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Some time ago, I was playing beer pong with a friend of mine. Over a triangular sea of red Solo cups, a meandering conversation ensued.

Our thoughts came to a discussion of sexuality — or more specifically, sensuality. Sensuality, that elevated combination of intelligence, intuition, emotional connection and physical intimacy, is among the aspects of humanity we most cherish. However, we agreed that, on a cultural whole, its appreciation often goes unexplored and unexpressed.

We sought to find out why.

First, a caveat; I am not a manly man. I have no desire to throw a great spiral or wrestle pigs or leer at strippers (or whatever it is men do). Aggressive sexual posturing is a bit of a foreign concept; I often find myself the seduced, not the seducer.

“Scoring chicks” has always struck me as somewhat stupid.

Not to say I don’t have sexual escapades — I certainly do. However, I find myself in an environment where the kind of sexuality I seek — sensuality — is not exactly in demand. I am most often presented with two extremes: base, biological fulfillment, or idealized “happily ever after” intimacy.

Yet these two archetypes receive the most societal emphasis. The ability to nail anyone one desires, regardless of who they are or what they stand for, is regarded as an asset (as always for men, but now increasingly for women, too). Do it because you can, and do it because it feels good.

Conversely, the idyllic, long-term relationship “I desire no one else” intimacy comprises the other side of the coin. It is the conclusion of the fairy tale, the culmination of high morals and patient waiting. It is the blind self-satisfaction that a low sexual-partner count is preferable to a life rich with experience.

Forgive me if I find both of those opposite extremes rather … two-dimensional.

Our society consistently overlooks the shades of gray in between such black and white; sexuality doesn’t simply have to be a random act of biological function, or the problem-free end to a nauseating romantic comedy.

Sensuality, the spectrum between the two, is often overlooked because it can be difficult to pinpoint. Its presence is mysterious, occurring in the absence of words.

I have had deeply sensual experiences with women I’ve known for many years, or only a few days. Sensuality is like that; it is wholly dependent on the situation, and who your partner is. Knowledge of sexuality (intelligence and past experiences), the appreciation for passion (how much will I emotionally invest in this moment?), the nature of the environment (a Toyota Corolla or candlelit room?). … Myriad variables can make a sexual experience earth-shattering or, well, no better than reading a semidecent book.

And such variables would remain wholly unexplored if one approaches sexuality solely from a base level or Cinderella-esque idyllic heights. Being sensual requires experience in both extremes, and temperance in the use of that experience.

So, ultimately, my friend and I discovered that sensuality is often unexplored and unexpressed because it requires a more complex emotional view of sexuality in general.

It’s easy to resort to extremes, but in the end, the sexual experiences we remember, and ultimately seek to repeat, fall somewhere in between basic urge and idealistic romanticism.

Alex ain’t going to the town, he’s going to the city,

but can be reached at

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