, and we all know that blog are supposed to be brief. Agape is considered to be a more spiritual love. It is described in the Bible as to how God loves man, and I would describe it as our admiration and connection to people on their journey in life. Philos or philia is a brotherly type of love and overlaps into how parents love their children, how siblings love each other, friends love each other, and even how some people may love their pets. As you can see only three words is already getting a bit sticky. The third type of love is eros, which describes a romantic type of love. It involves the attraction between two people that is sexual and ranges from physical attraction to blind infatuation.
Well, what happens when we only have one word to describe so many states? It leads to emotional confusion and a great deal of discomfort. Let’s say that a girl loves a boy in a philos way, but the boy feels eros? They both love each other, but the boy is feel that he wants to take the relationship to the next level, while the girl is enjoying the closeness with the boy. She may then feel pressured by him to take the relationship where he wants to go or fear losing him and the love she feels from him. They both “love” each other don’t they? But does it mean the same thing, and are either of them ready for sex?
Age Is A Relative Term
What I try to teach people, as young as twelve years old through adulthood, is that in order for any intimate long-term relationship to survive, both people have to feel all three components as the relationship develops and grows. Too many times, people in our culture believe that feeling that eros attraction, which is often as strong as a mind-altering high, is enough to take a relationship to the next level. Eros will always wear off, because that is, in part, a neurophysiological experience (I will explain more about that later). The problem is that when the eros wears off, what are the two people left with? Too many times they are left with nothing, and the relationship dies. What happens when either person wakes up and one finds themselves pregnant or they find themselves married?
Developing a deep friendship (philos) and admiring the person (agape) that you are in a relationship are crucial to a successful relationship. It is easy to open ourselves up to our more primal urges and let emotion take over only to find ourselves in the walk of shame the next morning, but I feel that we were born with the ability to reason beyond our more primal self and learn to respect ourselves and those we relate to. We owe that to ourselves.