Fine image of a bra with its contents as a motif for the John Money pages    

The Psychology of Sex

John Money

GROOMING. What the eyes do for arousal at a distance, the skin and senses do for arousal in intimate proximity. In subhuman primates, stroking, smoothing, combing and scratching of the fur and skin is known as grooming. Grooming occurs as a manifestation of infant care, of social friendliness, of sexual proception, and of postcoital relaxation.

Among human beings, the term, grooming, conventionally pertains to personal neatness, especially of the hair. It is not yet idiomatic to use the term in its erotic connotation, but to substitute instead such terms as hug, hold, press, cuddle, touch, tickle, squeeze, massage, pet, rub, pleasure and sensate focus. The unifying concept encompassing all of these terms is grooming. It is a concept much needed to fill a gap in the language of our sex lives.

Whatever the activity in which we manifest it, grooming has managed to remain surprisingly uncontaminated by the taboo on sex. It is a morally sanctioned and unexpurgated activity. The secret of its success is that it can take place entirely above the belt.

The belt is the dividing line between romance and carnal knowledge. Above the belt, sex and eroticism belong in the realm of lyricism and love, poetry and dawn mists. Above the belt sex, breasts excepted, may be displayed in public, on television, and in the movies – in the Christian cultures of the West, that is, where passionate kissing scenes in movies are taken for granted, whereas they are attacked with the scissors of censorship in Islam, in Hindu India, and in communist Asia.

Below the belt, sex and eroticism belong in the realm of animalistic passion and lust, dirty jokes, and shadowy stealth. Below-the-belt sex is culturally classified as too lewd and lascivious to be permitted in public, and in the media it is censored as obscene and pornographic.

What a difference the belt makes! Yet it is not as straightforward and dogmatic a difference as convention dictates it to be. It conceals within itself the terms of a paradox: sex below the belt is dirty, carnal, and lustful; therefore, save it for the one you love! It is small wonder that, when the timetable says go, many couples experience extraordinary difficulty in taking off the belts of their chastity. For these couples, the wedding night holds no ecstasy. It is a nightmare.

With remarkable tenacity, the nightmare perpetuates a split between grooming and copulating. “You want me only for my body” is some women’s nightmare complaint. In this saying, body is only a euphemism for another four-letter word. “You want me only for my cunt (Latin: cunna)” is the real meaning. What this desperate woman would say, had she had available the diagnostic terminology, is that she suffered a phobia of penetration. “Marauders keep out,” is the notice that would be posted on the temple gates of her vagina. Sexuality for her is divorced from the genitalia and is equated with romance, that is, with the grooming preliminaries of the proceptive phase.

John Money, Love and Love Sickness: The Science of Sex, Gender Difference and Pair-bonding, pp. 76-77. John Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, London) 1980.

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