At PsychCentral, Dr. Linda Hatch has a thought provoking article that gets at the heart of the difference I draw in my book, Holy Sex! , between eroticism, which is sex that is hyper-focused on pleasure to the exclusion of intimacy, and what I call “Holy Sex“, which sees pleasure as the fruit of the emotionally and spiritually intimacy that a couple cultivates in a marriage. She says,
Hot sex is the sugar high of sexuality. It is sex that is amped up to a heightened level by some form of fear or other strong emotion. This is not the same as passionate sex. The sexual intensity of a new romantic relationship, the rapture of falling in love, is described in scientific circles as “limerence.” This is a biochemically altered state. It resembles but is not the same as illicit sex or any sex in which the intensity is heightened by an arousal escalator such as risk, danger, or secrecy. The state of limerence is time-limited. Heightened sexual arousal which relies on intense feelings such as danger, chaos, threat, even anger, can be rekindled repeatedly. And in some high-drama relationships it is.
…The preoccupation with hot sex tends to devalue traditional, tame, heterosexual sex as “plain vanilla” sex. Married sex is then seen as needing to dig its way out of old puritanical hang-ups using porn, experimentation, equipment or whatever it takes to make it “hot.”
…This quest for the holy grail of hot relationship sex puts pressure on [people] to find ways to make the sex in their relationship equal the hyper-arousal of addictive sexual acting out. If they can’t, then they may be left feeling that there is something wrong with them.
She goes on to note that the more a person buys into the pornified culture (and, in particular, those with sexual addictions) the more that person will have a hard time understanding how emotional and spiritual intimacy drives authentically passionate sex (what I refer to as “Holy Sex”). Instead, they will rely more and more on outlandish fantasies and kinky behavior to make up for the lack of emotional and spiritual depth in the relationship.
Dr. Hatch’s article isn’t perfect from a Catholic perspective. In her effort to be tolerant and even-handed she finds it difficult to come right out and say that sex rooted too deeply in kink and eroticism is simply unhealthy–which of course, even from a purely secular standpoint, it is. But her larger point, that there is a distinction between married sex and eroticism that people in our pornified cultured have a hard time understanding is solid and supports the Catholic view of sexuality. Namely, that what we might call Holy Sex (e.g., passionate sex rooted in the emotional and spiritual intimacy cultivated in a lifelong committed marital partnership) is an entirely different (and superior) animal than eroticism (“hot sex”). Not only should these two experiences NOT be judged by the same standards, it’s unhealthy to do so.
To learn more about creating a truly joyful, passionate, intimate, and profoundly spiritual sexuality in your marriage, I hope you’ll check out Holy Sex! I promise it will change your life.