Excerpted from "Sex in the Romance: A Review of Romantic Encounters of the Close Kind".

(copyright John L. Ferri 1994, jlferri@epix.net)

This Thing Called Love

Most of my discussions of sex were tongue-in-cheek attempts to explain, or at least rationalize, our behavior when interacting with the opposite sex. In most cases, our actions are determined through evolution because, after millions of years of trial and error, certain behaviors and characteristics endure and improve over succeeding generations because they work better than others. With evolution, the desired effect is always the continuation of the species with the possibility of further behavior refinement. Mate. Reproduce. Improve. Evolution's seeming compulsion with sex is only apparent because species that don't successfully reproduce become extinct. Since we observe only the successful species, the conclusion that evolution is preoccupied with sex is understandable, but incorrect.

What about love? It's referred to abundantly in romance novels, as well as anywhere else you care to look. It's been written about since writing has existed, and is the main topic in the plots or sub-plots of motion pictures and the subject of most songs.

The foremost symptom of love seems to be an "intense emotional preoccupation" that overwhelms the victims to such an extent that they can focus on little else. Mary Batten, in "Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates", New York: Putnam 1992, speculates that what we call love is an evolved "psychological state beyond conscious control" to help insure the continuation of the species. If love isn't blind, then it certainly suffers from tunnel vision. And evolution seems to have a narrowly focused objective. Batten writes:

"Although the biological link between love and babies seems clear enough, most of the literary rhapsodizing about love omits any association with reproduction. It's easy to understand why. The heat of passion seems to have little connection with diaper rash. Being on call twenty-four hours a day until a child leaves for college is hardly the stuff of love songs. Romance enables lovers to deceive themselves about the likely consequences of their overwhelming passion. And, like it or not, self-deception figures prominently in love."

It seems that the biological purpose of love is to deceive those involved about the ultimate goal of the force producing the emotion. The force is evolution, and its result is what we perceive as love. One deception is that the courting rituals -- romantic walks, flowers, kissing, candle-lit dinners, love letters, cuddling, making love, and other romantic trappings -- have nothing to do with procreation. We believe -- we want to believe -- that these wonderful, romantic, and passionate responses are independent from the true biological intent of love. But the reality is that the ultimate goal is progeny.

Does knowing this change anything? Am I trying to tell all lovers to open their eyes? Not at all. Even if I was, I doubt that anyone who is passionately in love would listen. People fall in love with or without their own consent. Most like it; some don't; none have a choice. We may not truly understand it; we may not be capable of understanding it. Yet we are doomed to experience it. Love, biological or romantic, is impossible to define and explain, and I doubt that I could add anything significant to the volumes already devoted to it.

I've been in love. I am in love. I hope to always be in love. I love romantic walks and candle-lit dinners. I love flowers and love letters. I especially love kissing and cuddling and making love. I love everything associated with the greatest and most complex of human emotions. If I'm blinded, if I'm deceived, then so be it. Love, be gentle and be near.

But then, what do I know? I'm here only for the sex.

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