Sex vs. Love

Recently I started reading a book entitled, “The Paradox of Love” written by French philosopher-type Pascal Bruckner. The book focuses on the misconceptions of love that our society thrives on and the fact that love is one big paradox. It is beautiful and messy, to be desired and not…A few days ago I reached a chapter entitled “Seduction as Market” and Bruckner said something that resonated with me.

“…sexuality is an irresistible drive that has to be satisfied so that one doesn’t have to think about it anymore. Whereas the Frenchman says, ‘Faisons l’amour,’ the American in television series and film says: ‘Let’s have sex.’ The difference is not merely semantic, it reflects two worldviews: in the latter case it is a matter of a pressing, animal need, like hunger or thirst, and in the former of a complex act that gives rise to a whole erotics, love that makes us as much as we make it, a subtle construction rather than a physical evacuation. Ceremony on the one hand, bestiality on the other.”

Faisons l’amour translated is, “Let’s make love.” So Bruckner suggests that what we are dealing with is the tension between having sex and making love. It occurred to me that what many of us are fighting for, particularly Christians who want to argue that sex before marriage is permissible, is really just that, “SEX before marriage.” Sex, the culmination of our lust, as opposed to making love, the consummation of love.

Now I know that making such a distinction is difficult and, in a way, it trivializes some people’s understanding of sex. But, what I am getting at here is the fact that I think there is something to be said for Bruckner’s distinction and how we view our sexual activity and its purpose. To what end do we use sex? For what purpose? What do we really want when we want to have sex as opposed to making love? Because the reality of the situation is, it is easy to have sex but it is hard to make love. It is hard to do the latter because there are very few people that we can do such as act with and because there are very few people, a wait is imposed a upon us. A wait and a weight. The weight of having sexual needs and desires unfulfilled until that great day and a wait for the great day. There are very few people that we can make a ‘subtle construction’ with and plenty of people we can have ‘physical evacuations’ with. Even the language is indicative of something more, we “have” sex, we “make” love. To “make” is to participate in a new creation, to “have” is to possess something and possession is not always safe or healthy.

Yes, we can have sex and have it all day, every day. It demands nothing more of us than an ability to rip one another’s clothes off–or not–thrust and grunt and get it over with. But can we wait for love? Can we wait to make a new creation with someone? And lest you think I am campaigning for “True Love Waits”, I am not–but I won’t touch that in this post. But I’ll say this, as much as I dislike the “True Love Waits” campaign, I think I can see where it aims. True love does wait. Sex doesn’t wait, we don’t want to wait for sex. I can admit that as someone who wants to base her life’s work on possibly arguing that the wait is in vain. But, because of Bruckner I realize, the wait for making love will never be in vain. The rush to have sex with someone you probably only have lukewarm feelings for, probably in vain.

I want to hear from others though. Is there a problem with this distinction between sex and love? Can there be love in sex? Can there be sex in love? Is this semantic argument too granular? Let’s talk about sex.


  1. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. You are getting at what I believe should be the basis of sexual ethics–that is, that sex should be reserved for “making love,” and that this usually must involve some kind of wait, holding back, patience, reflection–in short, taking it seriously. Whether or not this must techincally involve waiting for marriage, I am less convinced. But waiting, certainly. The difficulty, I think, is how to determine when you really have the capacity, in a given relationship, to make love rather than simply have sex. It is easy to be fooled, to get carried away, sometimes on an emotional level and sometimes even on the simplest level of hormones preventing you from thinking straight. I think this is partly the reason that so many committed religious people continue to resort to the clear distinction of waiting for marriage, despite the lesser practical reasons for waiting, now that we have acheived certain advances in birth control and disease prevention. I do think that being able to make love involves an extraordinary sort of commitment, that for me is a kind of marriage in itself–or at least the intention of moving towards lifelong partnership. And even sometimes when that commitment is felt by both people it might be too soon to share that kind of intimacy. It might be necessary to let the relationship grow, or to find out that the relationship can’t grow further, lest the deep intimacy of sexual union be somehow depreciated or misplaced.

    But as I say all that, I have to sit here and wonder whether even in marriage (or equally committed equivalents), there’s a place for wild abandon to pure sensual pleasure and desire–basically, to “having sex”–and does that have to be a bad thing? Is it just our deeply entrenched and perhaps no longer useful instinct to consider sexuality as somehow defiling that makes us think we shouldn’t engage in such seuxality? (That last question was based on a something about Ricouer that I just read in “Just Love”)


  2. Latriecia says:

    The person willing to wait to make love is definitely a person I would want to progress through life with. The person that waits obviously possesses an interest beyond the physical connection and even the idea of “waiting to make a new creation with someone,” can tie into procreation. Would the person you just have sex with be a person you would want to have and raise a child with? Obviously to make love to someone is the most purest form of a relationship… to be completely naked physically, mentally, spiritually… to connect with someone on that level that you want to join flesh… Idk I’m stilling learning the difference my self. Great read!


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