Trying to figure out who is acting in their own best interests can be a little tough to do. One of the most popular ways to justify our desires is to make it seem like they are selfless, and that we somehow make the world a better place by wanting what we want. That’s a topic for another day, because this discussion is a different matter altogether.
It’s entirely possible that it is our desires that make the world real for us. It sounds like I’m getting all new age flaky on you here, but this is actually scientific postulation. When you take away the thing that makes most men want the things we are so famous for wanting, good old testosterone, men don’t just stop wanting sex. They stop being able to differentiate light from dark, and backdrop from foreground. Again, I’m not being metaphorical here: the lack of desire translates literally into a lack of sense perception for these men.
And what about women? Aren’t women the ones we generally see as selfless, when we are allowed to discuss differences between sexes? What happens when their desire-creating chemical is removed?
Sexual equality is real, at least in this case. When women lack estrogen, they lose their ability to discern one part of the world from the other. Just like men. The actions that they used to take were actions born of desire, and with that desire gone the action won’t take place either.
What this tells us is that we all want what we want, and that wanting is what makes the world real for each of us. While we might not admire or appreciate what others want, or what they do to get it, we might do well to remember that the only reason our brain is working well enough to judge their desires or actions is because we are putting it in the framework of what we want. We can’t help it, of course; but we can decide whether or not we wish to labor under the delusion of selflessness in our lives.
Even if you want world peace, you are indulging in a selfish desire. Clearly, a lot of people want war; if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have so much of it. Those of us with a more peaceful nature may long to live in a world that seeks nonviolent solutions to problems; yet we have zero evidence that humans would be better off without war. Since the beginning, fighting has been a feature of the landscape of humanity. Taking away war with one fell swoop would leave a lot of people with no real purpose, and it wouldn’t matter to them that it made the rest of us super happy. The only way to avoid conflict is if everyone agrees on everything, and that sounds like a much more dismal place to live than a world constantly at war with itself.
Of course, if we’re going to contribute desires to chemicals, we have to consider the outliers created by both nature and human intervention. Some folks are asexual, or claim to be; although the rest of us can’t imagine a life with no desire for sex, these people can’t imagine such thoughts even entering their minds. Things get a little confusing when we look back at famous asexuals throughout history: many of them suffered sexual or physical abuse as children, and some of them just say taking sex out of the equation made them more productive. These aren’t true asexuals, as is evidenced by the fact that they often had sex at some point in their lives; and even those that reportedly died virgins may have done so by way of a simple lack of opportunity.
Channeling your sexual desires into something else is not the same as not having any desire for sex. People like Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton are considered asexual, although both of them pretty clearly stated that they put aside those urges to better dedicate themselves to their research. Tesla probably wouldn’t have complained about how a growing lack of feminism in many women of his time made them less appealing if he didn’t have testosterone running through him. He might have been even less impressed with a lot of women in modern times, but choosing not to have sex would not make him any more asexual in our time than it did in his.
Most men with the opportunity to have multiple romantic partners in their lives encounters at least one woman who makes them wonder if suppressing their sexual desire would make life a lot easier; I’m sure the reverse is true for most women, as well. Rerouting that energy doesn’t mean you don’t have it; you just channel it differently than most people do. One could argue that eschewing intimacy will surely stunt your emotional growth; but some of these folks assert that the only way they accomplished what they did was by focusing all their energy on it.
From the sounds of it, both arguments may be equally correct. A well-rounded individual won’t obsess over their work to the point of leaving their life behind, and an obsessive can’t be bothered to learn about all those common lessons the rest of us absorb through time and experience. We need obsessives, just like we need well-rounded humans; but there’s no way to tell if one could become the other without that individual dedicating their lives to doing it. All we have are examples of people doing what they felt like doing, just like the rest of us. In the end, we all still want something.
This is not to say true asexuals don’t exist. We just have to acknowledge that many of the examples given of people with no desire for sex have a slightly more complicated story behind them than a truly asexual person would. As much as society’s rarities may dominate the current conversation, the rest of us have no more ability to understand their perspective than they do ours. Your and my understanding comes from our desires, just like everything else that makes us who we are; we can only grasp what what other people are going through if we have some approximate frame of reference for it.
I would have to think of something I would never normally think of, then imagine having a desire for it, to come anywhere close to understanding a true asexual. If I saw every one of my neighbors waking up every morning, going out in their yards and digging a hole only to fill it again, I might get some sense of what someone with no desire for sex feels like in a world so steeped in it. I may wonder why I was different, and had no irresistible urge to dig and fill a hole every morning; but that would still imply me wanting something, which once again brings us back to the point of all this.
It may be our desires that make us who we are, in some large or small way; but when we judge a person, it is usually by their actions. The way we go about expressing what we want says a lot about who we are, even if we can’t really understand what drives another person without living in their skin. Whether we want to acquire things or charm people, seek the limelight or live in solitude, it is perhaps our wanting itself that makes us human. All of us have our own unique chemical cocktail that we carry around, and each of us react to it in our own way.
The thing that gets us out of bed in the morning might be inextricably intertwined with our own sexuality, as many a psychologist and philosopher have surmised; we can’t be certain, but they seem pretty sure. Those of us who can’t get out of bed in the morning, for whatever reason, still have at least some will to survive: maybe it’s the hope of getting out of bed tomorrow, or having some reason to at least.
That’s why we do all those things we do, after all.
We all want something.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,