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Continuing Speculation About Rational Sexuality

In the last Present Time I speculated about what completely rational sexuality might be like for humans. I was trying to guess from the changes that people had made during their counseling and from the sexual behavior of other mammals what natural functioning, undistorted by the individual patterns or the social pressures of our various patterned cultures and oppressive societies, would be like. There has been a sizable response by phone and by mail to this speculation. Some of the corrections to what I proposed are undoubtedly correct in that I did not take into account the many different kinds of situations and relationships in which people might live, even in the absence of patterns. Below are excerpts from some of the responses which you may find interesting, and which you are invited to comment on and reply to in a continuing discussion.

The material that follows is not RC policy and does not represent any final judgment or decision by myself or anyone else. It is part of a continuing discussion which I hope will bring about fresh and useful thinking.

Harvey Jackins

The Session I Have Been Needing

You have just given me the session on sexual distress that I have been needing all these years! Thank you for your article in the most recent Present Time, "Speculating About What Completely Rational Sexuality Would be Like for Humans"! I have been crying and shaking for the last hour since I read your latest thoughts! My mind has been rapidly reviewing years of incidents and experiences. This piece hits me as strongly as my first reading of The Human Side of Human Beings did twenty-plus years ago and as finding out that I was working-class fifteen years ago! Your article expresses life as I have always experienced it. I feel "normal" for the first time since my teen years!

Harvey, I have worked for many hours on my early sexual memories, and I know that they still hold lots of important discharge and re-evaluating but it has always felt to me that there was something else that needed to happen. It has always seemed to me that, in some core way, sexism was a piece of the picture.

I have never been very interested in sex beyond some brief experimentation during a couple periods of my life. Yes, I have unearthed some pretty traumatic early sexual memories and spent many hours discharging them. And as a result I have seen great changes in my power and effectiveness in the world. I have better relationships and am constantly amazed at the gains I make after these sessions, but the improvement seems to come from the discharge of violence, isolation, and invalidation. The sex piece brings those up for discharge, but the results have always been that I feel better about myself as a person who is not very interested in sex! I am firmer in my decision not to have sex if I don't want it. I have always assumed (and been led to believe) that somehow I would be more interested in sex if I discharged my "inhibitions." As the fears have been discharged I find myself less preoccupied with avoiding sex and situations where others may want to interact sexually with me. I am better able to initiate closeness, knowing that I have the power and right to decide what I will and will not engage in with others.

When I got married to a kind, smart, gentle man that I loved very much, I found myself faced with someone who wanted sex all the time and whom I so much wanted to please that I gave and gave and gave. I began to hate it, and when I tried taking control of when I had sex, his terror came up. He firmly believed that he had to have sex, and he became abusive. Some of the more dramatic reactions included times when he physically kicked me out of the bed and onto the floor; or, he busted in the door to a bedroom that I retreated to; or, he upended the bed I have moved into to get away from him, throwing me to the floor; or, he threatened me with divorce and loss of my children. (They are his birth children, not mine, but I have been their mother for most of their lives. I'm the only mother they remember! I thought I would die if I lost them!!) He threatened to publicly humiliate me by airing our difficulties in front of our friends and families. He would go a week or two at a time refusing to talk to me and treating me like shit.

Anyone I talked with told me that I was very inhibited and totally unreasonable in not "meeting his needs." "Men need sex after all." "He is such a good man to 'put up' with you!" "No other man would stand for it, you're lucky that he hasn't kicked you out!" I was "frigid and deserved whatever I got." "He works so hard and only wanted some sex to relax." "You are his wife, after all, isn't that your job!" "If you loved him, you wouldn't be so selfish. You'd keep him happy!" Everywhere I turned people told me I was the one who was screwed up!

It got to where I couldn't go to bed nights. I hated him, and I hated me! I was a wreck! We had a number of incidents of violence where I reacted and threw things at him. We're all damned lucky it was a wooden spoon and not a knife that was in my hand one night, or I'd be in prison, and he'd be dead!

