Just because a man and woman have chemistry, writes Marcus Williams, doesn’t mean they mix sex and lust the same way.
One of the coolest things I remember from high school chemistry was learning about seed crystals. When the conditions are right, a supersaturated solution can remain completely liquid, even with a bunch of molecules just looking for an excuse to crystallize into solid form. The crystallization is inevitable if you just wait, because dropping temperature or a pressure change will finally be enough to trigger it, but the process can be sped up rather dramatically with a seed crystal. A seed crystal is just a tiny crystallized piece of whatever the solution is supersaturated with, but crystals build on other crystals, so once the first piece is formed, the rest happens much more quickly. Crystallization is not dramatically fast for every kind of crystal, but with some solutions, such as sodium acetate, you can see an entire beaker’s contents crystallize in just a few seconds after adding a seed crystal.
I have followed and even authored some of GMP’s recent articles on Male Lust, as well as keeping tabs on the conversation that has followed (several hundred comments worth), and it has been like swimming through a supersaturated mix of desire, hurt, defensiveness, sex, insecurity, pleasure, disdain, contempt, and occasionally even fun. It has all been very interesting, but genuine understanding has been slow to crystallize. Then I saw this, in a comment by Jill.
But if he stopped feeling lust for me, I would lose a lot of the pleasure I get out of our relationship.
Jill hadn’t said anything drastically different from what she and many other women were saying all along, but saying it that way dropped a little seed crystal into my brain.
For me, sex is an emotional seed crystal. When I’m happy with the kind and amount of sex I’m having, all sorts of positive emotions that don’t seem tied directly to sex have a way of crystallizing around it. With enough sex, I feel happier, more confident both generally and in my marriage, more patient, and more likely to feel like an all-around good guy.
Insufficient sex is also a seed crystal, but for negative things. If I’m having no sex or not enough, my happiness is limited when I can feel it at all, I get more insecure in general and in my marriage, I’m more cranky and irritable, and more likely to feel discontented and annoyed with the world.
Lust is related to sex, but is not sex. I want to be lusted after, but it won’t stop the negative feelings from crystallizing if I’m not having actual sex, no matter how much my wife or other women communicate their attraction for me. Conversely, if I’m getting plenty of sex, but my wife doesn’t make a point of expressing how sexy she thinks I am, I don’t care much because sex is confirmation that I’m sexy enough.
Without sex, I lose a lot of the pleasure I get out of a relationship.
To the extent that women are like Jill (not that women in contemporary Brazil or 17th century Africa, for instance, can’t be completely different, but I’m just drawing on my own experience) the new insight she gave me is that maybe for women, the emotional seed crystal isn’t sex—it’s lust.
If I understood Jill and several like-minded commentators, the feeling of being lusted after is what makes them feel validated, loved, and secure. (I expect Jill et. al. To tell me in short order that I haven’t understood them at all, but I’m already committed to the metaphor for the duration of this article.) Confident in the total and preferably exclusive lust from their man, they feel valued as a person, desired as a lover, recognized as a complete person, and safe from the risk that he’ll be tempted to stray.
To get the negative crystallization going for lust, it does not take an absence of lust. All it takes is a seed crystal of doubt. Lusting after other women, whether by passing glance, porn, or strip clubs, crystallizes the feeling that she is not attractive enough, or perhaps even “ruined”. Telling a friend that some body part or parts aren’t as hot as they used to be crystallizes to the belief that he shouted her ugliness from the rooftops and no longer finds her beautiful in any way. Bemoaning the aesthetic effects of age or motherhood on breasts is equated with thinking there is no longer anything beautiful or enjoyable about them.
The standard for “enough lust” is generous as women apply it to their lust for men. I’ve seen many reassurances that women still lust after their balding, gut-expanding, saggy-scrotumed mates, which is reassuring since I don’t expect to inhabit my Adonis physique forever. Even if they joke about such traits to their friends, I’m assured, it doesn’t diminish their true love and attraction. The standard they seem to apply to being the object of lust is much less forgiving. So far in this conversation, I have yet to see a man persuade a woman that his attraction to a woman with “ruined tits” could still be genuine. Why is it so easy to lust after a man “in spite” of his physical flaws, but so hard to believe that a man can do the same?
For these women, sex appears to be of secondary importance to lust. More than one comment expressed hurt or betrayal at the idea of a man having sex with her if he thought any aspect of her appearance was unattractive. I was surprised when Aya wrote:
Am I going to give everything up because he might get drunk one night while out of town and bang a hot girl who’s all over him? I’ll be pissed off. I’ll see it as possibly opening the door for me to do the same thing. An orgasm or two without me does not invalidate or get rid of everything we’ve worked for, nor does it get rid of the love and lust we have with each other. Maybe it’ll take some therapy, maybe we’ll open up the marriage for a little bit, we’ll get STD testing done–either way, cheating doesn’t have to do with dissatisfaction , it’s just about a lust for another person. Shit talking is negative in principle, and absolutely dishonest.
It would appear that sex is just sex, but lust is personal.
Now’s the part where I’m tempted to make even more unsubstantiated generalizations than I already have, but suffice to say that these different reactions make for a volatile mix. I don’t know enough chemistry to extend this metaphor much further, but I feel like I’m left with four beakers full of crystal that I would like to safely smoke somehow, but they have a tendency to explode when mixed together. Besides, smoking crystal usually doesn’t end well. Mad lusting scientist that I am, I’ll now don my safety goggles and hold these beakers up to the open flame of user comments. Fire away.