Only mature people can grasp the whole of the complex and multilevel experience of desire, sex, and love. In Brazil, however, most opinion-makers are not up to that task.
“Ripeness is all.” ShakespeareIn almost everything that I read and hear about sex, desire, and love, there reigns the grossest and most puerile lack of distinction between the most divers experiences associated with those words, which are often taken as synonyms.
On its most immediate and physiological level, desire is a purely internal phenomenon, produced by hormonal chemistry and having no defined object, being able, for that very reason, to be then projected onto any object, real or imaginary. It is a sheer physiological urge, a “desire for orgasm” that emerges without the need for an external exciting stimulus and can be satisfied through simple mechanical friction of male or female genitals.
Quite different is the desire aroused by the direct or indirect sight of an object, that is, a desirable body. Invariably, in that case, the rousing factor is some secondary sexual feature to which the desiring subject is particularly attracted: breasts, buttocks, legs, eyes, and so on. This is the level that technically corresponds to the scholastic notion of concupiscentia. The sexually suggestive remarks young men who loiter about the streets make about women who walk by are an encyclopedia of verbal expressions that manifest this kind of desire.
On a third level, desire is not aroused by any prominent physical feature, but by an overall, undefined, and non-located impression of beauty and charm, almost like a magic aura surrounding the desired object.
The next level is when we fall in love with someone or lose our heart to someone. It is the level characterized by that coup de foudre that turns our object of desire into an obsessive and irreplaceable presence in our mind. This emotion is filled with ambiguities. It brings with itself anxiety, fear of rejection, and triggers a number of psychological defense mechanisms against potential frustration.
Once those ambiguities are overcome, the initial loving attachment may crystallize into a conjugal dream, which is the longing to have our beloved one with us forever. On this level, desire takes on characteristics of a moral value, destined to manifest itself in the common acceptance of sacrifices for the sake of mutual benefit, of raising a family, of taking social responsibilities, and so on and so forth. The greater or lesser resistance of a couple against difficulties can lead to results ranging from the raising of a stable family to a whole variety of conjugal disasters.
However, true and genuine love, in the fullest sense of the word, can only emerge at the summit of the conjugal experience, with all of its ambiguities. True love is the firm, constant, and irrevocable impulse to sacrifice everything for the good of our beloved, to forgive always and unconditionally our beloved’s faults and sins, to protect the person we love from all evil and sadness, even at the risk of our own life, and to maintain that person on our side as our most valuable possession, not only during this earthly existence, but for all eternity.
Each one of those levels encompasses and transcends the previous one, and only those who go to the next stage are able to understand what was at stake in the previous stage.
It is obvious that only the person who has gone through all the stages is qualified to reach an objective and comprehensive view of human being’s sexual experience, which other people can only see in a partial and subjective— and not rarely solipsistic— way, determined by their fixation at a stage that refuses to go away.
Unfortunately, that is the case of the majority of the media or academic opinion-makers in Brazil, who kindly offer to shape other people’s sexual lives according to the measure of their own existential underdevelopment.
Many are not satisfied with that and turn their own atrophied conscience into a criterion of morality, based upon which they judge and condemn what they cannot understand. Those are the people I call “puerile sexologists:” those atrophied souls that want to tailor other people’s sexual lives to conform to the mold of their own immaturity.