Deny it all you want. Your penis is hard. You like me.

February 20, 2013

From Psychology Today
Why do most people lie about their true desires?  How is sex a great lie detector? What is the lure of sex in the back of an airplane?  Why is adultery overrated? 

In this compelling and surprisingly poetic Psychology Today article, excerpts from British writer and philosopher Alain de Botton's book How to Think About Sex "[make] the case that our difficulties [with sex] stem more from the multiplicity of things we want out of life, or the accrual of everyday resentments, or the weirdness of the sex drive itself."
To answer the question, "Why do most people lie about their sexual desires?" de Botton writes,

Most of what we are sexually remains impossible to communicate with anyone whom we would want to think well of us. Men and women in love instinctively hold back from sharing more than a fraction of their desires out of a fear, usually accurate, of generating intolerable disgust in their partners.
Nothing is erotic that isn't also, with the wrong person, revolting, which is precisely what makes erotic moments so intense: At the precise juncture where disgust could be at its height, we find only welcome and permission. Think of two tongues exploring the deeply private realm of the mouth—that dark, moist cavity that no one but our dentist usually enters. The privileged nature of the union between two people is sealed by an act that, with someone else, would horrify them both.
What unfolds between a couple in the bedroom is an act of mutual reconciliation between two secret sexual selves emerging at last from sinful solitude. Their behavior is starkly at odds with the behavior expected of them by the civilized world. At last, in the semi-darkness a couple can confess to the many wondrous and demented things that having a body drives them to want.

"Wondrous and demented" is the perfect description for embodied desires.  de Botton states here that the sexual act is an expression of reconciliation between "two secret selves" emerging from "sinful solitude."  Later on, when de Botton discusses the appeal of sex in an airplane or in an office cubicle, this sinfulness seems not to stem from solitude but from the contrast between intimacy and formality and the invasion of one into another (how appropriate).
At 35,000 feet up, just as in an office cubicle, the victory of intimacy seems sweeter and our pleasure increases accordingly. Eroticism is most clearly manifest at the intersection between the formal and the intimate.    
My favorite bit of the article discusses how sex is a wonderful lie detector.
Involuntary physiological reactions such as the wetness of a vagina and the stiffness of a penis are emotionally so satisfying (which means, simultaneously, so erotic) because they signal a kind of approval that lies utterly beyond rational manipulation. Erections and lubrication simply cannot be effected by willpower and are therefore particularly true and honest indices of interest. In a world in which fake enthusiasms are rife, in which it is often hard to tell whether people really like us or whether they are being kind to us merely out of a sense of duty, the wet vagina and the stiff penis function as unambiguous agents of sincerity. 
Imagine?  I could put this line in my next novel: "Deny it all you want.  Your penis is hard.  You like me."

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