So I was ruminating on the eternal recently, and was stumped on a particularly funny aspect of Abraham Maslow’s famous psychological writing of a Hierarchy of Needs. His pyramid put the Physiological Needs at the bottom of the pyramid, its base, onto which all other needs r subordinate. When I was a college student, much younger, I laughed myself silly that only a man could equate the need for food, water and oxygen w the need 4 sex! Such balderdash to my younger self! Clearly u have time limits on to which death will occur in the absence of oxygen (the shortest interval), water and then food. But sex?! One could go years on end without having any sexual activity whatsoever…
Or so I thought, back then. Now that I am older and wiser, w a lesser need 4 physical sex, due to changes in my endocrine system, I am considering that sex is indeed a physiological need, and that Maslow was right! Maybe not so immediately needful, as in food or oxygen, no, but in that realm of things one MUST have. And why must we have it? Well, a life without a permanent partner is by definition lonely. That is not to say that even partnered individuals r not lonely, but a person who is alone, truly alone, much of the days of their lives, w only occasional get togethers w friends or family is of course more alone than most of us r.
And when u r lonely or more serendipitously engaged in pursuits that r best accomplished solo, thereby u r engaged in solitude, which is a wholly different connotation than the aforementioned loneliness. Solitude implies that u r alone by choice, in order to accomplish some goal. It is a good thing to have, solitude then, because u r engaged in something that gives u pleasure, or accomplishes a major life goal, like for example studying for an advanced degree. Many study pursuits r done solo, even tho there r some tasks best laid out in study groups. But back to sex, as a need.
When u do go an extended period of time alone, u start to crystallize what things in life r truly important, which r needs, and which r wants. So sex as a physical need can of course be fulfilled by most persons in the guise of masturbation, that is to let off the steam build up inherent in having an active libido. But of course some people have been raised in such a manner to think that masturbation is a sin, or dirty. To be avoided. Many religions have some prohibition against it even. So maybe masturbation is NOT an answer 4 those people, so indoctrinated. I am fond of saying that if a man has a struggle between God and religion and his penis, the penis will usually win. I’d peg it at 85% odds in favor 4 the penis winning the war, and getting its objective.
And then, knowing that God created Man and Woman w the innate sex drive, He allowed and consecrated as Holy Marriage, that sole remedy that is allowed under the heading of God and Religion. In my faith, that is the Roman Catholic Church, Holy Marriage is a sacrament, to be highly respected and revered, and unbroken in all but the serious cases that allow for Annulment. And has been such revered for thousands of years by even early humans. And so, u have but two options in this life: either this wholly heterosexual marriage 4 life w one partner, or to be virginal, without stain, until death arrives. We know the prohibitions as if they r written on the Tablets of the 10 Commandments. Even tho the writing there is but brief. And of course, there r other options too: to deny oneself the comfort of a mate, to undergo Holy Orders, which is to be a priest, but only if u r a man, w the specified organs commensurate w the designation. If u be but a woman, u may choose to abjure yourself also, as a nun, but that is falling out of favor these days, only to be a worker 4 no pay, and to have only other women in a cloister 4 company, for life. Sounds like a self imposed jail to many, and very very few women choose such a path.
So your choices r few, if u want to remain in good standing, under your religious background. It is the same for many other religions as well, tho there r variations as to what u must give up in order to remain in good standing. Does religion go against a physiological need that we all have then? R we constrained to be virgins until marriage, and then wholly faithful to that one partner who is one’s wife or husband, for life? Yes, that is what is required, to be in good standing. And what of the needs as they evolve, from first blush of marriage, wedding night, to the long years of child rearing, work, toil and limitations imposed by finances, as to how many children one family can afford to have? Over time, the desire and the ability to have sex wanes. Either in one or both partners. And when the partners are not in sync, what then? Back to masturbation and confession, serial confessor admission? Is that enough?
We live in the United States of America, a country which is pluralistic, claims freedom 4 all religions, but we have a curious dichotomy here of Puritanism (a kind of slavish tyrannical set of practices that limit permissible expressions of sexuality, or of breastfeeding as another example) and also the love of sex, a kind of Kama Sutra of the TV, movies and songs culture of America. We r 4ever in this argument between the two, which r diametrically opposed to each other! Which is it! Do we comply w religious dictates, confess over and over again the same sins, or do we go hog wild w unfettered sex, even polyamorous sex?! As in orgy sex, or Plato’s Retreat, a sex club in the 1980’s, now long closed. Do we have a right to our sinful natures, as it relates to sex? That we do not conform to the very narrow dictates of monogamous marriage?
And what of the women, yes, mostly women, who lose out, who never marry, or have children, who age gracefully alone, unloved and only pitied, for having lost the small window of opportunity to catch a big fish? What of us who cry in the night, for a man who captured our heart long ago, and far away, who has no chance in a frozen hell of coming to warm her bed? Is sex a need? Yes, it is. And the absence of it leads to a maelstrom of a kind of tornado, to whip her away from this lonely life. Adieu, my dear friends. I have loved u much, but not in the sexual meaning of that word.
One last rumination: unfulfilled love and sex may lead to emotional eating, perhaps at times uncontrollably, in substitution for that which must be had, and cannot be. It is ineffective coping, but many will understand this sentiment. And cry.