Toward a Better Understanding of Relationship and Sexual Desires

The things that we desire can be really complicated sometimes. Many of the things that we desire we know are complicated—it’s not like we are blind about the complexity of many of our longings. Have you ever wanted to hook up with someone and later discovered that the person is really not what you thought? Have you ever longed to be in a relationship with someone, but later found out that there’s no way that you could ever make it in a relationship with the person? Have you ever had a deep sexual desire for someone and then, as time goes by, end up feeling like why in the world did I ever sexually desire this person? Have you ever had sex with someone and experienced just okay sex with the person, but you still want to have sex with the person so bad—even though you know you’re not going to be completely fulfilled after you have worked so hard to get with the person and the sex is again just okay? No, I have not been listening to Brandy’s “Have You Ever” lately, but I have been seriously contemplating how complicated our relationships and sexual desires can be sometimes.

Although desire emerges from natural human emotions, Karl Marx has evinced that desire becomes much more complicated when it comes into contact with capitalism. The economic and social influences of capitalism can cause our desires to become unstable and difficult to comprehend. Your desire to constantly have sex with someone who you know is not going to give you the sexual experience you long for can be a product of you attempting to find a way to satisfy your economic shortcomings that result from capitalism. The societal expectations to be sexually involved with someone can lead you to constantly pursue someone you know is not going to fulfill you sexually, and to make matters even worse, this person can be someone who it’s challenging to get him or her to have sex with you—even though you have had sex together before.

Although I have had the opportunity to read some very good (and a few great) blogs that concentrate on relationships, there is little to no discussion and analysis about the impact of the economic system, namely capitalism, on relationships. Relationships of all types are heavily affected by capitalism. By thinking about the impact that capitalism has on relationships, we can move more toward offering advice, critiques, and discussions about relationships that are informed by something greater than one’s personal experience and background; we can all begin to think about how capitalism is at play in what goes on in relationships and how we conceive relationships.

Envisage how much better Steve Harvey’s relationship advice would be if he solemnly contemplated capitalism’s impact on the relationships in which he analyzes, and imagine how much better constructed his relationship advice would be if he firmly situated it within a theoretical or conceptual framework that offers him the ability to critique capitalism’s effects on relationships. I don’t think this is asking too much of him, but his largely naïve and/or desperate audience may begin to run away from this more substantive and focused relationship advice.

Some people will say that they do include capitalism into how they think about and analyze relationships, but I would just like to see you be more explicit in your critiques of capitalism’s effects on relationships in your discussions and analyses.

When you no longer desire to be with a person who you thought you were interested in, I want you to think about that you may have learned something meaningful about yourself and what you want, as opposed to there being anything substantively wrong and/or disappointing about the person.

When you no longer want to hook up with a person for a one-night stand (or jump off), I want you to think about the possible economic and social factors at play that could be contributing to your discontinued desire to be with the person. You can learn much about yourself by engaging in this critical self-evaluation of your thoughts about relationships and your words and actions within your relationships.

When you continue to have sex with someone you really are not being fulfilled by, I want you to consider the possibility that you really don’t want to be with this person, and that you are only having sex with him or her to mollify larger economic and/or social problems and challenges that plague you.

It is my hope that relationship discourses, advice, and analyses will begin to include thoughts about capitalism’s impact on relationships. I’m not trying to discourage people from using their own personal experiences with relationships in their advice, discussions, and analyses about relationships, but I would certainly like to see a greater effort employed to contextualize and conceptualize your personal experiences within larger factors that will offer wider applicability and relevancy. Your personal relationship experiences can be useful to people, of course. However, don’t ever present your relationship experiences as the standards for all relationships. Just because you have been involved in some or many relationships does not make you a relationship expert, especially when you have not really internalized anything you have learned from your relationships.

Give more thought to your relationship and sexual desires—they can be highly complicated. Make stronger efforts to ameliorate the level of sophistication of your relationship advice, critiques, and discussions.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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12 comments

  1. I think you offer some great chargers for people. Not only in serious relationships but also jump-offs and flings. I love how you allude to history and social. Marx? That’s brilliant. This is why I enjoy your work.

  2. Lmao! a lot of words but I get what you saying… weigh the pros/cons of sex & relationships…I like the

    “Your personal relationship experiences can be useful to people, of course. However, don’t ever present your relationship experiences as the standards for all relationships.”

    Thats the best disclaimer ever!

    1. Lmbo! Yes, indeed, a lot of words. Lmbo! One of my friends, however, told me that I was not thorough enough in this article, so he wanted even more words. I guess that would turn this article into a book chapter. Lol. Thank you so much for stopping by, for reading, and your response!

  3. I am not gonna front! I totally like the way you wove the great Karl Marx into this! You gave a great perspective in this of how we need to look at our relationships in 3D instead of one dimensional!

