I’ve been on vacation for the last couple weeks, enjoying some fun in the sun in the south of France. This, unfortunately, has meant spending a LOT of time in airports and on international flights where the only inflight movie was Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 – the Breakening.This, in turn meant that it was time for the good Doctor to catch up on some TV viewing.
The last few days, I’ve been marathoning Californication and let me tell you, that much Hank Moody does something weird to your brain.
Of course, I figure there’s a column in this.
Y’see, there was a point when I would’ve considered a character like Hank Moody - a successful writer, a snappy quipster and, critically, insanely successful with women – to be my role model. Sure, this would require ignoring that he’s a massive fuck-up on just about every level, but when you’re 19 and a virgin and convinced that you’re going to be eligible to run for President before you ever have sex, you’re willing to overlook the small things because dude, you can bang anyone you want.
Even after losing my virginity, I tied far too much of my self-esteem and ego into sex and my ability (or rather, inability) to get girls; if I were able to get laid whenever I wanted well… I wouldn’t be a loser, now would I? The more conquests I could rack up, the cooler I would be, right? Right?
To say that this was a self-destructive cycle is understating things a bit.
Luckily for me, this ultimately lead to my becoming who I am today, but there was a point when all I had been concerned with was sleeping with as many women as possible.
And lots of dudes still are. And if we’re all perfectly honest, I’m willing to bet some of you, dear readers, are interested in that as well.
So let’s talk a little about promiscuity, why guys get so obsessed with the numbers and what it means for men and women.
Sex and Validation
Male sexuality is one commonly defined by excess; it’s axiomatic that all guys are perpetually horny, therefore of course we’re all obsessed with sticking our dicks in anything that might get us off. Get a guy horny enough and he’ll fuck a bundt cake if it’s warm enough, right, right?
Of course, this does a great disservice to men. The fact is that, frankly, human sexuality is incredibly goddamn complicated and comes in a startling number of varieties and variations. There’s more to guys wanting to dip their wicks as often as possible than some bullshit idea that “men are evolved to spread their seed as far and as wide as possible.” Frequently, what’s going on in our shorts is all about what’s going on in our heads.
For many guys, sex is gifted with mystical importance; it’s magic cure-all, the silver bullet, the one thing that would make all the difference in our lives. Never mind answers like working towards becoming a better person or building a successful, interesting lifestyle: if we could just get that incredibly hot girlfriend or have so much more sex than we’re currently having, it would make everything better. It would validate every other aspect of our lives. We wouldn’t wake up feeling like there’s a hole in our lives or feeling like we’re missing out on something that the rest of the world gets. We wouldn’t feel like we’re losers.
One of the nastier aspects of male sexual culture is the binary state: you’re either good with girls or you’re just pathetic. If you just weren’t one of those people who was born naturally charismatic and at ease with women then… well, there’s just no helping you, son. Those of us who weren’t given with those particular gifts in vitro are left feeling as though there is something wrong with us because we aren’t instinctively accomplished at what is, ultimately, a skill. Getting sex becomes a barometer of who you are as a person: if you lose your virginity then you can point and say “see? SEE? I’m not a loser!”
Of course, when you start looking at sex as a source of validation, you’re putting yourself on a slippery slope. The idea of “this many women let me have sex with them, therefore I have worth” is incredibly damaging to one’s psyche. To start with, sex quits being a matter of intimacy or a way of connecting with your fellow human beings. Instead, it becomes all about you and the fact that there’s someone else involved is ultimately irrelevant. You’re no longer concerned with your partner as a person; you’re concerned with what they represent. She’s not a person so much as a collection of social point values that represents your self-worth. This is an incredibly self-destructive path because when you’re seeking external validation, you inevitably are going to hit the wall.
The problem is that, after a while, sex-as-validation becomes like any other drug: it never works as well as it did the first time. The more you seek that external source of esteem, the less it helps and the harder you have to work to get the same “high” as you did before. You’ll try to up the intensity – either chasing after sheer numbers or increasingly unattainable women in hopes that you can find the same level of reward that you used to get. Either way, you will burn out. Even if you’re banging a new stranger every night, those dark tendrils of self-doubt and hate will start slipping in and you’ll find that all your old ways of shutting them out – sex – just don’t work anymore. Then it’s just you and your inner demons… and you have no way of dealing with them any more.
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