More to sex than three minutes of squelching

Heather Pinchen argues that `lurve' is no substitute for love
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Indy Lifestyle Online
At Christmas, it seems, you can't venture into a newsagent without being visually assaulted by 1,001 publications vaunting the joys of festive sex.

And even if you manage to ignore the hackneyed coverlines - the constant barrage of yo-ho-ohh orgasms - one then encounters something more blatant but less insidious. Let us just say that human nature operates somewhere between the extremes of God and dog.

With "lurve'' presented as love's substitute, the sad fact is that media sex is all about short-lived physical jerks. Rather than extolling its emotional virtues, those who make money by the manipulation of our most basic instincts encourage us to treat copulation (for that's what it's reduced to) as self-indulgent fun.

Yet we trivialise sacred union at our peril. Erica Jong may well argue that "monogamy is impossible among interesting people", but the truth is that today's sexual searching is essentially selfish - seeking the pleasure and ease of love, but resisting its demands.

You can always tell that something's amiss with the glamorous life when celebrities start giving up nookie. No doubt they've bonked themselves into an exhausted stupor. But even the most world-weary must start wondering when they read in the tabloids that a raunchy rock star such as Cher hasn't had it for more than three years.

While it may disappoint those media executives who have come to rely on sex to boost circulation, I have an inkling that the public is getting fed up with the poor diet on which we're fed.

Indeed, it's high time that the cynical harbingers of popular culture woke up to the fact that there is more to sex than, as once poetically described by the late Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, "three minutes of squelching".

A few years before the so-called sexual revolution really got going, the Victorian writer Mary Webb had some interesting things to say about physical union. Like all true mystics she understood the concept of sex as a metaphor for knowing the other. "If the man inna the lover of your soul," she wrote, "you've missed the honey and only got the comb." Her words have the power and resonance of a truth which is ageless. Mystic sex endows the words "with my body I thee worship" with their fullest meaning. Itis the physical embodiment of the longing for ultimate identification with another - as when Cathy cries, "Nellie, I am Heathcliff" in Wuthering Heights.

Such relationships are precious, rare and most definitely worth holding out for. My own experience was living with the most hantingly beautiful archaeologist. To me, this wild, Tolkeinesque creature was like the wind and the rain roaring through bleak mountain gullies. And the passion I felt for the vast, abandoned essence of his spirit remains unequalled. This makes me very sad.

You see the transcendent union is ultimately a searing experience. When sex goes off the Richter scale it makes you realise it is humanly impossible to get close enough to the beloved - and wonder if you will ever attain such a relationship with anyone else. Once you've experienced mystic love, you realise you're speaking a different language from other people. The explanation is simple. Those who have not experienced the divine in another, neither know what they are missing or what they are looking for.

Since I've often been friends with sexually indiscriminate types, I'm frequently assailed by tales of ejaculation and despair. Time after time, though, the blind hope of finding the promise of the soul in a variety of different bodies generally results in a bleak separation of the genitals from the heart. The truth is that loveless sex doesn't really make anyone happy. And a lack of responsibility towards others damages our humanity, making people treat their hapless lovers far worse than they would ever treat a friend.

One male acquaintance who recently slept with a new partner regaled me with the details, commenting that the experience wasn't very good. "I just want to end it as soon as possible," he said. "I feel guilty but I don't really care about her."

Of course from the female perspective, the peculiar nature of male sexuality - fired by the hunt; all too easily sated by the catch - is something that women have borne the brunt of throughout history.

It could be that, as the sex therapist Dr Martin Cole once told me, "men are good at `sexing' and women are good at loving". However, like Mary Webb, I remain more hopeful, firmly believing that it is the soulful female who teaches men how to love.

I thought about this while in conversation with the openly polygamous Marquis of Bath at a party the other night. As he loomed over me discussing the problems of his celibate gorilla couple at Longleat, the conversation turned, as conversations invariably will, to romance.

"So could you have a purely intellectual relationship with a woman like me?" I asked out of polite interest. "No," he said with the certainty of a male not used to rejection. "I'd want to welcome you into my family."

Rather amused by the idea of becoming a kept wifelet I asked his nervy looking companion, who was eyeing me warily, how they were getting on.

"I haven't slept with him yet," she confided. "But he keeps saying that he's dying to welcome me into his family."

"Oh," I replied somewhat wickedly, before dashing off to meet my less prolific lover, "He's just said that to me..."

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