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Abstract In men and women sexual arousal culminates in orgasm, with female orgasm solely from sexual intercourse often regarded as a unique feature of human sexuality.
However, orgasm from sexual intercourse occurs more reliably in men than in women likely reflecting the different types of physical stimulation men and women require for orgasm. In men, orgasms are under strong selective pressure as orgasms are coupled with ejaculation and thus contribute to male reproductive success.
By contrast, women's orgasms in intercourse are highly variable and are under little selective pressure as they are not a reproductive necessity.. The proximal mechanisms producing variability in women's orgasms are little understood. In Marie Bonaparte proposed that a shorter distance between a woman's clitoris and her urethral meatus CUMD increased her likelihood of experiencing orgasm in intercourse. She based this on her published data which were never statistically analyzed.
In Landis and colleagues published similar data suggesting the same relationship, but these data too were never fully analyzed. We analyzed raw data from these two studies and found that both demonstrate a strong inverse relationship between CUMD and orgasm during intercourse. Unresolved is whether this increased likelihood of orgasm with shorter CUMD reflects increased penile-clitoral contact during sexual intercourse or increased penile stimulation of internal aspects of the clitoris.
CUMD likely reflects prenatal androgen exposure, with higher androgen levels producing larger distances. Thus these results suggest that women exposed to lower levels of prenatal androgens are more likely to experience orgasm during sexual intercourse.
This gender disparity in the reliability of reaching orgasm during sexual intercourse has been thought to reflect evolutionary Lloyd, or social Hite, processes. An anatomical explanation for this disparity has also been proposed such that variation in the distance between a woman's clitoral glans and her vagina predicts the likelihood that she will experience orgasm in intercourse Narjani, Review This Product.
Welcome to Loot. Checkout Your Cart Price. Description Details Customer Reviews When Kylie Falls agrees to a last-minute date with one of her sister's clients, she'd never have guessed that a man in need of matchmaking services would be as deliciously hot as Cole Sullivan.
Too bad she's soon on her way out of town for a bigger and better career. Of course, she does have a few weeks and he seems more than open to a brief fling. They both agree their insatiable appetite for each other is temporary--the result of too much work and not enough fun. Except that the more time they steal from their schedules to meet between the sheets, the tighter the sexual tension gets.
And with Kylie's departure looming, Cole makes her an offer she knows she should refuse General Imprint: Jim reaches across the bed, takes her hand and holds it lightly in his. Neither of them makes any further move. To a casual observer, the scene might look innocuous enough, but a significant event is in train: Jim is attempting to initiate sex.
Logic might suggest that being in a long-term relationship or being married must automatically guarantee an end to the anxiety that otherwise dogs attempts by one person to induce another to have sex. But while either kind of union may make sex a constant theoretical option, it will neither legitimate the act nor even ease the path towards it on any particular occasion. Moreover, against a background of permanent possibility, an unwillingness to have sex may be seen as constituting a far graver violation of the ground rules than a similar impasse might do in other contexts.
Being turned down by someone we have just met in a bar is, after all, not so terribly surprising or wounding; there are methods for dealing with such a rebuff. Suffering sexual rejection by the person with whom we have pledged to share our life is a much odder and more humiliating experience. It has now been a full four weeks since Daisy and Jim last made love. The entire country has emerged from winter during the intervening month.
Long though this latest gap might seem, such lapses are not unusual for the couple: In the whole of the previous year, he and his wife had intercourse only nine times. For Jim, these statistics feel like a shameful reflection on some essential aspect of his self. In part, no doubt, it is a matter of injured pride, but it also has something to do with our larger culture — and, more specifically, with the extent to which recent history has placed a priority on the liberation of desire, on making sure that people no longer have to disguise their bodies in ill-fitting garments, or fear the prospect of raising unwanted children, or regard sex as being anything more or less than an emotionally enriching and innocent pastime.
