Lizard Instincts: How Sexually We’re Going Backwards

Lizard InstinctsMy lizard is either gay or extremely stupid.

We bought him a few years ago as a birthday present for my daughter, and as my luck would have it, my girls decided it would be fun to have baby Spotty’s. Once he reached sexual maturity (don’t even ask how we figured that out), we dutifully borrowed a female leopard gecko from a friend and put them in the same cage.

It was then that Spotty’s lack of normal lizard instincts became apparent. Lizards don’t have much of a brain, but there are two things they’re supposed to be able to do: catch live crickets and mate. He seemed more interested in hiding. In desperation we consulted a lizard specialist (yes, there is such a thing) who suggested that we borrow another male gecko and put him in the cage, too. If Spotty felt the competition, he would perform. That wasn’t exactly the lesson on reproduction I wanted to teach my daughters, so we just told them that the lizards weren’t in love and left it at that.

It occurred to me afterwards, though, that our society increasingly treats sex as if we’re lizards. The wonderful thing about human beings is that sexual intimacy takes place within relationship. For women, especially, that feeling of closeness is necessary before anything else is attempted.

It’s one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom: the fact that sex is not purely instinctual, but imbued with relational and spiritual components.

Yet on the covers of Cosmopolitan, on reality TV shows, and all over the media women are depicted trying to attract men, with most of their thoughts going towards biceps and other physical traits rather than character or personality. Pornography, of course, takes this to the extreme, but it’s all part of the same continuum. When this is how we frame sex, though, sex becomes something purely physical, rather than relational. We lose out on all the wonder that it can embody. And when our kids get this message, even if it’s inadvertently, it’s even more dangerous.

When we were young, if we wanted to have a glimpse of pornography we had to find our dad’s—or our friend’s dad’s—stash of Playboys. That’s not the case anymore. You just need to know how to use a computer or rent a video. However, to put it mildly, it is not good for a young teen to have his or her first experience with sexuality to be pornographic. It can be very, very harmful. When kids are exposed to pornography at the same time as they are just starting to experience sexual feelings, they’re going to associate those feelings with pornography, rather than with a relationship. They actually can wire their brains to think of the paper image or the computer screen as sexy, rather than relationship, making it more difficult to become attracted later on to your chosen life partner. Relationship isn’t sexy; anonymous stuff is.

As parents, then, we need to keep control of the computer, especially in children’s vulnerable years in their early teens. Put it in the kitchen, rather than a bedroom. Install parental control software. And, perhaps most importantly, be careful where your children hang out. Make your house the preferred hang out by providing lots of snacks and fun, or your kids may gravitate to someone else’s house where the computer is far more accessible.

Finally, let’s make sure we, too, don’t rewire our brains inappropriately. One of the best things in life is feeling that closeness to one’s spouse that derives from true intimacy.

If we need to distance ourselves mentally to feel sexy, then it’s as if we’re not interested in our spouse, but just in a body. The whole relationship is threatened, because it’s clear you’re more interested in a paper image than in the person we’re supposed to love. That kind of rejection can devastate a relationship.

The sexual revolution was supposed to free us by allowing us to explore. I think it actually made us go backwards. Don’t throw something precious away with pornography. Love your spouse, the one relationship where you can be yourself, make mistakes, and have years and years to work on intimacy.

Don’t be a lizard. The crickets are gross, and the sex isn’t much better.


  1. You are abosultely right, for me spiritual connection is an essential part of intimacy – there is no point in sex without it.

  2. Hi Sheila, male reader of your blog (it’s fantastic by the way!) and I have some concerns about my wife, mainly trying to reassure myself that she truly is still into me. We’ve been going through your 29 days to great sex series to try and reignite a passionless sex life. We’ve had 3 kids in the last 4 years so it’s no surprise that as hectic as life is things kind of died a slow painful death in our intimate life. We are working on bringing it back from the dead right now and things are going ok. My concern is that I am trying to convince myself that she truly does enjoy me, and the sex that we do get to have. She had a lot more partners than I did before we met, lots of 2 or 3 month “relationships” that shockingly ended poorly once they did the deed. I’ve never questioned her love for me since day #1, but I find myself worried that she thinks about previous lovers more than me, or that she had it much better from someone else. I know that finding love was always important to her, she grew up in a home where her parents rarely expressed any emotion to her or her siblings, and her favorite movies and books all center around the theme that true love will be found. She has always been a very quiet woman since the day we met, doesn’t often give me compliments, and rarely discusses her feelings, but we’re working on that. In the bedroom she is often silent too, and doesn’t give me much verbal or physical feedback during any part of intimate times. I know that she wants to change that, and I trust that things can get better for both of us. I probably have a very poor understanding of how a woman views her previous relationships thanks to a lot of bad information on the web likely written by people who are unhappily married, but it’s been difficult the last few years to convince myself that I am much more special to her than anyone else and that her past means nothing to her. I know that my past means nothing to me, it’s there if I ever want to think about it, but I never do nor do I want to. I feel like an oddball amongst my guy friends in the fact that I still crave my wife today as much as I did when we first fell in love 10 years ago, dated 4 yrs married 6 now, and I completely stopped viewing porn about 9 months ago to make sure my focus is 100% on her and making sure that there’s the emotional connection to go along with the physical. Most of them don’t still view their wives in the same way and are rampant porn users, but that’s their burden to bear not mine……I feel better about myself having made some good changes recently, I just can’t get over the hurdle of thinking that somehow someone she was with for a few months over a decade ago still has an effect on her mind and body today. She doesn’t ever discuss her past, but the lack of passion and emotional connection lately has caused me concern that her life before me was better. Any suggestions to help get over this fear that is likely all in my head and not true?

    • I should’ve also asked the question if her past might be a major inhibitor for her to be able to fully relax and let go while we are being intimate. I don’t hold a grudge against her for her past, as Day # 2 in the 29 day series said that we are both new creations once the act of marriage is completed and I whole heartedly agree with that part. I’m just worried that past emotional hurt for her is not allowing her to fully embrace the emotional and spiritual side of our intimate life.

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