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No, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” doesn’t need to be updated to emphasize consent

Unpopular opinion time! “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” isn’t a rape song. It’s not even a rapey song. It’s a seduction song, and we used to know the difference between seduction and rape, before we elevated consent to the highest good.

Apparently there is an arch parody that updates the song to emphasize consent. I despise arch parodies, so I refuse to watch it, and you can’t make me.

For the record, I don’t even especially like the original song. It’s okay, as far as cutesy duets go. It does an adequate job of capturing a familiar relationship between a man and a woman. As with any song, you can make it come across as creepy and criminal; but you can also make it come across as it was originally intended: as playful.  The couple is literally playing a game, a very old one, where the man wants what he wants, and the woman wants it too, but it’s more fun for both of them when he has to work for it a little bit. It’s a song about persuasion. That’s what seduction is, and that’s what makes the song interesting: the tension. If there is no tension, there is no song.

Here are the full lyrics. The woman’s lines are in parenthesis. If you’re convinced this song is a rape song, please do read through the lyrics before you read the rest of this post!

You’ll note that the only protests the woman makes are that her reputation might be soiled. She doesn’t say that she wants to go, only that she should. This is because  . . . I’m dying a little inside because I actually have to say it . . . she actually wants to stay. As women often do, when they are already in a relationship with a man they are attracted to and with whom they have been spending a romantic evening, and whom they have been telling repeatedly that they are actually interested in staying.

Most critics get hung up on the line, “Say, what’s in this drink?” The assumption is that he’s slipped a drug into her cocktail (or, occasionally, that he’s spiked her virgin drink with alcohol). Okay. Or maybe, at the end of an evening of dancing and drinking, he’s added a little more liquor than she’s expecting. Or maybe he hasn’t done anything, other than give her the “half a drink more” she just asked for, and she’s playfully making an excuse for what she’s about to do:  Whoo, what’s in this drink? I’m acting all silly, but it can’t be my fault, mercy me!  This was a standard trope of that era. Anytime something weird goes on, you blame the bottle.

Again: there is no indication, unless you take that one line out of context, that there is anything sinister going on. There is overwhelming evidence, if you listen to the whole song, that it’s a song about a pleasurable interplay between the sexes.

Heck, if we’re going to give this song the darkest possible reading, and single out one line while ignoring the context, why not call it the False Rape Accusation song? After all, the woman says, “At least I’m gonna say that I tried!” You see? She’s calculating a malicious plan to claim that she didn’t give consent, so that when her family and neighbors look askance at her for spending the night, she can make it seem like it was against her will!

Humbug. This is what happens when we’re all trained to see consent as the highest good. This is what happens when we’re trained to ignore context. People who can’t tell the difference between persuasion and force are people who have forgotten why consent is so important.

Consent isn’t valuable in itself. If it were, then it would be a holy and solemn moment when we check the “I agree” box when signing onto free WiFi at Dunkin’ Donuts. Consent is only a good thing because it’s in service to other things — higher things with intrinsic value, such as fidelity, free will, self sacrifice, respect, happiness, integrity, and . . . love. These are all things that you can’t have unless you have consent.

But when all you look for is consent, and you ignore the context, you get two human beings who see each other in rigid roles — business partners with black and white contractual obligations. In short, you have what modern people say they despise about the bad old days: love as a business arrangement.

My friends, I firmly believe there is such a thing as rape culture. When we wink and smirk and say, “Boys will be boys,” we degrade both women and men, and we teach women that they have a duty to give men whatever they want so they’re not a tease or a downer. We teach men that they can’t control themselves. We teach women that they can’t really say no, and that if they do, they’ll be scoffed at or blamed or disbelieved. When we tell the world that “no means maybe,” we’re setting the stage for rape.

But is this song doing that? Or is it just a little vignette of that deliciously warm in-between place, where reasonable people can have fun together? Because when we step outside, and make everything black and white, then, baby, it’s cold. So cold.

