Friday, December 10, 2004

Sex is here to stay

Yes, sex is here to stay, no matter what happens to common sense, civility, the laws of the land, science, religion and the fads of popular culture. What is more natural than sex? What is more persistent than the human urge for physical connection and pleasure? Only eating and sleeping come to mind. (Combining all three can make for a nice evening... or morning.) Sex is how we got here, and as fairly intelligent animals, you wouldn't think we could separate it with such shame from how we are, where we've been and where we're going. And you sure wouldn't think so many people could feel so guilty or be so clueless about it.

Apparently, we use a lot of our intelligence to delude and deny ourselves.

We live in a culture which has never successfully put in perspective - much less broken from - its Puritan roots. The Puritans were driven out of Europe because they were so rigid and fanatical they were ostricized then ousted - given the boot onto ships. On this side of the Atlantic, the Puritans set down in rocky, cold and gray New England and never let up even as they spreak across the sunnier climes of the continent. Even in our decades of apparent looseness and revolution (the roaring 20s, the lascivious 60s), the puritanical elements kept churning.

And Puritans vote more than hedonists do. Those easily outraged neo-Puritans have voted, and it's not pretty. There is a concerted movement afoot to put all "non-biblical" sex acts back in their various closets. Unmarried adulterers beware: there is a new wave of the Pilgrims War on Sex coming your way soon. The laws, if not the sexual police, are coming to a bedroom near YOU. First the White House ("West Wing" liberals aside), then maybe your house.

Is it because the prudes aren't getting in on the action or because they feel too guilty about the action they're keeping under wraps? It seems religion was invented to make a mess of some things that, done well, make for some of our finest moments.

The pendulum seems to be swinging rather wildly now. Swingers advertise in hip newsweeklies and on the web, yet millions seem outraged by Janet Jackson's little mishap - or stunt. Others seem chagrined at John Ashcroft's spending $8000 of our tax dollars to put drapes in front of an elegant Art Deco statue of Lady Justice, drapes as red as his blush at press conferences. Congress recently held hearings about the need to deal with the new wave of citizens who are addicted to pornography. Ah, yes, you see, alcohol's so old hat - now we can let our fingers do the walking - and that's cutting into worker productivity or something, so Uncle Sam's looking into it.

I suppose, as in the "free love" 60s, we should expect a sexual backlash right about now. The neo-Puritans recently won the national election by about 2.2% of the vote and think they have a mandate to run this country like a church school with sly ministers and priests - slamming "sins," demanding silence, shaming their heathen neighbors and pronouncing themselves all high and mighty to cover their own hypocrises and feel righteous about going after their enemies.

This looks especially silly in light of what we now know about sex.

The film "Kinsey" has come out, a somewhat lame biography of Alfred Kinsey, one of this country's most renowned sexologists, who based his dense, clinical tomes on male and female sexuality in America on hundreds of confidential interviews Kinsey conducted in the 1940s and early 50s. Pretty old fashioned stuff at this point. Or is it?

Let's face it: to millions, most any sort of sex besides the kind that puts you to sleep in fifteen minutes is still new to most Americans. Hence their ongoing and peculiar dichotomy between prudishness and prurience. Sex, to lots of people, is like a car crash - they don't want to look and feel compelled to look.

But when it comes to seeing novel variations, overly elaborate or imaginative juxtapositions (so to speak) or thinking about spicing up their own lives, they run out of ideas soon after plunking down the Mastercard at Victoria's Secret.

Frankly, Americans seem more embarrassed by depictions of earnest love making than they do the dangerous sort so often seen in movies, which is a sinister combination of imminent danger and suspenseful (though predictable) seduction. Why is it Americans like movies so much (and so often its hackneyed) in which there is sexual tension or slam bam coitus going on with a stalker or a gun nearby?

We seem to be a nation of sexually starved and sexually stirred up sociopaths. And so healthy sex is left to the birds and the bees and that conversation that never comes around until it's too late - and the juvenile myths have already adulterated the way it ought to be, the way it can be, the making love part.

Conversely, thanks to Freud's cigar, of course, but also to Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson and Alex Comfort and the Kama Sutra, for heaven's sake, here's another thing we know about sex: it's not perverse. It's natural and naturally adventurous. Many of its variations and even wildly experimental fetishes are natural. We are sexual animals, AND we are cultural animals. We invent. We explore. Good for us.

Not that any of this is easy, but the religious right and conservatives in general tend to want things in easy terms, in simple terms, in conventional terms, even in denial. So there is a backlash brewing. Can this new backlash - now seen in the timid media and soon to be seen in our courts - gain enough credence against our own ancient urges and modern knowledge? Could it erode our fragile laws and rights to participate and practice something so natural? So personal? Shouldn't sexual freedom be one of the basic freedoms? If not, what freedoms exactly do the conservatives think they are defending?

Sexual freedom amongst consensual adults who aren't maiming each other seems like a basic human right to me. There are many sexual rituals around the country and around the world that might seem outlandish. Individual and cultural relativism are at stake here. Some like it hot. Some like it rough. Some like it tender. Some like it wild. Some like it whispery. Some like it loose. Most like it loving. And lots like it all these ways and more. We invent. We explore. Good for us. To each tribe and cult their own. To each person and each couple their own. That's freedom.

Americans need a more natural and comfortable sense of sensuality and sexual expression - less tied to power and danger and more closely melded with other virtues, such as comfort, respect, equality, patience, genuine affection and love. We need fewer frustrating forays, zipless, thankless or otherwise and more healthy, mature sex. That's why it says "for mature audiences only." Too bad we're left wondering what the definition of "mature" is in this country.

OK, hey, some quality time and attention are really good. An appropriate, guilt-free setting and some nuanced technique to make that quality time and attention interesting are really, really good. So much of sex is in the mind. Be mindful. Don't grope. Feel your way around. Be generous, be respectful, be reassuring, be silly, be lighthearted, be open, be patient, be an animal, be hot, be cool, be consensual and be your sensual self.

Sex is here to stay, and learning to live with it can be really, REALLY GOOD.


At 12/10/2004 8:37 PM, Blogger Aleksu said...

Excellent post, a lot of food for thought.

I was brouht up with the more natural approach to sex by the Native Americans and the more open minded approach by the Europeans.

It has been weird this time in the USA.

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