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Sex and Materialism

  • "Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them. "
  • ~ David Hume, Scottish philosopher and historian, 1711 – 1776
  • "Sex is emotion in motion. "
  • ~ Mae West, American actress, 1893 – 1980
  • "The flesh is suffused by the spirit, and it is forgetting this in the act of love-making that creates cynicism and despair. "
  • ~ May Sarton, American writer, 1912 – 1995

Insane World

Sex is either regarded as something that is basically evil and should be yielded to reluctantly, or something that is good and should be pursued enthusiastically, with the latter position gaining acceptance over time. But in either case, sex is viewed as an animal instinct, and primarily a physical experience. Nothing could be further from the truth; the actual experience of sexuality depends to a large extent on perception. The focus on sex as a physical rather than spiritual experience has led many physically attractive people to spend a great deal of time and energy unsuccessfully searching for satisfying sexual experiences.

Living Sanely

The experience of sex has as much to do with the mind as with the body.

Imagine that you are blindfolded and forced to have sex, in silence, with an unidentified person. Could you tell whether that person had a beautiful or ugly face? What could you know about the person’s skin tone? Could you determine the color of their hair? Perhaps you could tell, in a very crude way, something about the shape of their body, but far less than if you had your vision restored. From your blindfolded sexual experience you could tell little or nothing about their day-to-day personality, whether they were generally promiscuous or chaste, or any other aspect of their character.

All in all, you could not assess any of the factors that would normally lead you to determine whether someone was sexually attractive. Yet, the act itself, the physical motions of copulating, would be the same as if you had all that knowledge. The knowledge of who you are having sex with is a critical ingredient of your sexual experience, yet this knowledge has little or nothing to do with the physical act of sex.

Even in the case of sex in its crudest form, prostitution, seemingly devoid of the spiritual element, the appearance of the prostitute is very important to the client. On the other hand, the appearance of the client may not matter to the prostitute, and this is the point at which sex has become a purely physical, mechanical act. And the point at which it becomes a purely physical act is the point at which it is boring and meaningless to the participant. When the sexual act becomes purely physical, its primary value is outside of the act itself, such as earning money (for the prostitute), satisfying a marital obligation, or proving virility.

Another example that shows how the experience of sex is primarily in the mind is sexual repetition. For many, especially men, the sexual experience is much more interesting and important the first time one has sex with a particular individual. Over time, the experience may change from being dramatic and exciting to routine and trivial, even if one’s lover has not physically changed at all over time. If sex is primarily a physical event, it should make no difference whether one has had sex with a partner once or a thousand times. Yet we find that the only couples that seem to maintain a rewarding long-term sexual relationship are those that maintain a deep emotional interest in each other.

If sex is primarily a physical act, it should make no difference whether your partner enjoyed his or her participation, or whether the partner was bored, angry, sweet, inviting, or aloof. Yet the attitude of one’s partner clearly does affect the sexual experience.


On sex as a spiritual experience.

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Chapter 14 of 35

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