Thursday, 18 November 2010

Are men pre-programmed to play around?

Of course, the answer is 'yes' - on one level, that is. Genetically speaking, blokes are made to play the field, sow their wild oats, increase the chances of passing on their immortal genes and every other sexist cliché going. But there are any number of our animal instincts (from peeing in the park to sleeping when we're shagged out) that we don't necessarily give in to. It's called civilisation; we could eat when we're hungry, sleep when we're sleepy and sh*g when we've horny but the demands of work, law, relationships and culture demand that we keep our baser instincts in some kind of order.

Anyway, all this talk of infidelity is inspired by novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson's recent article in which he said, essentially, that if all men could, they would. Well, speak for yourself Mr Nicholson. I'm going to stick my neck out (yes, I said NECK and nothing smaller Heather) here and make the point I don't think Mr Nicholson appreciates, at least according to the coverage he's been given - namely that yes, sex is a base and instinctive impulse; yes, we can (and do... I hope Jesus isn't listening) commit the sin of 'adultery in our hearts' (Matthew 5, 27-32) - but in a civilised, sophisticated and evolved society there's something more than an exchange of bodily fluids about a relationship, namely the willing surrendering of your most intimate self to another human being. In other words, trust. And commitment. And with another person.

To digress briefly, I've nothing fundamental against pornography. In years of teaching sex education at an all-boys grammar school I've had plenty of opportunities to discuss it with the most responsive audience. But although it might tick all of the physical arousal boxes, there's always going to be something lacking: that is, the ultimate trusting intimacy with another human being. I'm not going to go into detail here, but consider this: is sex ever any better than with someone you know and trust (and love) without question? Does 'more' always equal better? Or are we - by virtue of our offspring's unfeasibily long period of parental dependance - actually genetically programmed to be monogamous, to make the most of what we've got and attain much higher planes of sexual pleasure as a result?

I'll leave it to you to decide. But in a week where one high-profile wedding has dominated the media agenda it's worth considering why we promise (if indeed we do) to 'forsake all others' when everything - from advertising images to sleb marriages - seems to suggest the opposite: that sex is merely another consumer product, a recreational activity, marketable and disposable along with the people it inevitable consumes.

Could you forgive and forget as Mr Nicholson suggests?

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