Sex is Overrated (pt. 1)

"Woman" by Efes
“Woman” by Efes

One of the things that my years of coaching men has proven to me again and again is that Sex has a proper place on a Man’s priority list – and if you have Sex in the right place on your list it makes life richer and more joyous. If you have it in the wrong place, on the other hand, it will make you miserable.

Sex is a core drive for any mammal. Being fit to earn a mate drives males of every mammal species (and plenty of non-mammals) to be strong, competitive, and inventive. Take the possibility of Sex away from a mammal, and it fundamentally changes their character.  Depending on the species, anything from a significant minority to a staggering majority of males die without earning a mate. Only sixty percent of horses ever have offspring – and nature is kind to the horse – throughout human history only, less than forty percent of Men have lived to have children.

Civilizations thrive by setting a high bar for when a young man becomes eligible to marry. A man will go to war, explore the world, build a business empire, govern a nation, make grand discoveries, invent incredible new devices, or create amazing works of Art for the love of a good woman.

However, it is a reduction to say that Men are driven to achieve just to earn the privilege of Sex.  Human beings are far more complex than a bundle of mammalian drives. We have reason, a capacity for moral thought, language, and the ability to override needs and biological drives in service of a goal or ideal. We can put aside hunger, fatigue, thirst, loneliness, discomfort, and lust when it suits us.  In fact, Human beings may be the only species that is capable of choosing to die by putting aside our needs for some bigger purpose.

Our minds are incredibly plastic devices.  The way in which we engage with and to a degree even feel our needs can be moulded by culture and personal discipline. A person who disciplines themselves with diet and exercise doesn’t feel hunger the same way an unfit person does – hunger is neither as frequent, pressing, or uncomfortable for the disciplined eater the way it is for an unhealthy junk-food addict. Likewise, a man who is disciplined about when he rises and when he goes to bed is going to feel fatigue differently from the sleep-deprived night owl.

Often, the priorities we have in life will determine how we wind up disciplining our needs.  An Athlete who always gets eight hours of sleep and eats a performance diet might not be intentionally trying to train his hunger responses and the way he feels fatigue, but that will be one of the positive side effects of his regimen. And, as a rule, the more we treat ourselves with respect and esteem, the less control our needs will have over us.

Sex is not exempt from this pattern. The way in which we regard ourselves will determine the way in which we experience sexual need.

A man who holds himself as being essentially unworthy will look to other people to show him that he is a worthwhile human being. The way he will look for that affirmation from Women is often through sex.

  • When he is not getting sex at all he will have periods when he feels like a sad loser, and often abuse himself emotionally.
  • When he is not getting sex and is not in a relationship he will be drawn to all kinds of ideologies, and systems that promise, explicitly or implicitly, that if he changes himself to suit that ideology he will get laid. This creates the most destructive political radicals, vocal male radfems, and the lowest class of PUA.
  • When he is getting sex from one woman, he will feel great about himself, but worry that he is a fraud, and overcompensate – either with stifling niceness, obsequiousness, or abuse – to try and keep the sex coming.  He will also ignore glaring character flaws and toxic behviour so long is the sex keeps coming.
  • When he is getting relatively easy sex from multiple women he will feel himself superior, but he can also be very fragile.  He will be prone to brag, bully, or lord his conquests over others, and abuse other guys who aren’t getting laid.
  • If he is in a relationship, but the sex is not happening he can feel bitter, resentful, lonely, and abandoned. He may become sullen, withdrawn, and passive-aggressive.  He may find it very tempting to cheat or become addicted to pornography.
  • If he is relatively prosperous, he might try and buy female approval with overpriced luxury cars, designer clothes, expensive jewellery, etc., to the point of overspending. This can turn into a financially destructive lifestyle, or turn into a general confusion where the Man convinces himself that his possessions determine his human worth.
  • In my experience as a coach, many “Sex Addicts” who spend excessive amounts of time and money on porn and prostitutes are actually approval addicts – they only feel worthwhile as people when they get sex, and find buying sexual titillation a reasonable substitute for real human sexual contact.
  • The idea of saying “No” to Sex – even when he doesn’t really want it, or it won’t be a good experience – seems inconceivable.
  • In extreme cases, a man doesn’t just have a hard to saying “No” to Sex when it won’t be good for him – he will have a hard time saying “No” to sex with Women who are toxic to him. He will keep having sex with violent, abusive, or crazy women because he would rather have Sex and know that someone, however flawed, finds him attractive.