We degrade both men and women when we tell them that sex is just another contractual obligation — and that there’s no difference between a violent encounter between strangers, and a playful exchange between a romantic couple, and a violent exchange between a romantic couple, and a loving relationship in marriage, and a violent relationship in marriage. We’re told that the relationship doesn’t matter, and that the actual behavior has no intrinsic meaning. The only thing that matters is consent. We think that focusing on consent will ensure that no one will be degraded or taken advantage of; but instead, it has won us abominations like “empowering porn” and 50 Shades of Gray and even the suggestion that children can give consent.  It wins us a generation of kids that asks things like, “How can I tell if she consents or not, if she’s not conscious?” (A real question I read from a high school kid; I’ll add the link if I can find it again!) These miseries are not a side effect; they are the direct result of a culture that elevates consent to the highest good.

It’s not only promiscuous, secular types whose lives are impoverished by the cold rule of consent. I’m a member of a group of Catholics where one young woman wrote for advice about her husband, who, she tearfully reported, kissed her without first asking consent. This made her feel violated.

It was her husband.

Who kissed her.

And she thought he needed to ask consent every time.

This is where the pendulum has swung. We’ve pathologized the normal, healthy, give-and-take of love. We’ve taught people that there is no such thing as context: that’s it’s fair game to ignore the entire relationship and to reduce each other to business partners.

Now, if you’ve been victimized or abused, then this is probably not going to be your favorite song. You’re free to find it creepy, and you’re free to change the station. But we don’t heal from abuse by turning the whole world into an isolation ward. Healthy relationships, where the context does allow for some interplay and ambiguity, should be the norm, and they should dare to speak their healthy name.

And one more thing (and I could write volumes about this): not everything is a lesson. Not every pop song is a primer for how to behave. I tell my kids that it’s our duty to be aware of what the world is teaching us, for good or ill; but just because we’re learning something doesn’t mean there was a life lesson intended.  Sometimes art, including pop art (like pop songs) is just giving you a slice of human experience, and when it feels familiar, then it’s done well, period.

No wonder people have no idea how to stay married anymore. They expect everything to be a lesson, and they expect those lessons to be black and white. They think that life is going to give them crystal clear boundaries. They think that it’s always going to be obvious what they can expect from other people and from themselves.

I’m not talking about sex, here; I’m talking about love, and about life in general — life without context, life without tension, life without ambiguity, life without play. Baby, it doesn’t get any colder than that.

***
Image: Pedro Ignacio Guridi via Flickr (Creative Commons)
This essay ran in a slightly different form on Aleteia in 2015.

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Is it easier for rich people to have big families?

Heart of money

David Mills is doing a little self-examination at Aleteia with A Marxist Lesson for Breeding Catholics: What is romance to the comfortable can be a burden to the poor and sick. Mills is a good and honest man, and has a knack for prodding our weak spots without excusing himself. I think he’s only half right in this essay, though.

His main thesis: Most of the Catholics writing about Catholic sexuality are resting comfortably in a place of privilege — and they should knock it off. For a Catholic middle class couple, says Mills, having another child

 may mean giving up a vacation if the family’s wealthy, or the Thursday family dinner out if the family’s middle class. Her arrival won’t mean giving up food, or rent or the parochial school that can make all the difference to his older siblings’ future.

It’s easy, he says, for a financially secure couple to let their marriages be fruitful, and to see Catholic sexual teaching as a lovely and liberating thing. But, says Mills, the poor do not have this luxury, and may face genuine hardships that a middle class couple never even considers.

Mills says,

 The affluent for whom the Catholic teaching is not a great burden can fall to the temptations of their class, one of which is to think of their children as lifestyle accessories … You can feel that God rewarded your obedience and sacrifice by giving you more “toys” than your friends have.

He concludes:

We the comfortable, who speak so romantically of being open to life—because for us, with our privileges, it is a romance—could find ways to make it a romance, and not a terror, for others too.

Overall, he has a very good point — and truly, the main reason my book about the struggles of NFP sold so well was because there was such a glut of “perky” public discourse on the topic. About a decade ago, just about anybody who talked about the Church’s sexual teaching talked about how lovely, how fulfilling, how empowering, how enlightening, how life-changingly, marriage-buildingly, blindingly awesome it all is. So the world was pretty ready for a book that said, “Yes, but it’s also really hard, and sometimes it stinks on ice. Here’s why it’s still a good idea.” (And if you’re interested in making my life a little more romantic, then for goodness’ sake, buy my book!)