    1. Thanks, Darryl! Karl Marx was very concerned in his works with social organization and how people interact with one another in daily their lives. He strongly sought to find ways to improve our daily interactions with one another. Therefore, the works of Marx can be tremendously important to analyzing how we view and critique relationships, leading to more fulfilling relationship advice, critiques, and analyses.

  4. Maurice,

    Interesting subject, but I fail to comprehend. I’ve re-read this post four times and I still don’t see capitalism’s impact on relationships, as it relates to this post. You have raised insightful questions that could stimulate a dissertationesque discourse on relationships, BUT please bridge the gap between economics and relationships for me please!

    Thanks,
    African Mami.

    1. According to Marx and most other Marxists, which this article uses a Marxian and Marxist lens to interpret relationships, there’s almost nothing that is not impacted by capitalism. Most contemporary Marxists argue that the economic influences the social and the social influences the economic. Marx gave some serious focus to how the economic system, namely capitalism, influences our social relationships. Capitalism has a significant influence on who we select to be in a relationships with. For example, the dominant empirical research has demonstrated that the majority of people marry and are in relationships based on coming from the same or similar economic/income backgrounds. With that reality revealed by the peer-reviewed literature, this shows that capitalism’s great value of money has a heavy influence on who we elect to be intimate with, marry, and be in relationships with. It also shows that capitalism’s intense value of money contributes largely to who we make our love, sex, and intimacy available to. (We tend to make those aforementioned things available to those within our similar or exact economic/income backgrounds.)

      The dominant research has evinced that one of the most significant reasons why people elect to marry and engage in relationships is for economic security. People don’t want to be left to fend for themselves in a economic system, capitalism, that is not interested in keeping the poor from being homeless and from giving the poor significant assistance. Many people, therefore, are making social relationship decisions based on their need for economic security. One has to think about how important this need for economic security that capitalism constantly makes us all have to be concerned about has an influence on the people we choose to be in intimate relationships with.

      Moreover, think about the notion of a “golddiggger.” This is a man or woman thinking about using sex and/or relationships as a vehicle(s) for economic gain, considering capitalism is a system that is dependent on greed and that largely promotes this greed through an egregious economic selfishness. Again, capitalism’s value of money and the pressures it puts on people to obtain it for even basic survival forces many people to be “golddiggers.” This perceived need to have sex with people for their money is a direct result of how social relationships are very much consumed by capitalism’s constant pressure to make all people within its sphere of influence make things and people around them “useful.” The classic Marxian “use-value” and “exchange-value,” which are fundamental dimensions of capitalism, ends up causing many people to commodify one another. That is, thinking about them in terms of what they can get out of others.

      When people are poor or living from paycheck to paycheck, it should be evaluated how this influences their decision making when it comes to relationships. When people are poor, think about how limited of experiences that they have had, the limited opportunities that they have had to travel, to go beyond where they live, and etc. Think about how these economic factors influence their decisions when it comes to social relationships. These economic factors are a direct result of capitalism, of course.

      In How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney contends that “capitalism made racism thinkable.” Therefore, think about how capitalism has hindered interracial relationships and what racial tensions have done to our ability to engage in interracial relationships with any backlash and hardships. Think about racism as a product of capitalism and how it has a significant influence on the economic and social realities of the people who are the victims of racism and how they make decisions based upon their understandings of racist realities.

      Yes, this topic is certainly one of those big ideas kind of topics that I like to engage with. I agree very much that this is a dissertation topic. In the original article, it was my simple desire to introduce the idea that capitalism should be factored into how we think about, discuss, and analyze relationships. This is why there was not substantial detail provided about the specific influence capitalism has on relationships. I think this week I will write an article on how “golddiggers” are a product of capitalism. What I think that I will do is start breaking up this big concept that this article introduced into smaller parts, so that people will begin to piece together or begin to see through specificity the impact capitalism has on relationships. I’m not sure if I was able to address your request for me to “bridge the gap between economics and relationships,” but that may be a result of the difficulty of a single blog post and single response to accomplish this. I very much appreciate you for reading and your response.

      1. Well damn! Listen, I have a research paper that is driving me nuts! How much do you charge for your services? The economists, say the recession is over but the reality of the matter is that it is still on and popping, bear that in mind when coming up with a figure!

        Yes indeed! You bridged that gap very intelligently, and I liked your inference to peer reviewed literature! More credible and soothing to the soul. You can pat yourself on the back for gaining a new blog/site follower!

        1. Thank you very much! I’m glad I was able to bridge the gap for you. As far as the research paper goes, first, are you serious? Second, if so, the price will just depend on the length of your paper and the needs of your paper. I do this type of thing through my small business, Paideia Realized, Inc. Right now, however, I’m booked until this Tuesday, May 3rd.

  5. No, I am not serious…I will seek divine intervention from the gods! Def check out what Paideia is all about!

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