For all our supposed “knowledge” about sex, how can the public get it so wrong, so often? Just read the headlines.
Three teenage girls charged — pimping out their peers for profit … pedophilia no big deal, says Richard Dawkins … Eight year-old girl dies from internal injuries on her wedding night … Former Hannah Montana’s grotesque on-stage routine even embarrassed libertines … Muslim rape-gangs plague the UK … A twenty-year old assaults his 61 year old grandmother with a hammer, said he was going to “get some” … Military chaplain faces court martial for views on sex … Teachers bed teenage students — again… Bakery forced out of business for refusing to participate in a homosexual wedding … California kids can choose whether to use male or female washrooms … HIV scare in porn studios … “Revenge porn” victims seek laws … “Zoophiles” … Carlos Danger … Client Nine … Filner … Two women rob and sexually assault a man at gunpoint … One HIV positive man knowingly exposes 300 others … Family Research Council shooting … And, of course, three women in Cleveland finally free after years of an unimaginably hellish existence.
That’s just listing off some of the more exceptional cases. It doesn’t account for the “ordinary” sexual misconduct — assaults, “mundane” child trafficking, underage prostitutes, teen pregnancy, cases of incest, date rape, “roofies”, leaked sexting pics, flashing, groping and voyeurism.
We can see two things from these stories.
First, we have a clash of ideas about sexuality, conflicting not only with each other, but with the ideas and values of the public at large.
Second, however “sexually liberal” the majority opinion of our cultural attitudes might be, there are still boundaries that must not be transgressed. Why else would we be outraged when someone violates them?
If there are boundaries, we should be able to get a sense of what is outside those boundaries, if we can ask the right questions.
First, let’s discard some ideas of sex that are abhorrent to most people, almost without comment. This could include abuse of children and animals among still more unpleasant topics, although, with old taboos now openly celebrated, even these can be a wildcard. Polygamy will probably be the next taboo they challenge.
Let’s also set aside acts of violence or cruelty, since these are (hopefully) not something the majority will experience. (But maybe someone should be asking why specific populations have greater frequency of such acts.)
There are also situations with people in unequal positions of power or authority that can lead to exploitation. We don’t have the outrage we once had for these situations, but it should be pretty clear that situations of doctor-patient, teacher-student, employer-employee, etc. are not in the same circumstance as adults in a romantic relationship between equals.
There is serious potential for exploitation, which is why such relationships are considered, at minimum, “unprofessional”. Consent must be uncoerced … it’s the same reason that advantage should not be taken of anyone drugged or drunk.
Other circumstances including homosexuality, “swingers”, cohabitation, and family breakdown are also significant. They are, however, beyond the scope this article.
Most remaining examples commonly encountered might be broadly expressed in three categories. These are: specifically recreational (casual) sex; monogamous relationships; and sex for personal advantage.
What is sex for personal advantage? There are many instances where a person consents to sexual activity, not because they desire the intimacy it creates, but as a sort of transaction. Young women “leaking” sex tapes for a fast-track to fame and fortune; the infamous “casting couch”; the sugar-daddy; stripping; and prostitution are all instances of using sex for personal advantage. Sometimes, it’s simple peer pressure, and acceptance-seeking.
Why are these socially acceptable? We are disgusted when we see sycophants fake friendship to get something from you.
What makes it ok in a sexual context?
Casual and monogamous sex are our remaining categories.
If Hollywood and public school were your only indicators, you might assume that casual sex is universally practiced, with some people later choosing to “settle down” and have families.
The obvious fact about casual sex is its superficial nature. An urge is felt, and a partner sought to fulfill it. One-night-stands are at least up-front about it, as are “friends with benefits”. One thing, and one thing only is wanted from the encounter. No friendship, no trust, no emotional bond. Merely scratching an itch. Sometimes people try to have it both ways. It starts as something casual, and may “become serious”. Statistically, it’s an unreliable path to enduring relationship.
Superficial sex is loudly championed by various rights groups. Ok, what exactly has it done for society? How about diseases, fatherless children usually living in poverty, the dehumanizing of sexual intimacy, various abuses, shame, abortions (remember Gosnell?), and often enough, regret.
If that kind of a track record was attributed to anything other than sex, Bloomberg and FLOTUS would have banned it by now.
Instead of mocking sexual purity and commitment within marriage, maybe we should be asking ourselves why it has been consistently the most stable and successful foundation for families worldwide. Why are monogamous unions happier, and more stable? (Here are some decent arguments researchers offer in favor of monogamy, ranging from biological to social and statistical.)
Isn’t it intuitively obvious that the “nothing but mammals” claim falls short of our actual experience? Isn’t there something about real intimacy that touches us on a level far deeper than mere physical satisfaction?
If so, how can we possibly call it “just sex?”
Image: Uploaded by Mariomassone; author: Temaki; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
Topics: Sexual Anarchy, Hollywood, Sexual Abuse, Miley Cyrus, Richard Dawkins, HIV, Boundaries, Casual Sex, Monogamy