Sex is a bomb. It is a grenade that is alternately filled with Ecstasy and shrapnel. In the latter case, love is the pin which if pulled results in mutually assured destruction.

Silvan Tomkins in his Affect Theory notes that the sexual impulse is a chameleon of sorts. When lust first stirs or we are touched for the first time by a sexual partner, the affect of "interest-excitement" is triggered. Like pain (which is unique-neither drive or affect), it seizes our attention with uncomfortable sensations. Like the drives of hunger and thirst, the desire for fulfillment increases until relieved, and relief when it comes is euphoric and magnified by the affect of "enjoyment-joy". Because it is capable of generating and being associated with intense distress due to pain, "fear-terror", or "shame", in accord with Solomon's Opponent-Process Theory of motivation, escape from extremely unpleasant sexual encounters can generate a feeling of euphoria which is itself addictive.

Love is a complex emotion generated by memories of enjoyment-joy and interest-excitement associated with a particular object (car, teddy bear, intimate). So accordingly love is associated in extremely complex ways with sexual desire and sexual release. Sex without love is somewhat analogous (IMHO) to driving while under the influence. We have all done it, some of us quit before the inevitable accident.

A true story dedicated to all those compulsive and irritatingly charming purveyors of authenticity at all costs.

Many, many years ago I worked an evening shift in a low level position at a psychiatric hospital. Working the 3 to 11 shift when added to my basic shyness made it difficult to have much of a social life. I became friends with another worker named Ginnie.

It was a strange friendship that often had sexual overtones that were never fully explored. Ginnie was an extremely outgoing and kind person. But she always seemed scattered and distracted in a way that was like nails on a blackboard to my compulsive sensibilities. We kissed only once and I was amazed by what a good kisser she was (given her usual lack of focus). But our attempts at intimacy never went any further than that. We settled into a kind of brother and sister relationship with all the ambivalence associated with same.

Sometimes Ginnie would sleep over at my apartment if we were out late and she was too tired to drive home. We often talked late into the night on such occasions.

Ginnie's best friend from childhood was a woman named Carol--another scattered "free spirit"-who was married to a computer programmer named Richard. I met Carol and Richard more than once or twice. They invited me to their home for a New Year's Party once. There seemed to be something a little unusual about how the guests at the party mingled. At the time I attributed this feeling to my own shyness and some possible secrecy around drug use behind the scenes.

Well, sometime after that party, I asked Ginnie if she had spoken to Carol lately. She had, but she admitted that while she and Carol still spoke, their relationship was strained. Apparently Carol and Ginnie and Richard had all been indulging in some mutual flirtation and finally acted on and enjoyed the guilty thrill of engaging in a ménage a trois. Ginnie had enjoyed the experience in which for the most part she watched her two friends have sex, lending an extra hand or set of lips. Ginnie said that when she was participating in foreplay with the couple, she and Carol seemed to be engaging in a kind of friendly competition, each trying to outdo the other in their ability to get a reaction from Richard.

They fell asleep together and everyone agreed the experience had been enjoyable. Sometime later, however, Carol finally admitted to Ginnie that she was feeling extremely jealous of her. After Carol described the reasons for her jealousy, Ginnie tried to reassure her of her lack of interest in Richard, but there was no simple way of hiding the enjoyment and closeness she had felt towards Richard at the time.

Sexual intimacy consists of a large, but finite, number of combinations of touches and probings. But as Tomkins notes, affects and emotions always make good things better and bad things much worse, they tell us what is important for our physical and psychological survival, and they laugh at our "best intentions" and leaky rationalizations. Carol had developed an obsessive fixation on an image of Ginnie going down on her husband (for what seemed to her an overly long period of time) and Ginnie and the husband's facial expressions. The scene played over and over in her mind and added it's considerable weight to other undercurrents in the couple's relationship.

Carol and Richard divorced about a year after the tryst-a good thing all things considered--and Carol suffered from an extremely long and severe depression. A few years after the divorce, Ginnie and Carol finally renewed their friendship, but it was never quite the same. Ginnie and Richard are no longer friends. The possibility of my making two new friends was all but eliminated. A blow-job (which is after all the simple and inherently "innocent" act of sliding one's innocent and well-meaning lips over an equally innocent and consenting, hopefully erect, penis) had pulled the pin, and it's hard to say who fell on the grenade and who survived after the pin was pulled.

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