Dinners with friends give him no opportunity to bring up a topic at once so serious and so inconsequential. Jim can hear and feel his wife turn over a few times before she finally finds a comfortable position, curled up with her back to him. There are noises outside — car horns, cats mewling, the occasional scream, the laughter of passers-by returning from an evening out — but within Jim, just the dull thud of his own misery.
To begin with, and most innocently, the paucity of sex within established relationships typically has to do with the difficulty of shifting registers between the everyday and the erotic. The qualities demanded of us when we have sex stand in sharp opposition to those we employ in conducting the majority of our other, daily activities. Marriage tends to involve — if not immediately, then within a few years — the running of a household and the raising of children, tasks that often feel akin to the administration of a small business and that draw upon many of the same bureaucratic and procedural skills, including time management, self-discipline, the exercising of authority and the imposition of rules upon recalcitrant others.
Sex, with its contrary emphases on expansiveness, imagination, playfulness and a loss of control, must by its very nature interrupt this routine of regulation and self-restraint, threatening to leave us unfit or at the least uninclined to resume our administrative duties once our desire has run its course. Sex also has a way of altering and unbalancing our relationship with our household co-manager. Its initiation requires one partner or the other to become vulnerable by revealing what may feel like humiliating sexual needs.
We must shift from discussing practical projects — debating what sort of household appliance to acquire or where to go on holiday next year — to making the more challenging request that, for example, our spouse should turn over and take on the attitude of a submissive nurse, or put on a pair of boots and start calling us names.
The satisfaction of our needs may force us to ask for things that are, from a distance, open to being judged both ridiculous and contemptible so that we may prefer, in the end, not to entrust them to someone on whom we must rely for so much else in the course of our ordinary, upstanding life. But this is a woefully mistaken view of what makes us feel safe. While the desire to split people into discrete categories of those we love and those we can have sex with may seem a peculiarly male phenomenon, women are far from innocent on this score themselves.
Sex may sometimes be just too private an activity to engage in with someone we know well and have to see all the time. Sigmund Freud went far beyond this. It was he who first, and most starkly, identified a much more complex and deep-seated reason for the difficulty many of us experience in having sex with our long-term partners.
Together these influences set up a devilish conundrum whereby the more deeply we come to love someone outside of our family, the more strongly we will be reminded of the intimacy of our early familial bonds — and hence the less free we will instinctively feel to express our sexual desires with him or her.
An incest taboo originally designed to limit the genetic dangers of inbreeding can thus succeed in inhibiting and eventually ruining our chances of enjoying intercourse with someone to whom we are not remotely related.
Until then, reminders of the parental prototypes on which our choice of lovers is subconsciously based can be effectively kept at bay by the natural aphrodisiacs of youth, fashionable clothes, nightclubs, foreign holidays and alcohol.
But all of these prophylactics tend to be left behind once the pram has been parked in the hall. When men and women abandon long-established relationships to take up with new and younger lovers, their actions are often interpreted as being motivated by a simple and rather pathetic search for lost youth. The deeper, subconscious reason, however, may be far more poignant: But when sex becomes mired in the incest taboo, the way out is not of course to begin all over again with a different partner, for fresh candidates will themselves end up morphing into parental figures, too, once the relationship has taken root.
It is not a new person we require, but a new way of perceiving a familiar one. How can we best go about effecting such a shift? One answer may be found in a sexual practice that can only ever appeal to a small minority, but which nevertheless carries an underlying moral applicable to all long-term relationships. There are some couples who take pleasure in together selecting a third person, a stranger, to have sex with one of them while the other watches.
The voyeur willingly cedes his or her rightful position and derives erotic enjoyment from bearing witness to the induction of his or her spouse. This is not an act of altruism. Rather, the new actor has been brought in for a particular purpose: Through the agency of the stranger, the voyeur can feel the same excitement for a partner of twenty years as on the night they first met.
