A TED Talk A Day, Day 4: Funny, the things I find in my watch later list. I’m not sure where I picked this video up, but it’s definitely a topic anyone would be interested in. An absolutely fascinating talk on desire.
Good intimacy does not always lead to good sex, contrary to popular belief.
We are in an age (for the first time, she says) where we want sex purely for desire, i.e. not for having children or not out of duty, but because we simply want it for pleasure and connection. But the question is: what sustains desire and how do we maintain it?
We are trying to reconcile two opposing needs: the need for safety, permanence, certainty; and the need for novelty, risk, surprise, variety, excitement. What we look for today, a passionate marriage, is a contradiction in terms: the safety of an practical partnership with the excitement of a passionate lover.
Across cultures, people are most drawn to their partners when:
they are away. In short, when they can root their desire in imagination and longing.
they are in their element — radiant and confident.
they are surprised —when there is novelty, in terms of what aspects of their partners they see.
There is no neediness in desire. There is no care-taking: that can be loving, but it’s also an anti-aphrodisiac.
Humans are the only species who combine sex with the imagination. And generally people want better sex, which is to reconnect with the quality of eros, vibrancy and vitality, that is rooted in imagination.
A key question is “I shut myself off when…?”, not “You turn me off when…” or “What turns me off is…” Often the answer is when we feel low self-esteem, when we don’t perform at work, when I don’t have a sense of self-worth, when I don’t feel like I have a right to want and to receive pleasure, etc.
Another question is “I turn myself on when…?” When do I turn on my desires? Desire often comes from attributes that usually are in opposition with love and what is safe/responsible: power, jealousy, dominance, naughtiness, mischief.
Love comes from selflessness, but desire comes from selfishness. Selfishness in the best sense of the word — the ability to to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another.
Desire is rooted in exploration, and in the freedom we have. Take the example of a child who is told to go explore and that the world is fun, versus a child who is being shown anxiety and worry. The former would feel freer to explore.
We will sacrifice one part of ourselves to hold on to another, i.e. we will sacrifice our freedom in order not to lose connection, to stay safe. This may cause us to forget to how to go play and leave that safe place.
So how do we reconcile these needs?
Have sexual privacy. There is an erotic space that belongs to each person.
Foreplay doesn’t start 5 minutes before sex. It starts after the last orgasm ends.
Leave the “good citizen” behind. Responsibility and desire don’t go well together.
Passion waxes and wanes. But erotic couples know how to bring it back, because they know spontaneity is a myth. Committed sex has to be deliberate.
Suggested action step: I think this talk applies as much to life as it does to relationships, so I will remember to choose the less safe option when I can, explore when I can, and take risks in the moment.