It’s a bad idea to present Church teaching as a golden ticket to happiness. But more specifically, I have a quibble with the idea that material wealth usually makes it easier to be “open to life” (a phrase which Mills uses to mean “ready to have another baby,” which is really only a part of what that phrase means — but that’s a post for another day!). Depending on what crowd you’re in, you can get very different ideas about who’s struggling with what. I mean no disrespect, but Mills, a white-bearded male scholar, most likely reads about Catholic sexual teaching in books and journals, where one is unlikely to hear anything candid, raw, unpolished or, frankly, honest. For some more useful research on the topic, try hanging around in the back of the church with other women who can’t sleep because they’re not sure if they’re pregnant or not, and they can’t make up their minds how guilty to feel about the way they feel about it.

He does acknowledge that the poor aren’t just helpless saps, too anemic to grapple with the headiness of solid doctrine:

The poor are not merely victims but moral agents who can teach the comfortable, not least about the good life and the place of children therein. As Pope Francis said, “For most poor people, a child is a treasure. … Let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child.”

I wish he had said more about this. In truth, it’s often wealthy couples who struggle more with the notion of having another baby.  Poor couples can be so accustomed to uncertainty, and so used to making the best out of whatever happens, that the notion of having yet another child is less terrifying to them than it would be to a wealthy, secure couple who feel like their material lives, at least, are under control. A couple with an empty checking account and a fridge full of government cheese can laugh hilariously when they read that it takes $245,000 to raise a child; but a couple who actually has $245,000 in the bank might gulp and think twice before taking that kind of plunge.

Poverty is (or at least can be) a great teacher, because we are (as Mills points out) allpoor in one way or another — if not materially, than maybe physically, or emotionally, or in our relationships. Being poor in any of these ways makes it obvious that we are not in control, but that we still need to work very hard to get more in control — which is an excellent model for how to approach parenthood, and marriage, and life in general. Try really hard all the time; realize, all the time, that a lot of what happens is not up to you.

Is it easy to trust God, with your sexual life and otherwise, when you’re poor? I’m not going to say yes! Poverty is no joke, and being poor and pregnant can be twelve different kinds of miserable. But I’m not going to say that money makes it easier to trust God. There’s a reason Jesus warned about getting bogged down with riches.

As for why it’s mainly the secure and happy who write about sex, there are two reasons. The first is legitimate, and it’s that people who struggle don’t want to reveal private things about their marriage to the world.  It may be comforting for Jack and Joanne to read that Alyssa and Aaron had a big fight about sex; but Aaron probably won’t appreciate it if Alyssa spills all to the Huffington Post.

The second reason is less defensible. We faithful can be loathe to speak publicly about our struggles because we’re afraid that we’ll scare away the undecided — that our suffering will be the final nudge that tips an on-the-fence couple the wrong way.  So we Happy Face it up, thinking we’re helping the Holy Spirit out with one of His less-successful PR campaigns.

Poverty comes in many forms, as Mills acknowledges; and so does faith in God. I am working on learning how to put more trust in the truth when I write about my faith. It’s not up to me to paste a happy ending on the word of God, and that is true no matter how much money I have in the bank.

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Living in a panic room: Virtuous pedophiles?

6270016020_e3b6e03d7e

“Eternally hunkered down in a panic room.” That’s how one psychologist describes  the interior lives of people who are sexually attracted to prepubescent children.

Who could pity a pedophile? Of all the crimes in the world, child abuse rightly seem unforgivable.  “It would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” That’s what Christ said about people who hurt little children.

But that’s how we feel about people who actually commit these unspeakable crimes. What about people who, through great effort, don’t?

Say you feel sexually attracted to children. You don’t want to feel that way, but you do, and you have felt that way your whole life. You’ve never acted on your attraction, but you’re afraid you might. What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to live your life?

I need to speak to a therapist because I don’t think I can get through this on my own. But if I talk to a therapist he could report me, because I have to talk about my attraction to young girls. I don’t know whether he would or not and don’t even know how to go about getting more information. Even the friendships I have are in danger of falling apart because I can’t just keep saying ‘I’m fine’ and I can’t talk to anyone about my problem. I think about suicide a lot.

This quote comes from a website I came across the other day. It’s called Virtuous Pedophiles,  and its goal is not to normalize pedophilia but to “provide peer support and information about available resources to help pedophiles lead happy, productive lives.” They say,  “Our highest priority is to help pedophiles never abuse children.”

