How philosophy can help you live your sexuality better

Do you find that your life lacks sex? Or, on the contrary, that there are too many (less common case)? Are you suffering from the pangs of a torrid passion? Or of a disappearance of desire in your couple ? Turn to the philosophers! Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza… these great thinkers – although rarely overactive on the sexual level (one cannot be in the oven and the mill) – have left us paths that can help us to better live our sexuality. This is brilliantly demonstrated by Frédéric Lenoir’s new work, “Le Désir, une philosophie” (ed. Flammarion). The 60-year-old writer, well known for his bestsellers dedicated to the search for happiness, called on the great authors to help us think about desire in all its forms, in all the dimensions of existence, and in particular the sexual dimension. A clear and accessible book, optimistic and invigorating, far from clichés. With the help of the philosophers already mentioned, but also Epicurus, Buddha, Nietzsche or Bergson, he tries to answer this fundamental question: “How can we learn to direct our desires towards things, activities or people who make us grow and bring us joy? We imagined a few typical situations of our sexual life and asked Frédéric Lenoir to comment on them, with the help of the great philosophers, of course. Explanation of sex…

Your sexuality bothers you

The findingt You have just read in a newspaper that the French make love 1.5 times a week, which does not exactly represent the figures that you reach with your spouse. Worry. Should we be alarmed? Consider that your life as a couple is a failure? Ouch…

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The solution Ignore these numbers and reject the idea of ​​a standard! “In life in general, but even more so in terms of sexuality, you should not compare yourself,” recalls Frédéric Lenoir. As Seneca says: “If you want to be unhappy, compare yourself.” It’s absurd and meaningless. All the philosophers, from Seneca to Spinoza, remind us that each of us has a unique, singular nature, with specific desires that are not those of our neighbour. Some need very frequent intercourse while others live very well in chastity. In addition, sexual desire varies according to the circumstances of our life, according to times, encounters. To have some infrequent sexual intercourse in a couple is not in itself problematic. It only becomes so when one of the two suffers from it. »

Your teenager worries you

The observation He spends a long time with his girlfriend, frequently sleeps at her house, but, from what you understand, their sex life seems very calm, even non-existent. It’s not that you want him to become an X actor, but that surprises you a bit…

The solution Rest assured, your teenager is in tune with the times, as shown by an Ifop study from 2022, which reveals that 43% of 15-24 year olds had no sexual intercourse in 2021. “Freud showed that sexual desire is linked to the forbidden, which arouses fantasies, feeds the imagination, comments Frédéric Lenoir. One of the reasons for the decline in desire among young people is that there are no longer any restrictions. Sexuality is there, easily accessible, exposed, shown, in particular thanks to porn. Moreover, porn is inseparable from an idea of ​​performance. The bodies are perfect, the positions acrobatic… So many images that crush young people, giving them the impression that they will never be up to it. As a result, they prefer not to rush, to favor tenderness, not necessarily to have sex. In this, they rediscover the “philia” dear to Aristotle. The philosopher said that for a romantic relationship to truly flourish, it cannot rely only on eros, passionate love, but also on “philia”, a complicity of friendship that takes time. to get to know each other, to share things together. »

You have lesbian temptation

The finding Your new office colleague, laughing and charming, causes a certain stir in you. Like many heterosexual women, you wonder if you can become a lesbian with the snap of a finger, as young feminists today claim. Can we choose our sexuality à la carte?

The solution And if you let yourself be tempted? “For several decades, a number of authors, including the gender philosopher Judith Butler, have demonstrated to what extent sexuality depends on social and cultural norms,” underlines Frédéric Lenoir. From the moment when, in series, in novels, in the media, we see many more gay and lesbian couples, this opens up the field of possibilities. The social norm is changing and some people will allow themselves desires and experiences that they would not even have thought of before in an exclusively heterosexual universe. This is especially true for those who may be dissatisfied with their relationships with men. In a way, this verifies the mimetic theory of the philosopher and anthropologist René Girard. This one explained very well that most of our desires were mimetic, determined by the dominant social desires. He doesn’t say it negatively, it’s just an observation. And fortunately there are mimetic desires. The child constructs himself like that, for example. »

You are sexually frenzied

The finding Since your rupture, you have fun on Tinder. You multiply one-night stands and you’ve never been so predatory sexually. It feels good ! The only downside is that you sometimes feel like you’re going around in circles and that it’s going to be difficult to get back into a relationship… Is it serious, doctor?

