Hi Marnia -
As I make my way a second time through your excellent book, a few topics keep cropping up that might be interesting to discuss. Note that I bring these things up not as a critique of your book but rather as an attempt at gaining a more clear and complete picture of human sexuality and its potential.
There is one recurrent theme in the book upon which all arguments hinge. This theme is that GENETIC STRATEGY AND HEALTHY COMPANIONSHIP ARE AT ODDS (your words).
I can see that different parts of the brain have different functions, and were developed at different times, and so therefore can seem at odds. The lobes of the brain that were developed earlier have a very deep-seated influence over newer developments in brain function.
There's no denying that a pleasure-reward center does exist, or that it has huge influence. The sheer speed of technological progress and the immediate gains it has been able to provide us in prolonging life, ample opportunities for sugar and fat intake, and more frequent opportunities for sexual encounters - has definately led to addiction. We are still operating from an outdated model, consuming these things in excess as though they were still hard to come by.
But there is a part of me that intuitively feels it may not be true that genetic strategy and healthy companionship are at odds. I bring this up because I hope to both successfully reproduce someday AND have healthy companionship with the same person. I realize you’ve opted out of having offspring, but not all of us will choose to make that decision, and I’d like to think I’m not automatically doomed to misery because of it.
I think organisms are complete systems, designed optimally for coherent functioning, and there is no reason - when considering the insane amount of intelligent design in every facet of our being - that we would be designed in such a way that different parts of ourselves would be at WAR with each other --- UNLESS, of course, it was through this process of conflict that we were meant to reach a more coherent level of functioning and integration, which may be what is going on here.
And if this is what is going on, evolution must be defined in a way that is much broader than mere biological success. It’s clear we can’t define it in these terms anymore, since our current insane level of biological success may be our demise.
As individuals, reproduction is not even one of our basic needs for survival. Montagu points out that "The raw sensation of touch as stimulus is vitally necessary for the survival of the organism. In that sense it may be postulated that the need for tactile stimulation must be added to the repertoir of basic needs in all vertebrates. . . . Basic needs, defined as tensions which must be satisfied if the organism is to survive, are the needs for oxygen, liquid, food, rest, activity, sleep, bowel and bladder elimination, escape from danger, and the avoidance of pain. It should be noted that sex is not a basic need since the survival of the organism is not dependent upon its satisfaction. Only a certain number of organisms need to satisfy sexual tensions if the species is to survive. However that may be, the evidence points unequivocally to the fact that no organism can survive very long without externally originating cutaneous stimulation."
I bring this all up because I’ve noticed that as compelling as the argument for the biological drive is, my own reasons for finding nonorgasmic sex worthwhile do not hinge on trying to avoid this supposed divide between genetic strategy and healthy companionship. Rather, my reasons for wanting to explore nonorgasmic sex have more to do with an interest in going deeper into exploring the increased receptivity, energy, playfulness, affection, nurturing and mutual generosity that seem to blossom from this approach. And, orgasm seems to have in it an inherent grasping quality to it that leads people often to use one another as mere tools for reaching this goal. But it may be possible for human beings to reach such a state of connection and unity that they could simultaneously have an orgasm without any striving or grasping or objectification at all. I wouldn’t mind conceiving under those conditions, and I wouldn’t feel doomed to a fate of separation virus and alienation if I were to experienced that occasionally (and I mean VERY occasionally – as occasionally as I chose to consciously integrate my biological drive into my life).
In your book, you describe the considerable gains in health, enjoyment, and fulfillment that companionship provides. The benefits are similar to what Montagu has described as the necessity of tactile stimulation for wholeness. Why would biology be unable to see these gains as being positive factors leading to biological success? I think that biology and fulfilling companionship could actually be ideal bedmates, so long as they are in balance and one is not overriding the other.