From what I can see, the approach is in keeping with how the Church understands temptation and sin: there is a difference between being tempted to do something, and actually doing it. People who are tempted are not sinners simply because they are tempted — but they do need help. It is possible that our extreme and fitting repugnance of crimes against children is actually making it harder for pedophiles to avoid committing these crimes, because there is no structure in place to help pedophiles who have never acted on their urges. People are, in effect, punished for admitting that they need help.

A few years ago, the American Psychological Association printed a new version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and for the first time, it classified pedophilia as a “sexual orientation.” The nation responded with horror, and the APA quickly retracted what it called an “error.” In a statement, the APA said:

“Sexual orientation” is not a term used in the diagnostic criteria for pedophilic disorder and its use in the DSM-5 text discussion is an error and should read “sexual interest.” In fact, APA considers pedophilic disorder a “paraphilia,” not a “sexual orientation.” This error will be corrected in the electronic version of DSM-5 and the next printing of the manual.

APA stands firmly behind efforts to criminally prosecute those who sexually abuse and exploit children and adolescents. We also support continued efforts to develop treatments for those with pedophilic disorder with the goal of preventing future acts of abuse.

In other words, pedophilic disorder means that you are attracted to children, not that you do abuse children. If you have this disorder, you should be able to speak about it with a therapist, to help you avoid acting on your involuntary attraction. It is neither a sin nor a crime to be tempted, but it is treated as both.

It is possible that the APA briefly used the term “sexual orientation” because they were attempting to classify non-abusive pedophiles in such a way that they could more easily speak to their therapists about their urges without triggering mandatory reporting.

I am not sure if this was the reasoning behind the choice to say “sexual orientation” (and Virtuous Pedophiles does use the term “orientation” in its site, which is disturbing).  There is most certainly a push, in some quarters, to normalize the sexual abuse of children, and to call pedophilia just one more shade in the rainbow. Goodness knows that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, as well as in nearly every other organization that comes into regular contact with children, has been criminally slow to recognize and crack down on abusers and the structure that enabled them, even while condemning the sin itself; and some Catholics are still speaking as if the sex abuse crisis was some overblown, media-created hit job instead of the deeply scandalous tragedy it was and continues to be.

But as it is, people who are attracted to children are told that they cannot get treatment unless they’ve actually already preyed on a child! Part of the reason for this dearth of preventative treatment is, according to the NYT, because all the studies about pedophila have been done on pedophiles who have succumbed to temptation.Many psychiatrists believe that pedophilia has a neurological origin; but people who feel an attraction to children but do not act on it are not included in studies because they are afraid of being charged with a crime they have not yet committed — and so the information about pedophiles is all information about criminals, whose brains, psyches, behavioral patterns, and family histories may be very different from people who successfully resist temptation. It’s a vicious cycle.

I believe very strongly that society shouldn’t do anything that even suggests that attraction to children is within the normal range of sexual experience, and I believe that our laws should prevent child abusers from living and working near children. But refusing to acknowledge the existence of “virtuous pedophiles,” who are struggling against their attraction, is the wrong response.

The longer we refuse to acknowledge the existence of “virtuous pedophiles,” the less likely these suffering souls are to find effective treatment to help them remain virtuous.

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At Synod, Sex-Obsessed Catholic Church Finally Talks About Sex, Finally

It is stunning that the Bishops are talking about sex! As long as you are the kind of person who wakes up stunned to see the sun rise, stunned to find that you have feet at the end of your legs, stunned to discover that the floor under those feet is still made out of wood, just like it has been for decades and decades.

Read the rest at the Register. 

PIC John Paul II waving

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Don’t be a sex sponge.

Most women bloggers have a loyal reader and commenter who can be described as “Issues Guy.”  Like a dog has fleas, he’s got issues with women — and man, do they bite.

My Issues Guy put himself right in the middle of this post on idolatry, in a tangential combox conversation which turned out to be far more interesting than the post itself  (even though the post itself had “foreskin” in the title!). Issues Guy described his perfect potential wife and marriage thus:

The Plan
Find a woman who:
•wants to/is willing to have sex all the time
•wants to be 100% submissive in a way that feels natural
•wants to/is willing to have all the kids I can give her

It’s a simple three-point plan. Not sure how hard it would be to execute.

