About the author: SexArt member BlackWing has a Bachelor of Science in Health and Safety Education, minor in Physiology, and a Master of Science in Computer Science, Network Engineering Concentration. She is also a fully qualified and experienced paramedic and personal fitness trainer. She enjoys outdoor activities, running, martial arts, teaching, mentoring, and hacking.
We Americans have a long history of independence and exceptionalism – or at least we like to think we do. We tend to think that because we began the great experiment of a Democracy by breaking away from our mother country England, and began an entirely new form of self governing while at the same time conquering the great vastness of the North American Continent, we do everything better than everyone else and twice as good every other day. Yet our “elitism” may in fact be killing us – or possibly killing our youth. Our views on love and sexuality reflect our deep parochial and provincial Protestant roots. Our founding forefathers (and mothers!) came here for the sole purpose of being able to practice their religious beliefs. And while this “freedom of religion” is inherent in our DNA, given the state of our politics and our tendencies towards the extremes is it any wonder that our teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates, as well as our STD rates, are among the highest, if not THE highest, in the world? Which begs the question: are we really doing things better than our European ancestors? To answer this question, let’s look at the facts…
Internationalcomparisons.org is a “comprehensive research site on advanced democracies” that provides objective information on international quality of life indicators. Their most recent research data for years 2008-2011 per 1000 girls/women ages 15-19 show that of the 11 countries surveyed, the United States had the highest adolescent birth rate at 34.2%. The next highest was our mother country, the UK, at 25.1%. Compare this figure to the Netherlands at 9.3%, Germany at 8.2%, Denmark at 4.5%, Sweden at 5.9%, France at 11.9% and Italy at 6.5% (International Comparisons).
So why the difference, one may ask? Research shows that American views on sex, sexuality, sex education, marriage, and relational commitments may possibly be the issue. Due to our Puritan historical roots we tend to believe that love and sex are one and the same and absolutely cannot be mutually exclusive. Yet is this realistic? For instance, far-right fundamentalists who favour outlawing abortion and overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 cannot grasp the fact that two of the things they greatly oppose, which are contraception and comprehensive sex education programs, absolutely have been proven to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and therefore, reduce the need for abortions.
Why are these points important? They are important because it is becoming increasingly clear that European views on sex, sexuality, monogamy and marriage are not only vastly different from the American view, but may actually be healthier. Let’s face facts: marriage (Married Love) is for stability, friendship, and potentially raising children; sexual desire (Romantic Love) is an adrenaline rush of highs and lows, sexual madness, the romance of being appreciated by a new person, the joys of flirting, pursuing, and surreptitious coupling. Many Americans believe that “romantic love” is the same as “married love,” when in fact they are diametrically opposed. Romantic love (or in reality, sexual desire) is a delusional, brief insanity, while married love is pragmatic, long lasting and sane. Europeans know this fact inherently while Americans tend to fight it tooth and nail. Some of course will disagree – so let’s again go to the facts.
Sexual desire is defined by Regan as “a wish, need, or drive to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities” (Regan). Romantic love is defined as “the constellations of behaviours, cognitions, and emotions associated with a desire to enter or maintain a close relationship with a specific other person,” (Aron and Aron). Biochemically, biologically and physiologically, researchers Diamond and Dickerson found that there are areas of the human brain which are stimulated in a similar fashion in both romantic love (i.e. “sexual desire”) and married love (Diamond and Dickerson). However, they also found that pure sexual desire also stimulates different parts of the human brain, which are NOT stimulated in committed, long-term, emotionally invested relationships. They also discovered that some areas of the human brain are possibly stimulated in both cases, thus overlapping in the biochemical response neurologically in both committed relationships and those involving “pure” sexual desire. Thus future research is needed to determine if certain types of sexual desire may possibly be independent of married love experientially and neurologically.
If this is the case, then the increase in polyamorous relationships in the US (which are more standard in some European cultures) might indeed be a more practical, pragmatic, and sensible (not to mention mature) way to view relationships. Polyamorous is a term used to refer to individuals who do not hold to the view that sensual/sexual and relational/interpersonal exclusivity are necessary for profound, faithful, long-term loving relationships. “Sex is not essentially a primary focus in Polyamorous relationships, which usually consist of people seeking to build long-term relationships with more than one person on reciprocally agreeable grounds, and sex as only one aspect of their relationships. For many, such relationships are ideally built upon values of trust, loyalty and the negotiation of boundaries, as well as overcoming jealousy and possessiveness, and rejecting restrictive cultural standards” (wikipedia.org).
