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Two Kinds of Sex, or One?

( Originally Published 1957 )

Reik's conclusion represents, however, but one "school of thought" about man's sexual nature. Those of this school believe that there are two different kinds of human sexual interest, or that there are two parts to man's make-up, and that these parts, despite their possible close blending and despite certain similarities of outward expression, differ both "in origin and character." Another way of putting it, which some might find helpful, is that sexual behavior includes two "instincts," closely related, instead of one. Following this there would be two meanings of the word "sexual" instead of the widely customary single meaning. Following this school, again, the traditional "romantic" attachment is seen as an example of the amorous variety of sex interest, rather than as a somehow altered ("sublimated") form of genital-sex desire. Also, responses to the "aesthetic" and the "sensual" characteristics of attractive per-sons are not regarded as being of the same sexual nature.

Sharply differing with this, and supported by some of the best-known names in sexual psychology, is the view that sex is not of two different kinds, but a single basic impulse with different ways of expressing itself. These ways are merely unlike branches from the same root, and this root is the genital impulse. The idea is illustrated by the often-quoted declaration of the philosopher Schopenhauer that ". . . all love, however ethereally it may bear itself, is rooted in the sexual impulse alone . . . it . . . is only a more definitely determined, specialized . . . individualized sexual impulse." (55) An important feature of this view is that it supposes the sex impulse to be capable of changing into other kinds of feeling and behavior which on the surface may not look like sex at all.

Thus Havelock Ellis, writing of "sexual energy," tells us that it can take "very various shapes," and that these include "emotions and impulses which range from the simplest longings for sensual contact to the most exalted rapture of union with the Infinite." (16) This process of "assuming various shapes" may have the character of an actual transformation of emotion. The nature of this emotional change, what brings it about, and how satisfactory an understanding of sexual love it provides, will be treated in the chapter to follow.

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