A variant on this approach involves one partner taking nude photographs of the other, posting them on a dedicated internet site, and then soliciting the frank comments of a worldwide audience. Tradition, jealousy and fear are sufficiently strong to prevent such practices from ever catching on in a big way, but they show us with particular clarity certain mechanisms of perception that we would be wise to incorporate into all of our relationships.
The solution to long-term sexual stagnation is to learn to see our lover as if we had never laid eyes on him or her before. A less threatening and less dramatic version of this act of perception is readily available by checking in to a hotel room for a night.
Our failure to notice the erotic side of our partner is often closely related to the unchanging environment in which we lead our daily lives. We can blame the stable presence of the carpet and the living-room chairs for our failure to have more sex, because our homes guide us to perceive others according to the attitude they normally exhibit in them.
The physical backdrop becomes permanently coloured by the activities it hosts — vacuuming, bottle feeding, laundry hanging, the filling out of tax forms — and reflects the mood back at us, thereby subtly preventing us from evolving. Hence the metaphysical importance of hotels. Their walls, beds, comfortably upholstered chairs, room-service menus, televisions and small, tightly wrapped soaps can do more than answer a taste for luxury; they can also encourage us to reconnect with our long-lost sexual selves.
There is no limit to what a shared dip in an alien bath tub may help us to achieve. We may make love joyfully again because we have rediscovered, behind the roles we are forced to play by our domestic circumstances, the sexual identities that first drew us together — an act of aesthetic perception that will have been critically assisted by a pair of towelling bathrobes, a complimentary fruit basket and a view out of a window onto an unfamiliar harbour.
We cannot expect to be able to go on making love if the carpet is always the same. The Park Hyatt Hotel, Tokyo. In further considering how we might manage to re-desire our spouse, we might find it instructive to look at the way in which artists approach the task of painting the world.
While going about their quite different types of business, the lover and the artist nonetheless come up against a similar human foible: We are prone to long unfairly for novelty, kitschy romanticism, drama and glamour. It lies in the power of certain great works of art, however, to induce us to revisit what we think we already understand and to reveal new, neglected or submerged enchantments beneath a familiar exterior.
Before such works, we feel our appreciation of supposedly banal elements being reignited. The evening sky, a tree being blown by the wind on a summer day, a child sweeping a yard, or the atmosphere of a diner in a large American city at night are promptly revealed as not merely dull or obvious motifs but arenas of interest and complexity.
An artist will find ways of foregrounding the most poignant, impressive and intriguing dimensions of a scene and fixing our attention on these, so that we will give up our previous scorn and start to see in our own surroundings a little of what Constable, Gainsborough, Vermeer and Hopper managed to find in theirs.
Where we might have been prepared to recognize only dull white stalks, the artist observed and then reproduced vigour, colour and individuality, recasting his humble subject as an elevated and sacramental object through which we might access a redeeming philosophy of nature and rural life.
There are lessons for long-term relationships in the way that Manet approached asparagus. Edouard Manet, Bunch of Asparagus, To rescue a long-term relationship from complacency and boredom, we might learn to effect on our spouse much the same imaginative transformation that Manet performed on his vegetables. We should try to locate the good and the beautiful beneath the layers of habit and routine.
We may so often have seen our partner pushing a buggy, arguing with a toddler, crossly berating the electricity company and returning home defeated from the workplace that we have forgotten that dimension in him or her that remains adventurous, impetuous, cheeky, intelligent and, above all else, alive. Modern society will be apt to give full credence to our frustration: Frequent and fulfilling sex with a long-term partner is viewed as the norm, and any falling away from it as pathology.
The sex-therapy industry, developed primarily in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century, has focussed most of its efforts on assuring us that marriage should be enlivened by constant desire. In their bestselling Human Sexual Inadequacy , they set out systematically to identify and provide antidotes for all the hurdles that a couple might face in their quest for this unending run of fulfilling sex: Masters and Johnson equipped their book with helpful diagrams and kindly phrased suggestions about helpful exercises that couples might avail themselves of.
