It is possible that some of my discussions of sex may prove to be disturbing to some people. I do not present these ideas to purposely shock people, but rather because they fit into the larger picture I am trying to create of the harmful effects of sensory distortion in our living environments today. To my way of thinking, modern sexual behavior is one of many seemingly disparate types of behavior being displayed today that are being influenced by a common global situation.
For the purposes of our discussion today, I am going to focus on heterosexual sex. When I use the word “sex” for purposes of brevity in this essay, I will be referring to hetersoexual sex. Homosexuality will be discussed at a later time.
Heterosexual sex represents the perfect combination of a process that simultaneously makes and preserves imprints. In the process of making love, a man and a woman make experiential and sometimes emotional imprints on each other. Sometimes sex leads to infatuation, and sometimes it forms a component of true love which can endure over time. Sometimes sex leads to pregnancy which, as a one-two combination, represents nature’s most fundamental example of a process where making an imprint leads to a substantive fixed imprint.
There have been certain patterns to the attitudes towards sex in traditional societies. In many societies, it was thought that premarital sex was important as a way to enjoy sex without responsibility and to develop sexual confidence and sexual technique. These were societies where people experienced the organic environments surrounding them as an embracing grounding component in their lives. In most cases, they were societies where internal self coherence was more important than external self definition. One’s strength came from how one held oneself together within rather than how one presented oneself in a unique way in the external world. Strong self coherence leads to feeling comfortable blending with others and participating in a strong collective imprint in a society. In such a society, it was a way to promote a bonding of the community in which interchanging partners participated.
So sex is a multi-layer imprint experience. In other societies in the past, any experience of sex was thought to leave by itself a fixed imprint every bit as lasting for the lovers involved as the sometime result of a baby. These societies were composed of people trying to define themselves as figures to stand against the strong impelling influences of an organic grounded environment that these people experienced as predisposed to decay, rot and general perishability and as threatening to swallow them up both physically and psychologically. Sex was viewed as an interpersonal extension of their larger organic environment. To these conservative societies, multiple sexual partners were perceived as diverse multiple imprints that threatened to take away a person’s self definition and his capacity to commit to any one partner. In these societies, the first experience was considered to be an important indelible experience. So if a continuing relationship was to be encouraged, the first contact was to be done within the context of marriage.
Still other societies vacillated back and forth between the attitudes of these two sexual postures: formally espousing no sex before marriage and yet allowing discreet premarital and even extramarital relationships. And this is because people have been torn through history between the desire for being stimulated by making and receiving imprints with different partners and the desire to preserve imprints by creating a sexual exclusivity within a committed married couple.
Today, however, we are experiencing something uniquely different in the world of sexuality. Sex today has become a strategy for helping people to survive the sensory distortion of modern technological society. Another person’s body is one of the few organic surfaces left to feel organically connected to the external world. And in our overpopulated world, there are multiple other bodies available in order to get the diversity of organic stimulation one would get in a forest, on a lake, in a flower garden or on a mountain. Sex becomes a vehicle for obtaining a substitute communion with a larger organic external environment. Sex becomes a vehicle for breaking out of laminated surfaces.
This is no longer about the premarital sex that occurs in certain tribes and traditional communities and that leads to a bondedness among group members and participation in the collective imprint of a generation. Today’s sex tends to be a more desperate sex to feel organically alive.
The development of the birth control pill and IUD has mad it much easier to separate the making imprint aspect of sex and the preserving imprint aspect of sex. Heterosexual sexual activity has become severed from pregnancy activity. In addition, these improved forms of contraception, which can be used to allow committed lovers and spouses to have sex without pregnancy, create the opportunity for individuals to engage in a totally uncommitted and almost anonymous “free love“. People “hook up” with another person in order to get a shot of organic stimulation to fight sensory distortion. Even HIV hasn’t slowed this hooking up sexual activity down, as many people have reverted back to the use of condoms in addition to birth control pills and IUD’s to protect themselves against contraction of the disease, and many people take their chances with unprotected sex. Sex has become an important aspect of emotional survival.
As people try to find the means to deal with the harmful psychological effects of sensory distortion, sex becomes a means to try and maintain an internal equilibrium. Sex becomes a means to shock people out of the effects of the numbness in a vacuum and to isolate people from the sensory disruption that occurs in overstimulating places in the environment: the tension pockets. All different forms of kinky sex are used to light the fire of life in people who feel less and less alive from the sensory distortion in their living environments.
In today‘s world, for men who have become impotent, science has created new drugs. However, younger men who have no problem with sexual performance use these drugs to “enhance” sexual performance. They are really using these drugs to deal with a psychologically-based general numbness.
As people are increasingly surrounded by an environment defined by mechanical and electronic processes, even their sexuality becomes impinged by mechanisms. More and more people are turning to electronic sex toys to satisfy themselves. One can even find sex toys that can be manipulated by another person at a distance. One might ask what is wrong with using these if they provide pleasure and nobody gets hurt. Taken by themselves, there seems to be nothing wrong with using these sex toys. But within the larger picture, they represent one more aspect of our lives where we place a machine surface between us and other potential organic surfaces. And cumulatively, the mirroring and modeling and leaching and blending effects of all these complex machines can be dangerous.
The next step will be virtual reality sex, so that people can pull themselves entirely out of the distorted effects of modern technological environments into a vacuumized version of sex. People will attach themselves to a machine where they experience virtual sex. It will become sex with a pseudo other person where the only person one really has to satisfy is oneself. No necessity to be involved with imprints. In such an environment, one is truly free of preoccupation with hurt feelings or lack of commitment. One walks away satisfied, away from a sex object that doesn’t exist apart from one’s desires.
In an environment of sensory distortion, sexual activity is increasingly unconcerned with making or preserving individual or collective imprints. There is little bonding between people without an organic template, and that is shrinking in today‘s world. One hooks up with another person for a basic isolating physical satisfaction.
I realize that I have been dealing rather abstractly and mechanically with a subject that one is accustomed to hearing dealt with in more feeling intimate terms. But that is precisely the point. Even as sex is used as a defense against sensory distortion, aspects of the sensory distortion start to leach into sex. And real intimacy becomes increasingly difficult with a template of organic grounding that is shrinking. In other words, there is a reason that newlyweds go to romantic resorts in beautiful settings for their honeymoons. Romantic love and intimacy are enhanced by organic grounded environments. Lovers can more easily make imprints surrounded by palm trees and sandy beaches and a deep blue sea.
c 2012 Laurence Mesirow