Today’s blog photo comes courtesy of a friend who requested anonymity…
Today’s blog photo comes courtesy of a friend who requested anonymity…
Let’s get down to the real nitty gritty.
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What Sexual Revolution?
Love is the absence of anxiety.
-- Wilhelm Reich
We live in a culture that appears to be enthusiastic about sex. According to pollsters most people enjoy having sex and lovemaking and do it regularly. Countless women’s magazines blare the word “sex” on covers, barking out “sex quizzes” for everything under the sun. Novels, television shows, and movies purportedly explore the nuances of erotic life. The largest money-maker on the internet is -- you guessed it -- pornography. Otherwise bored housewives saturate the internet with revealing photos of themselves (whether real or fake is irrelevant). Explicit sex entertainment (especially in the Deep South) is a billion-dollar industry. It would appear to the lax observer, that sex-positive attitudes are prevalent in our society.
But appearances, as they often are, can be deceiving. The very rationale for my Friday sex blogs is my contention that most people in our culture are highly ignorant of, and ambivalent about, sex. In opposition to our inborn erotic nature exist irrational fears about our own sexuality. Social scientists have begun to note this irrational fear of sex, erotophobia, and I have touched on this subject in previous blogs. I see this as a largely unrecognized condition and its impact on our lives and culture goes largely unnoticed.
Take the time to examine any aspect of human sexuality in our culture and you will be confronted with sexual fear. Consider the widespread discomfort many people experience even talking about sex. Though the media assaults us daily on the sexual exploits of celebrities, most of us have enormous difficulty talking openly and frankly about the subject. It seems we suffer from what some researchers call a “sexual language barrier.” I would add that most people feel more comfortable swapping spit (and other bodily fluids) than sharing words about the event.
Children are the first casualty of erotophobia. They pick up quickly on the adult discomfort with sexual language. As one prominent sex researcher, John Money puts it: “… no child can grow up without becoming acquainted with the taboo on talking about sex. No matter how open the conversation may be at home, or among peers, every child discovers sooner or later that certain everyday sexual words are absolutely forbidden in school, at church, on television and elsewhere.”
Most parents feel uncomfortable giving their children even basic sex education. Many children come of age without knowing the correct names for human genital organs, for example. We’re so ambivalent about sex that, in a society that supposedly values intelligence and self-awareness, almost every female will reach adulthood without knowing the name of her erotic pleasure center, the clitoris.
In a similar vein, most teenaged boys masturbate regularly yet hear not a word from their parents about this crucially important sexual behavior. Most parents I have known would rather commit hara kiri than openly discussing masturbatory pleasure with their children.
Our schools teach our children how to paint, make music, play sports, and learn about their bodies in countless non-erotic ways, but neglect erotic education. The focus of sex education in our culture, interestingly enough, is almost entirely predicated on avoiding disease and pregnancy. The issue of teaching creative ways to experience pleasure is off the table -- completely unknown. The consequence of all this is that most people reach adulthood profoundly ignorant about sex, especially its pleasure potential. Consider masturbation, a sexual act that risks no sexual disease or unwanted pregnancy. Tens of millions of people in our culture are uncomfortable with it. The most comprehensive survey of U.S. sexual behavior reports that half of the people who masturbate feel guilty about it. The researchers believe this percentage underestimates the actual number of people who feel negative about masturbation because those who are highly uncomfortable with it stop masturbating.
Our behavior with our sexual partners also reflects a sexual ambivalence. The average sexual encounter is quick and often routine. Sexual surveys indicate that though there are unlimited opportunities for sex, “… couples level off at about 1 hour a week, four hours a month, or the equivalent of about six 8-hour days a year.” This is certainly not a picture of much sexual action.
In fact, most of us have a narrow set of sexual practices -- the “lick-em, stick-em, and cum” school of sexual gratification -- a short sequence of erotic acts that varies little from day to day, partner to partner. We seem to fear any form of sexual experimentation or originality. Conversely, we seek out the new in movies, books, travel, fashion, and gadgets but our sexual expression remains bland and repetitive.
You might be thinking that all this doesn’t pertain to you, my reader. I hear it all the time, “Not me, Eddie.”
Though sexual fear is widespread, it’s hard to detect because it usually exists alongside positive attitudes towards sex. Only a very few erotophobic individuals see all sex in a negative way. Most of enjoy erotic pleasure in specific contexts. It’s similar to the way some racists deny that their racist attitudes because “some of my best friends are Latino/a.” Most of us cannot see our erotophobia because we are conscious of only our positive sexual feelings. That’s why I’m confronted with a lot of denial, statements such as, “I couldn’t be erotophobic; I’ve had so many lovers, I’ve lost count,” or, “Not me Eddie! How could you say I fear sex, I do it all the time?!!”
Secondly, erotophobia is often learned is through a highly unconscious process. We acquire this fear in much the same way we acquire accent in our speech. In the same way, we absorb erotophobia subliminally in our early years through countless social interactions that are so normal and widespread, we take them for granted. Sure, later adult experiences serve to undo some this irrational fear of sex, but reinforces others. Schools, religion, the media, and the legal system set policies that embed senseless sexual fears in millions of minds, yet we are almost completely ignorant of its effect.
Finally, the last reason why we are not conscious of our own negative attitudes towards sex is that irrational sexual ideas are so deeply entrenched in our culture that they are difficult to recognize as ridiculous. Furthermore, even a suggestion of a culturally sanctioned notion of sex will be attacked irrationally. One good example is the widespread irrational belief that the sight of adult recreational nudity harms children. Such an idea is regularly stated but has no basis in reality -- there’s no empirical basis for such a belief. It’s a delusion that is often expressed, but rarely challenged. In fact it’s immune from rational challenge. This is why few whites in colonial America could recognize that their (assumed) ideas about racial inferiority lacked any sense.
All of this is not accidental. Like the shameful and immoral institution of slavery (and racism), erotophobia happens for a reason. It exists and is passed on because powerful forces drive it and so so in order to socially control the masses.
Yeah, sex is good for you… what a concept.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…