Read today, their sober prose is fearless and in its own way impressive, in its dedication to dragging into the light some of the quiet intensities of human suffering. For a problem as old as time, for instance, the authors offered a practical and deeply sympathetic approach: Expanding the frontiers of knowledge: The first step in therapy for the incompetent ejaculator is for his wife to force ejaculation manually.
It may take several days to accomplish this purpose. The important concept to project to both unit members is that there is no rush. It is undoubtedly an evolution in civilization when such matters can be put into prose and discussed in an undramatic and unembarrassed way by two adults while their children are asleep downstairs.
Yet there is arguably also something peculiar, even perverse, in an attitude of mind that relentlessly pathologizes a failure to have regular sex. Might we not turn the issue on its head and suggest that far from being an indication that something is wrong, a gradual decline in the intensity and frequency of sex between a married couple is merely an inevitable fact of biological life and, as such, evidence of deep normality? To rebel against it is like protesting that we are not permanently happy.
Given the rarity of good sex, is it really right that we should continue to regard frequency as the norm? It would of course be convenient if sex and marriage could peacefully coexist, but wishing does not make it so. Impotence I. It is generally easier to admit to having spent time in prison than to having suffered from impotence. There are few greater sources of shame for a man, or of feelings of rejection for his partner.
The tragedies that afflict the human race are many, but seldom are they as intense as those that strike in a bedroom after a couple have repeatedly tried and failed to secure the erection of the male. At such moments, suicide may no longer seem a remote or unreasonable possibility. The real problem with impotence is less the actual loss of pleasure involved which can be compensated for easily enough through masturbation than the blow dealt to the self-esteem of both parties. Impotence is deemed a catastrophe because of an understanding of what flaccidity means.
Yet the argument that will be ventured here is that we are grievously mistaken in our methods of interpretation, for if we were to assess the matter more fairly, we would feel not only unembarrassed by occasions of psychologically created impotence, but perhaps even proud of them. We should start by sketching the broad outlines of a topic that deserves one day to be written up in the form of a serious scholarly monograph: Let us propose, though we have little concrete empirical evidence for the claim, that at the dawn of its existence mankind was rarely bothered by impotence.
The early hominids who lived in clammy darkness in the caves of central France, or amid enervating heat in the straw huts of the Rift Valley, may have had a hard time finding food, evading dangerous animals, sewing underpants and communicating with faraway relatives, but having sex was a simple matter for them, because the one question that almost certainly never ran through the minds of male hunters as they lifted themselves up on their hirsute limbs was whether their partners were going to be in the mood that night — or whether they might instead feel revolted or bored by the sight of a penis, or just keen to spend a quiet evening tending to the fire.
Reason and kindness had not yet intruded on the free flow of animal impulses — nor, in the West, would they do so convincingly for many millennia to come, until the influences of classical philosophy and Judeo—Christian ethics at last percolated through the general population in the centuries after the death of Christ.
Accordingly, all but the least self-aware among us will sometimes be struck by how distasteful our desire for sex can seem to someone else, how contrary to reason it can appear, how peculiar and physically off-putting our flesh may be and how unwanted our caresses — and therefore how careful we ought to be in going about the business of seduction.
The greater our power of imagination, the more acute and amplified will be our apprehension about giving offence — to the extent that even when sex is a legitimate possibility, our doubts may prove impossible to cast aside, with fatal consequences, if we are male, for our ability to maintain an erection.
It is civilization itself, with its faith in human rights, its respect for kindness and its moral sophistication, which has unwittingly generated an inestimable increase in occasions of sexual fiasco. An advanced capacity for love and tenderness can ironically render us too sensitive to try to pester anyone else into having sex with us. Civilization has surely brought with it virtues of enormous benefit to relationships between the genders, among them gentleness and tact, a spirit of equality and a greater fairness in the apportioning of domestic chores.