Scientifically, biologically, and psychologically speaking, many Americans do comprehend all of the above information; we’re just not sure how it’s practiced. Yet if we were to look at the adult erotic film industry we might be able to begin to understand this concept. For instance, at SexArt and its family of websites, all of the models (male and female) demonstrate repeatedly their respect, fondness and affection for each other in a most emotionally healthy way. Yes, it is a profession; however there appears to be great care given to each other, and this is also apparent when we see “behind the scenes” video clips. Such care is not confined to the models but is obviously a part of the interaction of all parties working on the films – technical, directorial, production and so on – although it is considered “crossing the professional line” for the film crew to engage in physical intimacy with the models.
Coming from a parochial and conservative (read “RIGID” religious culture), I honestly have trouble trying to wrap my head around the fact that these relationships appear to be so healthy – emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Let’s face it: European viewpoints on the physical and on sex (and alcohol) in particular are so vastly different and way more openly discussed than in the US, yet in most of the “civilized” countries which are a part of the EU, teen pregnancy is lower, alcoholism is lower, crime is lower. As an American I have to wonder, “How is this working?” I mean, seriously? No facetiousness intended at all here. How in the world do these relationships remain so healthy, strong, and committed to each other: as friends, as partners, as committed couples? And how is it possible that these individuals are so healthy emotionally and psychologically (as well as physically, obviously) in regards to their sexual nature and the expression of that nature? I think if half the western world could wrap their head around this concept it might go a long way towards dispelling the belief of adult erotica being a “nasty, horrible, abusive, dirty industry.”
Since America as a country is a relatively young one, (we are only a mere 239 years old!) we might need a bit more maturity as a culture in order for us to find another way of loving. Perhaps we need to think of a “loving” relationship as being one in which two deeply committed friends and soul mates share a bond that is deep and abiding, and that this steadfast and enduring love relationship is so pervasive and continuous that we might actually dare to experience other loves and even share them with each other. Such a relationship would take as a given that the friendship that endures between the lovers is more vital than the sexual love that flares between two friends. Many of us feel like we are aliens on a strange planet throughout most of our lives and because of this we, as humans, need relationships, nurturing, and closeness. Yet we also may – according to the facts and new research – occasionally need to go wild with another individual to whom we are sexually attracted; not because we do not “love” our partner, but because we know that what we share with that one special person is something different entirely than what we have ever found with anyone else, and because of this fact, we have no need of concern that there is “betrayal.”
It is clear in the movies on SexArt that the participants (both male and female) may have evolved beyond the territoriality that is inherent in us as a human species. It is also clear that many European cultures are moving towards such an evolution at a faster pace than the United States. One must remember that we as humans really are territorial by nature and tend towards jealousy if we feel threatened. A relationship like the one I describe above, and like those that appear to be exhibited by the participants in the industry, must obviously feel complete enough, fulfilled enough, and separate yet equal enough to not fear the destruction of the relationship from a brief coupling that is based purely on sexual desire and mutual affection. Such relationships have to presuppose emotional equality, material equality, and intellectual equality. And there absolutely have to be firm, unbreakable ground rules of honesty, mutual respect, and trust. If we as humans make the mistake of assuming a wedding ring or any symbol of commitment invariably acts as a substitute for chains, then “rebellion” in the relationship(s) will occur and escalate into an all out “world war.” The freedom to love must be respected, freely given by both individuals and must always guard against its greatest enemy: resentment. Perhaps we can learn these lessons from the professionals in the adult industry, as well as taking our cue from our European brothers and sisters.
Aron, AP and EN Aron. "Love and Sexuality" McKinney, K. & Sprecher, S. Sexuality in Close Relationships. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, n.d. 25-48.
Diamond, Lisa M. and Janna A. Dickerson. "The Neuroimaging of Love and Desire: Review and Future Directions." Clinical Neuropsychiatry 2012.
International Comparisons. www.internationalcomparisons.org. 2015. [16 August 2015]
Regan, PC. "Of Lust and Love: Beliefs About The Role of Sexual Desire in Romatic Relationships." Personal Relationships 1998: 139-157.