Friday, 18 April 2014

I caught my husband looking at naked photos.

This is true. A client of mine was caught by his wife red handed. She took his phone and discovered screen shots of naked girls. She then confronted him. She demanded an explanation. His reply? He said that he travels often for business, and those pictures reminded him of...well, her (his wife). How original is that!

Now what he does with those pictures when he is alone and abroad is anyone's guess, but there is a point to this story. It is actually a good introduction to the world of male and female sexuality. And I am prepared to dive head first into that swamp of human lust.

But let me first start off with a scripture and I will then boldly 
venture into uncharted territories in this quest to understand why my client finds naked girls irresistible.

My humble scriptural guide for this journey is Philippians 4:8. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." By this standard, I
 am not too confident that my client (or any of the male species in this world for that matter) has fully satisfied the onerous requirements of mental purity and spiritual unblemished-ness.

I personally know the wife of my client. And if she would come to me for advice on how to deal with her voyeuristic hubby (who dodgily claimed that he only sees his wife's wholesome face in all that blinding splash of nudity), I would have to tell her about how they normally deal with people like him in the past.

You see, the well respected second-century lawyer-writer and strict disciplinarian Tertullian once taught that sex between even married couples contaminated both the body and the soul. He preached that the highest virtue of a woman was perpetual virginity and sexual sins were considered unforgivable. Even orgasmic delight in the context of a marriage was viewed as
 unwholesome. Talk about corseted mentality!

While the French cheekily calls the definitive sexual climax orgasm la petite mort or  "little death" (alluding to the transient loss of consciousness as the brain is overcome by the onslaught of sensory bombardments), Tertullian condemned it as "shameful". He further exhorted, "In that final release of pleasure, do we not sense a loss of our very soul?" Mm...I wonder whether Tertullian would have viewed premature ejaculation as "holier sex"?  

What's more, during that time,
 masturbation was singled out to be a grievous transgression and it was even more abhorrent than the rape of a virgin or committing adultery with a married woman. The theory went that spilling sperms into open space (or a tissue), instead of into the appropriate female sexual receptacles, is an act of homicide tantamount to murdering future lives (and if you bother to count them all, it comes up to millions. You can think of it as a "massacre" on a really puny pre-human scale).

So, my client, if he goes beyond imagining his wife's face on those nude girls, will have to perform some grueling penances laid down by the medieval Church. These penances would include self-flagellation and a full fast for days or weeks.  

But will that be enough to curb our client's sexual desires or appetites? What drives his sexual appetites in the first place? Is the outward punishment of the flesh an inward resolution of the heart? My client may say that he just can't help himself and it would therefore be more justified to commit mental adultery than a physical one. And by that standard, he should be applauded for being physically pure rather than be humiliated for being mentally perverted. Does he have a point?

Of course, I am just being flippant about the penances as those days are behind us (unless you are unfortunate enough to be living in some of the religiously-corseted countries). But the truth about my client's unnerving episode is really about the deep and often taboo nature of our sexuality. The Bible is clear about sexual sins and deviant lusts. We are admonished to shun them for
 its defiling properties. One passage in the Holy Book calls for us to submit to God and flee from temptations. 

At this point, I can very well rest my entire understanding of sexuality on those scriptures and flee from, suppress or bind those sexual urges as and when they rear their ugly heads. And I can dutifully seek the assistance of my Philippians guide of absolute mental purity to dissuade me from going any further into the murky terrain of this forbidden journey. But that would in my humblest view leave many of 
us scratching our heads (or banging it against the wall) on the many occasions when we find ourselves, whether consciously or unwittingly, in a sexually compromised state, both in thoughts and deeds. Most times, sexual sins are more about opportunity than personal resolve, timing than self-discipline, and circumstances than ritualistic cleansing.

The truth is, in the eyes of the Church, sex is often a dirty word. It is generally done behind close doors. It is highly private and confidential. The wedding night is usually more about the celebration and not about the consummation. Parents even have a secret code for it. It is discreetly called the birds and the
 bees (I always wonder, why bees? Because I read that a male honey bee mates only once with the Queen bee and the act is definitely not something our sons would find educational. You see, after that once-in-a-lifetime sexual encounter, the bee's penis would break and the poor thing would die soon after...I guess with a smile?).

So let me press on in this muddled journey and try to understand why my client did what he did. I at least owe you my reader some explanation.

I think there's no better starting point 
here than to say that sex is a gift. And more to the point, it is godsend. It is also a must (or a divine imperative) lest the biblical Adam and Eve takes the future of humanity with them into their graves. God commanded it most specifically with this reproductive blank-cheque, "Go forth and multiply." And multiply we all did, with pleasure.