We may have to admit, however, that it has also made it harder for us — or for men, at least — to have sex. We now know that we must never insist, never roughly thrust forward our needs and never regard another person as a mere instrument for our own use or pleasure.
Well-meaning though our hesitancy and embarrassment may be, and though based on the kindest of impulses, they risk cheating us of certain promising opportunities. Now and then we may cross paths with individuals who are not appalled by our longing for urgent and forceful sexual congress, and who see nothing disgusting in even the farthest erotic extremes.
Yet these candidates may still require us to make the first move, perhaps because while they happen to want sex, they also need someone else to remind them of the fact. Their minds may be so busy with rational matters and daily distractions that only outside intervention can succeed in reacquainting them with their libidinous selves.
If the deadlock of shyness is ever to be broken, one party must overcome the fear of displeasing the other and take a chance, gambling that in the end, perhaps after an interval of confusion and reluctance, sex will disclose its manifold attractions.
In its initial manoeuvres, therefore, the most loving, well intentioned and empathetic sex can sometimes look an awful lot like complete indifference to what someone else feels or wants. The popularity of pharmaceuticals designed to combat erectile dysfunction signals the collective longing of modern men for a reliable mechanism by which to override our subtle, delicate, civilized worry that we will disappoint or upset others.
The fear of being disgusting, absurd or a disappointment to someone else is a first sign of morality. Impotence is an achievement of the ethical imagination — so much so that in the future, we men might learn to act out episodes of the condition as a way of signalling our depth of spirit, just as today we furtively swallow Viagra tablets in the bathroom to prove the extent of our manliness. Resentment I. She has seemed calm and measured all day.
The two of them had a wholly polite, if somewhat superficial, supper together only a few hours earlier, during which she never complained or gave any other indication of distress.
Furthermore, as she lies in bed, she herself has no inner awareness of having any active gripes against Jim. There are two reasons we tend to forget we are angry with our partner, and hence become anaesthetized, melancholic and unable to have sex with him or her. The arrow is fired, it wounds us, but we lack the resources or context to see how and where, exactly, it has pierced our armour.
Even rehearsing them to ourselves can be embarrassing. These hardly seem matters worth lodging formal complaints over.
An objection of this sort may indeed be both of those things, but given that immaturity and insanity by and large constitute the human condition, we would be well advised to stop subscribing to and then suffering from , any more optimistic notions. Comparable arguments, on topics objectively petty and absurd to outsiders, punctuate the history of every relationship.
It comes down to ambition. To fall in love with another is to bless him or her with an idea of who he or she should be in our eyes; it is to attempt to incarnate perfection across a limitless range of activities, stretching from the highest questions how to educate the children and what sort of house to download to the lowest where the sofa should go and how to spend Tuesday evening.
In love we are therefore never far from the possibility of a painful or irritating betrayal of one of our ideals. Once we are involved in a relationship, there is no longer any such thing as a minor detail. The situation has a tendency to spiral into ever greater nastiness. The one who has done the unwitting hurting will be punished sexually, which will lead to the firing of yet more surreptitious arrows, causing wounds that themselves will be neither understood nor dealt with and will then inspire further covert acts of aggression and withholding.
Finally, the following sort of explosion is likely to occur, even between otherwise generous and rational people who are deemed to be reliable colleagues, loving friends and assets to their communities: You say that every single time.
I do not. At any given moment, hundreds — perhaps thousands — of identical conversations are being had across the globe, often in its most privileged precincts, the sorts of places where there are no wars or desperate economic conditions, only well-stocked shops and expensive institutions of higher education. The waste of time and life seems appalling, for despite all the insults they may be trading, the combatants probably truly love each other and could be reciprocally kind, if only they could first work out how they managed to grow so angry.
By this point in our history, as a species, we know full well why couples tear at each other and relationships collapse. The reasons are set forth in the sober pages of psychological handbooks bearing titles such as Couples in Treatment: While the information is there for all to read, it has a cunning habit of being unavailable to us in moments of crisis.