With good counseling from X- (the only person who would encourage me in the direction of never having sex unless I wanted it, instead of trying to get me to work on what was wrong with me sexually), I decided that I had to either leave the relationship or I had to get things to where I could handle them - weird and inhibited as I was! I resolved that I would not leave the relationship, and that I would have things the way I needed to have them be even if it meant that he chose to leave me. I faced squarely and had many sessions on the realization that if he got restimulated enough he might leave me and forbid me to see my children. After many wrenching hours of discharge, I decided that I had to put myself first. That would be the greatest gift I could give my children - a model of courage and self-respect.

So I told him no more sex unless I wanted it. It has taken three years, and we are still working it out, but I get stronger all the time. He has always maintained that I am the one with the problem and that he is so patient in waiting for me to get myself straightened out.

When I first married him the only physical contact we had was sexual. He turned the simplest things into sex. I got to where I hated being touched by him and would never initiate any contact. He swore that we could not sit next to each other without him becoming painfully turned on. We couldn't sleep together without his having to have sex. He would even initiate sex when we were both asleep.

The effect of my early sexual memories was to keep me from standing up for myself and to keep me from persisting in getting close because of fear of sexual abuse, so it has been powerful for me to keep reaching for closeness on my own terms, and to treat him well, regardless of his reactions.

He has fought me tooth and nail, but Harvey, I have stuck to my guns (with lots of slips and messes in the process), and now we sleep cuddled together night after night, and we have had sex only twice in the past year! We can hug, sit together on the couch evenings, walk hand in hand, etc. - all without his getting restimulated!

He continues to tell me that I have to straighten out my sex stuff; he can't go on like this forever. He is angry, "because I won't work on it"! (Translation: I won't figure out how to make myself want to have sex whenever he wants it.) He resents RC, because the more I counsel on it the more relaxedly firm I am in respecting myself and not ever falling into the victim role again. I have only recently really begun to own that I may never want to have sex with him and that that is okay! Whether we have sex or not is up to me - no matter what he thinks or does! The threats have stopped. The pleading has lessened. The closeness is a hundred times better between us. He is finally beginning to understand that I have been working very hard on "it." Only, my "it" is making this relationship we have work for us!

The progress we have had around sexual issues gives me hope. I told him recently that I love him like I do many other friends, but I am not excited about this as a primary relationship and may not choose to stay married to him - though I will always be his friend. I have told him that he has to take on his sexism and classism if I am to be really interested in him. Again, he is a very sweet man, but he does not understand oppression and has no understanding of his own oppression as a middle-class man, as a small-business owner, or as a father. He has no understanding of classism and very little understanding of sexism. He will not allow me to adopt the children so that we are equal in the eyes of the law; he controls all the money (he gives me a liberal allowance, but holds me accountable for it and "invests" the rest), his work comes first, he refuses to do housework, etc. I don't expect perfection - this is a messy world and forward movement is messy and takes time - but I want a commitment from him that he will begin to examine and fight against oppression - his own and others'.

Since that discussion, he has awakened and cried and shaken for long periods of time in the middle of the night twice and talked more about how awful his life is. He is beginning to stand up to unreasonable work expectations that infringe on his time with family. I don't know how it will go, but I have learned that the thing I most need to do is to be true to myself and live my life well. In relationship to him I must trust myself, respect him and hang tough! It is messy, but progress is made. I have hope for this relationship for the first time in years!!

I have done all this despite a feeling that everyone whose opinions I value, would think I was just an inhibited, cold fish of a bitch - that I was only trying to protect my distresses! It means so much to have the validation from you, whom I respect and treasure, that indeed: (1) "rational sexual initiative and responsibility lies inherently with human females"; (2) a well-informed woman would be free from any pulls to participate in sex except when the natural functioning of her body would signal her the opportunity for reproduction," and then she could decide what she wanted to do about it!

What revolutionary thoughts! My God! Where will we go from here!?!

A big burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm not so weird after all!! FREE AT LAST! I am further empowered to continue to take full charge of my life - to discard both the effects of my early hurts and the effects of oppression. I have a new feeling - I feel as though I am more present in my body. One of the effects of the oppression has been to feel unsafe in my body. I feel right now as though I have filled out every inch of this body and am happy to be here and fully human - fully female!