The solution “Situations like this perfectly illustrate Plato’s vision of desire as a lack,” notes Frédéric Lenoir. For Plato, we desire what we lack. But as soon as we possess the desired thing, our desire is blunted. And so you have to look elsewhere to begin to desire again… Thus, desire is like the pierced barrel of the Danaides, impossible to fill. And we risk falling into perpetual dissatisfaction. It is the figure of the libertine, who always needs more pleasures and novelties. Faced with this impasse, we can draw inspiration from Spinoza’s discourse, which suggests that we redirect our desires and seek out what really brings us joy and increases our power. In the sexual domain, for example, this can lead us to say no to easy pleasure, to a one-night stand, which could perhaps, occasionally, fill a void, but which would not nourish us deeply and which would go , on the contrary, rather heighten our frustration. It would seem that sexuality cannot be reduced to a simple physical and biological satisfaction, otherwise we would get tired of it very quickly. We also need tenderness, understanding, sharing. Spinoza would no doubt tell us that we must redirect our desires towards things, people who make us grow in all the dimensions of our being, and not simply in that of the body. »

You no longer want your partner

The finding For some time, with your companion, sexual relations are not what they used to be. You have lost your desire, you no longer desire it. Is it a fatality? How to find the desire?

The solution “This is the great contemporary problem, explains Frédéric Lenoir. It is enough to see the number of films and novels which, today, approach this theme. In the past, the question did not arise, because marriages were often arranged. In case of disappearance of desire in the couple, the wife was then condemned to chastity, and her husband took a mistress or frequented brothels. Infidelity was institutionalized. But we now live in the era of love marriage, and infidelity is experienced as betrayal. From then on, faced with a desire that withers, each couple manages as best they can. Some try to rekindle desire with erotic games, others grant each other great reciprocal freedom, or even try partner-swapping. And then there are people who separate, which is the majority of cases. Faced with this insoluble problem, one can only evoke Aristotle’s “philia”. For a love relationship to last, according to the Greek philosopher, eros must be followed by “philia”, that we pass from passionate love to a love based on tenderness, spiritual complicity. Sexual desire is no longer linked to erotic fantasies, which quickly run out, but it is based on the deep attachment we have for someone. Thus, one can even reach the stage of “agapè”, the love gift. Desire then takes on new faces and we reach a kind of soul vibration which connects us to the other and which is no longer linked to simple sexual pleasure. »

You live a dangerous passion

The finding You are currently embarked on a devouring love story with a partner who fulfills you. But your relationship, torrid, is also accompanied by jealousy, a feeling of lack when he is not there… Does passion always have to be painful?

The solution “Psychoanalysis has shown that, in amorous passion, there are a whole host of unconscious things that are at stake, notes Frédéric Lenoir. According to Freud and Jung, we project onto the other a set of fantasies, expectations, transfers which have nothing to do with him, but which go back to our childhood, to our parental model. Hence the fact that in a relationship we will experience a lack or a need for reparation, to be in the claim, even sometimes in revenge. These violent feelings often escape us and make us suffer. Only awareness, lucidity, work on oneself, like that which we do with a psychoanalyst, can help us to understand these neurotic mechanisms and to appease them. But some people don’t want that. They will tell you that they love to experience the passion of love with all that it has that is extraordinary, but also destructive. It is only if such a relationship makes you suffer that psychoanalytic work on oneself will be useful. »

How philosophy can help you live your sexuality better – Elle