We lack objective onlookers to seek advice from and mantras to chant to stick good ideas in our minds. Our knowledge is intellectual and unrepeated. We are undone by the sheer speed with which disappointments occur and by our inability to pause and rerun the tape, to rise above the fray and shift the focus away from recrimination and towards an identification of the true sources of our hurt and fear.
In a more well-ordered world, rather than allow Jim and Daisy to press on any further in their attempts to quantify precisely how evil their partner allegedly is, Gerald Weeks and Stephen Treat would take charge of them, sit them down together in a quiet room and encourage them to retrace every step that led them to their private hell.
In time and with effort, the couple might then begin to appreciate that their hostilities towards each other were shaped by the flow of their individual personalities through the distorting emotional canyons of their particular childhoods.
In a perfect world, all couples would be visited by a psychotherapist on a weekly basis, without even having to put themselves forward for the service. The session would simply be a regular feature of a good, ordinary life, as the Friday-evening meal is for Jews, and would offer some of the same cathartic function as this ritual.
Above all, neither party would be made to feel by society that he or she was crazy for having therapy — which is currently the main reason people neglect to see therapists and therefore slowly go crazy. This ideal therapist would take a history of a relationship, explore its current tensions and try to serve as a catalyst for the sort of change that the couple themselves were too weak, busy or confused to bring about on their own.
She would remind her clients that every exchange, however minor, had meaning and could set off a chain of recriminations and resentments that would prevent them from wanting to have sex.
She would teach them to treat the complicated business of being in a relationship with extraordinary care. She would advise them that if they did not make love at least once a week, they would necessarily experience an excess of libido that might then seek other outlets, with consequent implications for their union.
She would review their individual psychological histories and endeavour to help make the couple aware of some of the ways in which, because of their particular pasts, they might both be likely to distort or misread reality.
And when arguments did flare up, she would urge each of them to see the other as being wounded and sad rather than malicious and spiteful. This therapist would belong to a new kind of priesthood, designed for an age that no longer believes in religious forgiveness and understanding in the afterlife but that is still very much in need of those same qualities in the here and now. If such a service does not yet exist, it is only because capitalism is still in its infancy. We are able to have exotic fruit delivered to our doorsteps and construct micro-conductors, but we struggle to find effective ways of examining and healing our relationships.
The problem is that we think we already know everything necessary about how to be with another person, without having bothered to learn anything at all. We are no more capable of figuring out how to handle this task on our own than we would be able intuitively to work out how to land a plane or perform brain surgery.
Whereas most workplaces are now awash with artificial procedures designed to prevent employees from murdering one another, modern lovers still baulk at attempts to introduce standardized practices and external assistance into their relationships. Our reluctance to work at love is bound up with our earliest experience of the emotion.
They thereby created, albeit with the most benign of intentions, an illusion that has complicated consequences for us later on, insofar as it leaves us unprepared for the effort we must legitimately expend to make even a very decent adult relationship successful.
We can achieve a balanced view of adult love not by remembering what it felt like to be loved as a child but rather by imagining what it took for our parents to love us — namely, a great deal of work. Only through similar application will we be able to sort out which partner in our relationship is firing the arrows and why, and thereby stand a chance of enjoying a better union and, as a windfall, more frequent and more affectionate sex.
Pornography i: Censorship 1. When his demons grow unmasterable and Daisy is asleep, Jim often surreptitiously gets out of bed and climbs the stairs to visit the computer in the small study on the floor above.
No wonder sales of serious literature are down across the world: The real question of the age is why a man might ever choose to lead his own life rather than just click on, obsessively, from Amateurs to Blondes, Bondage to Interracial, Outdoors to Redheads and Shemales to Voyeur. But this is unfortunately far from the truth. Modern pornography now looks so real as to resemble our own lives in every detail — with the significant difference, of course, that in the former everyone happens to be having continuous, beatific sex.