Causing A Stir

The Rational Sexuality article is causing quite a stir around here and will elsewhere. Given the work I've done on my early sexual memories, I do sense I'm moving in that general direction: far less interest in sex and fewer pushbutton restimulations, yet when my partner "invites" me, I respond as completely and enjoyably us ever (if not more so). I'm not sure I'm willing to give up ever taking initiative there, at least at this point, but the desire to do so is certainly less.


Seems Like A Relief

I was sitting here looking out at my garden thinking about sex, and your recent article about rational sex. I was thinking about how much that article would have upset me several years ago, and how now it just seems like a relief. I think the fallout from the article will be intense, and I don't relish handling all of it, but I am so appreciative of your courage and willingness to keep pushing and thinking no matter what.


Are My Desires All Patterned?

I've just finished reading your article in July's Present Time on "Speculating About What Completely Rational Sexuality Would Be Like For Humans," and I have some questions.

You mentioned that sexual desire would occur during time of a women's ovulation, and that at such a time a woman could (1) decide to notice and enjoy the feelings but not act on them, (2) decide to be sexual in order to conceive, or (3) decide to use contraception to enjoy sex with a partner she loves.

One question I have concerns menopause. Does your speculation include rational sexuality for women once they are beyond childbearing years? If there is no ovulation, does that mean that there then would be no reason to be sexual, or would recreational sex still be an option even though there would be no chance or choice of pregnancy? Can post-menopausal women assume that any sexual desire must come from the pull of a pattern, since it wouldn't originate from the process of ovulation? Or in a rational society would post-menopausal women (having discharged thoroughly all their distress around sex) simply not ever feel the desire to be sexual?

Similarly, a question arises for women who decide not to bear children but are still menstruating. Will it make sense for them to "heed the call" that nature has built in to insure the continuation of the species if they know that the only reason they'd ever choose to be sexual would be for enjoyment and closeness?

I'm pleased to see within your speculation a recognition of the physiological impact of monthly hormonal changes that women go through. There's been some writing in Sisters about PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), but generally it seems that PMS symptoms are either pooh-poohed by counselors who brush them off as distress recordings but don't offer much help in the way of discharging them, or are held onto as the reality of our natural state as women. In society, PMS symptoms are sometimes cited as justifications for sexist ideology, e.g. the reason women shouldn't hold office is because they're unreasonable one week a month.

I'm puzzled by what seems to me to be encouragement to act on feelings produced by those hormones. If feelings are not a reliable guide to action, and it doesn't make sense to act on patterned sexual feelings brought on by other types of restimulation, where's the rationality of acting on feelings of sexual desire brought on by hormonal changes - isn't this hormonal instinct just an ancient inherited pattern?

For instance, if we wouldn't choose to act hopeless or grouchy or give in to the pull to overeat when monthly hormonal changes leave us feeling depressed, irritable, or craving sweets, why would we act sexual simply because the hypothalamus gland directs changes that leave us craving sexual satisfaction? Do you think that sex is a rational human capacity and that feelings which prompt sexual behavior can't be compared to PMS-type emotions which run contrary to our inherent nature, even though many people believe the same hormones cause both types of feelings?

Another question has to do with your statement that "there will be a great deal of touching and closeness between adults but only rarely...will it lead to any sexual feelings or activity." You seem to imply that the choices of how to act in regard to sexual feelings will naturally be offered as often as a woman ovulates, and I assume these choices will be an option during the entire period of time that she is fertile, which could be perhaps six days a month (since sperm can fertilize an egg for three days, perhaps up to five, and an egg can live for twelve to twenty-four hours). In the scheme of things, I suppose that even if one chose to be sexual at some time(s) during each fertile period, that within a relationship where there is lots of relaxed touching and closeness, even sex that occurred that often could still be considered a relatively "rare" outcome of this kind of closeness; however, I would not call that "rarely" being sexual. Is it your thinking that with all the interesting things there are to do in the world, unless one was pursuing biological parenthood, the prospect of being sexual would probably not hold enough interest to be freely chosen by many women much of the time?

It occurred to me that in this rational society, women would be very aware of their natural cycles (would every woman chart her fertility?) - so that women whose periods were sometimes irregular, for instance, wouldn't mistakenly attribute sexual feelings to ovulation and decide to act on them when those feelings might be the result of plain old restimulation and would be better discharged than acted upon. Maybe after a rational society had been in place for a while, larger numbers of people would be enjoying excellent health and physical functioning and probably an accompanying heightened awareness of their bodies and bodily processes, including female fertility cycles.