We are currently into 5 billion and by 2050, we may hit double digits. Our population bomb went off like a bullet train without brakes after the industrial revolution and
 it has since then never looked back. You can be sure that there is a whole lot of sex involved in bringing up the numbers from thousands to billions. And if sex was a bowl of chicken soup, it would be so active and hot that you would be seeping molten lava fresh from a violent volcanic eruption.

Now, here comes the tricky bit. Why is my client so helplessly drawn to pictures of naked or scantily-dressed girls? More pertinently, why are men in general attracted to 
the opposite sex in a less than noble/honorable ways?

I think it is established here that when Adam lay his eyes on the leaf-covered Eve, he was spellbound. And it is safe to say that two things were on Adam's mind at that defining moment: companionship and consummation. On the latter desire (consummation), I wonder what went through Adam's mind? And for that matter, what went through Eve's mind?

Well, I am sure that Eve did not experience the
 same paranoia that my client's wife experienced because Adam only had eyes for Eve and no one else. And I mean it literally. Eve was all he had and all he wanted. 

However, the same can't be said for my client who is living in our highly sexualized, visualized and liberal culture. Sex has indeed come a long way from the time before mass media technology staked its claim in every homes to the current broad, open and modern corridor of the twenty-first century.

One author wrote, “…Sex is everywhere: Everyone’s doing it, and that’s just the way it is. This message is disseminated to young girls through almost every element of their lives. One journalist (American) who shadowed a twelve-year-old girl estimated that she had been exposed to about 280 sexy images in the course of a day.” (from a book entitled "Prude" by Carol Platt Liebau)

With globalization, media technology and westernization, our culture is even more "sexed-up" than any
 era in our history. Some may even say that our desires have never changed since time immemorial. But its expression (or outlet) has definitely changed. We are therefore more sexually expressive and even promiscuous now.

Returning to my client's pornographic obsession, my point is that the male species is unavoidably more sex-minded and sex-driven than the female species. This largely accounts for my client's fascination (or obsession) with female nudity. There is in fact an anatomical support for this.

Hands down, humans have the largest penis amongst the primates (measured in actual size). And
 there are millions of sperms per ejaculation as compared to the modest number of eggs that the female produces. It is estimated that in a woman's lifetime, she would have produced about 400 eggs. 

So, no prize for guessing how this anatomical difference between the sexes motivates or conditions our thoughts and behavior over our lifetime. Since sperm are aplenty and cheap and eggs are scarce and expensive, it makes evolutionary sense for women to view sex with greater caution than men.

For men, sex is merely a roll in the hay. But for
 women, she has to be much more careful. Especially before the coming of the pill, a sexual encounter would inevitably mean bringing the whole "hay" home, carrying it for 9 months, going through labor pains and possibly birth complications, feeding and tending, and nurturing and caring for years on ends. The maternal investment involved is relatively staggering. It is for this reason that women tend to take sex more seriously while men see it as a mindless joyride.

In fact, a social experiment was carried out to prove this point. Respondents from both sexes were asked 
about one night stands on a first date. 75% of the men said yes to it while almost all the ladies said no. The result was the same in other countries as well, and it is replicated by more than 6 millions users on the online dating site “OKCupid”. Men are just more sex-driven. This is of course expected. But here comes the interesting part.

Another experiment was first carried out on the ladies. It involved measuring physical arousal via a device called plethysmograph. This device is able to measure the blood flow in a woman's vaginally walls. With the device properly installed, the ladies were made to view a series of images depicting men, men exercising, straight sex, gay sex,
 lesbian sex and even copulating baboons.

After the viewing, the ladies were asked how they felt. This was to measure the women's psychological arousal. Note that the plethysmograph was set up to measure physical arousal. There is a crucial difference between the two, that is, physical and psychological arousal. The point of the experiment is to see the connection between them.

The results confirmed what we have been expecting all this time. While the ladies were physically aroused by all the images as measured by the plethysmograph,  they experienced different levels of psychological arousal with the reply they give about the images. Heterosexual sex was placed on the top of the list and monkey sex was at the bottom of
 conscious arousal. So, for women, physical arousal is not immediately translated into psychological arousal. There is a filter of some sort, a personal discretion to differentiate. This is different for men. They are actually less complicated. And my client's wife would be interested to know this.

The same experiment was done on men and whenever they were turned on (by measuring the blood flow in the erected penis) when viewing the same images, they were correspondingly turned on psychologically. There was no different levels of psychological arousal for them (except monkey sex of course...they all hated it) unlike the women. 

In other words, their answers to the question "how do you feel" was consistent with every time they get an erection. Their sexual arousal coincides with their psychological arousal. There is no filter for men. No hesitation that is. This social
 experiments shows that women are more in control, reflective and cautious about jumping into bed with the opposite sex. Their physical arousal is tempered with psychological brakes, so to speak.

