What do we love when we love a person? Is it her body or something else — the “soul,” perhaps?
I had an argument with a good friend of mine a long time ago about the difference between love and lust. The conversation revolved around the topic of why can’t men stick to having sex with one girl, the girl that he loves, that is. I wrote about it in my first blog on Friendster:
Reading that entry, I realized how silly my points were at that time. They came from a man who was so detached from the subject. I had no real feelings for the matter so it was easy for me to say that sex for lust is very different from sex for love. I was so confused I even called my self a conservative (“konserbatibo”).
I was, at that time, a victim of Cartesian dualism, the belief that the mind and body are separate entities. The mind is separate from the body, so what is done to the body doesn’t necessarily affect the mind. Bodily pleasure doesn’t equate to the satisfaction of the mind or of the “soul” (both refer to that intangible entity that we like to imagine we have).
My point back then was that even if a man sleeps with a woman he lusts for, that doesn’t necessarily affect his love for the woman who’s his real partner. I was thinking, “Love’s object is not only the body anyway, so letting a man have sex with another woman whom he doesn’t love is just like letting a man drive another person’s car.”
Needless to say, my points were bullshit. They smell of naivety and the deliberate attempt to rise above common opinions. They weren’t hypocritical, but simply cold, detached, and strategic.
Now, I realize that so much of love is anchored on the body. Also, if there is such an intangible thing as the “mind” or the “soul,” the body is inextricable from it.
In fact, whatever this intangible thing is, we only have an idea of it through what’s physical. What is the soul of a person? If the soul consists of ideas and emotions, then both of those are expressed by words and gestures. We listen to words spoken by a physical mouth; we interpret emotions through facial expressions of joy, laughter, or disappointment.
And if we love these supposedly deeper characteristics of a person, then aren’t we loving her body ultimately? For how could she have expressed her soul but through her body?
Now I understand why it hurts so much to have someone else touch that body, derive joy from that body. It tears you to shreds, rends your heart, puts seemingly permanent scars all over your body and her body. Infidelity is a real threat to love because it makes use of the body.
We value the other person’s body like greedy men value money. It sounds revolting at times but the kernel of truth in it is unmistakable. It’s base and vulgar and disenchanting but how could anyone deny that with a straight face? In a way, we treat each other like material possessions — and maybe we are material possessions when in love.
Maybe there is a soul in every one of us. Maybe we do love a person’s soul. All I know now is that without the body, it’s not possible to love the soul.