What exactly do you think a rational society would mean in terms of distress recordings that people carry around? Would those be eliminated entirely if we all become rational to the point of encouraging discharge immediately upon sustaining a hurt? Should we assume that in a rational society women would have no un-discharged distress about sexuality and would not likely be fooled by a patterned pull to be sexual? Or would the rationality of the new society simply make it easier to discharge distresses, but not preclude their existence?

I appreciate the help you gave me in a letter of last October responding to some questions I was struggling with at that time about sexuality and my relationship with my partner. The struggle continues, but things have moved some. Brief recap - P- and I have been together three years, were very sexually active (very compulsive) the first year. Since then, he hasn't had much desire to be sexual with me, which has felt very disappointing. About a year ago, we agreed to a six months' period of abstinence, since it hadn't been working out for us to be sexual for a good while before that. Since the end of that time, we have not found a way to successfully resume a sexual relationship.

I'm sure that, for me, old feelings have attached themselves to what might otherwise be a relaxed desire to have an enjoyable sexual relationship with P-. I thought that by now some dramatic early sexual memory would surface that would explain my addiction, but so far, nothing particularly tell-tale has come up. The counseling I've received has been beneficial up to a point (lots of discharge) but P- and I don't seem to be any closer to a workable sexual relationship. I have discharged for hours on wanting him, wanting him to want me, taking the direction of acknowledging that I'm a beautiful woman, that I can have what I want, taking charge, etc.

Given his patterns of inhibition, the only way I can see a sexual relationship happening between the two of us will be for me to counsel P- successfully about his sexual distress. I've been able to do that at times, but not consistently, due to the importance I place on us being sexual.

Mostly I've used the direction of getting what I want. At this point, being sexual with P- would be almost in spite of the fact that he doesn't want to. He recently told me that he feels like a "prop" when we're being sexual, that my frozen needs show up clearly to him and that he feels like he might as well not even be there. That didn't seem fair or accurate at first, but I had to admit that a fantasy I still carry is that P- would want to be with me, that our sexual relationship would be as exciting and passionate as it was before.

It seems like taking this "intermediate" direction of getting what I want by insisting that we be sexual because it's what I want is helping to grind in the distress for both of us. As long as I have any pull left from frozen needs to be loved and shown affection, being sexual only reinforces the feelings for me of how great it is to be close in that way (I feel very happy and fulfilled and want to be sexual again very soon). For P- it reinforces the feeling that he doesn't matter. Being rigid, as in "I'll never be sexual again," probably doesn't make sense, but it seems like completely getting rid of the compulsion that gets in the way of my effectively taking charge is going to mean a very long period of abstinence (years?).


There Must Be A Logically Consistent Approach

This note is to comment on your article on sexuality. I was very surprised to see what you wrote, but very pleased at the same time, since it is a more positive statement than a previous article. I have the following concerns about the consistency:

1. Assume that recreational sex is irrational.

If this is done, then the statement about recreational sex is inconsistent with our assumption and should be taken out.
The resulting article then becomes very consistent logically and very satisfying. The conclusion will be that sex is indulged in only when reproduction is desired and most likely to happen (during ovulation). Given the basic function of sex this seems very logical. It also rules out the need for prevention, dangers of accidental pregnancy, etc.
I am aware, however, of the nice aspects of sharing recreational sex with a loved one. I am also aware that my distress in this area effectively prevents me from making a reliable judgment on this issue.

I prefer this case for its simplicity and theoretical consistency.

2. Assume that recreational sex is rational.

If this is done, the article seems to imply that the enjoyment of sex will depend on the existence of the proper hormonal shift in the body of the female during ovulation. This shift would trigger inherited patterns of desiring sex.
I have a sense that this may be inconsistent with the notion of complete power over our bodies (the power to possibly produce the same hormonal changes at will when the situation otherwise is favorable).
It also seems to clash with the concept of our intelligence taking over and replacing our inherited patterns of behavior in areas where it makes sense for it to take over (certainly in this area).

In both cases, therefore, I detect inconsistencies.

I hope this is not total "volapyk" (Danish for incomprehensible utterings).


