28 March 2013

The Erotic Supremacy Lie

One of the greatest damages to relationships and people's self image and security I've seen is what I believe to be a lie that romantic and erotic attraction and affection so far surpass attraction, affection, or bonding on a level some would describe as friendship, "true love", or "philia" that life is empty and full of loneliness with "only" non-sexual, non-romantic, or non-partnership intimacy.  My experience tells me that, mindfully pursued in principled ways, friendships can reach depths of intimacy and love that can surpass other bonds, passing enthrallments, or temporary investments.  A life lived in restraint or denial of romance and eros is not a life devoid of richness and meaning.

Another of the greatest damages to relationships and people's self image and security I've seen is what I believe to be a lie that friendship or non-romantic love so far surpasses attraction, affection, or bonding on a level some would dismiss as sexual appetite, "lust", or "eros" that life is empty and animalistic when sexual or romantic intimacy are pursued or yearned for.  My experience tells me that, mindfully pursued in principled ways, romantic partnership with sexual expression can reach depths of intimacy and love that can surpass other bonds, passing enthrallments, or temporary investments. A life lived in partial pursuit and development of romance and eros is not a life devoid of richness and meaning and need not detract from the pursuit and development of intimate friendship.  Romantic and sexual intimacy can expand and enrich selected relationships, especially those which also have or develop a basis in intimate friendship or "philia".

A life full of sex without friendship seems completely empty and kind of ugly to me, to be honest.  And if I have to choose between having sex and having friendships, I'll choose friendship every time, even if the choice is between great sex and great friendships.  Likewise, I'd choose having great lifelong friends over having great passing romances, if I have to entertain a false dichotomy.  And I highly recommend the same choice to everyone, so maybe I'm a bit of a hypocrite for wishing people would stop devaluing the choices of others by insisting theirs is right for everyone.  But I also don't see them as mutually exclusive.  And if I had to choose between spending the rest of my life with a truly intimate, loving, platonic friend, and spending the rest of my life  with a truly intimate, loving friend I also am romantically bonded with and have sexual intimacy with, better yet!  See, I believe in a generic, general sense that "friendship" is better than "sex", if they can be so simplified.  I also believe that, in my experience, living without sex or romance but with interpersonal intimacy is so much better and fuller a life than living without intimacy but with sex and romantic excitement.  But I also believe living with intimate, mindful friendships and with romantic/sexual expression--especially the intimate, mutually respectful kind--and especially especially the intimate, mutually respectful kind that comes with some pretty great internal chemical fireworks--is better and fuller yet!  Call me animalistic.

I'm fine with you choosing to pursue exclusively philic love, experiencing or investing in a different kind or degree of romantic love or erotic attraction, or however it works out for you within your value system and chosen priorities.  But I firmly reject the notion I've often heard implied or stated by those who so choose that love between intimate friends and companions where affection is not expressed sexually or even romantically is somehow inherently "superior", more selfless, or more noble than love which is those things _plus_ romantic/erotic attraction, affection, and expression.  I believe restraint is noble when exercised out of deference to personal or moral considerations, and I can certainly relate to the feeling that having both in the measure that most people exoerience them is not an option for such reasons and choosing accordingly.  And I very much have experienced the exquisite saturation of relationships or service with intense connection and meaning where I've believed and reminded myself I was sacrificing and subduing natural urges or distracting thoughts for a greater, focused purpose, and what I was giving up seemed a small price to pay in that light. I think everyone should know that sense of rewarding discipline in at least some aspect of life. That decision on how to respond to the feelings, however, doesn't make the feelings any more or less pure, nor does it mean relationships where romantic affection is checked or restrained are inherently more meaningful or rewarding than those in which it is expressed. That is a leap some try to make, but it's an erroneous and unnecessary leap, as I see it.

For example, when you feel intense appreciation, affection, selflessness, and physical attraction to someone, but you rein it in because that person is in a committed relationship which would be violated by expressing it or acting on your attraction, then yes, the _restraint_ based on deference to what you believe to be best can be quite noble.  You might find meaning or pride in overcoming your inclinations or in demeaning the restrained feelings by viewing them as inferior to the feelings compelling you to do what was "right" (in this case, for example, avoiding causing someone to emotionally or sexually cheat on their partner).  But that makes neither your actions nor your feelings for that person any more pure or noble than the feelings their partner has for them or the choice they made to pursue them.

If you choose a vow of celibacy, and you find greater meaning and richness in non-sexual relationships than you ever found in sexual ones, then I'm sincerely happy for you!  Yes, I question whether your sexual or romantic relationships were pursued in healthy, constructive ways, whether you ever experienced romantic partnership as I have, whether you inherently view sexual or romantic expression as so mutually exclusive with "philia" or "charity, the pure love of Christ" that you've blocked them from both occupying any one relationship, whether your reasons for choosing celibacy are based on truth or convincing but half-true-at-best stories or beliefs, whether you have wiring that causes you to experience romantic or sexual attraction and bonding in a patently different way than most humans do, etc.  But your choices are yours, and I cannot fully inhabit your mind and soul, so I try to balance analysis or skepticism with a healthy dose of "what the @#$% more do I know about the vastness and profundity of the universe than the next guy anyway, let alone the next guy's own internal workings?"  I try, even though failing at times, to step back from demeaning or dismissing lifestyles and choices other than my own (assuming they're not demonstrably harming people) or injecting so much "meaning" into my own choices as to portray other choices as meaningless out of some sense of justification.

Yes, some gay/SSA people do not want same-sex relationships, not romantically or sexually overt ones at least, due to reasons they regard as superseding their feelings, inclinations, or urges.  I believe they should be allowed that choice.  But I will not sit by quietly while they explain or frame my feelings and decisions in their own terms, and I have my limits on allowing them to speak unchallenged when they imply that they somehow have the market cornered on "true love".  Yet I sometimes invest a puzzling amount of energy trying to help people understand their decisions, while they actively urge people to limit my legal options and keep my relationship marginalized as patently inferior to heterosexual love and pairing generally.  Maybe I just don't understand true, selfless, godly love like they do, but I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

The spark for this post: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/9432/, about which I have many more thoughts and responses but chose, for now, to focus on this one point.


Bravone said...

Time for an omelet my friend.

Trev said...

GREAT post. So, that awful article did serve some useful purpose then, if it got this out of you ;).

blj1224 said...

Bravone - I'm up for an omelet!