Sunday, August 12, 2007

She's just not that into what's-his-name

At a party Saturday night, I gave an impromptu talk about The Thrill of the Chaste, at the host's request.

One young woman there was intrigued by my description of the inherent danger of separating one's emotions from one's actions.

"Are you saying it's wrong to do it if you're head's not into it?" she asked, the "it" being sex.

"Because," she added, " I know lots of women who say they do it even though their head's not into it."

"Yes. It is wrong," I said, feeling for a moment like I'd had the wind knocked out of me.

I hear things like what that young woman said when I speak on college campuses or to young adult groups, but it never ceases to disturb me.

I can remember what it was like when I tried to emotionally detach so that my head "wasn't into it." The idea sounds so awful now, on so many levels.

People detach because they long for the experience of sexual intimacy but fear emotional attachment. The action is utilitarian — using another person for one's own ends. But, beyond being the misuse of another person, it's also self-abusive, because it reduces one's body to a mere shell that can feel sensation without permitting those sensations to spark an emotional reaction.

Think of the way you felt when the first person you ever dated held your hand. It was more than the mere sensation of your palms touching. The physical touch immediately sparked an intense emotional reaction, leading to feelings of not only pleasure but real joy. It seemed you couldn't stop that reaction even if you wanted to.

Now, think of the friends of the woman who spoke to me at the party. They are having physical experiences far more intimate than mere hand-holding. Yet, they're attempting to program themselves to short-circuit their emotions so their sexual activity won't make them vulnerable to emotional connections.

That detachment is sold to young women and men as "freedom." To me, it sounds more like the Stepford Wives.

UPDATE: The young woman mentioned above writes in the comments section that her question referred to married women.

I think the issue of detachment still applies — and, even more so, the issue of this false idea of freedom that is sold to young women and men.

Feminists used to claim that married women whose "head wasn't into" sex were going through the motions because they went into marriage with the wrong motives, being pressured into marrying and fulfilling a traditional wifely role. (Whether "traditional" means being willing to have sex without one's head being into it is another subject of debate.)

Why, then, would modern wives, who are presumably not under the familial and social pressures of times past, leave their "heads" (and, presumably, their hearts and souls as well) out of sex?

I believe it is because they have been trained to do so through years of sexual "freedom."

It could also be that these women have in fact married for the wrong motive: because they are getting to the end of their childbearing years and are willing to bring forth children without a foundation of two parents who love one another.

Having sex before marriage led those women to delay marriage; it also made it more difficult for them to build the level of emotional intimacy that could lead to marriage. Once again, the idea that people can have sexual "liberation" without consequences is to blame.