When Icky Becomes Sexy

Maria Popova excerpts Alain de Botton’s How to Think More About Sex. In another excerpt, published in early January, de Botton contemplated the strangeness of sexual intimacy:

Nothing is erotic that isn’t also, with the wrong person, revolting, which is precisely what makes erotic moments so intense: At the precise juncture where disgust could be at its height, we find only welcome and permission. Think of two tongues exploring the deeply private realm of the mouth—that dark, moist cavity that no one but our dentist usually enters. The privileged nature of the union between two people is sealed by an act that, with someone else, would horrify them both.