Proposition – David Tritsch
In a place where much of our lives seem to revolve around collection marks, internship applications, and the praise of cynical academics, some of us have also had our sexual awakening. Be it a messy post-crew date pull in Park End, or a date night with your long-term significant other, could anything even come close to beating sex? I would argue that success is, in fact, better than sex. Contrary to sex, success is multi-dimensional, making it much more sustainable as a source of long-term gratification.
Firstly, let us distinguish between how much we crave sex and how much we actually enjoy it. From a biological perspective, it is essential that we desire sex, so much so that anthropologists mention it together with food and shelter as a human necessity. That being said, we seem to enjoy sex much less than we crave it. Once we get what we want, our desire for it decreases rapidly. A 2017 study found that couples who have sex more than once a week did not report being any happier. So it looks like sex is a desire that we crave to fulfill, much rather than being a source of ever-increasing pleasure. What does success mean to you? Ask twenty people and you are likely to get twenty different answers. Yes, it could be that Goldman Sachs Internship, but for some, it might be dealing with their mental health, being a good friend, or just finding an extra onion ring in your chips. Success is multi-dimensional, meaning that while we succeed or fail at different things, most of us should not see themselves as either completely successful or as complete failures. This is an attitude that does not come naturally but needs to embraced by appreciating our big and little successes. Because this attitude to success is so multi-faceted, it is much more sustainable than our sexual cravings as a source of long-term pleasure. Now, that is not to say that sex has to be boring and repetitive. Same-sex or mixed-sex, threesomes, foursomes, SM and pillow talk, there are many ways we can add variation to our sex lives. For some of us, a fulfilled sex life may even be one facet of success. Understanding your body and how to enjoy yourself can be amazing and will not diminish your excitement when you find out that you have passed this year’s exams.
Sexless success or sex without success? While many of us will have resonated with either of these at some point in time, it is not what this debate is about. We crave sex and a life without it would be miserable. That being said, there are limits to how happy sex can make us. But if we embrace the idea that that success is multi-faceted, we can attain long-lasting satisfaction by succeeding at the big and little things in life.
Opposition – Anonymous
As Oscar Wilde once said, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” We are animals. We might try to convince ourselves otherwise, but all we are driven to in life is procreation and then, eventually, death. What separates us from the birds and bees is that sexuality dictates everything we doable in the meantime. The brain is the human’s most important sexual organ, though many men would benefit from considering the clitoris a contender. It draws us irrationally to the ugly, ushers us down bizarre pornographic rabbit-holes and beguiles us into supplanting human touch with strings of Thursday night shags. Conversely, our niggling libidos push and pull us in our daily lives too. Why else would we aspire to fame and riches if not to impress potential mates?
Sex seemingly affirms to us our social importance, as anyone who’s slept with a hack knows. It assures us we’re admired and desirable to of our peers. Nothing better explains Oxlove’s cult following. For the distress of the incel, being shag-able is the climax of social acclaim. At our most desperate, we’d do anything to get it, and it can do many things for us in return. The one-off encounter is the world’s oldest bartering chip. Sex is shorthand for so much: adoration, achievement, ability. When powerful men through history have idolised harems, it’s no little wonder that so many view sex in terms of conquest. Conversely, powerful women have always been subject to speculation over their sexual ‘misdeeds’. For sure, sexual favours are exchangeable for arbitrary ends, but not every high-achiever sleeps with her boss. The assumption this must be the case demonstrates how sex is often conceptualized as the social climber’s icepick. In one case, power affords sex; in the other, sex seemingly affords power. There’s often little point in even attempting separating the two.
What do we mean by success, anyway? Is there anything we do that isn’t implicitly sexual? Admittedly, sex is never really had for the sake of sex alone. The bedroom is an adult’s playground, not the exclusive domain of the kinky. We use it to hash out the basic dynamics of our romantic relationships, feeling empowered by pleasuring others and experiencing imitations of real-world reverence by being pleasured ourselves. Paradoxically, sex is also a social leveler. Sharing the experience of nudity with another person is something entirely removed from the economic conditions usually surrounding success. As linked as sexuality is to the world outside the boudoir, sexual intimacy is also an escape from it. Rarely do we get opportunities to be fully honest and vulnerable with another, even if only physically. Oscar Wilde probably didn’t claim that the best things in life come for free, but he may as well have done – sex lends meaning to all our successes, regardless of how we otherwise might define them.