I recall a peculiar conversation when I was dating the woman whom I would later marry. She and I were talking with someone else, exchanging details of how we met, who made overtures to whom, what we did on our first date, and second date, and other hugely interesting facts of our social lives. At some point I said something about how I chose my girl friend. She riposted quickly, you didn't choose; you were chosen.
That was news to me. I had gone through all the normal male soul-searching and deliberations, weighing this quality against that feature, to focus my attention on this one woman. How could she say that I did not do any choosing? Of course, she was right. To me, with my consciousness at the center of my world, I experienced our courtship from the point of view of what I wanted from her. But I was being drawn toward her by her pheromones she emitted, actually or metaphorically. It was chemisty, actually or metaphorically.
I should have known. I had the experience, as a single male, of inexplicable dating experiences. Some women turned me on; others didn't. I didn't respond to some women, who fit all the qualities that I expected to respond to. A chance encounter on an airplane with a trim, petite blonde, neat and sexy, instantly drew sparks. Yet when we got to bed a few hours later, my body would not respond to her. An encounter with a dark-haired girl at a horse show drew a different response. She was smeared with horse saliva and manure, dirty from preparing a friend's horse for showing, sweaty on a hot day - hardly the picture of feminine allure. Not at all neat and sexy. When we eventually got to bed, I had one of the great sexual experiences of my life. Sexual relations are a circus of illusions. It was an illusion, as I learned when I grew up, that I had much to do with being attracted to a woman. I was just responding out of body chemisty to the chemistry of the right match. It was another illusion that what a woman looked like had anything to do with how alive our sex would be. A woman might look like she dropped off of a Hollywood movie screen and be dead, for me at least, in bed. I suppose the same is true from a woman's point of view. A man can look, for all appearances, hot, sexy and desirable; yet be a dud for the woman in bed.
Freud had a theory to explain this human experience, which he saw as universal. (I understand that Freud's work is no longer accepted as scientific truth, but I think this theory has a great deal of objective merit.) Freud thought that each person's primary sexual personality, their gender, was established before puberty, that is, before the mature development of breasts and hips, cock and muscle bulk, which Freud called the secondary sexual characteristics. As adolescents, we learn how to present our new sexual body and behaviors to other persons to make us attractive to them; and we respond consciously to the sexual attractions displayed to us by others. Cosmetics and clothing emphasize these attractions. But these attractions are not the qualities that make us who we are, as sexual personalities, or determine how we respond to others. It is the primary sexual character, established while we were unaware before puberty, Freud says, that draws us to others and determines how we and they will respond. By the time we are ready for heterosexual love in adolescence and adulthood, our minds are just going along with the chemistry for the ride, no matter what we tell ourselves.