The associated waste of time is naturally horrific. How deeply contrary pornography is to the rest of our plans and inclinations becomes clear only after orgasm. Where just a moment before we might have sacrificed our worldly goods for one more click, now we must confront with horror and shame the temporary abandonment of our sanity.
We are far from dignity, happiness and morality — but also not so far, in certain eyes at least, from pleasure. Yet this poison is not easy to resist. An unlikely and partly unwitting alliance between Cisco, Dell, Oracle and Microsoft on the one hand and thousands of pornographic-content providers on the other has exploited a design flaw of the male gender.
A mind originally designed to cope with little more sexually tempting than the occasional sight of a tribeswoman across the savannah is rendered helpless when bombarded by continual invitations to participate in erotic scenarios far exceeding any dreamt up by the diseased mind of the Marquis de Sade. There is nothing robust enough in our psychological makeup to compensate for developments in our technological capacities, nothing to arrest our passionate desire to renounce all other priorities for the sake of a few more minutes which might turn out to be four hours in the darker recesses of www.
But what chance do Chekhov or any other writers stand when we can split our Dell screen into two, on the left side arrange a photo collage of naked cheerleaders, and on the right, with the help of MSN Messenger, conduct a real-time conversation with a svelte twenty-five-year-old pole dancer in reality a doughy male truck driver of 53 who will gently encourage us, in our own guise as a curious but uninitiated teenage lesbian, to take the first tentative steps towards our sexual awakening?
When the intellectual framework behind our modern secular societies was first developed, by such seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers as John Locke, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, the ideal of personal liberty was set at its centre. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual.
Our automatic defence of this ideal rests on two foundations. First, our embrace is cautionary: It seems preferable to leave people to work out their salvation in their own ways, rather than run the risk of causing a catastrophe by interfering.
Lest any doubt should persist on this score, the spectres of Hitler and Stalin are routinely invoked as reminders of what can happen when one person decides he knows what is best for everyone else. Second, and more optimistically, our defence of freedom rests on the belief that we human beings are at heart mature, rational creatures, able to adequately assess our own needs, look after our own interests and get along perfectly well by ourselves, without requiring a great deal of protection.
Our mental equilibrium is stronger than that. In almost every detail, these secular tenets contradict the beliefs of most religions — unsurprisingly, perhaps, given that the philosophy of modern liberalism evolved largely in reaction to the drift of religious doctrine. For their part, the faiths have always argued that they are in possession of some highly reliable understandings of right and wrong and hence are morally obligated to impose their value systems, if necessary with vigour and coercion.
They have also held that humans are not at all impervious to the messages they find around them. They may be deeply affected by material they read or look at, and so must constantly be protected from themselves. They stand in need of censorship.
The very word is normally terrifying, evoking the Soviet and Nazi experiments as well as the vengeful stupidities of the Catholic Inquisition. Yet before we reject the idea of censorship out of hand, even though we are on a slippery slope at the bottom of which lie some appalling scenarios, it may be worth entertaining the possibility that there could be such a thing as a beneficial and necessary variety of censorship.
Although this permeability may insult our self-image, the wrong pictures may send us down a fatal track; unhelpful reading material may deflect the needle of our ethical compass; and a few ill-intentioned adverts in a glossy magazine can as advertisers well know play havoc with our values. In such cases, a bit of censorship might not be such a bad idea. Without, of course, ceding all of our freedoms to an arbitrary and tyrannical authority, we ought nevertheless, sometimes and in some contexts, to be willing to accept a theoretical limit to some of our rights, if only for the sake of our own well-being and our capacity to flourish.
In moments of lucidity, we should be able to see for ourselves that untrammelled liberty can paradoxically trap us, and that — when it comes to internet pornography, for instance — we might be doing ourselves a favour if we willingly consented to cede certain of our privileges to a benign supervisory entity.
