Honesty in the Art of Desire

The title of this post is a reference to a previous one, where I examined the impact of desiring that which you have no control over. Now, however, I’ll be examining the issue of honesty in desire, and why it seems so difficult to be honest about (particularly, sexual) desires.

Expressing desire of any sort towards a female who might be the object of my desire has long been a difficult prospect. Generally, I tend to abstain from any such expression, due to the perceived complications that could result. I’m not sure whether it has been that I was afraid of being judged falsely, and perceived that I was only chasing skirts, or whether I was afraid that there was some truth to such a judgment and I sought to make that judgment untrue by never allowing myself the chance to act on such desires. Perhaps some combination of both explains my behavior (as life is often complicated and never sufficiently explained by merely one cause or one perspective).

I do not, however, think it is fair to say or true at all that I only ever desired sex merely for sex’s sake, else I would have been attracted to a much higher number of females growing up and in adulthood. Truth be told, my attraction is rare (and only becoming rarer) and fleeting at best. Women maintain my interest only for so long, and it is very easy for me to become disinterested with them on the whole. There have been rare exceptions, of course, but this has generally been the case, and my attraction only seems harder to muster the farther removed from puberty I become. The unglamorous side of romantic entanglements – the nagging, the manipulating, the selfishness, the abuse and misuse, the general lack of reciprocal sacrifice, the trend towards entitlement and expectation, and all other problems common to American male-female relations that have been well documented elsewhere – have been more than persuasive enough for me to abstain from earnest pursuit of a relationship over the past 4 or more years.

Even still, were it true that I did desire sex merely for sex’s sake, what is it about that desire that makes it an inherently poor reflection of one’s character? Why is sexual desire, particularly a male’s desire, perceived as such a large negative in our time? Is there something wrong about finding a woman attractive? Having the desire for sex does not necessarily mean that I am going to go out of my way to get it, and it certainly does not mean I will pursue it if I am told there is no reciprocal interest. Sometimes, I am merely desirous of inflicting the greatest pleasure imaginable on the person for whom I am enamored with (even if I were not to have any sort of reciprocal action!) and I really have a hard time understanding why that is so undesirable and taboo. If there is nothing inherently wrong in desiring a woman, why then the problem expressing such a desire?
It seems pragmatic to keep such desire secret, as many people automatically assume that if a man has this desire, he also has the worst intentions regarding it. Therefore, if a man has the desire, he seems to be instantly regarded as nefarious, even if the desire could be innocent and well-meaning. Perhaps I am equally unfair, in that I assume that all women will assume my desire is negative. Just as it is unfair to treat me poorly because other men are uncouth and unrelenting in their advances, it is unfair to automatically assume that women do not want my desire and will regard it as a negative – even if empiricism and personal experience seem to bear this conclusion out. My own experience as well as the common experience of many other men demonstrates that sexual desire inappropriately expressed – or even expressed at all when there is no reciprocal desire – can have a disastrous impact on an otherwise amicable relationship. Such desire will cause the man to become seemingly worthless or even subhuman in the eyes of the female, and whatever relations there may have been before will then be significantly compromised.
Not being honest about the desire, however, calls into question the very character of the relationship – can it be said it is a truly good relationship if it is built on false pretenses (pretending there is no sexual desire) and not characterized by complete honesty? It seems there will always be an element of unfulfilled desire and frustration that must be checked and that will slowly but surely poison the mood. Is it pragmatic to suppress desire in order to maintain a relationship that is not fully honest and will never be fully satisfying?
But wait, you might say, just desiring sex does not mean you should get it, and therefore it is unfair to call relationships without sex not fully satisfying. This is true, but the reason these friendships are unsatisfying is because they are not characterized by honesty. I would be much more satisfied with a platonic friendship with a woman who remained a good friend with me even after rejecting my sexual desire, because I was able to be honest with her about my feelings and she demonstrated a respectful way of handling them even if she did not share reciprocal feelings. The problem is that I am afraid to be that honest with most people, because it seems to lead to disastrous consequences for the relationship. An expression for a desire of increased physical intimacy almost invariably seems to lead to decreased emotional intimacy. Why must this be so?
An inability to be honest in one facet of a relationship tends to spill over to other parts, and one tends to be reluctant to be fully honest about other matters. Everything tends to become a facade, until one wonders why one maintains a friendship at all. An isolation borne of no contact with others at all is more logical and easier to cope with than an isolation that is a result of many poisoned and flawed relationships – so perhaps no relationships are better than these ones built on facades.
What, then, is the solution to this problem? Wishful thinking will not solve it, certainly. Should I just stomach or shrug off the disappointment of a cessation of relations every time I admit sexual desire and it is not reciprocated? Perhaps it is pertinent to note that I tend to only be desirous of those I feel a strong emotional connection to, meaning that the potential relationships I am putting at stake are ones that provide me with at least some amount of emotional serenity. Perhaps as soon as I recognize I am desirous of a woman, I should sit down and have a systemic and rigorous conversation regarding this topic in an attempt to explain to her the complexity of my desire and my expression of it? If that sounds ridiculous, it was meant to.
Maybe the whole dilemma is moot, because it is obvious to all whom I desire that I desire them. I wonder if this is the case. It is not likely I will find out unless I am asked directly if I am attracted to a particular woman by the woman herself, and even then I may deny such an attraction on the basis I do not perceive the question to be an innocent (non-loaded) one, one without consequences. I wonder why this information can’t be as simple and inconsequential as other information one gathers about people in a relationship. Why can’t it be like talking about movies, or music, or what have you. If there is mutual attraction, great! If not, oh well! Kind of like if you have mutual interest in movies – great! If not – oh well! Just because one person is desirous of sex and the other person is not does not mean the two cannot have a friendship, but many people seem to assume that this is the case, which necessitates the suppression of the expression of desire.
There are tangential concerns I could write about, but I am primarily frustrated with the pragmatic implications of being honest about desire in a relationship. It is frustrating and disappointing, and often this inability to be honest causes me to terminate the relationship after a certain point anyway. Perhaps I should just start going around admitting the desire as soon as I recognize it, then, if all paths lead to the same place. I am better prepared for solitude than I once was, anyway.

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