How to Pick a Lover

Posts tagged ‘love affairs’

Flirtation: Attention without Intention

A woman may very well form a friendship with a man, but for this to endure, it must be assisted by a little physical antipathy.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Why bother to have a lover who is not really a lover? Many reasons. There are, after all, a number of historical precedents.

Consider, for example, the good Queen Victoria, who was surely the epitome of all that is moral and proper. After the death of her beloved Prince Albert, she was distraught and sought consolation from one John Brown, who had been an attendant to her late husband. John Brown was made her personal servant; but as depicted in the movie Mrs. Brown, featuring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Brown obviously far exceeded that modest role. Their relationship was extremely close emotionally, and his privileges at Windsor Castle certainly reflected a great deal of trust and intimacy. Were they lovers? No one knows. There was speculation. There were rumors. If you can’t trust Queen Victoria, who can you trust?

In prior posts, I’ve talked as if  the new sexual freedoms women now have, magically transformed them into completely sexual creatures. Often, this is simply not the case. It may not be a case of moral guilt or psychological hang-ups as much as simply an absence of desire. Certainly, there can be an absence of desire for a particular man, someone whose body does not seem erotic even though he is lovable in many other ways. A woman may prefer not to have to bother with sex. If she doesn’t want to bother, such a turn of phrase reveals so much of her attitude that it’s probably just as well that she doesn’t.

The lover who is not reallya lover may be willing to be emotionally involved with a woman, yet unwilling to be physically involved with her, especially if she is married. To love her emotionally is acceptable, but to make love to her isn’t because that would be adultery. According to the Bible, a man who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart. There can be, however, a curious kind of doublethink wherein having an affair of the heart, which technically is not consummated, does not count. It is not really adultery and is therefore acceptable. Some women committed to the ideal of premarital chastity may use much the same reasoning so that they may be sexually experienced while technically remaining virgins.

Cover of "Emotional Infidelity: How to Av...

Such an affair may evoke the same jealousy that a betrayed spouse feels when his mate is physically unfaithful. In actuality, such emotional infidelity may be harder for the spouse to accept than would a casual affair, which could be dismissed as an impulsive roll in the hay or a one-night stand.

Be that as it may, as long as the lovers can maintain that it didn’t happen, they have what seems to them an impeccable moral position. When confronted, they will even manage a little sanctimony and lament the kind of world in which simple platonic friendship is disallowed. They will even muster some righteous indignation at what from the outside seem to be perfectly well-founded suspicions.

Should you take a eunuch lover (see previous post), you need a husband of considerable trust and/or credulity in order to carry off what seems to be a flagrant disregard for convention. You then have the freedom to be quite open about your comings and goings with him. What is the husband to think? What are the neighbors to think? One obvious explanation is that the man in question is less than a real man and is a eunuch in his heart, if not in actuality.

A woman I know came home late to an angry husband who demanded to know where she had been. She confessed that she had been drinking at the Purple Cow, a local tavern.
“I don’t want you hanging out with men in bars,” he said.
“But I was with Freddy,” she said.
“Oh,” he said, “well, at least you could have called to tell me that you’d
be late.”

Being with Freddy didn’t count. Freddy was not a real man and so could not be threatening. Once Freddy knows how he is regarded, and he is not gay, then one wonders how it will make him feel. He is the kind of man with whom one’s wife is absolutely safe, not because he or she are so honorable, but because he is so—safe.

The decadent East has a treasury of erotic literature in which the roles of the potentate, harem girl, and the eunuch figure prominently. One theme of these tales is the delights which await the man who pretends to be a eunuch in order to get into the harem, but who is not, and is instead a fox among the chickens.

Another theme is the eunuch who is not totally a eunuch in that he is still capable of an erection and of some sexual feeling. Sexologists allow that this is possible if unlikely. The eunuch lover who is presented as such to the world in general and to the husband in particular has an especially provident game plan in that he can have all of the enjoyments with none of the penalties. He must learn two maxims which both he and his ladylove must say repeatedly, “Deny, deny, deny,” followed by “That’s my story, and I am sticking to it.”

