Column: a different approach to sex is needed
I want to know more about why we view sex the way we do. More specifically, I want to talk about why it’s not okay to express sexuality without unspoken judgment. I want to know why we were only taught abstinence-only sex ed in high school. I want to know why you fear sex. I want to discuss the guilt and fear that many teens have been taught to associate with eroticism and intimacy outside of marriage. I want to talk about America’s ridiculously-high teenage pregnancy, abortion, and STD transmission rates. I want to talk about why this is our entire fault.
To put it simply, our culture fears sex. Out of this fear, we constrain education, choice, and rationality for the sake of protection. In a twisted integration of cultural denial and personal guilt, we rob ourselves the courtesy of recognizing a basic human function that created us the moment our parents decided to partake.
I am not okay with this. Confession time. I am not married, but I have had sex. What do I regret most about this choice? Not that I engaged in pre-marital sin, but rather that no one was socially allowed to educate me correctly about it. Many teens and young adults share this sentiment as well.
The excuse for this willful ignorance on the part of our culture is simple- we fear forces that are stronger than us. Sexuality, an energy that has driven humanity for thousands of years, frightens those who don’t understand it. In an attempt to control sexuality, we demonized it. After demonification, sexuality blossomed into a hydra, a monster that grows larger and larger each time someone says that sex is bad, evil, or of the devil.
“Yes, to extend the range of physical sensuality to embrace mathematics and theology: too nourish, not to stunt, the intuitions. For culture means sex, the root-knowledge, and where the faculty is derailed or crippled, its derivatives like religion come up dewarfed or contorted- instead of the emblematic mystic rose you get the Judaic cauliflowers like Mormons or Vegetarians, instead of artists you get cry-babies, instead of philosophy, semantics,” said Lawrence Durrell in his novels The Alexandria Quartet.
The very act of reigning in our carnal and innate desire for sex has created an avoidance syndrome that controls our societal reaction to sexuality. This terror and fear of sex is, quite honestly, ridiculous. Sex is an all-encompassing human act that no one on this planet is exempt from, in one sense or another. Who are we, as a culture, to think that we can erase this crux from our lives? To pocket sex in a very-specific, very-constrained corner of human interaction, and then, only in ways that we find “acceptable?”
Over-sexualized. Someone is going to respond to this column using that term. But why is sex viewed as a dessert instead of a basic part of the meal? We wouldn’t have a problem with our supposed “over-sexualized” culture if we fostered a rational and receptive view towards sensuality. The problem doesn’t lie in an army of scantily-clad women creating a sex frenzy around us. Rather, the problem lies in that we have turned sex into a sin rather than a reward, a taboo instead of a basic part of human interaction.
In this, we only serve to highlight its American novelty and naughtiness more. Robert Heinlein, my long-time favorite author, combined science fiction and sex in Stranger in a Strange Land, a novel musing on free acceptance of sex in a culture much like our own.
“In the twentieth century, nowhere on Earth was sex so vigorously suppressed as in America—and nowhere else was there such a deep interest in it,” Heinlein said in his book.
But still, the medieval shackles put in place hundreds of years ago still hold the wrists of our culture today- the wrists of people who have access to the amenities of birth control, condoms, education, and sexual health medicine that eradicate the sexual problems present a century ago. But none of these things are openly and freely given to our culture without stigma and judgment attached.
I, for one, wish I would have had a non-religious education about my own emerging sexuality. Abstinence-only education left me unprepared, like many of my peers. My youth group, the source of my more extensive “sexual education,” taught me that sex was only for marriage. Sexuality in any form outside of marriage was a sin. No lustful thoughts. No dressing like a tramp to get sexual attention. If you got caught doing any of these things, you would die. I’m not even kidding.
No one taught me how to put on a condom. No one told me what birth control would do to a woman’s body. No one told me how to say “no” or even how to say “yes.” No one explained the level of intimacy that sex embodies. Rather, sex was explained as this mystical, ethereal magic trick that only married couples were licensed to perform.
This cultural norm of sexual silence has only served to stunt a generation into complete sexual stupidity. We are blinded by the mantra that “Sex is Bad and I Fear It” when really, we need to start singing the mantra of “We Understand Sex and Can Deal With It.” What is to fear? Our bodies? Do we really fear the most intimate workings of the flesh that makes up who we are?
Anthony Robbins said, “The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”
I am not ready to let my own fear of pleasure, and for its own sake, pain, control me due to the historic sexual norms that our society blindly follows behind banners of chastity and morality. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that the human body wants and needs sex. Likewise, partaking in sex (safely, with education) is a unique reward that humans received simply by being human.
Just like swearing, video games, and Chinese food- if you don’t like it, don’t partake, but stop telling me what I can and cannot enjoy.
- None Found