Will left a comment on my last post, and it included the following sentence:
What I most appreciate about how you write of the sex you have is how often you capture the joyousness of great sex. VERY life-affirming.My first thought, naturally, was, "Dude, what's with the hyphen?" But I got quickly over that and instead recognized that he had captured in a very few words exactly what The Neighbors Will Hear is all about.
[In case you couldn't tell from the title, this is going to be a highly self-indulgent post -- but at least there are nice pictures. I was going to say that I didn't do something similar for my 100th or 200th or 300th post because I'm philosophically opposed to the celebration of arbitrary milestones and because I didn't want to experience the fingernails-on-blackboard horror that necessarily accompanies any usage of a term like "blogiversary" or "blogcentennial," but the truth is that I simply didn't notice when any of those posts were occurring.]
The idea that life, or any aspect of it, is simple and can be reduced to a few words is both horribly misguided and tremendously useful. You will understand that if you adopt a two-word motto for what you want out of life, there are two million more words needed to work out the details and the exceptions and the restrictions and how you're going to get around the restrictions. Still, a journey of a thousand miles begins not only with a single step: there must also be a destination in mind. To that end, I propose my two-word goal:
I know you thought I was going to say "great sex," but as much as I love great sex (and I do: I really, really do), it is a means to an end. That end can be variously described as ecstasy, nirvana, rapture, paradise, or joy.
Security, contentment, and happiness are all wonderful things, and those of us who have them should do our part to help those who don't have them get them. But I submit that we can and should do better. And I further submit that if you're leading your life by any set of guiding principles that doesn't both incorporate and lead to joy, you are in error. There may certainly be events beyond your control that can keep you from joy, but to follow a path that is not designed to help you get it is foolish.
Great sex is certainly not the only way to find joy, but it's among the easiest and most reliable. If you're a skilled masturbator, then you can find joy via your own hand (and if your masturbation is not joyful, you're not a skilled masturbator, and you really should improve yourself). But joy is increased when it's shared, so you're better off with an accomplice. Not only will your own pleasure be greater, you'll have pleasured your fellow man, which is sure to earn you points in heaven.
I know that there are people who think of recreational sex as a bad thing, and, truly, I just don't get it. Some objections are religious, but if your religion proscribes the pursuit of joy when it doesn't involve harming anyone else, then I just don't get your religion.
Others say that recreational sex leaves them feeling empty and worse than they'd felt before the sex. Just a couple of days ago, I was feeling down and worse than I'd felt before the sex, and I had a brief moment where I wondered whether it was true that casual sex was harmful to the soul. But then I realized that I hadn't felt that way in a long time and that I was feeling that way because I'd just had bad sex and that I hadn't felt that way in a long time because I hadn't had bad sex in a long time. If you have great sex and you feel worse afterwards than either a) it wasn't great sex, or b) you really need to examine your outlook.
I understand that some people have concerns about safety, but the answer to these concerns is to play safe. Some people will tell you that only abstinence is entirely safe. I will tell you that the unorgasmed life is not worth living. Sex can be very unsafe, but it can be as safe as crossing the street. There's always a chance that you'll get killed crossing the street, but it makes more sense to look both ways and cross carefully than to stay holed up in your apartment 24/7.
Some time ago, I read a blog entry by a guy who recounted a story about how he'd had red hot sex with another guy but had gotten swept away in the moment and so hadn't used a condom. Because of this, he ended up with a treatable STD and a lingering fear that he might have contracted HIV. He didn't, in fact, contract HIV, but the so-called lesson that he learned from this encounter was that he could never have casual sex again because he just couldn't trust himself not to forget to use a condom in the heat of passion.
You can't control what you've done in the past, but you can choose your lessons wisely. Having unsafe sex and getting the clap (or whatever) shouldn't teach you not to have sex: it should teach you to have safe sex. If you're so traumatized by having to take some antibiotics and the (completely rational) fear of HIV, then surely the next time you're in a similar situation, you're much less likely to be swept away, knowing that it might mean a trip to the clinic and six more months of anxiety. I suppose that the guy in question might have other sources than sex for finding joy, but joy isn't the kind of thing that you have to ration or that you should only have one source for. More is better.
If you're living a life that's otherwise unsatisfied, then great sex, or any other form of joy, won't make up for that, but it'll still be fun. I think that a lot of men who eschew recreational sex do so because they're missing something else, most frequently love or affection. And I don't underestimate how terrific it can be to get your affection and your great sex from the same source, but isn't something better than nothing?
I've had this discussion with a number of my single friends who have mostly given up dating or hooking up. They'll say that the last guy they met was great in the sack, but they had to stop seeing him because the relationship "wasn't going anywhere." This usually leads to a discussion that goes something like this:
TED: So you were having great sex, but you stopped seeing him because he didn't want a relationship?
Friend of TED: Yeah. It wasn't going anywhere.
TED: Yes, I believe we established that before. So now you still have no relationship, but you also have no great sex. And you're not seeing anyone.
And then I just stare at them because, really, what do you say to a guy who is so upset about wondering whether the glass is half empty or half full that he resolves the dilemma by throwing the glass away?
I realize that some people believe they have no control over their feelings and that they must accept that they're the sort of people who can only have sex when they're emotionally attached. But when I was a newly minted gay, I felt that way, too, and it was very hurtful to me. Sometimes the guy you have the best sex with just isn't emotionally compatible. But if you have great sex with him, he's still offering you something, and you're still offering something to him. I learned that lesson, and I think anyone else can, too.
I suspect (and hope) that I'm preaching to the choir here. But it seemed like a good idea to restate basic principles, and, hell, it's my blog, right? I thought that I might eventually tire of my central topic, but I haven't, any more than I've tired of great sex. With any luck, I'll continue having great sex and rambling on about it for the near future. And so will my readers. Not so much the rambling on about it, perhaps, but I do wish you all great sex. And more joy.