In return I will:
•treat her like a middle school girl (which women seem to like no matter what they may say) alternating with treating her like an adult which they admittedly also seem to like.
•work till I black out if necessary
•let her read to me

It’s a perfect plan.

Ouchie, the issues!  A married man tried to correct him, saying,

 Your description of marriage as a contract with its focus on sexual gratification of the man exposes a deep seated fear of intimacy and completely misses the root of our Church Tradition … So you will be physically faithful to one woman. Big shit. So was Hitler.

[…]

As a sacramental vocation, I have experienced that marriage helps me to be a better person ONLY when I am actively engaged in all aspects of our lives. When I slack off and choose to only live my vows by “working until I blackout” it is a sham. And when in such denial, my heart has been clouded from receiving love from any source.

Issues Man responded:

Sex as the foundation of marriage isn’t an error, it’s natural law. That’s why sex is considered the consummation of the sacrament and why people of the same sex can’t marry each other.

Really this whole controversy boils down to a wife’s duty to have sex with her husband.

A few people tried to respond to him, but here is the reply that really lit up my female brain:

The expectation that someone should be available “all the time” speaks to little to no understanding of how important sex really is.

Ding ding! Issues Guy thought that, because he wants and needs sex all the time, he alone understands how important it is; but in fact, it shows how unimportant he imagines sex to be. It shows how little he understands it.

Imagine if someone said, “Most people settle for three-minute pop songs, but I am different. I appreciate the beauty of Beethoven. Therefore, I will put the fourth movement of his ninth symphony on repeat, and will listen to it over and over again at top volume for the rest of my life.”

That would be weird, right? Someone who wants that is someone who maybe started out actually loving music, but his natural desire for its beauty and depth has turned into . . . something else. Something that ruins Beethoven.

Or imagine a child who is presented with a chocolate cake for his first birthday. He’s so excited that, while he does manage to get some of it into his mouth, he also smears it in his hair, squishes it between his fingers, slathers it all over his skin and clothes.

PIC baby massacring cake

 

 

You wouldn’t look at a kid like this and say, “Wow, here is a true gourmet! Unlike the rest of us, who eat three meals a day, he truly understands how important food is.” No, you’d say, “Ha, he doesn’t know any better. Someone get a towel.”

Why is this? Well, when something is profound, we don’t enjoy it best when we wallow in it. We’re not sponges, just an undifferentiated blob of strung-together holes designed for soaking. Someone who soaks, someone who wallows — this is not someone who understands. This is someone who has traded understanding for consumption.

It is the same with sex.  The “want/need/have-to-have/gimme-more-now-now-now” model of sexuality is a sad and poor and foolish one. Yes, we have needs — but we are more than the sum of our needs. We are not made to wallow. When we understand that something is important, we use some discernment, some restraint, or at very least some careful timing.

Now, these analogies — music, food — are useful to explain what is grotesque about the “want/need/must-not-be-denied” attitude . . . but only up to a point. It is true that there is such a thing as too much Beethoven or too much chocolate cake, and that people who yearn for nonstop saturation don’t truly love what they say they love.

But that’s not the only problem, when we’re talking about sex. It’s not just that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It’s that sex doesn’t mean anything at all when it’s not an expression of a relationship.

Food and music have some element of this need for relationships. It’s nicer when we enoy music together, and it’s a happier day when we can share a feast with someone else. But if we do enjoy these things alone — if we are carried out of ourselves, out and away from the crowded concert hall on a solitary musical wave,  or if we close our eyes in bliss as we taste a spoonful of something exquisite, something we do not have to share?

PIC woman tasting spoon

 

 

This is fine. This is great. This is normal, and nice, and good.

But sex is different. Sex is only meaningful because it is part of a relationship. This is true of sex every single time, no matter who you are, what your circumstances, what your  needs, what your wants, what your desires, what your issues. Sex is about two people, always. “You give it to me” is not a relationship. If you’re thinking of sex as something that you do and the other person must let you do, then you are not really thinking about sex. You’re thinking about holes that need filling. You are being a hole that needs filling. You are being a sponge.

PIC flabby sponge

 

The comments I quoted above came about as a tangent to the central conversation — but come to think about it, they’re right on target. I said that idolatry is when we

replace God with something smaller and easier to manage — and devote your life to serving that, instead.

