Why there’s much more to sex than ‘dial-an-or­gasm’

Irish Independent - - News | John Hume: 1937-2020 - Stella O’Mal­ley

AT FIRST glance, many of us might nod along sagely to the HSE ad­vice to young peo­ple that they should re­place real sex with on­line sex so as to stop the spread of Covid. How­ever, when we think about it for a few sec­onds, most of us re­alise that this ad­vice, while well-meant, is over-re­ac­tive and places un­due em­pha­sis on our phys­i­cal­ity over our men­tal health.

Sex is an in­ti­mate act; it leads us to a place where deeper con­nec­tions are formed and where bonds are made through our naked vul­ner­a­bil­ity and our shared ex­pe­ri­ence.

To re­duce sex to a trans­ac­tional event where you go on­line and seek your or­gasm, as if you are phon­ing for a take­away, is miss­ing the en­tire point of the thing. To pre­sume that young peo­ple have sex solely in the quest for an or­gasm is mis­un­der­stand­ing why most peo­ple have sex.

The mo­ti­va­tion to have sex goes far be­yond or­gas­mic sat­is­fac­tion; some seek sex for plea­sure, some for con­nec­tion, oth­ers have sex to feel a sense of love. Evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­rists tell us we have sex to pro­mote the sur­vival of our species. No mat­ter what our mo­ti­va­tion, real-life sex of­fers a deeper ex­pe­ri­ence than vir­tual sex. In­deed, most ex­pe­ri­ences offer more depth in real life than on­line.

If you are single and in des­per­ate need for some hu­man con­nec­tion, it is ad­vis­able that you at­tend to this in what­ever way you can – this might mean that you reach out to old friends, or per­haps you might join an out­door ac­tiv­ity that you would never have hereto­fore con­sid­ered.

If you are seek­ing a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship you could do worse than join on­line dat­ing apps – but this doesn’t mean you need to dial-an-or­gasm. Rather, you can use this op­por­tu­nity to build up to a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship at a slower pace than is usual these days. We can build up a con­nec­tion so that we can have qual­ity over quan­tity.

As a psy­chother­a­pist, I have re­turned to see­ing some clients in real life in­stead of on­line and the dif­fer­ence is stag­ger­ing. There is a warmth of con­nec­tion when you are phys­i­cally close to a per­son that can’t be repli­cated on­line. Al­though the very same in­for­ma­tion might be ex­changed, the con­nec­tion feels shalThe lower. On­line sex, just like on­line coun­selling, has its place. If there is no other pos­si­bil­ity open then it might be very use­ful but if there are other op­tions then re­al­life con­nec­tion will both chal­lenge you more and offer you more nour­ish­ment.

In a world that seems to be be­com­ing in­creas­ingly su­per­fi­cial, many of us are seek­ing more depth and con­nec­tion. On­line sex of­fers lit­tle more than the pass­ing sat­is­fac­tion of a “happy meal”; real-life sex opens doors to the pos­si­bil­ity of a serious ex­pe­ri­ence.

At the height of the Aids epi­demic in the 1980s, gay men were ad­vised to use porn in­stead of turn­ing to ca­sual sex and this ad­vice ap­par­ently helped to re­duce the spread of Aids.

prob­lem is that Covid is not the same as Aids.

Aids was spread through the shar­ing of bod­ily flu­ids, be it through nee­dles or sex. There was no lock­down for Aids. Covid, on the other hand, can be trans­mit­ted in a whole range of ways. If you re­ally want to make sure that you are safe from Covid, you would need to lock your­self in to a room with tinned food, bot­tled wa­ter and some elec­tronic me­dia to keep you com­pany for the next few months, even years. This is not fea­si­ble and it would ruin any ves­tiges of men­tal health that we have left. This is why we need to find more rea­son­able op­tions.

The first di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the WHO, Dr Brock Chisholm, un­der­stood the im­por­tance of men­tal health as he pointed out that “with­out men­tal health there can be no true phys­i­cal health”.

The lock­down is over and we are now in the more men­tally dif­fi­cult pe­riod that calls for en­durance and for­bear­ance. It was sim­ple but ar­du­ous to han­dle the heavy lock­down – we just needed to stay home as much as pos­si­ble.

It is much eas­ier on the brain to fol­low strict in­struc­tions than to nav­i­gate a more com­plex sit­u­a­tion, and yet this is ex­actly what we need to do.

We are now in a much more com­pli­cated, long-term sce­nario where we need to bal­ance our phys­i­cal health with our men­tal health and take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for our ac­tions; and ev­ery­thing feels more oner­ous.

Yet there are sil­ver lin­ings to be found; since the lock­down our fre­netic pace has slowed con­sid­er­ably and we have been col­lec­tively forced to take more sat­is­fac­tion from sim­ple plea­sures. There is real value in this and many of us could find some sus­tain­ing con­tent­ment from this new way of be­ing. The last thing we need right now is to dive back into a su­per­fi­cial, con­sumerist world where ev­ery­thing is trans­ac­tional and the hid­den depths are left un­ex­plored and ig­nored.

Some seek sex for plea­sure, some for con­nec­tion, oth­ers have sex to feel a sense of love

Con­nec­tion: If there’s no al­ter­na­tive, ‘phone sex’ might have it’s place, but it’s a much more shal­low ex­pe­ri­ence than the real thing

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