A great deal of confused sexual ideals and misunderstanding exists around relationships and what we want. This topic is meaningful to both joy and misery. It’s not that articles about how to achieve ideals are uncommon, it’s understanding and questioning the ideals themselves that is uncommon.
What I mean by confused sexual ideals is we use the word ideal in three utterly different ways. If we are clear about how the word is being used, we can avoid costly and painful misunderstandings.
- The first meaning of ideal is the best things imaginable. These concepts are beyond physical laws. Heaven is an example of this kind of ideal, it includes both eternal life and joy. That is not something we can attain in our actual lives.
- The second meaning of ideal is the best we can hope for constrained by human limits. Many thought it impossible to succeed against the impulses then believed to be human nature, Europe gave up the foolish tradition of dueling, and it faded out of practice. The same could be said about witch burning. Undoubtedly, there was a time when it seemed ideal that these things could end, but the freedom from those accursed practices became a reality. The same could be said about achieving women’s suffrage which at one time seemed unrealistic. This second ideal includes both some neutral things and some bad things. Having freedom is better than not having it, but that doesn’t mean we will use our freedom wisely or that we won’t have unintended consequences.
- The third meaning of the word ideal shows that something we know is good in a high degree. “That school is ideal for your daughter with their reputation for technology and space exploration.”
The mistake is to confuse the second use of ideal with either the first or the third. That mistake destroys the possibility.
If the second ideal meaning is mistaken for the first, the ideal seems out of human reach. When mistaken for the third, we think we know the value based on our past when we do not. It is the mistake of confusing something that is not an orange with an orange because both are orange.
If the second ideal meaning is mistaken for the third e.g. when I say my lovers are my friends, people think they know what I mean and assume they are friends with their lovers. To correct any mistake is risky. It can appear I’m belittling their affections. That I presume to know more than they and even, provoke in them the horrible feeling of envy. Envy tends to dismiss value. It’s easier to say that what one does not have, is not worth having, rather than bearing the pain of envy. When I say. “If you will tell a friend something you will not tell your lover, then your lover is not a friend.” I risk giving offence. Then when I say, “If your friends have the freedom to come and go as they wish, be sexual with whom they wish, how can you say your lover is your friend if you refuse to give that freedom to them?” Now this will lead to a dispute or a dismissal of my points as being “ideal” moving the misunderstanding from the third sense of ideal meaning to the first sense of ideal meaning and missing the point by assuming it is beyond human reach. You see, I’ve lived this way for decades. You cannot argue with someone who is doing something, that it cannot be done.
Let me say it unambiguously, friendship is the highest form of love. Any friendship may or may not include sex but the value of the affection is more important than what those people do or do not do for us. Friends are not a means to an end, they are an end unto themselves as is the friendship. They and the friendship, are a part of a good life. Yes, we do things for each other, but that is not the important value. Whether or not they help us move is not the point of the friendship. If our friend is not being destructive, there is not only support for their choices, we experience joy ourselves whenever our friend encounters good things. How many of us have said to a friend, even with tears in our eyes, something like, “I will miss you, but I know how much this means to you, you must go. Stay in touch when you can.” Then when we see the friend, even years later, the affection remains as strong as ever. The affection is not diminished by the time and space that existed between us.
It is easier to misunderstand the point I am making above than to not understand it.
To be clear misunderstanding is different from not understanding. Misunderstanding means we are making a mistake and not understanding means we know we are in the unknown. This topic is worth the risk. Why, You might ask? Because when we stand up for the best things in our life, we are giving others a chance to explore and evaluate those things for themselves. We are giving others choices they would not otherwise have, and what is freedom without choices?