Sex is the most intimate form of communication between two people. At the same time it is the most direct path to paradise or hell, depending on how one carries out a process which in Spain lasts on average for three and a half minutes. This framework illustrates very well the totally irrational expectations which occur in many bedrooms in Malaga and the rest of the country. Francisco Cabello, a psychiatrist, doctor of psychology and sexologist, sheds some light on the situation.
When people talk about their plans for the weekend, why does nobody ever say they are going to have sex?
Because sex is seen as a necessity. I want it and my partner wants it. It is not seen as another form of leisure activity or personal growth.
Fertility and reproduction. Ought there to be more to it than that?
We reproduce because it gives us pleasure to do so. There are about 100 primitive places remaining in the world where coitus is not associated with reproduction. According to Aristotle, women were fertilised by menstrual blood. In other words, we used to reproduce before we knew sex would lead to having children.
Thinking about sex, how are we programmed with regard to it?
From the time we are little we accumulate what we call pleasure incentive memory. Your mother caresses you, your father caresses you. Your parents speak to you in a certain way and look at you in a specific way. All this is accumulated in the memory in the long term. With cognitive and hormonal development, we have sexual impulses which are activated by stimuli that mobilise this memory of pleasure.
You have just presented the biggest ever study about sexual desire in women. What do women dream of?
These days, they dream of being loved.
And men? Would it be wrong to say it is more simple for them?
Men also dream of being loved, but in our culture they tend to hide their emotions more. But they function better if they have a stable type of attachment.
You talk of attachment, but there is the fact that men would like to be with several women at the same time.
That is an acquired incentive memory, among other reasons because of pornography. It is a cognitive distorsion which has been generated. If it is hard for a man to be with one woman, you only have to imagine what it would be like for him to be surrounded by five.
Are there key stimuli?
There are those stimuli, as I said, that we link to our memory of pleasure. They enter through our senses. For women, it is the tone of voice, the way someone looks and smells. Then there is a stimulus which depends on our learning, which is erotic fantasy.
But hasn't pornography killed eroticism in the Greek sense? There was a generation of young people for who Emmanuelle was much more than just a French name.
Putting an end to eroticism is very difficult. What is certain is that the ease of accessing pornography is bringing a lot of problems. Young people nowadays are not satisfied. Why? Because they have imagined sex that they have learned about from porno. In Spain every 14-year-old boy has watched pornography.
Where is the problem with that?
The problem is that a boy has a penis that measures on average 12 centimetres and not 24 centimetres like Rocco Siffredi.
And how does it affect the girls?
It creates false expectations in them. Then, they post in their Whatsapp group for their girlfriends that Luis is a disaster in bed and also has a very small penis. And Luis's parents bring him to see me because mentally he is ruined. Every day we see 16 and 17 year old boys who come for consultations. Every single day!
Well, the internet is like a free bar.
The authorities, no matter what political party they are, need to introduce sex education at school. If we want society to have sexual health, it is necessary for pornography to be deconstructed.
Is there an ideal age to start having sex?
I don't really like giving an opinion, but the data is what it is. We see more sexual problems in people who start too early. The ideal age could be around 17 or 18.
Is fidelity natural?
It's quite unnatural. Faithfulness is something inherited and it has a religious and historical character. We have a clear tendency not to be faithful, just like we tend not to eat lentils every day.
Is the assumption that we have to perform well in bed our worst enemy?
Totally. We go to bed with someone as if we were about to sit an exam. We have what is called performance anxiety. A fear of failure.
What are the most common problems you see?
Premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and lack of desire. Although a third of the people who come because of premature ejaculation don't actually have it or suffer from it. They say they can only last about ten minutes.... well, the average in Europe is three and a half minutes.
Can excitement lead you, shall we say, in one direction or another?
Yes. It's all a question of control. The therapy for premature ejaculation, for example, includes relaxation techniques.
How important would you say sex is in a relationship?
It's very important. We talk about passion, intimacy and commitment. If there is only intimacy and commitment, what are people in reality? Just good friends.
Can you give any example or technique to combat routine and boredom? Asking for a friend...
Couples should try to carry on sharing moments and leisure situations. Couples lose their passion because they stop sharing positive aspects of life. Sex is directly related with recreation. People need to cultivate erotic reading or be innovative in where they have sex at home.
Has our western society lost the chance to develop a culture around sex, like India did, for example, with the Kama Sutra?
That idea about India is also a bit of a myth. If you go now to Khajuraho, the town where the Kama Sutra started, it only exists in the bas-reliefs of the temples.
Inflatable dolls seem to have been relegated to stag parties, but the Japanese and robotics are working miracles. Are we at the doors of a sexual dystopia?
Bearing in mind that there is no sex education in schools, if we continue generating fear about failing at sex, the future is the robot. Because the robot is compliant. I fear that we are heading down that path.
What influence does religious education have on sexuality?
The people with the greatest desire are agnostics. Among Christians, it is the non-practising catholics. The cognitive part shuts down if sex is related with elements such as sin.
Is polyamory a reality?
In Malaga there is a very powerful colony of polyamorous people. They typically tell you that if you have three children and love them equally, why can't you have three partners?
Are you in favour of prostitution?
Personally, I think prostitution should be prohibited. It leads to women being treated as objects, and there is no justification for them to sell their body for sex. In rehabilitation services, yes, there should be therapies with sexual substitutes. If I am a man and I have a disability which means I can't access sex, there should be health professionals who train those abilities, or have sex with disabled people or those with low mobility. In Israel and Sweden that already happens.
Does love actually exist?
It does exist, and it is the healthiest type of drug in the world.