It is rare to get through this life without feeling – generally with a degree of secret agony, perhaps at the end of a relationship, or as we lie in bed frustrated next to our partner, unable to go to sleep – that we are somehow a bit odd about scx. It is an area in which most of us have a painful impression, in our heart of hearts, that we are quite unusual.
Despite being one of the most private of activities, scx is nonetheless surrounded by a range of powerful socially sanctioned ideas that codify how normal people are meant to feel about and deal with the matter.
In truth, however, few of us are remotely nonnal scxually. We are almost all haunted by guilt and neuroses, by phobias and disruptive desires, by indifference and disgust. None of us approaches sex as we are meant to, with the cheerful, sporting, non-obsessive, constant, well-adjusted outlook that we torture ourselves by believing that other people are endowed with. We are universally deviant – but only in relation to some highly distorted ideals of normality.
Given how coimnon it is to be strange, it is regrettable how seldom the realities of scxual life make it into the public realm. Most of what we are scxually remains impossible to communicate with anyone whom we would want to think well of us. Men and women in love will instinctively hold back from sharing more than a fraction of their desires out of a fear, usually accurate, of generating intolerable disgust in their partners. We may find it easier to die without having had certain conversations.
The priority of a philosophical book about scx seems evident: not to teach us how to have more intense or more frequent scx, but rather to suggest how, through a shared language, we might begin to feel a little less painfully strange about the scx we are either longing to have or struggling to avoid.