Being Single Can Be Boring

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.
—Robert Louis Stevenson

When we think of the life of the modern unmarried woman, we see her as having many more options for excitement than would have been her lot in earlier generations. She doesn’t have to live at home if she doesn’t want to. She’s most likely free to go to college or to get a job, and there’s a wide range of courses that she can take or occupations she can choose. From the outside, it can seem quite interesting, and so it is for many women. It’s also true, however, that even relative emancipation doesn’t prevent quiet desperation and doesn’t cure ennui.

There are many things that she can theoretically do, but in actuality, the daily round may be quite repetitive. Going to college sounds like fun until you remember that even with a college degree, very few women who work are international CEOs or fashion buyers just off to Paris to see the spring collections. Most of them, in fact, are confined to cubicles or small offices working as midlevel managers, executive assistants, or accountants committed to routine and repetitive tasks day after day. Computers may be fascinating, but writing software code or conducting systems analysis offers limited intellectual creativity or emotional appeal.

English: A bored person

A bored person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you cannot change the circumstances of your life or are not yet willing to try to do so, then one aspect of your life, which is open to change, is your love life. You can consider a new lover. If as a history major you must spend all of Tuesday morning listening to someone recount the development of the Civil War between the States, then you can at least spend Tuesday afternoon in bed with an aspiring physicist who promises not to breathe a word about reconstructionism or carpetbaggers.

Being an unmarried woman with a career of some sort, or at least a job, may make it less likely that you’ll be bored than if you’re a housewife; but it’s no guarantee that you won’t. You may still have to work forty hours a week at a boring job that provides few emotional rewards. With the right lover, you can at least look forward to an exciting Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The Coolidge Effect

One day, President and Mrs. Coolidge were visiting a government
farm. Soon after their arrival, they were taken off on separate tours.
When Mrs. Coolidge passed the chicken pens, she paused to ask the man
in charge if the rooster copulates more than once each day. “Dozens of
times,” was the reply. “Please tell that to the President,” Mrs. Coolidge
requested. When the President passed the pens and was told about the
rooster, he asked, “Same hen every time?” “Oh no, Mr. President, a
different one each time.” The President nodded slowly, then said, “Tell
that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
-Gordon Bermant, Psychological Research: The Inside Story

The Coolidge effect is used by sexologists to describe, among animals, the phenomenon of male re-arousal by a new female. One wonders if, perhaps, most of the sexologists in question were male because it does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the same effect may be apparent among women. For most women, the quest for fulfillment involves, in part, a quest for long-term relationships. The crux of the issue, alas, is what is meant by “long-term.” There is no doubt that for most couples who have sexual rapport, the quality of that rapport increases with the passage of time. That process may take weeks or months or, for some, years, depending on how often they make love and with what intensity.

There is also no doubt that except for the most fortunate and exceptional couples, the quality of sexual rapport eventually peaks and, from that point on, tends to decrease with the passage of time. As a man and woman become more and more familiar with each other, the excitement and the erotic tension of their first encounters is diminished. The response patterns become too predictable. As the sexual experience becomes routine, there is a loss of intensity. They can still feel pleasure, but they are less likely to feel ecstasy.

National Lampoon's Joy of Sex movie poster

National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex movie poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea of sex with a nice, affectionate, but totally familiar old husband may produce a state of profound sexual apathy. There is no antipathy, but neither is there much interest.

The decline in erotic enthusiasm can be minimized and delayed by incorporating a wide variety of sexual techniques and by using different props and locations. Eventually, however, there may be a sense that one has experienced all of the experiences possible with a given partner. Even the most enthusiastic lovers can become jaded with each other. The idea of making love with a different man, a strange man, may be much more appealing than making love with a familiar lover.

