Love doctor: What's sex got to do with it?

Are love and sex inextricably linked? My dad was a love-and-sex man. At least I think he was. He certainly wasn't the kind of guy to say "phwooar!" (if that's how it's spelt). And he was never unfaithful to his partners. My mother, on the other hand, was a sex-without-love person. When they divorced, my father, on talking to the head of the Royal College of Art, where she worked, was asked by the principal how he could have stood all her affairs. "Oh, it wasn't affairs, it was only flirting," said my father. "Flirting?" replied the principal, his eyes bulging. "My dear man, your wife went to bed with everyone in the college, myself included!"

It's not surprising I've been confused about the whole connection between love and sex. Add to that the fact that I was brought up in the Sixties, and another horrible factor enters into the mix. It was all so easy in the Fifties. You just said "no" because of the possibility of getting pregnant. Obviously pre-marital sex took place back then, but it wasn't so easy for a man to get his way because women were meant to keep their legs crossed, and there was a greater taboo about women who slept around. Abortion was illegal and although birth control was available, it was only easy to get a rubber cap fitted around your cervix if you also had a wedding ring.

But come the Sixties and the arrival of the contraceptive pill combined with the fact that the feminist movement of the later Sixties had yet to invent the slogan "no means no" and women were in a horribly vulnerable position. I found it almost impossible to ever say no to sex. One man, who'd paid for supper and inveigled me back to his flat, actually said: "Let's go to bed." When I said no, that I had to get back, he simply said: "Oh, come on, it'll only take a minute." So, I dutifully agreed.

In those days, everything was muddled. I think most women found the Sixties one of the most puzzling and miserable periods in recent history. Until then, love, for them, had been inextricably entwined with sex. Suddenly, sex was seen as something completely separate. We were being told both men and women could have sex without any strings. "One-night stands" a never-before-known phrase had hit us in the face or, rather, between the legs, and we didn't now where we stood. Or rather, we didn't stand; we lay on our backs. My experience of that time was unpleasant. I was looking for love and, bemusedly, I thought sex would give it to me. I must have slept with a hundred men, literally, hoping that I would somehow find a connection, some kind of sustaining force. At the time, I didn't know that I was looking for love, but I was.

Since those days, I became an agony aunt and tried to take a responsible attitude. Looking back on my early misguidedness, I peddled the line that love and sex were inextricably entwined. I went back to the days before my youth, and found comfort in an old, outdated morality. When I had to write an A to Z of sex and I wrote three of them I always started with A for arousal and ended with Z for ZZZ (why does he always go to sleep after sex?), but under L it was always love, and not lust.

But was I right? I always remember a letter I answered, from a woman who said she loved sex, but never had an orgasm. Writing at a time when orgasms were seen to be an essential part of sex and that without them you feared you might die of cancer, I wrote, hoping to relieve all the readers who didn't always reach the pinnacle of sexual satisfaction, that it was okay. "Don't worry about orgasms," I replied, confidently. "The feelings of closeness, or affection, of cosiness, the feeling of love, are all that matters during sex." I then got a letter from another reader who complained that, although she had an orgasm twice a night, she never experienced these feelings I'd described and what was wrong with her?

I got it so wrong. How can sex and love possibly be inextricably linked? You can have sex all on your own and it can be relaxing and satisfying. You can have sex with people you really can't stand talking to, but are still attracted to. You can have sex with people you hate and who may hate you the "hate fuck" and you can also have sex with people with whom it is an unpleasant and abusive experience.

How can sex have anything to do with love? Sex has nothing to do with love. There's a cultural connection, started off with the invention of chivalry in the Middle Ages, but that's it. I couldn't give a toss about the great religions of the world, but it's interesting that all them (except abusive cults) seem to agree, that in order to experience God's love, you should throw sex of out the window. If you want to experience love, celibacy is the thing. It's small wonder that when he was an old man, someone asked Sophocles about his sex life and he replied: "Hush, man; most gladly indeed am I rid of it all, as though I had escaped from a mad and savage master." Kingsley Amis said much the same thing, when he reached 70 years old he compared his enslavement to his youthful sex-drive to being "chained to a maniac" and the ability to understand that sex has nothing to do with love is one of the many perks of age.

Sex can be a positive antithesis to love. Just think of the number of people who have said "I love my partner, but because I'm in their sexual thrall, I just have to run off with this other man/woman." Haven't we all met partners by whom we were once captivated, because of the strong sexual pull between us, and who we now realise were dull, and perhaps even unpleasant people? And yet at the time we might well have described ourselves as being "in love".

Sex, desire, lust or whatever you want to call it, is like alcoholism in its power. Having tried both, I think it's like cocaine. When you have sex or coke everything is wonderful, heightened, brilliant, wonderful. But after you come down, so what? So bloody what?

I have heard from so many people that the experience of sex within a loving relationship is a different experience completely to casual sex, and sometimes I wonder if they think I haven't experienced such a feeling. Only an idiot would argue that sex with a person you love isn't nicer and more meaningful, than sex with someone you don't love. Doing anything with someone you love is nicer than doing it alone. Going for a walk. Sitting in a room saying nothing with the other person present. But the fact that sex is enhanced when you're in love, doesn't mean it is any more important or relevant to love than shopping in a supermarket together.

The late journalist Alan Brien once said of sex that he wondered why he put up with so many hours of vertical boredom for so few moments of horizontal pleasure, and I think he was right to wonder. The bee's knees, if you're lucky enough to find it, is love. The pleasure of comparing notes with sympathetic friend over supper. The glorious feeling that comes over you when you're with a child you adore. The loving loyalty inspired by anyone close to you, a loyalty that you know transcends whether they may neglect or betray you because you still love them and know, at some deep level, that they love you too.

Can love between men and women exist without sex? Well, yes, it can. Few people leave their partners if they suffer permanent impotence-inducing accidents, become paralysed from the waist down or have their prostates removed. And when people get old most of us don't all race off to find someone younger to screw.

Yes, of course, men and women see sex differently. Since women are the ones who get pregnant they're bound to look for something a bit more meaningful than size or stamina in a partner. Indeed, endless surveys show that most women rate a sense of humour and kindness far above sexual attraction. But there's still the idea that good sexual chemistry between two people is far more important than shared interests, shared humour and shared values, even though surveys in fact show the opposite and not just for women. Most men, if you ask what they value most in life, say it's having dinner with their partner and watching the telly together.

In other words, it's connection and togetherness love that is all. Rampant sex doesn't really come into it.

Suggested Topics
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick