PROFILE

A new view of sexuality

JOHN BARBER January 5 1987
PROFILE

A new view of sexuality

JOHN BARBER January 5 1987

A new view of sexuality

PROFILE

As a young television producer on the make in 1972, Martin Robertson freely tasted the fruits of the sexual revolution then in full bloom. Indeed, he feasted. But Robertson's hectic life eventually took its toll. He said that he “burned out” in his career and ultimately abandoned television altogether. He was equally disillusioned with his increasingly hollow love life. As a result, he remained celibate for 17 months, beginning in 1984. To his surprise he discovered that he could live happily without sex. And then he discovered another, even more powerful appetite—for a loving, one-woman relationship—and his views on sex have changed as radically as his behavior. “I don’t need sex—I deny that it is a primary drive,” he told Maclean's. “But I do need caring. I can’t do without it.”

Robertson, 43, was born in Britain but moved to Toronto from the United States in 1981 to make a fresh start in life. He said that he has only “meandered” in his new career as a part-time consultant in the hospitality industry.

But he remains absolutely certain about his newfound beliefs on sexuality, even though he and his lover, a French-Canadian teacher in a Toronto school who requested anonymity, have only lived together for one year. Robertson had no qualms describing himself in The Maclean ’s/Decima Poll as “not very sexually active.” Indeed, he said that if a physical disability made sex impossible, his relationship would remain just as strong as it is now. He added: “That doesn’t mean we don’t have a great relationship. We just don’t put sex at the top of the list.”

Robertson said that he is as surprised by his sexual about-face as anyone else who knows him. But he added, “The very thought of living like I once did depresses me.” He was first initiated into his earlier, more hectic sexual lifestyle by a woman he met in New York in 1972. “She was incredibly promiscuous,” Robertson recalled. “She loved sex, but she ran me ragged. She would leave my bed to visit an old lover, make love to him and then come back.” Unfortunately for his sake, Robertson fell in love with the woman, an advertising executive.

That relationship soon dissolved, but it left Robertson scarred from jealousy. “You realize that your flesh can be flayed,” he said. Although he has since rekindled his friendship with the woman, the experience led him to adopt a callous attitude in subsequent involvements with other women. He said that he became obsessed with staying on the “winning side” of his relationships. As a result, he says now, he was never able to care for his partners.

But Robertson insists that the experiences he now disowns were important to him. Indeed, he sees them as valuable preparations for his current life. “Some people can only learn by experience,” he declared. “Having gone through a period of self-education at every level, I only now have begun to understand what caring for someone means.” He said that one of the reasons he is faithful now is because he has already satisfied his sexual curiosity, and added: “I have come a long way via some quite strange routes. And at this point I have no envy of things. There is no mystery out there.”

Robertson also said that he is glad to be out of the sexual marketplace at a time when heterosexuals are increasingly at risk of contracting AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). He said that he thinks promiscuity today is “incredibly dangerous,” though he added, “It was probably almost as dangerous and stupid 20 years ago.”

Other aspects of modern sexuality also make Robertson leery. Although he has no children himself and no plans for any, he said he is troubled by some aspects of modern attitudes toward parenthood. “The idea of women deliberately setting out to have children without men just fills me with horror.” He is also concerned about what he considers to be the sexual exploitation of youth in advertising. “Our image of sexuality has become younger and younger,” he said. “It is extraordinarily weird and a bit disturbing. I mean, thank God for Joan Collins.”

Still, as a child of what sociologists at one time called “the permissive society,” Robertson is not yet ready to embrace all of the traditional family values. For one thing, he says that the “semi-pornography” available to owners of video cassette recorders has been an important agent of sexual liberation. And although he said that he and his lover “act as if we are going to be together forever,” they have made no plans to marry or to have children. Indeed, Robertson is still a beginner at monogamy. But he is exploring the experience with the same enthusiasm that first propelled him into the front ranks of the sexual revolution 15 years ago.

JOHN BARBER