Philosophies of sexual liberation seem to appeal largely to those who harbour no especially destructive or weird desires which they long to satisfy once they have been liberated. By contrast, anyone who has experienced the power of sex in general, and of internet pornography in particular, to reroute rational priorities, is unlikely to be quite so sanguine on the topic of sexual freedom. After sufficient late-night hours spent obsessively watching a succession of people undress and penetrate one another, even the most libertarian among us might find themselves calling for someone to make a giant bonfire out of every last server, router, data-farm and cable on the planet, so as to put a definitive end to the system responsible for delivering a diet of poison into our homes and minds.
Pornography, like alcohol and drugs, undermines our ability to endure certain kinds of suffering which we have to experience if we are to direct our lives properly.
More specifically, it reduces our capacity to tolerate our ambiguous moods of free-floating worry and boredom. Our feelings of anxiety are genuine but confused signals that something is amiss, and so need to be listened to and patiently interpreted — processes which are unlikely to be completed when we have to hand, in the computer, one of the most powerful tools of distraction ever invented.
The entire internet is in a sense pornographic, a deliverer of a constant excitement that we have no innate capacity to resist, a seducer that leads us down paths that for the most part do nothing to answer our real needs. Furthermore, the ready availability of pornography lessens our tolerance for the kind of boredom that grants our mind the space it needs to spawn good ideas — the creative sort of boredom we may luxuriate in during a bath or on a long train journey.
Whenever we feel an all but irresistible desire to flee from our own thoughts, we can be quite sure there is something important trying to make its way into our consciousness — and yet it is precisely at such pregnant moments that internet pornography is most apt to exert its maddening pull, assisting our escape from ourselves and thereby helping us to destroy our present and our future.
Only religions still take sex seriously, in the sense of properly respecting its power to turn us away from our priorities. Only religions see it as something potentially dangerous and needing to be guarded against.
We may not sympathize with what they would wish us to think about in the place of sex, and we may not like the way they go about trying to censor it, but we can surely — though perhaps only after killing many hours online at www. Would a rational adult man really turn his life upside down because he caught a glimpse of a pair of beguiling female knees or elbows? And who but a mental weakling could be seriously affected by the spectacle of a group of half-naked teenage girls sauntering provocatively down the beachfront?
Secular societies have no problems with bikinis or sexual provocation because, among other things, they do not believe that sexuality and beauty have such extraordinary power over people.
Men are presumed to be entirely capable of watching a group of young women cavort, whether online or in the flesh, and then getting on with their lives as though nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. Religions are often mocked for being prudish, but insofar as they warn us against sex, they do so out of an active awareness of the charms and the power of desire. The problem is that this wonderful thing can get in the way of some other important and precious concerns of ours, such as God and life.
We may not want to go so far as to veil beauty, but perhaps we can come to see the point of censoring the internet and applaud any government attempts to reduce the ready and unchecked flow of pornography down our fibre-optic cables. Even if we no longer believe in a deity, we may have to concede that a degree of repression is necessary both for the mental health of our species and for the adequate functioning of a decently ordered and loving society.
A portion of our libido has to be forced underground for our own good; repression is not just for Catholics, Muslims and the Victorians, but for all of us and for eternity. Because we have to go to work, commit ourselves to relationships, care for our children and explore our own minds, we cannot allow our sexual urges to express themselves without limit, online or otherwise; left to run free, they destroy us.
It is only religions that still take seriously the power of sex to rearrange our priorities. A New Kind of Porn 1. Then again, the real problem with pornography may be not its widespread availability but its nature and quality. However, as currently constituted, pornography asks that we leave behind our ethics, our aesthetic sense and our intelligence when we contemplate it, in order that we give ourselves over wholly to the most mindless sort of lust.
The plots are daft, the lines of dialogue absurd, the actors exploited, the interiors ugly and the photographs voyeuristic — hence the feeling of disgust that overtakes us the moment we are done with it. In fact, something not dissimilar to this already exists, and in what may seem the single most unlikely place imaginable: