Sex. Such a loaded word and the act itself can mean so many things: fun, satisfaction, heartbreak, babies…you could go on forever. For something that is so intrinsic to our survival - we literally wouldn’t exist without it - why is it so damn complicated?
In an article written for Psychology Today professor of Anthropology Augustin Fuentes says that for humans sex is never just about the biological act. Why? “Because human nature is all about social intercourse, about connection and interaction between people, exchanges of thoughts and feelings, and sex is a central part of this system,” says Fuentes. So sex is a core part of how we interact and get along with each other (or don’t). It’s not the actual act of sex that gets messy (so to speak), it’s all the feelings and social implications that get in the way. So you might think you’re having casual, no-strings-attached sex with that cute guy from work, but we’re sorry to say ladies…this is never the case.
Sex therapist Susie Tuckwell puts it aptly: “There is no such thing as the 'zipless screw' - that is, a sex act without any psychological impacts, meaning or implications.”
In the animal kingdom things are much simpler: sex is an exchange of gametes (sperm and egg) and that’s all really – not very, erm, sexy. Animals do have some form of basic negotiation before engaging in “the act” but really they’re doing the deed to make babies and keep evolving, for us it’s a bit trickier. If we were merely motivated by the need to reproduce, we’d be giving it up for any guy that looked twice at us at the bar. But, even though we do sometimes use sex for its basic biological function – baby making – usually it’s just one big, complicated social interaction.
And for us ladies some research states that we use sex to feel closer to others: "Some women have sex to feel connected to their partners, with the physical pleasure secondary to the emotional connection it creates for them," says Tuckwell
Think about it, when don’t you have some sort of feeling before/after/during sex about the person you’re doing the sideways tango with? If it’s your boyfriend you might be expressing feelings of love and closeness, if it’s a casual encounter maybe you’re just expressing your freedom, or if it’s a potential beau then you could be testing out how he feels about you. Sex is hardly ever done without some kind of context, which is what makes it super complicated: “Every human brings with her or him a suite of embodied experiences to every sexual encounter and even to every thought, consideration, or fantasy about sexual encounters,” says Fuentes. We humans can’t separate our over-analysing brains from the physical act.
According to Tuckwell people may also use sex as a measure of their power: "For men and women, sex and power are linked: some men judge each other by whether they have a '10', a hot girl. Some women use sexuality to 'snare a millionaire'. It can become a means to another end." So you can see that sex often isn't just being performed just for the sake of it.
Even though it can get uber messy we continue to go on having sex. A lot. Why? Because even though sometimes we get hurt, confused, complicated feelings, the act is so important for our connection with the person/people we’re doing it with, we will never stop doing so. In short sex is ridiculously vital for human interaction and is a big part of how we relate to each other. So next time you feel something while you’re getting down and dirty you can just take it as a cue that you’re a normal, functioning human being.