Is there such a thing as intelligent lust? Stanley Siegel, LCSW writes in Psychology Today:
The truth is, long-term relationships or marriage do not guarantee a satisfying emotional life or sexual intimacy. Everyone knows someone stuck in a barren marriage, whose members have lost their autonomy and in which sex has disappeared. Brandon’s assertion that people do not belong together forever is correct, but too many of us fear facing that truth or consider alternatives to that permanence.
There are times when casual sex actually deepens one’s self-knowledge. With intelligence and clarity of purpose, casual sex is more than instant gratification. By openly exploring our fantasies and true desires with different partners in a way that may not possible in a committed relationship, we can transcend our inhibitions. With each new encounter we can discover buried parts of ourselves and in time experience the totality of who we are. We can even experience profound, revelatory moments that unravel our past and show us things we never knew about ourselves. We can satisfy unmet needs by embracing those aspects of our sexuality that are deeply meaningful and we can choose to let go of those that no longer have importance.
Upon turning sixty-five, I recognize that casual sex has often been as intimate for me as were the two long-term relationships I have had. Unencumbered by a complex commitment, the freedom found in casual sex allowed me to move beyond self-consciousness and achieve a level of honesty and authenticity for myself, and my partner, in a way previously unknown to me. With each new experience, the process of discovering and sharing specific sexual interests required verbal and non-verbal communication that was intensely focused and rapidly telegraphed. And self-disclosure and vulnerability were as necessary a part of these exchanges as they were in a committed relationship.
On the whole, I think this psychologist is correct about the ability for sexual relationships at different levels of depth/intimacy to contribute to one’s psychological integration. But I don’t think what he’s written is so much a defense of casual sex as it is a defense of conscious sex.
Conscious sex can definitely be intelligent eroticism, leaving aside the matter of whether it’s a one night stand or a marriage of many decades. By attending to the desire that arises unbidden, one can befriend the Eros which is the force of evolution in the universe and consummate its aims or sublimate them into a higher form.
But the length and quality of intimacy, love, and commitment of the sex partners is an important consideration, even if it isn’t the only factor to be aware of.