Seven years ago I was just beginning to teach on Relationships. It was then I first taught a class with predominately young South African men. To say I was ill-prepared is an understatement. The morning when we dove in to the topic of sexuality was both humorous and eye-opening. As I taught I began to hear these half-whispered comments, “I’m feeling hungry”. It went on with hands rubbing stomachs and giggling, “I’m really getting hungry now!”. I initially thought, perhaps we need to take a class break for drinks and snacks. Oh how naive I was! Their comments, of course, were simply a cultural euphemism for being turned on or desiring sex.
The next day I ran smack dab in to another South African cultural belief. It goes basically like this; if men don’t have sex then the sperm goes to their brains and makes them crazy. This is why we see hospitals for mentally ill patients. It’s full of under-sexed men.
This is slightly shocking to a Western mind. But are we really any different?
I can recall numerous episodes of the TV show Friends where (pick one) Chandler/Joey/Ross walk in to the room, declares he hasn’t had sex in 5 weeks and the rest of the friends stand back in utter amazement that he is still alive.
In both these examples it strikes me that on some level we have a belief that sex is merely an appetite. It’s like potato chips. We eat it when we want it. When we don’t want it, we don’t eat it. If I crave a potato chip for my own pleasure then I can have it because it’s just satisfying a craving. In ancient Greece they said this, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”. This was their way of saying, “sex for my pleasure and my pleasure is sex”. Basically, sex is just an appetite.
The potato chip is there for my pleasure, the potato chip deserves and wants nothing from me. Consumerism is a one-way street, it’s all about the individuals desires and cravings. It’s not a relationship, it’s an appetite to be satisfied.
You and I are different, right?
As I look around, here are some ways it strikes me we can treat sex like a potato chip:
Porn is a consumer act. Porn says that sex has nothing to do with a relationship, it is just for feeding your appetite. I get it for my pleasure, how I want it, when I want it with no giving back of myself… I might even pay for it. I take in with my eyes and consume. It’s all about me and my urges. The women or man in that porn is not a person, they are sexual pleasure for my consumption, to feed my appetite.
This is especially for women. 50 Shades of Grey is a classic example of sexual fantasy for consumption. I can enter a sexual fantasy in my mind without actually having to engage in real relationship. From book sales, it seems that 50 Shades is a pretty tasty potato chip. When we consume sexual content like chocolate, the satisfaction also lasts about as long and as deep as chocolate. Meaning, not long and not deep at all.
Saying “No” to sex:
Here’s a thought that might get me in trouble but let’s give it a go. I think that there are times that women denying their husbands sex can be making sex in to a consumer act. Consuming sex as a one-way physical appetite is easy to see. Is it not also treating sex as a mere appetite when a women tells her husband repeatedly that she doesn’t want to have sex tonight, “because I don’t feel like it”. I also don’t eat potato chips when I don’t feel like it. But sex is not a potato chip. I don’t consume or not consume simply based on my appetite.
Sex is a relationship. A giving of one’s self to another. What if we re-phrased it to say, “I don’t feel like being generous or loving towards you tonight?”. How would this change our view? Perhaps it’s possible that sexual frequency based on “do I feel like it?” can be treating sex as an appetite and nothing more. The same can go for men who expect sex when they feel like it and not considering the wife’s feelings, desires and personal place.
The truth is, sex is not a potato chip, chocolate, a hamburger or anything like that. Sex is not just an urge, desire or craving akin to your favourite meal. Sex is so much more. Sex is something that we only truly receive when we ourselves give, not just of our bodies but of our whole selves. It is in the giving that we truly receive and our deepest appetites are filled.