A Spo-fan recently wrote to me:

“I don’t understand the distinction you are making between eroticism and sex. What is the difference between “just sex,” which you say can be good, and “constant hookups,” which you say is bad? Neither of these seems to carry an emotional component, so I don’t see the distinction. Seems like there’s a good post in this. Care to take it on?”

First of all, I am flattered to try. Heavens! There are whole schools of psychology that take onnthis topic! I will take a deep breath, recall all my education, and write a summary that is understandable but not silly sounding.

Talking about sexual behavior is very complicated for 3 main reasons;

  1. Human sexuality is a complicated thing.
  2. The definition of words vary from school to school and person to person. I will propose ‘sex’, ‘erotic’, ‘sexuality’ etc. are actually different things. People get them mixed up all the time.*
  3. What is allowed/not allowed is heavily influenced by Tribal traditions and taboos.

 - I will talk about the psychological aspects, not the morals, of the question.

I will define ‘sex’ as the physical action and ‘erotic’ as something concerning sexual love and desire.  Naturally, I like the Jungian notion of The Erotic as an archetype containing the collective and personal elements of eroticism and sexuality.

Nobody will be shocked to learn sexual acts can be full of or completely deprived of The Erotic**.  And, behaviors and objects can be very erotic without actual sex. ***

“Just sex” is a phenomena where friends or strangers go through the physical motions of sex for the action or pleasure itself. It has no real emotional connection; it lacks The Erotic. Whether this is ‘good’ or  ‘bad’ depends a great deal on context.

“Good just sex’ is more likely to happen when done consciously. I also see it as more acceptable (even possible!) in the gay community than by straights. Having a pick-up or a fling on holiday can be jolly good fun. At the same time it does not damage relationships (or the cosmos). There was no investment in it, no Erotic.

“Bad just sex” occurs when someone is consumed by Erotic-less sexual activity. There is no time or libido to allow or develop sexuality in context of the Erotic. And it can be an acting out of problems. It certainly can mar established relationships. It can deaden The Erotic.

True – neither carry any real emotional component by definition. There is no true Erotic to either. That is the point. It is just sex.

A partnership, as seen in a long term relationship or marriage, hopefully has both The Erotic and sex.**** The natural object of The Erotic is one person; the natural object of sex is as many people as you possible (thus says the biologists and Freud).

Where good/bad “just sex” starts and stops is anyone’s guess.  Both are influenced by Tribal taboos and rules, personal views and mutual contracts. Most people spend a lifetime figuring this all out. Some make it simple by not having sex outside of a partnership. *****

It is the task of one and all is to consciously come to terms with sexuality and The Erotic, whatever you decide to do with it all.

*Lumping them together as one in the same is foolish and often hazardous.

 **Some of you may recall your ‘whore phases,’ when you laid everyone and everything? 

*** I not too familiar with The Body Electric, but I think they may be a good example of this. It is my understanding they do a lot of eroticism but never to the point of sex viz. intercourse or orgasm. 

 ****This bit is my personal hopes for everyone. At work my job is to help patient figure out their sexuality; it is not my job to tell them what to do with it. 

 *****Please don’t think I have it all sorted out. I am a Polynesian talking about icebergs. 

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