Down the Winding Road of Desire

It’s a huge subject. Entire philosophies – from Buddhism to Epicureanism – have been built around it, its problems and pleasures.

Desire. The strong feeling of wanting.

Usually people mean sexual desire. It’s the kind that has the most urgent impact on their lives. Frustration, or satisfaction, rolling through minds and emotions like waves.

Biologists tell us it’s simply the urge to reproduce. The rest of us think they should maybe get out a little more. Or at least look at the facts. Even if the testes or ovaries are removed, desire remains. Castrati famously took many lovers, so it’s not exactly a recent discovery.

But it’s still the body’s urge! they reply. The brain guides it and will continue even if it makes no sense! Many psychologists and anthropologists nod in agreement. Others smile wryly and clear their throats to begin a correction for their cohorts.

Propagation is the essential function of species, yes; but it is not the only function of humanity. Nor is mere survival and our social nature enough to explain it. No, we are more than that, and to deny the fact is deliberate self-deception.

We are made to connect with each other. There are so many ways to do so, and sex is without question the deepest, most intimate.

Oh, a kiss is supposed to be? I love to kiss, make no mistake. Without kisses, I parch. I will not and shall not do without them. But a kiss is a conversation, and while it’s a deeper and more eloquent conversation than most, sex is that and more – or can be. If not, you may be doing it wrong, or for the wrong reasons. We’ll discuss it another time, I promise, this thing about a kiss being the paragon of affection. In any case, the desire for a kiss comes from the same well.

No, sex drives connection far, far beyond reproductive purposes (and is a sad and pale thing if used only for such) because we are made so that it should.  We are built for merging, more than physically, with another. Sexual contact is only the beginning of it. The entire body becomes a source of blending with the chosen Other. The souls connect, the minds touch, the self is validated as both worthy and able. This is what desire desires.

The source of desire is more than organic chemicals, more than our species calling us to continue its course. It is more than mere societal bonding, a mere interest in pleasant sensation.

Yet when it falters, that complexity makes much more difficult the problem of restarting it. Its chemical components are well known… but while some research suggests that, for example, low testosterone is not the cause of many women’s lack of libido, testosterone therapy will reliably kick-start it. Psychological problems are well established as a wide variety of reasons for loss of desire – so much so that trying to find a mental issue has distracted many from identifying a simple physical cure. Then there are the (rather brash) assumptions made regarding one sex or the other, that women lose desire for mental reasons and men only for physical – when neither stereotype contains enough truth to even bother with.

And then there is the problem of those who have no desire, and are undesirous of reconnecting that crucial bit of humanity with themselves. The ones who do not care that they do not care. And those trapped behind the uncaring ones’ entirely legal and socially acceptable wall of abandonment: what of them, and their denied desire?

The subject of desire is indeed enormous. How is it triggered or maintained? What does it have to do with real fulfillment, or spirituality, or longevity? What does its success look like?

It’s also filled with truths that may seem nonintuitive. For example: desire follows arousal. There are actually proverbs to that effect, and it is an established, psychological and medical sexual truth. From one point of view it’s obvious, to another nonsensical. And of course there are the truths that are deeply, deliciously politically incorrect. Again, blindingly obvious; yet most are blind to them, and suffer from their often willful ignorance.

It boils down to fully embracing your marvelous humanity. Find out what you truly are, and guide it where it leads you. Another paradox? Not so much as it might seem.

As the song says, “La question c’est voulez-vous?”

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Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.