And there we are. Sex is not small, and it is not easy to manage. It is a vast ocean. One way that we can make it manageable is, paradoxically, to wallow in it — to become an undifferentiated, undifferentiating mass of saturated holes. It is easier this way. Sponges don’t care about tides, or storms, or seasons, or night or day. Some of them don’t even need another sponge to reproduce. They just witlessly bud, and add to themselves more holes to be filled.

Do not, o thou man, be a sponge. Be better. Struggle, suffer, give yourself over to a world of thirst and desire, conflict and deep joy.

Struggle, learn, suffer, love, and be better than a sponge.

 

******

You know that Extraordinary Bishops’ Synod on the Family coming up in October? The Patheos Catholic Channel will be posting a rolling symposium covering all sorts of topics relevant to the Synod. I’m tagging this post #synod and #symposium because it’s about sex, and sex is relevant to everything! Right? Yes?
Anyway, many of my fellow bloggers, many of whom are capable of thinking of things other than sex, are posting clear, insightful, entertaining posts. The Catholic Patheos Synod Symposium Landing Page is already full of great posts, and is being updated regularly. You may not be familiar with some of the fine writers who contribute to the Patheos Catholic Channel. Browse around! We’re an amazingly varied bunch.

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And that’s exactly why I wrote my book.

Okay, so I’ve been trying not to grouse publicly about it every time someone says boo to me. This is not that!

I came across a review that thought the first two third of my book (“NFP and your spiritual life” and “NFP and the rest of the world”) were good, but he really didn’t like the third part (“NFP in the trenches”).  He’s an NFP teacher, and thinks that maybe we need to talk about intimate things, but only in an intimate setting:  literally, person to person. His review got a comment:

I, too, have taught & used NFP for a long, long time and see or been told all sorts of things. In short, this is difficult ground to cover and perhaps this book has sold out too much to the sexual comfort levels of our current culture.

And I says to myself, I says, Well, that’s exactly why I wrote my book.  This person teaches NFP, and she thinks that sex should be uncomfortable. For way too many people, that is the message they’re getting about sexuality and their faith: don’t get comfortable! Don’t be honest. And God forbid you should be a product of “our current culture.”

But what if you are a product of our current culture? What are you supposed to do? When people are already wounded, it’s not very helpful to say, “What a shame there are wounds.” We need someone to lift the bandage.

Listen, I know this book is not for everybody. I may have a monstrous ego, but I never imagined I was writing The Definitive Compendium of Ideas that are Perfectly Suited for All Conceivable Audiences.  I know there are plenty of people who don’t want or don’t need to get really specific or frank about sexual matters. The cover was supposed to serve as a warning: Attention, squeamish people! Nakedness inside! If the cover freaks you out, you should probably pass on what’s inside.

But there are an awful lot of people who are hearing nothing but, “Sex is beautiful. Sex is meaningful. Sex is profound” and they want to believe it and they want to live it, but they are having a hard time figuring out how it applies to their actual specific naked bodies.  Many people read about covenants and veils and sacredness, and end up thinking either (a) this doesn’t apply to me. There must be something wrong with me or (b) this doesn’t apply to me. There must be something wrong with the Church.

So, that third section of my book, where I get pretty specific? It’s not supposed to answer all your questions about sex. It’s to help you and your spouse ask and answer those questions together — and to let you know that it’s okay to talk about these things. Yeah, I can live with that kind of “selling out.”

*****

(DISCLAIMER: I didn’t link to the review, because I’m not trying to heap shame on anyone’s head, or encourage any kind of comment duel. I love getting reviews, good or bad, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t criticize me! I just thought the remarks I quoted were especially telling, and highlighted something important.)

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Sex is about lovers, not about sex

People need to hear this more.  Will Duquette (are you reading Will Duquette?  You should be!) says

It is true that the first stages of Eros are like shooting the rapids on a river: exciting and scary, and great fun, especially if you’re an adrenalin junky. But mature Eros is that like that same river, downstream: wide and deep, flowing strongly, deeply peaceful but in no way static or stagnant.

Oh, yes: and sometimes there’s sex involved, and it gets better over time, especially when you get over the need for thrills. No, really. The sex is supposed to be about the two of you, not about the sex, and it’s difficult to get there if you’re focussed on the thrills.

Read the rest (it’s short!).  Lots to ponder here.