What does each of us want from life (Deigh 1995)? This fundamental question is sometimes posed as 'What is the good life?'-though this is to presume that we want to lead good lives, however 'good' is understood. In any event, answers to these two questions can be given at various levels of generalities. At the most general, we might say that we want to lead a life that is fulfilling, or a life that enables us to flourish, or a life that makes us happy, or a life that lets us do what we want to do, or a life where we behave as we believe we ought. Each of these answers overlaps, though each has a different slant. A fulfilling life might suggest a life that enables us to feel that we have filled ourselves with what is on offer-I might find it fulfilling to go on holidays to exotic places to enjoy new experiences. A flourishing life perhaps has connotations of us realising our potential-so that athletes flourish by excelling at their sport, and actors on stage. A happy life implies that our pleasure is maximised-perhaps by having deep friendships and other close relationships. And a life that lets us do what we want to do implies that we value our autonomy-the ability to make decisions for ourselves and then put them into effect.
Books have been written about each of these understandings of the good life-and others besides. Our interest is on the contribution that our sexual activities play in what we get from life. Specifically in this chapter we shall look at the role of sex in pleasure, recreation, health and well-being.
But first we need to clarify what we mean by sex or more precisely 'sexual activity'. Producing definitions has its problems but sexual activity can be described-albeit somewhat circularly-as actions involving two (or more) people which at least one of them considers sexual. The advantage of the latter part of this definition is that it would include, for example, an adult inappropriately (i.e. for sexual gratification) caressing a child, even if the child didn't realise that, from the adult's perspective, a sexual motive was involved (or experience being had).