If Adam And Eve Had Been Knowledgeable

You say the basic motivation for sex is reproduction. If this is true, what need is there for sexual contact to be so exquisitely pleasurable? Even if the orgasmic enjoyment insures procreation, who is to say that pleasure is not the primary motivation? Did Adam and Eve (if you will) know the consequence of their act?

You say that sexual feelings, and activity, would be motivated, only, by the female's ovulation! What about those who no longer ovulate?

As with religious dogma, in saying that recreational, or erotic, sex is irrational, you create guilt and confusion! As with religious dogma, in saying that homosexuality is, therefore, irrational, you sanction and nourish Gay oppression!

If there are stresses in such interactions, they cannot be judged for all humankind in general! RC teaches that!

The roots of our sexual, spiritual, and emotional distresses grew in the ancient soils of such judgments!


Some Enthusiatic Agreement, Some Reservations

I finished reading your speculations about what completely rational sexuality would be like for humans. I want to share some of my thoughts about that with you.

I enthusiastically agreed with most of your speculations. Many of the ideas you offer as speculations are, I think, quite verifiably true. We can catalogue from our observations, much of the cultural conditioning for males and females. We can conclude from our experience of that conditioning as well as our observations of its effect on the lives of others, the oppressive nature of that conditioning. We can also judge the oppressiveness of the conditioning by analyzing it in the context of what we know to be true about humans.

There is one point where my experience diverges from your speculations. You speculate that rational, "well-informed females would be free from any pulls, patterned or otherwise, to participate in sex, except when the natural functioning of her body would signal her of the opportunity for reproduction."

When I read that, my mind signaled, "Here is someone who has never spent any time in a female body."

I want to share with you my experience of my female body. I remain aware that different cultures condition us to experience our bodies differently. When Africans dance in classical form, for instance, they dance their bodies, and seek the expression of those bodies. In contrast, when Europeans dance in classical form, they seek to escape from their body and seek the expression of something else, a butterfly, a gazelle, a waterfall, or a swan. With full awareness that my cultural and social conditioning has been intense, contradictory and pervasive, I am convinced that many of my bodily responses are biological and physiological in basis. It is my intention to sort these out.

For the past four years, I have been observing my reactions related to my sexuality. I decided to become celibate four years ago as part of a decision I made to work on relationships with men, especially intimate, partnering relationships. I concluded that my bundles of distresses related to sexuality would get in the way of that work. Becoming celibate seemed to be the only way to carry on that work with integrity. In retrospect, I can see the limitations of that decision. At the time, it was the best decision that I could make.

During this period of relative celibacy (I will explain what I mean by relative a bit later), I have examined my reactions to the absence of sex, as well as my reactions to earlier periods of time in my life when I was sexually active in ongoing relationships with a man. I clarify that my experience of sexuality has been in relationship with men. I acknowledge that women in sexual relationships with other women may have a different experience (as well as women in relationships with men, for that matter).

I have never experienced pregnancy. I have, since adolescence, experienced many sexual urges. I grew up in a Southern, Baptist, fundamentalist family. Sex was denied, repudiated at every turn, denounced as sinful, and never, ever discussed with children. The only information available to children were the hellfire and brimstone denouncements from the once-a-month, Sunday pulpit. Even today, my mother can mouth the word S E X only with great difficulty and embarrassment. As a budding adolescent, I was left with no assistance in understanding what was happening to my body. I had the good fortune to understand as a child that my mother, her church, and the society around her were way off-base when it came to sex. My mother held as a bible-sanctioned belief, the speculation that sex was for reproduction only.

I intend to take into session the possibility of massive restimulation that you, Harvey, could hold the same view as my mother. Quite aside from what happened to me personally, a major oppression for young adolescents is the failure of the society to provide appropriate information and assistance that will allow them to understand and come to agreeable and likeable terms with bodies that are sending messages to the brain about sex.

At any rate, I knew as a teenager that I did not want to reproduce at that time. I did not know that I would be unable to reproduce. I did know that I was experiencing body changes which I finally understood to be sexual urges. I had absolutely no one to talk about this with. I was left to try and figure it out on my own. I turned to my usual refuge, the library. Imagine, if you can, the section on sexuality in the "colored" library of a small, southern town in the1950s.

