Thursday, April 29, 2010

Whither Romance

Playing with etymology I chanced upon the origin of the English word romance: it comes from the Old French romanz ("verse narrative"), related also to the modern French roman ("novel"), gaining its modern sense only in the 17th century. So is everything romantic at the core a fiction?

Did the relatively modern sense related to matters of the metaphoric heart, come to be accepted just in time for the industrial revolution to turn romance into prosaic mating?

Indeed, it strikes me that the industrial age brought about the most intense denial of such a scientific development in the form of something known as Victorian mores or customs, the Manicheism of the 19th century that survived into the 20th. The major change brought about by the sexual revolution, in whose ramparts I valiantly fought, was the beginning of an admission that a lot that happens with regards to romance is actually biological.

Romance involves a temporary suspension of the brain's critical functions, induced by what must no doubt be a flood of pleasure-inducing chemicals, so that we become convinced that this one other person, suddenly encompassed within our ego's expanding boundary, is astoundingly special and even necessary to our survival.

Thus, I would argue, the claim that certain public figures whose sexuality has become known are "sex addicts" is absurd. Once we have experienced it, we are all to some extent "addicted," or uncommonly willing to seek, the pleasure of romance.

The label gets flung at men -- Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, etc. -- largely because women have different biological goals.

Men are biologically set to impregnate as many women as possible, a goal that is fulfilled in sexual consummation. Women are biologically set to become impregnated, carry the potential human being to birth and then provide at least the indispensable nurture needed for the infant's survival, a goal that is best fulfilled in marriage or some form of long-term commitment.

Such a set of mechanisms explains why men move on quickly and women hang on.

Similarly, the pattern explains why men are eager to call a taxi right after orgasm, while women keep up the romance until they get a ring around their fingers. Biology also explain why the romance ends early in courtship for men and on the honeymoon's first night for women.

Women are just as "addicted" as men. Except ... can one really call what seems to me a natural process an "addiction"?

A therapist I know, who has no direct personal knowledge of either Clinton or Woods, claims that not only is there such a thing, but that the former president and the golfer are prime addicts. Funny, no women ever get mentioned, even though if there were such a thing as sex addiction, I might have postulated my friend, who is of the female persuasion, as an exemplar.

All of which is apropos of nothing more than writing a new post finally giving expression to an idea I have been mulling for some time. You may disagree. Of course, you would be wrong.


Cecilieaux said...

UPDATE: Check out the latest post on Guilty With An Explanation.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Why thank you, Cecil!

I think the much-touted "sex addiction" is a crock. No matter how we are wired biologically, we also have (presumably) brains and free will and hopefully, even a conscience and the desire not to inflict pain on our chosen partner.

There are many reasons for promiscuity, both male and female. Those who were molested in childhood often have low self-esteem and believe that they have nothing else to offer. But all these men claiming sex addiction seems a lot like "the devil made me do it."

Anonymous said...

Free will?

Nikka Scalper said...

*Nikka takes notes and reflects on what has been written...