Erotic Interlude: The Eternal Erection
By Hapax Legomenon

99 Erotic Notions Index
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Ironically, Lisa and I were at a local sculpture garden when she told me she'd read Erotic Notion #15: The Statue . It was a cold winter day, and we were heading out for coffee.

"The eternal erection – that's every man's dream, isn't it?" Lisa said. "Women would never long for a way to sustain their arousal indefinitely. "

"Don't malign the wonders of Viagra," I said. "Centuries of men have longed for such a drug. It frees passion from physical inadequacies and sustains the love that brings people together."

"I doubt it," Lisa said. "Viagra may be marketed as a marital aid, but it only increases the world's demand for prostitutes and porn. With sex it's quality (not quantity) that counts."

"Maybe you're right," I said. "But popular culture is full of examples – both real and fictional – of people enjoying a variety of sexual partners."

"Of course! But in real life nobody died from abstinence though a few have died from broken hearts."

"But who gets broken hearts these days?" I asked. "A person with only one lover can still experience romantic disappointment. Another person can have a dozen boyfriends or girlfriends and never experience sadness at all. Who really knows if sexual desire has anything to do with it? If anything, people who hook up easily don't carry the emotional burdens that plague the rest of us."

"That may be the problem," Lisa said. "A serial lover never knows the pain he inflicts on others."

"Or the pain she inflicts," I added, smiling. "Future aphrodisiacs could provide humans with an infinite supply of sexual energy and desire. Wouldn't that transform attitudes toward romance? "

"Even if everyone had overactive libidos," Lisa said, "it's doubtful they would abandon monogamy. Polyamory exposes the imbalances and injustices in the world. Some people are richer or more beautiful or more athletic than others. Yes, some might experience the thrill of free love , while the rest of the world will sit on the sidelines, jealous and unsatisfied. Such a world would be emotionally complicated."

"For you it's complicated. But if desire were infinite, monogamy might strike people as anti-social... or even selfish."

"The problem with nymphomaniac culture," Lisa added, "is the shortage of youth and beauty. If the human libido drives us towards the young and the beautiful, what would 70 year old nymphomaniacs do? Pine away? Impersonate young people in virtual worlds? Artificially enhancing the libido won't change human standards for beauty."

"But beauty – at least its artificial incarnations – is everywhere," I said. "All bodies on the Internet are young and beautiful; so are the ones in movies and videogames. As long as a person never steps into the real world, everything will be fine."

"These are just apparitions," Lisa said, "inferior imitations of actual people; nobody would prefer them to actual human beings. When individuals start looking towards apparitions and away from actual people, human relationships become next to impossible. You would essentially destroy the poetry of love."

"Lighten up," I said. "It's only fucking; it's a mind game we play to avoid metaphysical questions. The problem of 'too much recreational fucking' doesn't even rank in the top ten threats to human civilization. Innovations follow a pattern; first, they delight, then they terrify. Eventually people adapt (with rules and safeguards), until eventually our lives become just as boring as before. Perhaps sexual stimulants will increase our interest in cosmetics or physical fitness or avatar sex; perhaps everyone will abandon their physical bodies and do their fucking in cyberspace. Will we be happier or more miserable? I haven't a clue. My guess is that the general state of happiness will not be any better or worse."

"I'm not against progress," Lisa said. "But new drugs and gadgets shouldn't radically alter morality or relationships. People survived for centuries without being able to have erections or orgasms on cue. It didn't make us miserable."

"Here's what the question boils down to," I said. "Would you rather live in a world with an excess of sexual desire or a shortage?"

"I'll pose a related question," Lisa retorted. "Would you rather live in a world with nuclear weapons or without them?"

"The beautiful thing about hypothetical questions," I said, "is that no one needs to answer them."


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" But if desire were infinite, monogamy might strike people as anti-social... or even selfish. "
Anders Zorn, Waltz (Valsen), 1891
Anders Zorn , Waltz (Valsen), 1891
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