My tenth grade biology class provided zero information. My first breakthrough came with Modess, manufacturers of female sanitary napkins. The company installed a sanitary napkin machine in the girls bathroom at the high school. They also delivered a set of tiny pamphlets to the Home Economics class describing the process of menstruation. I did not menstruate until I graduated from high school when I was fifteen. The tiny bit of information contained in the three or four-page pamphlet was enormously helpful. It was worth every bit of the extensive punishment I got at home for having possession of the pamphlet, considered sinful because it contained an outline drawing of a woman's naked body.

I relate this story to illustrate my first point, that the sexual urgings I experienced seemed to be physiological rather than sociological. I was able to notice and study them in spite of, not because of, intense cultural conditioning.

I did not become regularly, sexually active until I was married at twenty-one. Presumably, because of the inexperience of myself and my husband, I did not enjoy sex. I did experience tremendous relief. Pure physical relief. My body structure changed. My posture changed. I had a different kind of energy. Changes in the molecular structure of my body were visible to my own eyes as well as to the eyes of others. I have observed this in other women. If I am around a woman for any period of time, I can pretty systematically tell when she is sexually active and when she is not, just by observing her body. Her skin, for instance, has more elasticity. Her face loses some of the tightness and takes on a more supple look.

Though I have not learned the vocabulary to appropriately describe these changes in my body, clearly, certain substances (endorphins) were released by the physical activity of sex that would not otherwise have been released. While I seldom experienced sex as pleasurable, the changes it produced in my body, my physiognomy, were definitely good for me.

My marriage lasted only a year. I could have done without the sex. I did not want to do without the changes that happened in my body that seemed to occur in conjunction with sexual activity. I created relationships so that I could have access to regular, comparably safe sex. (Safety was always a big issue for me since disease always seemed rampant in the black community, especially after we learned of the practice of sexual diseases being injected into people for the purposes of study by a variety of government agencies.)

It was a while before I learned orgasm, and to enjoy the experience of sex. Sex for pleasure rather than for need, was an entirely new concept for me in my thirties. I had the good fortune to have relationships with partners who saw to it that I had fulfilling sexual pleasure.

Though sexually satisfying, my relationships were still incomplete. Something was still missing from the relationship, and I was not willing to settle. I did come to understand that many women will stay in difficult and abusive relationships in exchange for the sense of physiological well-being that sexual activity, even bad sex, seems to produce.

I have not been willing to settle for a partial relationship. Thus the decision to become celibate so that I could learn what I needed to know in order to create a relationship that was both sexually fulfilling as well as emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically nurturing, fulfilling, and authenticating.

Today, I am over four years into that decision. There have been a couple of brief interludes. I thought I was ready to try again, and I sought and found a relationship that I thought would work. In both cases, I let the relationship go after a brief period of time (a few months), and returned to celibacy.

My most recent experience has left me with a new learning. This recent experience was in building a relationship without sex. I learned three important things, among many others. I learned that my confusions of sex, intimacy, and closeness occurred very early in life when the people who were trying to be close to me were completely afraid of sex. Second, I learned that to deny sexuality, and pretend that it was less important than intimacy and closeness, for example, was also in error. Third, I learned that trying to learn about sex, intimacy, and closeness through celibacy, was much like my trying to get rid of my internalized oppression related to longhair by cutting off all my hair.

(The length and texture of my hair was used for a time to erase some of the stigma of my very dark skin. People took great pride in my "good" hair. I dealt with that by cutting off my hair. For the ten years immediately prior to 1988, I kept my hair cropped close to my skull. When I let my hair grow in 1988, it became clear that keeping it cut was another part of the same internalized oppression. Getting rid of the hair in no way helped me to discharge the internalized oppression of valuing whiteness. Besides, my hair is my hair, and to claim all of myself means to claim my hair as well.)

My goal now has become to see what is really me. My hair, for instance, is not produced by distress. It is a natural part of my physiognomy. Sexual changes occur inside my body, unrelated to reproduction, that seem to be a natural part of my biological makeup. These changes seem to be produced by my biological structure, not by my distress, or by my cultural conditioning.

