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Love, Sex, and Family Values

Idle Thoughts of a Sleepless Mind
Nathan Gregory

Sex is a simple act that requires mere moments and which is essential for reproduction. When successful, it initiates a process that is intended by nature to consume much of the physical resources of two adult human beings for a couple of decades.

     Given the profundity of sex’s consequences, it is perhaps not surprising that tremendous resources, time, and energy are spent on it, and a great deal of mythology has grown up around it.

     While we share the mechanics of sex and reproduction with other mammals, I see no evidence that animals imbue the process with the burden of thought processes, mythology, and other artifacts of human love. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that animals evidence love. When my dog lies on the couch beside me and puts his head in my lap, I have no doubt he loves me.

     The Greeks of Plato's time had many words that described what we think of as love. They had a different word for each variant of love, marking with unique words what we moderns must rely on language context to distinguish. The word agape means unconditional, self-sacrificing love, usually reserved for parents, a god, or sometimes a particular activity. The term can also be applied to a spouse, as one might greatly admire or even worship a spouse, but does not include sexual affection in that application. Therefore, I might characterize the feelings my dog shows me as akin to agape.

     Philia is another Greek word for love, meaning loosely, affection, non-sexual, and a relationship of trust and deep affection, obviously the root word from which William Penn coined the name for the "City of Brotherly Love." Thus the Greek philia is generally thought of as brotherhood, although we have perhaps expanded its meaning a bit beyond the original Greek usage. Today, for example, we acknowledge the relationship between two women, or a man and a woman, in general pairs for which the biological term 'brother' would be inappropriate. Brotherhood, the expression, generally implies that it exists between equals or brothers, but not necessarily. Thus, I might characterize my feelings for my dog as more philia than agape, although I do not consider him my equal.

     We share these two forms of love with our animals quite as much as the elementary mechanics of reproduction. However, humans depart from the animals in the third form of attachment defined by the Greeks, eros. Unlike philia, eros tends to assume the participants are unequal and names them the lover erastes and the beloved eromenos.

     Just as we have expanded the usage of philia slightly, we probably look at eros a little differently today. In modern use, we would apply both terms equally to both partners. That is, each party would be the other's beloved to their lover—but that's not quite how the Greeks saw it. In their world, the 'Lover' was the male, and the 'Beloved' was the pair's female.

     Humans invented erotic love and elevated the mechanics of copulation into an art form. I've never seen a copy of 'Playdog!' Eros spans the whole of human imagination and creativity. We spend immense amounts of time planning romantic dinners, inventing games and activities, setting up elaborate role-playing, and so on. It is not unheard of to spend days or even weeks setting up an elegant sexual encounter, reveling in the anticipation, only to culminate in that same 30 seconds of lustful heavy breathing.

     We write poetry, erotic stories, dress up to get naked, and in general spend tremendous time and energy on the process. The more intelligence and creativity possessed by the lovers, the more effort they spend on the process. Dull people have dull sex. Intelligent people make sex into intensely creative play. The greater the intelligence, the more the creativity.

     One might infer that I believe intelligent people are obsessed with sex. They are partly correct, but, more accurately, I am saying that brilliant people are obsessed with life and interested in many things, sex among them, and they approach all of life with creativity, enthusiasm, and joy.

     When couples fail to find joy in their sex play, they will often consider that their sex life has soured. Yet, the sex act itself is so quick, simple, and immensely rewarding that it is difficult to see how it could be sour. I've never known anyone to claim that they had a bad orgasm, or as the old saw goes, "The worse I ever had was wonderful." I suspect that the only thing one could characterize as a bad orgasm would be one so intense that it resulted in death from a massive coronary.

     Even then, I am not entirely sure that is wholly negative. There are lots worse ways to die, and death is one thing awaiting us all. Death during sex is very rare and mostly an invention of Hollywood anyway. Anyone frail enough that orgasm might kill them probably cannot reach orgasm in any case. The rare instances where this does happen tend to include dangerous drugs in the mix.

     When sex play breaks down, the result is hostility and anger. When that hostility and anger prevent one partner from reaching orgasm or causes a partner to turn selfish and resentful, then certainly the sex has indeed soured, and the marriage is in trouble.

     Those possessing less than outstanding brilliance often fail to put much effort into sex play, and when it fails, do not understand the root of the failure. Instead, many are simply interested in sprinting directly to that orgasmic 30 seconds and thus take shortcuts that diminish or eliminate the more profound pleasure of the experience. Often they become focused on their orgasm at the expense of their partners.

     Those who can find true joy in the games of sex spend a lot of time at it. Because they are so consumed in this joy, they are infectious, so joyously happy that their happiness explodes onto all around them, even those not involved in or even aware of the sexual activity.

     This explosiveness is especially true within the family unit. When mom and dad have a joyous, fulfilling, and ecstatic sex life, their happiness permeates the home. They raise happy children. They do not divorce or otherwise place children in stressful and unhappy households. Further, their example serves to teach children how to have a happy life themselves.

     Raising children, at least if done correctly, is an incredible burden. Parents must deny themselves many things to ensure their children have the essentials in life—but sometimes, this goes too far. PS3, Wii, and iPod do not count among the necessities of life.

     When denying themselves things they need for their children's sake, the joyous, adventurous love life is sometimes discarded or at least neglected in the process. Some misguided souls mistakenly believe that sex should be hidden or submerged, that children should not be allowed to think of their parents as sexual beings, or that they should never discuss facts of sex.

     This attitude neglects the evident fact that the home and the parents are the children's primary source of learning, especially when young, curious and impressionable. Children have a tremendous innate curiosity about sex, and unless solid values are taught in the home, they will learn weak and destructive ones from society.

     No one advocates that children should be witnesses to their parents' act of intercourse. But neither should such activity be dismissed and covered up. It is enough to merely explain to little Jane and Johnny that mommy and daddy need some private time alone and they should play a while quietly. And lock that door!

     More crucial than gently allowing children to understand that happy sexual activity occurs under their roof, parents should answer any questions that the child can formulate honestly, fairly, and forthrightly. Never laugh at them, and never, ever say, "You're too young; we'll talk about that when you're older." If a child can formulate the question, they are ready for the answer. Perhaps not the whole answer in full gory detail, but enough that their curiosity is satisfied. Never lie to your children about sex! Overly sanitizing the issue for curious young minds does more harm than good. When satisfactory answers are not found at home, they will seek them elsewhere, often in unsavory places.

     Good sex is, more than anything else, a family value. Those who deny, dissemble, and obfuscate sex to their children are committing child abuse, nothing less. When mommy and daddy are happy, the household will be happy and the home secure. When mommy and daddy are miserable, the children suffer.

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