Surgeon General’s Warning: If you’re not comfortable reading or talking about sex, turn back now or forever hold your piece. That’s a pun, not a typo. -evil grin-
The topic of sexuality seems popular recently. Not in terms of gender identity, homo or heterosexuality but in the terms of how sexually an individual presents his or her self. How open one is to sex, and how one conveys that openness. Miley Cyrus’ quite public explorations of her own sexuality as well as a couple of blog posts going around Facebook regarding the explorations and expression of teen sexuality in a digital age are the examples that come to mind.
This is a pretty flammable topic in the United States. Of course, most are, since we’re raised as a country to believe that we’re all right as individuals, mostly by the sheer virtue of being American. (Note that we call ourselves Americans, as if we were the only country on the two American continents. . .) Largely the flammability is due to religious influences. America is a “Puritan” country, which is to say, founded by and abundant with people who are frequently sexually repressed prudes.
I spent my formative years reading Anne Rice, Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series (Clan of the Cave Bear, Valley of Horses), Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, and Robert A. Heinlein, to name a few sources. None of these were particularly shy about sex or sexuality. One of my favorite quotes is Heinlein’s: “Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires.” If your reading comprehension scores are limited, this is not Heinlein’s way of calling all women whores. If that’s what you took away, you missed the point.
I think I was lucky, really. When my parents discussed what they wanted in a child, a ‘good lover’ was on the list. (That they had the conversation about what they wanted is awesome.) When it came time in my teen years for a talk about sex, they offered to buy condoms if I was too embarrassed. That was the entire discussion. I educated myself, set my own moral compass, and I have never regretted the way I have gone about it. My parents never stood in the way of my learning and growing. They let me make my own choices, so I never had anything to rebel against.
We are, at our core, sexual creatures. Though we have come a long way from the animal need to rut, biologically our core function is to reproduce. There are many different moralities regarding how one should go about doing this, but for me, if you’re not hurting or disrespecting anyone, do what makes you happy. Sex is better in a relationship with an emotional connection, but I’m not going to tell anyone it has to be that way. I can’t. I started having sex at 16 and while I prefer to count my experiences as “enough -1”, the number of partners I’ve made love to is not insignificant.
I have never once felt like a horrible person for this. Having sex with one person many times is generally better for both individuals than sex once with many people. I like having monogamous sex. In my experience women respond better to a lover they know and trust, no matter how good he or she is. But my own moral compass is fairly simple: when engaged in an intimate physical encounter with a woman, I quite comfortably say I do as many things right as I can. I don’t treat her like she’s just a tool for my own masturbatory pleasure, I am aware of my abilities and limitations and do my best to respect her and ensure that she is equally if not more satisfied.
For me, that’s only real right or wrong about sex. Did I treat my partner well? Was I considerate of her needs, expectations, and boundaries? How many and how often has always been simply part of how my life has turned out. I have never gone out to a bar and picked up someone to take home. I’m always aware of women I’m attracted to, and since physical attraction is directly connected to my libido, that’s part of it. But it’s never been my goal to pick up women. I’m aware of my attractions and interests, but respectful of each as an individual. When I find myself in a willing, consensual situation, I follow my desires. If they lead to sex, so be it. If I’m not sure it’s something I want, or have misgivings or hesitations, I don’t do it. If my partner expresses misgivings or isn’t sure she wants to, I don’t push her. Sex is about respect. It’s easy enough to find a willing partner and does no man harm to be patient if it’s not forthcoming. I’m not above driving a woman so wild she changes her mind, but that still leaves the decision in her hands.
It seems to me that denying our sexuality, repressing it, more frequently results in more erratic, unhealthy sexual behavior than being open about it. There is a lot of evidence to support this, and its been shown that the stricter the mores regarding sexuality in a given area, the more individuals in that area clandestinely seek out that which is not ‘permitted’. A map I recently saw showing porn consumption in the US by length of viewing and delineated by ‘genre’ unsurprisingly showed the heaviest consumption and most deviant types consumed in the areas included in what we call the Bible Belt.
I should reiterate that I don’t support lascivious, promiscuous behavior. My definition of such is the active seeking of new sex partners on a regular basis for your own gratification: i.e. Barney in How I Met Your Mother. If you practice safe sex, I don’t find multiple partners to be an issue, however. It’s all about intention.
Equally, I don’t think that we should go from one extreme to the other. There’s a healthy way to approach sex education, and exposing teenagers to porn intentionally is not it. They are going to find it on their own, whether in your own home, on their smart phone, or at a friend’s. Instead of treating it as a deviant thing, I think healthy discussion would be wiser. For one, because, for the love of god, women deserve better sex than that. There’s a terrible, unimaginative, extremely boring pattern for most porn out there and it barely ever varies from that format. I generally find one of the most common endings rather unpleasant, personally. If it’s your kink, that’s your business, but facials make me want to vomit.
Nor should I leave any reader with impression that a more conservative mind set is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think that teaching healthy sexuality and monogamy, even to the extreme of no partners before marriage, are by nature dichotomous. But I will always believe that a healthy awareness of what sex is, the possible dangers or consequences, what it can/should be, what is possible in pleasing a partner and how to go about it mutually are important. If a person’s mores suggest having sex before marriage/outside a relationship is taboo, so be it. But don’t let the concept be taboo. Sexuality should be embraced whether that sexuality is saved to be savored at a later date or enjoyed in the moment. It’s an integral part of who we are, but never, ever, all we are.
P.S. It continues to boggle my mind how many women have never had multiple orgasms or thought that they weren’t capable of doing so. It’s a tragedy of contemporary American society.
P.P.S. If we are One Nation, Under God, does that mean we’re in a missionary position?