Restraining Desire

Everybody’s heard the old “fact” that “men think about sex every seven seconds.”  Not only is it obviously false–any society where half the population was so obsessed by a single thought that they dwelled on it almost constantly would quickly grind to a screeching halt–but it serves a baldly juvenile purpose: to validate men’s gross overindulgence in sexual desire.

When someone lets themselves go physically, sitting on the couch all day, watching TV and stuffing themselves with snacks, we call them a lazy slob.  It’s a bad thing.  We understand that relaxing is good, but, like all things, must be done in mature moderation.  If someone drinks too much, we call them a lush or an alcoholic.  If someone spends every waking moment trying to claw their way to another dollar, or desperately focusing on their appearance with a tunnel vision monomania, we likewise judge them poorly and have stigmatized social labels for them. 

Basically, our society still looks down on the seven deadly sins.  Except for lust.  The only real derogatory terms left for those who give in to overindulgence in this appetite–“horny,” “slut,” “pervert”–are either positives now, or on their way to becoming such.  In fact, hasn’t the last generation come up with new euphemisms for unrestricted sex addicts (such as “friends with benefits”)?  Western culture seems to have lost all sense of restraint, or even respecting restraint, in sex.  The terms for someone who does so restrain themselves–“prude,” “virgin,” etc. are all harshly negative.

Why the verbal cover up?  Why the civilizational agreement to conspire in a transparent attempt to legitimize a childish obsession with sex?  Why do we continue to value self control in other areas, but encourage as much unlimited indulgence as possible in this one? 

I can only attribute it to trying to eliminate guilt in retrospect.  The cycle seems to be that we move the line of acceptable sex behavior further, and the language soon changes to match the new attitude.  Anybody refusing to conform is labelled an outsider and scorned. 

But the real fact–not the fake “seven seconds” one–is this: anyone who overindulges in an appetite and uses trendy slang to deny an addiction is weak, wrong, and sad.  They should be pitied and helped.  Someone who chooses to have as much sex as possible is no different from or better than a five year old who eats an entire box of cookies.  Both are immature kids who are making themselves sick. 

I’m suggesting nothing more or less radical than that this desire, like all appetites and passions, must be kept within the bounds the Lord has set.


“A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”  –Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History

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