Thus, while it appears that my body physiology did not allow the reproduction of children, (some women are not fertile that way), I remain a being with sexual urges and needs. I can choose to respond to the urges or I can deny that they exist (my mother's choice). If I choose to respond to these sexual urges, I can learn a response that helps me to become more fully human, or I can respond on the basis of my distresses and my cultural and social conditioning.

At this time in my own life, I am learning:

  1. to know and understand my own biology and sexuality, and to distinguish between it and my cultural conditioning and my distresses;
  2. how to reclaim my connectedness with all humans;
  3. how to reclaim the capacity for closeness with any human; and
  4. how to create a relationship of physical, sexual, spiritual, emotional, and psychological closeness and intimacy with one male human.


This Discussion Is Needed

I want to express my deep appreciation to you for writing the article "Speculating About What Completely Rational Sexuality Would Be Like For Humans." I agree with all points made in this article. It was a breath of fresh air in my life to read your ideas. For some time now, I've been noticing that I'm usually only interested in sex during the middle of my menstrual cycle. I've been confused about this, often wandering if it wasn't my subconscious distress pattern expressing a yearning to have a child but have also wondered if it wasn't "normal."

In retrospect, I have always felt abnormal about my sexuality. When I first learned about pornography in the fourth grade, I was outraged - and this felt abnormal. When I reached junior high school and didn't want a boyfriend, this felt abnormal. I didn't think I was a Lesbian, but if having a boyfriend meant being sexual, I wasn't interested. I was actually terrified. I dated infrequently during high school because of this - and felt very abnormal.

During my college years, I finally began to break through my terror of men. It was a great relief to get physically close to men and to enjoy sexual feelings with them. I didn't have an orgasm until several years after I became sexually involved, and this felt abnormal. In each of the three long-term relationships I've been in (meaning one, two, and six years successively), I have felt inadequate sexually because I wasn't nearly as interested in having sex as my partners and I didn't have orgasms simply through intercourse. This is all very personal and embarrassing to write about, but I think the process of sharing this is useful.

RC has given me a glimpse of a world where I am not abnormal sexually. I have discharged profusely on my early sexual memories and there's plenty more to come. I think that my sexual distress has been feeling shame, guilt, embarrassment, and inhibition and anger around sex. I now think that I only appear inhibited in contrast to many men and some women I know. Fortunately or unfortunately, my current partner carries the distress of sexual compulsiveness. He has said to me that until he met me, he felt good about his sexuality but now he is questioning if he's not "abnormal" - there was fear and anger in his voice as he expressed these thoughts to me.

I am strengthened tremendously by your article to assert what I know to be true about human sexuality with my partner, in discussion with friends, and as a teacher in and out of RC. Young people especially need this information and women can take a great deal of leadership to correct the current sexual irrationality in our culture.


We're Not Just Animals

I enjoyed reading your recent article in Present Time on rational sexuality. It immediately brought to mind a few questions I wanted to share with you.

What would constitute rational sex for women who don't ovulate, i.e., postmenopausal women? Is there no rational sex for them? Or would rational sex be a different situation for postmenopausal women on hormone replacement versus those not on hormones?

The most interesting aspect of the article is that in the most basic theory of RC, you have put forward the belief that humans are different than animals in that we are not tied to just living out our biology, our instincts. We can use our power of creative thinking to decide and act in ways that we judge to be most rational and progressive.

Yet, in your essay on rational sexuality, you seem to be saying that in this one particular area we are like other mammals, and should let female hormone levels be our guide for decision-making.

I would love to hear more of your ideas on the subject and would particularly enjoy hearing you expand on the questions I've raised.


Women Take The Lead

I very much appreciated your article in Present Time on women taking the lead in sexual relationships with men. There is no doubt that for me sexual desire is related to the menstrual cycle, with greatest interest around ovulation, as you say. That is always the time I break any vow I've made not to masturbate!

My lover is a great inspiration on this subject. He is Nigerian and where he grew up masturbation seems to have been almost unheard of, for whatever reason. He doesn't do it, even when not in a sexual relationship, and seems to have no hang-ups about having to climax. He's a great model.


