I found an article on aging in a waiting room magazine. Some scientists, it turns out, put mice and other creatures on tight rations, for ineffable scientific reasons, only to discover that the mice et al. lived longer and healthier. The side effects were small stature and, here the article sounded a grim note, diminished sex drive. No one knows how whether Man gets similar health benefits—studies are underway!—but a few souls have put themselves on the straitened dietary regimen in advance of the science. The writer talked to them about their efforts. They took him through their schedule. Lemon tea here, a little salmon here, plain yogurt, nothing after lunch, and so on. They admitted it was hard. Well OK, but what about your sex lives, the reporter asked? Great, great, never been better. You bet. Sometime later I thought to wonder why sacrificing the pleasures of food for longer life is reasonable, even admirable, but sacrificing frequent sex is unthinkable.
Narrowly understood, food serves as fuel for our bodies. Narrowly understood, sex serves for procreation. Yet even strict Catholics will permit sex that seeks the pleasure while trying to avoid the procreation. They call it natural family planning. (We ourselves either say that couples must find out for themselves the rule on whether couples can try to avoid procreation or else that there is no general rule). True, sex isn’t merely pleasure and procreation. Sex is union, in some way bearing the same relationship to the marriage covenant that the sacrament bears to baptism. But eating is also more than sustenance and physical pleasure. Eating is conviviality, I think, and a way of consummating a relationship with the earth and all the lower creations. I fail to see why else it would give us pleasure. If the similarity holds, then perhaps even in marriage sex is an appetite that should not be overindulged. Perhaps wiser heads than mine will answer.