"... while the purely carnal sight of this woman, by perpetually renewing his doubts about the qualities of her face, her body, of all her beauty, weakened his love, these doubts were destroyed, his love was ensured when it was based instead on the elements of a more reliable aesthetic; furthermore, the kiss and the act of possession which seemed natural and mediocre if accorded him by withered flesh, now completing his veneration of a museum piece, had to promise, it seemed to him, supernatural and delicious pleasures."
"I want a revamped feminism. Putting the vamp back means the lady must be a tramp. My generation of the Sixties rebels wanted to smash the bourgeois codes that had become authoritarian totems of the Fifties.... Thirty years later, we're still stuck with the ["nice" girl]."
"Sneezing absorbs all the functions of the soul just as much as the [sexual] act, but we do not draw from it the same conclusions against the greatness of man, because it is involuntary; although we bring it about, we do so involuntarily. It is not for the sake of the thing in itself but for another end, and is therefore not a sign of man's weakness, or his subjection to this act."
"Sexuality is animal; it is a natural function, whereas eroticism develops within society. The former belongs to the realm of biology, the latter to that of culture. Its essence is the imaginary: eroticism is a metaphor of sexuality. There is a dividing line between eroticism and sexuality--the word like. Eroticism is a representation, a ceremony of transfiguration: men and women make love like lions, eagles, doves, or praying mantises; neither lions nor praying mantises make love like human beings. We humans see ourselves in animals; animals do not see themselves in humans. By contemplating itself, humanity changes itself and changes sexuality. Eroticism is not brute sex but sex transfigured by the imagination."
"In particular I may mention Sophocles the poet, who was once asked in my presence, "How do you feel about love, Sophocles? are you still capable of it?" to which he replied, "Hush! if you please: to my great delight I have escaped from it, and feel as if I had escaped from a frantic and savage master." I thought then, as I do now, that he spoke wisely. For unquestionably old age brings us profound repose and freedom from this and other passions."
"Sex can be defined fairly adequately in physiological terms as consisting of the building up of bodily tensions and their release. Eros, in contrast, is the experiencing of the personal intentions and meaning of the act. Whereas sex is a rhythm of stimulus and response, eros is a state of being. The pleasure of sex is described by Freud and others as the reduction of tension; in eros, on the contrary, we wish not to be released from the excitement but rather to hang on to it, to bask in it, and even to increase it. The end toward which sex points is gratification and relaxation, whereas eros is a desiring, longing, a forever reaching out, seeking to expand."
"For those for whom the sex act has come to seem mechanical and merely the meeting and manipulation of body parts, there often remains a hunger which can be called metaphysical but which is not recognized as such, and which seeks satisfaction in physical danger, or sometimes in torture, suicide, or murder."
"At the end of one millennium and nine centuries of Christianity, it remains an unshakable assumption of the law in all Christian countries and of the moral judgment of Christians everywhere that if a man and a woman, entering a room together, close the door behind them, the man will come out sadder and the woman wiser."
"One need not be a great beau, a seductive catch, to do it effectively. Any man is better than none. To shrink from giving so much happiness at such small expense, to evade the business on the ground that it has hazards--this is the act of a puling and tacky fellow."
"Americans, we find, are not having much partnered sex at all--at least not much compared to what we are told is a normal or optional amount. And those people who are supposed to have the most sexual intercourse are having it less often than those who are supposed to be having intercourse the least."
"Coitus can scarcely be said to take place in a vacuum; although of itself it appears a biological and physical activity, it is set so deeply within the larger context of human affairs that it serves as a charged microcosm of the variety of attitudes and values to which culture subscribes. Among other things, it may serve as a model of sexual politics on an individual or personal plane."