Our Intelligence Could Successfully Override Our Biology

I read the recent Present Time article "Speculating About What Completely Rational Sexuality Would Be Like for Humans" with interest. What I like about it is the way it takes the preoccupation out of our motivation and sexuality. I like the view of a future where we would be involved in "high priority activities" and not even consider being sexual. That seems right to me and I think it already happens already with some people. I like thinking about the implications of life without the preoccupation. Advertising would be different, and how! I imagine relationships would be different, too. Without sex as the focus, when closeness and affection are no longer rare, will we still be in "couples"? Will monogamy be a consideration? How will we choose our sexual partners? In that future, I think sex will certainly be less important. And it will be even more enjoyable, because we will go to it with our zest and love instead of our fears and loneliness. We will be completely present.

There seems to me to be something missing from the scenario, however. What makes humans different from animals is that we don't live by a set of instincts, but can come up with a unique response to each situation. As a species, we are creative in the ways we respond to our basic needs and indeed, even have needs beyond those of animals. If you look at food as an example, there are many foods which will nourish our bodies well. But we also want our food to satisfy our taste and other sensibilities. We have created foods which are delicious and beautiful, which give us pleasure. This creativity, this going beyond the basics, is part of what makes us human. We want our surroundings to be beautiful. We stop and smell the roses, listen to Mozart and linger under the apple tree at sunset to enjoy the pleasures our senses give us. Certainly, our goal is to let our logic lead us to action. We must not be preoccupied with delicious food or other pleasures to the point of neglecting our high priority projects or our goals. And it would be a reflection of distress if we ate foods or played games which were injurious to our health.

In a similar way, I think sex for humans plays more than a reproductive role. It is an elegant way of being close. And it is pleasurable and fun. (Is our ability to feel sexual one of our senses?) I think completely rational sexuality will reflect those other aspects and will be flexible. It will go beyond responding to ovulation. For example, suppose a young woman has enjoyed sex for some years and then has the misfortune of undergoing a hysterectomy, and no longer has the capacity to ovulate or reproduce. She would remember the pleasure and intimacy of being sexual, how much fun it was and what a nice way it was to be close. She is certainly still capable of enjoying the recreational side of sex. Couldn't it possibly be a flexible response to the desire for that kind of recreation, if the timing and the partner were right, to make love? Just as she might decide to redecorate her room, go to a concert, or cook Chinese food for dinner? If she approached a sexual partner of her choice, might not that person respond with enthusiasm and be stimulated? And what about other non-ovulating people? If one of her former partners approached her with fond memories and a proposal of sexual recreation, might she not respond, if the circumstances were right, with equal enthusiasm? Aren't the possibilities unlimited by the definition of our intelligence?

It seems to me that our intelligence would override our biology. If our biology rules us we would have men lining up when a woman ovulated and the gene pool would be well served. That is the way many animals do it, including our closest biological "relatives," the chimps.

When our preoccupation and other distress connected to sexuality are washed away by discharge, I don't think we will lose our appreciation of what sex has to offer. It may become comparable to going for a swim on a warm evening, or playing a rousing game of ping pong; it may be rare, but it will still be one of our many choices with many possibilities. That's what I think. What do others think?


From Our Lunch-Time Topic Group

Some information shared at the Women and Menopause lunch-time topic group at the July Leaders' Conference relates to your speculation in The List and to your recent Present Time article "Speculating About What Completely Rational Sexuality Would Be Like For Humans."

Because of another appointment, I wasn't able to stay to the end of each woman sharing her experience and/or questions, but I did note that several who had stopped menstruating totally two to four years ago all said that they had experienced vaginal dryness and therefore either had stopped having intercourse or had started taking hormones in one form or another in order to be able to continue to enjoy intercourse themselves or be there for their partners. Other than reading in the wide-world women's health literature on the one hand that doctors often recommend that women take hormones for vaginal dryness (among other reasons) and on the other that the hormones may be harmful to the women taking them and that not enough years have passed for us to know, I have not seen any discussion of this issue and certainly not a discussion of the intimate inter-relationship of vaginal dryness, hormones, sexuality, women's and men's relationships, and women's health.

I mentioned this to J- when we had only a brief moment together and will mention it to her again as well as raise this topic at future discussions on menopause. This is only one small dimension of the issues related to your "speculations"; many others need to be raised and examined. Thanks for getting the discussion going.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00