For men, an erection means only one thing: they are thinking of and want sex. Period. For women, a physical arousal is more nuanced and layered. There is somehow a filter in their brain that is able to consciously resist the desire to reach out for that low hanging forbidden fruit (whereas men would just pluck it off and gobble it down whole). This is most clearly played out in the sex-boosting drug Viagra, which specifically targets physical arousal. 

You see, this so
-called miracle drug works marvelously well for men. When they get an erection, men seek out what Marvin Gaye would diplomatically call “sexual healing” pronto. We are very predictable. There is no second thoughts. We dive in without much thought.

But surprisingly, Viagra doesn't work as well for women. This makes sense considering what I have written so far. Women are just not that into sex the way men are when they are physically aroused. You can say that Viagra does half the job for women leaving psychological arousal “unmoved”. Somehow, for the ladies, the physical excitement below the waist does not translate directly into sexual desire above the neck. It's like there is a disconnect between physical arousal and psychological arousal.

Clearly, women require more than physical stimulation to make them want to engage in sex.  While men has the tendency to objectify women, and get aroused by the mere sight of the woman's breast, butt, legs, hip and waist (even hair), women's arousal is not just physical but emotional too. And while men doesn't need a reason to have sex, women generally need a story, a background, and a context for sex.
 As such, a woman may be physically aroused by still or moving images, but if she can’t find a reason to want to sleep with you, you are really out of luck. So, if you think for a second that all you need to do to seduce a lady is to just flex those muscles and bounce those chest, think again and again and again.

And I know it is often said that women are the weaker sex. Physically, yes. But they are definitely not weak in the mind.  If anything, women are better at controlling their desires and not let it overwhelm them. They study the behavior, find out more about the date, keep their options open, resist making hasty decisions, and refuse to be led by the nose by their sexual appetites. For men, the reinforcing feedback loop between physical arousal and psychological arousal almost immediately turns lust into possession and sex into obsession.

This brings me back to my client's handphone pornotopia and his suspicious wife. I think his wife should by now know that the hard-wiring of his husband’s brain when it comes to sex is different from hers. What I have written so far points to the evolutionary, biological and psychological fact that women keeps sex at arm’s length while men embrace it with both hands. This is just how we are created or how our brain is hardwired. I am of course not excusing my client’s behavior. I am just asking that his wife understand the nature, urges and motivations of his husband’s action.

Alas, in the end, men will always be men. When it comes to sex, we are indeed the weaker sex. We are more susceptible to temptation and we are more easily swayed by sight and sight alone. A woman goes beyond physical sight to demonstrable deeds. And when a man gets an erection, the only satisfaction for him is to release it. For us, there seems to be no other way. 

And here is why each of us man must examine our own heart and control our sexual appetites accordingly. This is also where Philippians 4:8 comes in as a timely reminder for us. I believe that our deeds are conditioned by our thoughts. And my client’s technological foray into questionable materials in his hand phone is a slippery slope for him. One thing usually leads to another and an addiction or obsession comes full circle when we reinforce it with enough attention and for long enough time. We therefore need a positive distraction and turn that distraction into a self-reinforcing habit of the mind and heart.

If lust is a one-track mind rushing towards a certain failing, then love works in reverse moving steadily towards a certain reinforcing. It is scientifically proven that being in love with your spouse keeps you from straying. 

In the book how sex works, author Dr Sharon Moalem wrote, “The researchers’ theory is that concentrating on the love you have for your partner may block the normal reflexes that might otherwise cause you to consider other potential “attractive” partners. This may be a mechanism that evolved to keep couples together.” 

Seen from this scientific perspective, love for me is a deeply nourishing and satisfying emotion which, in the context of a marriage, compels us to focus only on one instead of many. It is no doubt a struggle sometimes due to our sexualized nature and culture, but the reward is life-transforming because it generally takes a lifetime (or more) to know your partner. And the rewards are in the discovering, overcoming and growing together rather than in a superficial and mindless act of sleeping with one after another. Lust is always empty, but love is always fulfilling.

Let me end here with the words of a Swiss author. She once wrote, “The desire of the man is for the woman. And the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.” (Madame de Stael

My client should understand that his wife longs to be desired by him. Such desire is call devotion and such devotion cannot be divided. When my client gawks at those pornographic pictures, he is transforming his desire for his wife to the desire for women in general (especially young and sexy ones). This is dangerous for the marriage because my client is turning love into lust by treasuring the subject of his love to objectifying the subject of his lust. This is not just disrespectful to his wife, but it also reduces her into a sex object for loose mental comparisons and association.

Before long, my client would fall helplessly into temptation when the opportunity avails itself. And for a man who is always globetrotting, what is seriously lacking is not the opportunities for marital indiscretions, but a mind strong enough to resist all temptations. Cheerz.

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