The bad news is that most Men in our society make their sense of self-worth contingent on earning the sexual attention of women to some degree or another. It is very rare for a young man to grow up so centred and self-possessed that he doesn’t need Sex to feel like a worthy man.  We have long lost the practices in our culture that were there to teach men how to be sufficient into themselves.

When Men learn to really value their own lives and their own selfhood – when they learn to set their own course rather than doing what is expected of them – the way they engage the need for Sex changes radically.

A man who has genuine self respect realizes that Sex is not a measure of his value; his own accomplishments and Legacy is. He doesn’t really care if other people approve of him, because he is focused on meeting the high standards he has set for himself – which are far more exacting. Sex no longer equals worthiness in his mind.

When he is not desperate be told whether or not he is worthy through Sex (he knows that the only way he can learn whether he is worthy is by pursuing big goals) then he starts asking whether his lovers are worthy.  He realizes that not all sex is good or healthy. He starts to assess whether he really wants or needs it at this time, with this woman, or in this mood.  He chooses the when and where of sex so that most encounters are ones that actually satisfy him.

When he can say no to Sex, a man he can disengage from toxic relationships that a man who does not respect himself might hold onto so long as the sex keeps coming.  He can hold out for relationships where his lover has a lot to offer.  Ironically, because he insists on being a strong gatekeeper when it comes to relationships, he becomes more sexually attractive.

Finally, he can put sex aside for months or even years at a time to pursue goals that are more important to him.  A man can learn to sublimate his sexual energy into enthusiasm for his most important goals.  If he is more interested in creating a business, getting fit, or serving a community, he can put aside dating and focus more of his energy on what needs to be done right now in service of big life’s work goals: whether that is raising great kids, building a business to solve a big problem, living for the Glory of God, helping the needy, creating a body of art, or perfecting a skill.

3 thoughts on “Sex is Overrated (pt. 1)

  1. Brian,

    “…We have long lost the practices in our culture that were there to teach men how to be sufficient into themselves.

    When Men learn to really value their own lives and their own selfhood – when they learn to set their own course rather than doing what is expected of them…”

    I know you will argue, but honestly believe that our culture NEVER had those practices. Not recently, not before the two World Wars, not a couple of centuries ago, not ever. And our culture never seems to have been very big on setting one’s own course, except possibly for the moneyed elite, but even then the expectation was that they were simply expected to breed heirs and stand nearer the front in fights to encourage the peasants not to run.

    “…A man who has genuine self respect realizes that Sex is not a measure of his value; his own accomplishments and Legacy is…”

    Part of the problem with this is that most peoples’ accomplishments and legacies are utterly banal. The value of them is measured and found to be essentially nothing. Even those who have “big life work goals” are like Ozymandias: they sink into oblivion, and simply become a matter of curiosity or bemusement.

    “Finally, he can put sex aside for months or even years at a time to pursue goals that are more important to him.” That those goals are important is probably just as well. If you’re married, and put aside sex for months or years, the chances of it starting up again are generally reported as not good. The chances of it restarting and getting better than it was seem to be vanishingly small. Most things that are important to somebody don’t improve by being neglected (think health, learning, security, relationships in general) and I would submit that sex isn’t any different.

    1. The traditions of mentoring young men to set their own goals and set their own priorities have, in the West, often been isolated to esoterica, mystery cults and secret societies. Certainly the Rosicrutians and Masons, along with many Guilds before that had some aspects of this. The study of Gematria and Kabbalah amongh the Jews was partially oriented towards this end. So were the Elusynnian cults of Ancient Greece. And the mystery cults of Odin.

