04/05/2012 03:08 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2012

Beware the Penis Imperative

I have a lot of respect for the penis imperative. Without it, I wouldn't be alive. I am the product of generation after generation of wild men able to do the wild thing.

But my wild, surging sexuality can cause serious trouble.

I learned this lesson before I was married. But when I separated I needed to learn it again. Here it is:

Think before you have sex.

Sounds basic. But I have felt the strong pull to do it in reverse. Have sex first, and then sort out what I think about it.

Even over the age of 50, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and broken hearts all can be consequences of the penis imperative.

I felt a huge need to be wanted and a strong desire to make love after I was separated. I wanted some vindication, some validation, some way to bounce back from the loss. Sex seemed to promise that. But in the end, it was no magic cure for me. And sex is always complicated.

So when it comes to sex, I respect the urge, but I try to make the decision in my head.

As Australian author Steve Biddulph says in his book Raising Boys, one of the most important things we learn as men is restraint. Learning when to hold back. Knowing when to stop.

And there is a way to channel all that fierce, procreative energy into something that is not at all dangerous or complicating.

The idea is simple: acknowledge your penis, but leave it in your pants. Instead, use your tongue.

Flirting -- So many women. So many men. So much attraction. Does it all have to end in the sack?

Not for me. I love it when romantic sparks fly, or when a laugh is shared in an intimate way. It's delightful when I catch a woman's eye and see that we understand the mutual attraction even though we will never act on it.

Once I climbed out of my black hole, I found my new freedom allowed me to be more outgoing. And as I did that, the flirting seemed to come naturally. Even though I wasn't seeking a relationship, or even a night out, moments with friends and acquaintances and workmates added effervescence to my life.

I might pay a compliment.

I might make a joke.

I might observe something about the woman.

All invitations to interact. And most of them led to small moments of enjoyment for me. And her.

Moments of mutual appreciation and connection.

I learned that women are masters of flirting. I'm not talking of heavy-handed comments here, of propositions, of obvious sexual suggestions. I'm talking about the banter, the laughter and the emotional excitement that happens when a man and a woman exchange more than a "How d'ye'do."

One thing I like about this kind of innocent flirting is that it's safe. No existing relationships are threatened. No physical contact. No embarrassment. Just a lovely sense of the differences of male and female in close proximity.

For me, a wounded man coming off the biggest relationship disaster of his life, the attention and the fun proved a great tonic.

Orgasm -- Ain't it a lovely feeling. For me, it can be a freeing moment of annihilation. Where I am not me any more, my partner is not she. Where both of us reach another level. We transcend normal life.

It is the great escape.

And because I like it so much, I was fascinated with this quote from Eric Fromm.

The [excessive] search for sexual orgasm assumes a function which makes it not very different from alcoholism or drug addiction. It becomes a desperate attempt to escape the anxiety engendered by separateness, and it results in an ever-increasing sense of separateness, since the sexual act without love never bridges the gap between two human beings, except momentarily. . .

. . . Love is not the result of adequate sexual satisfaction, but sexual happiness . . is the result of love.

Food for thought.


This is part of my Huffington Post blog series. I call it "For Men Who Have Everything, Including Separation -- Thoughts on Surviving Separation."

My goals are straightforward:
  • Offer hope and humor to men who are disconsolate after a relationship has hit the rocks
  • Offer a resource to women -- sisters, mothers, friends -- who care about such men

I wrote "For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart" because I would have liked a book like this when my first marriage nose-dived.

I offer it in a spirit of brotherhood and with a strong faith that once our broken hearts mend, we have the capacity to be more compassionate, wiser, more resilient and stronger than we were before.

For those interested in reading the earlier posts of this series, links are provided below:

#1 -- For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart, Thoughts on Surviving Separation #2 -- Grieving is Healing #3 -- Beware Precipitous Action #4 -- Love Thyself #5 -- Deal with the Real #6 -- Blame is a Trap #7 -- Create Multiple Explanations #8 -- Freedom, Courage & Splitting Up #9 -- Parenting Apart: Soccer and Wandering in Life's Changes #10 -- Cut the Conflict in Front of the Kids #11 -- The Next Relationship