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The Proper Basis for a Human Relationship Between a Man and a Woman

    A mutual sexual attraction is no proper basis for a human relationship between a man and a woman. It is an organic thing, not personal. What, then, is a proper basis? Love is, between any two persons. Love may or may not include sexual attraction. It may express itself in sexual desire. But sexual desire is not love. Desire is quite compatible with personal hatred, or contempt, or indifference, because it treats its object not as a person but as a means to its own satisfaction. That is the truth in the statement that doing what we want to do is not the same as doing what we ought to do.

    But notice this--that mutual desire does not make things any better. It only means that each of two persons is treating the other as a means of self-satisfaction. A man and a woman may want one another passionately without either loving the other. This is true not merely of sexual desire but of all desires. A man and a woman may want one another for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily sexual, and make that mutual want the basis of marriage, without either loving the other. And, I insist, such mutual desire, whether sexual or not, is no basis of a human relationship between them. It is no basis of friendship. It is the desire to obtain possession of another person for the satisfaction of their own needs, to dare to assert the claim over another human being--"You are mine!" That is unchaste and immoral, a definite inroad upon the integrity of a fellow human being. And the fact that the desire and the claim are mutual does not make a pennyworth of difference. Mutual love is the only basis of a human relationship; and bargains and claims and promises are attempts to substitute something else; and they introduce falsity and unchastity into the relationship. No human being can have rights in another, and no human being can grant to another rights in himself or herself. That is one of the things of which I am deeply convinced.

    Now take another point. There is only one safe-guard against self-deception in the face of desire, and that is emotional sincerity, or chastity. No intellectual principle, no general rule of judgment is of any use. How can a man or woman know whether they love another person or merely want them? Only by the integrity of his or her emotional life. If they have habitually been insincere in the expression of their feelings, they will be unable to tell. They will think they love when they only want another person for themselves. What is usually known as "being in love" is simply being in this condition. It blinds us to the reality of other people; leads us to pretend about their virtues, beauties, capacities, and so forth; deprives us of the power of honest feeling and wraps us in a fog of unreality. That is no condition for any human being to be in. If you love a person you love him or her in their stark reality, and refuse to shut your eyes to their defects and errors. For to do that is to shut your eyes to their needs.

    Chastity, or emotional sincerity, is an emotional grasp of reality, "Falling in love" and "being in love" are inventions of romantic sentimentality, the inevitable result of the deceit and pretence and suppression from which we suffer. Love cannot abide deceit, or pretence or unreality. It rests only in the reality of the loved one, demands the integrity of its object, demands that the loved one should be himself, so that it may love him for himself.

    In the second place, between two human beings who love one another, the sexual relationship is one of the possible expressions of love, as it is one of the possible co-operations in love--more intimate, more fundamental, more fraught with consequences inner and outer, but essentially one of the expressions of love, not fundamentally different in principle from any others, as regards its use. It is neither something high and holy, something to venerate and be proud of, nor is it something low and contemptible, to be ashamed of. It is a simple ordinary organic function to be used like all the others, for the expression of personality in the service of love. This is very important. If you make it a thing apart, to be kept separate from the ordinary functions of life, to be mentioned only in whispers; if you exalt it romantically or debase it with feelings of contempt (and if you do the one you will find that you are doing the other at the same time; just as to set women on a pedestal is to assert their inferiority and so insult their humanity): if you single out sex in that way as something very special and wonderful and terrible, you merely exasperate it and make it uncontrollable. That is what our society has done. It has produced in us a chronic condition of quite unnatural exasperation. There is a vast organization in our civilization for the stimulation of sex--clothes, pictures, plays, books, advertisements and so on. They keep up in us a state of sexual hypersensitiveness, as a result of which we greatly overestimate the strength and violence of natural sexuality. The most powerful stimulant of sex is the effort to suppress it. There is only one cure--to take it up simply, frankly and naturally into the circle of our activities; and only chastity, the ordinary sincerity of the emotional life, can enable us to do so.

    Sex, then, must fall within the life of personality, and be an expression of love. For unlike all our other organic functions it is essentially mutual. If it is to be chaste, therefore, it must fall within a real unity of two persons--within essential friendship. And it must be a necessary part of that unity. The ideal of chastity is a very high and difficult one, demanding an emotional unity between a man and a woman which transcends egoism and selfish desire. In such a unity sex ceases to be an appetite--a want to be satisfied--and becomes a means of communion, simple and natural. Mutual self-satisfaction is incompatible with chastity, which demands the expression of a personal unity already secured. Indeed, it seems to me, that it is only when such a unity in friendship has reached a point where it is shut up to that expression of itself that it is completely chaste. How can two people know that their love demands such an expression? Only through a mutual chastity, a complete emotional sincerity between them. That alone can be the touchstone of reality. And the law of reality in the relationship of persons is this: "'the integrity of persons is inviolable.' You shall not use a person for your own ends, or indeed for any ends, individual or social. To use another person is to violate his personality by making an object of him; and in violating the integrity of another you violate your own." In all enjoyment there is a choice between enjoying the other and enjoying yourself through the instrumentality of the other. The first is the enjoyment of love, the second is the enjoyment of lust. When people enjoy themselves through each other, that is merely mutual lust. They do not meet as persons at all, their reality is lost. They meet as ghosts of themselves and their pleasure is a ghostly pleasure that cannot begin to satisfy a human soul, and which only vitiates its capacity for reality.

    � John Macmurray, Scottish professor of philosophy
    Reason and Emotion