Quote of the day: MATING HABITS

February 18, 2013


A number of articles have been written that tried to attribute promiscuity or adultery in men to a brain disorder. I find this questionable for a number of reasons.

First, it’s worrying to me that a group of psychiatrists is trying to determine how much sexual activity and how many encounters we can want or fantasize about before we’re considered “mentally ill.” Given the embarrassing history of the DSM revisions and all the shoddy science informing them, why should we trust the APA to dictate yet another norm to us, much less accept its judgment about something so personal and intimate? People have markedly different appetites for sexual experiences. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that the APA would determine implicit guidelines, even quotas, for sexual activity, with a view to pathologizing behavior that is, in its estimation, “excessive.”

Even if you were in favor of creating such a disorder should the parameters for young adults be the same as for retirees with, most likely, much lower sex drives? Would the standard for “excessive” sexual activity be identical for a newly formed relationship and one that’s lasted decades? Why should we see a man’s cheating on his wife with multiple women as a result of brain chemistry rather than, say, marital unhappiness or personal recklessness? Personally I think expecting lifelong fidelity to one partner may be asking too much of certain people who are ill-suited to it, or who simply don’t believe monogamy is the best way to achieve emotional and sexual happiness. That’s surely up to them, isn’t it? Yet there’s an expectation, even a kind of demand, in our culture that one person will meet all of our needs – emotional and sexual. That can happen, and it’s great when it satisfies both parties, but those choices don’t work for everyone, and an organization seeking to pathologize “excessive” sexual activity needs to recognize that. We need broader public discussion of this complex issue rather than the kind of psychiatric judgment and ritualized shaming that goes on right now for those who prefer to remain non-monogamous. Good for them if that’s what they want.

— Christopher Lane, interviewed in The Sun


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