By any objective criteria, a prospective lover may have no more to offer than the current one and, indeed, may actually be less attractive. However, the appeal of a stranger is that he is strange. Sometimes, in seeking sexual fulfillment, you want nothing more than what you have experienced with one man; but you crave the added stimulus and excitement of experiencing it with a different man—a man who arouses curiosity and is still mysterious.

The Need For Love

To live without loving is not really living.
—Molière

If so many of the delicious, delectable enticements of taking a lover and having an affair turn out to be tasteless or leave a bitter aftertaste, why do so many women continue to embark on so many adventures year after year? Probably for the same reason people buy lottery tickets. Because when the affair does live up to your hopes and expectations, or when you win the lottery, it is, in fact, well worth the gamble. It is every bit as wonderful as you imagined it would be.

I know it's not Valentine yet but I'm full of ...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

To love and be loved in return may not solve all life’s problems, but it does make them easier to bear. Loving and being loved puts a bloom on your cheek and a spring in your step and hope in your heart. It makes ordinary, everyday events seem like fun, and it transforms extraordinary ones into truly joyous experiences. You feel more confident, more energetic, and more optimistic. You take more delight in the pleasures of the world and are more tolerant of its trials and hardships.

Love is not a panacea. It does not cure cancer or stop inflation or prevent war. It does not stop you from growing older. It is, however, the world’s best palliative; and by lessening the pain of living, it increases enjoyment of life. No wonder poets have, for centuries, been waxing eloquence on these themes. No wonder so much of your time and attention and energy is taken up, one way or another, in the quest for the kind of lover who can open up this cornucopia of feeling and delight.

Women in Contemporary Relationships

I think we can all agree that romantic relationships have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

A mere two generations ago relationships and marriage were rather vanilla. Couples were heterosexual, of the same race/ethnicity, religion, social/economic and political background – so much for diversity. Also, marital roles were fairly circumscribed – men were the breadwinners and women the homemakers. There were shared expectations about sex roles for men and women, which were primarily based on what constituted masculine and feminine behavior. Premarital sex was taboo – at least for women. There were “good” girls and “bad” girls, and I don’t think I need to tell you what made a good girl good or bad girl bad. In any given couple, the man was usually older, taller, better educated, and financially better off than the woman.  All things that defer more power to the man than the women. Few women worked outside the home. And when they did, it was to supplement her husband’s substantially larger income.

Well, so much for the good ole days. Today’s relationships run the gamut of the rainbow – heterosexual/gay, interracial/ethnic, interfaith, binational, older women and younger men, couples from widely different social, economic, political backgrounds. Women have full fledged careers and they are financially independent. For women, being a virgin – or almost a virgin – is no longer a prerequisite to marriage.  All in all, women today have a range of options and opportunities that far outstrip those of our grandmothers or even our mothers.

It all sounds wonderful.  However, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, many of our social values that govern love, sex and marriage remain markedly different for men and women in many ways. While both men and women may openly and freely engage in the pursuit of love and sex, how they reach their quest is not always the same.

"The world turned upside down" (gend...

“The world turned upside down” (gender-role reversal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cultural traditions are strong and differences in the socialization and physiology of men and women remain a reality. And unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your personal views–many traditional sex roles remain deeply embedded in modern-day relationships – straight and gay. When these traditional roles collide with the realities of modern day – which they often do – couples find themselves in conflict.

While contemporary relationships may be much more rewarding than the those of our parents and grandparents, they are also much more complex and difficult.

Through this blog, I want to explore the relatively new emotional and sexual freedoms that women have gained through their struggle  for equality and freedom of sexual expression in contemporary relationships – including a woman’s option of having a lover(s) if she so chooses.

Each week I will post some specific thoughts about women in contemporary relationships for comment and discussion. Hope you will join in on what I believe will be a fun, enlightening and rewarding blog.

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