      But even outside of esoterica we had some measure of this. In Medieval Christiatnity the role of the Godfather was to ensure that his godchild was brought up a good Christian with a personal interest in following the example of Christ (who was seen very differently than in modern churches.)

      Monasticism and the existence of Hermitages and Priories in the Middle Ages existed to give Men who had different priorities than family or the toil of their particular Estaats a place to be mentored and then do work they saw as a spiritual vocation. (Of course, when there was an excess of young men in times of peace, many youths were sent or sold into cloisters to find spiritually meaning work because there was no place for them at home.)

      In Britain Fosterage was in part to place a young man in the care of an Uncle who would take responsibility for ensuring that the young man learned good values and manners in a way one’s own parents may be too empathetic to inspire well. (and yes, that was a practice mostly of the upper class… when you are trapped in survival mode, self-determination is not a priority.)

      Pilgrimage likewise gave a man an option to chart a course, and was often undertaken in groups under the guidance of an older, more experienced pilgrim or holy man who served the role.

      In the early Renaissance the priest who served as your confessor was expected to mentor you to search for and embrace the plan God has for you.

      They were none of them Universal institutions, but they did serve that role.

      As to people’s legacies…

      …In the end we are the only judge that matters when it comes to the significance of our Legacy. It doesn’t matter if we built a corporate empire or a nation, or left behind a vaccine for a terrible disease.

      It is the pursuit of making a difference that gives us our personal sense of meaning. It is believing we can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of the people around us, and taking personal responsibility for making that difference – bit by bit and against a current if need be – that gives us meaning.

      I would really recommend having a look at some lectures by Dr. Jordan Peterson, or checking out his book Maps of Meaning from the Library to get a really in-depth analysis of how a sense of purpose, respnsibility, and agency leads to psychological well-being, regardless of the external results and circumstances.

      You are correct that putting Sex on the back burner in marriage is not a very good idea. In the case of a married man, Sex is a part of maintaining a healthy relationship with one’s wife, and providing a stable social base for his children. Putting aside Sex in Marriage is irresponsible and destructive.

      But that doesn’t mean you have to hinge your self-worth on whether you are having sex with your wife.

      In my experience, there is practically no marriage between two psychologically healthy (key phrase, there!) people that treat each other decently, that cannot be restored to a sexually active and fulfilling state.

      But that requires a lot of hard work to do. I used to work for a coaching organization that was built around a system to do just that.

      It is also worth noting that in 90% of marriages, the responsibility to keeping or restoring sexual vitality to the relationship almost always falls to the husband. He’s the one with the spontaneous sex drive, while his wife’s sex drive is responsive. Men need to initiate so that women can become aroused.

  2. None of which really suggests a broad current of it running through the culture. Mystery cults and secret societies, pretty much by definition aren’t mainstream! The church is an interesting one, although again, the monastic lifestyle was pretty niche. To much of the population the medieval church resembled a protection racket: demanding money, goods, services and obedience in return for saving you from damnation. The church didn’t (arguably still doesn’t) encourage one’s personal goals, except where they align with the church. Following one’s own goals might be perilously close to heterodoxy, or even heresy, which was definitely not a path the church welcomed!

    I’ve started reading Peterson’s Maps of Meaning. It’s heavy going. I’m particularly struggling with “subjective reality”. To a scientist this is almost meaningless – reality doesn’t change subjectively. You can disregard dark matter because you don’t know where it is, but it’s still there somewhere.

    “In my experience, there is practically no marriage between two psychologically healthy (key phrase, there!) people that treat each other decently, that cannot be restored to a sexually active and fulfilling state.” Presumably the other thing this is predicated on is a willingness to do so and a belief that there is any reason to undertake it!

    “It is also worth noting that in 90% of marriages, the responsibility to keeping or restoring sexual vitality to the relationship almost always falls to the husband. He’s the one with the spontaneous sex drive, while his wife’s sex drive is responsive. Men need to initiate so that women can become aroused.”

    Does this work with people who believe that only spontaneous drive is real, that reactive drive doesn’t really exist and that trying to turn somebody on to sex when they haven’t spontaneously desired it is at best creepy and at worst coercive?

Comments are closed.