Sex and Romantic Love: Connects and Disconnects
Sex and romantic love are complexly related. The various links between love and sex are broadly surveyed, including the views of undergraduates, philosophers, psychologists, evolutionary biologists, and close relationships scholars, among others. Aron and Aron (1991) devised a dimensional approach for relating love and sex, with sex dominant at one end of the dimension, love at the other end, and both equally important at the midpoint. This approach is used in a general way to organize the chapter. The “love is really sex” endpoint of the dimension captures a broad range of naturalistic/biological perspectives. We discuss the evolution of sex, speculate on an appropriate “unit of selection,” and consider the evolution of love, particularly passionate love, along with mating strategies. We also analyze the relation of adult attachment to love and sex. The “sex is really love” end of the dimension aswell as the middle area includes a wide array of psychological and sociological approaches. We survey such topics as passionate versus companionate love, the double standard, and orientations toward sexuality. Several recent studies (e.g., Sprecher & Regan, 1998) have found interesting associations between sexual desire and passionate love. We also describe our own work on love and sexual attitudes, taking the position that people hold belief systems about love and sex and how (not whether) the two are related. Gender differences and similarities are attended to as well in this research description. We conclude that the intersection of sex and love perhaps captures the real essence of humanity: The union of our biological nature with our personhood as enacted through the gift of love.