The last counselor that I was seeing made a point of not differentiating between need and desire. She felt that it was an artificial division, and that they were for all intents and purposes the same thing.
Perhaps within a limited scope, they are. My example to her was this:
I need food.
I desire a cheeseburger.
Her response was that if you need food and desire a cheeseburger, then eat the cheeseburger.
Talking at cross porpoises here. The point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between need and desire, that a need is something that cannot be denied without harm, but a desire is something that can.
Her point was that if it wasn't necessary to deny your desires, then go ahead and indulge them.
The key to this is figuring out when it is okay to indulge.
I love Little Debbie snack cakes, the kind that are like chocolate roll-ups. They are not good for me at all, but omigod they are on occasion the perfect junk food. I more often than not don't eat them because of the nasty health issues that I have to deal with if I do. That's a relatively easy choice: I know what the consequences are ahead of time.
The choice becomes harder when I start thinking about women.
I almost said sex instead of women here. I changed it because it's not just about sex. When I consider women, sex is a part of that consideration. Try not to be insulted by that, I also consider sex when I think of men, but to a lesser degree. It isn't about objectification, or "wanting to stick my dick into something", it's about attraction and sensuality. There are men that I find attractive, there are men that I enjoy being sensual with, there are men that I enjoy cuddling with. There are more women that I enjoy those things with than men, probably because most men aren't open to sensuality separate from sex, and most women are at least aware of the differences.
(You know, I get the feeling that that above paragraph is going to open up a whole can of worms about my sexual preference, and whether I'm bisexual, and what that means. If it really matters to you, I'm open to discussing it, but I'm pretty comfortable in my sexual identity.)
Back on track: if I desire a woman, when is it okay to indulge my desires?
First of all, it must not knowingly harm another. The ethical part of ethical hedonism. If it's harmful to someone else, don't do it. The sole exception here is consensual pain (i.e. spanking) which isn't really harm.
Second, she has to consent. That's kind of hard in and of itself because nobody walks around with an "I consent" stamp in their pocket, and only on rare occasions do I hear "Do me, you hunk of manliness". More often it's a dance of interest and possibilities, with a whole lot of maybes instead of hard yes/no answers. No means no, I'm down with that. But very often I have to advance something for there to be a yes/maybe/no response to.
Which whacks number 3 on the head: I have to be willing to risk embarrassment, emotional pain, or worse. Honestly, this is a pretty big risk to take for just a dippin'-the-willie. And because I value friendships pretty highly, it makes it much harder to risk. It's really difficult for me to approach friends sexually because of this. I will flirt and be playful all day, but an actual sexual (or even sensual) encounter is unlikely. So like if you're waiting for me to make a move, you may be waiting for a while.
If it was just about sex, finding a good escort service would fit the bill nicely. One could argue that there is the potential for harm, but that is a societal issue that's out of the scope of this entry. However that is a moot point, because it's not just about the sex. I want something more of a connection, something with depth and substance.
But a little nookie is good too.