I don’t like sex. Yeah yeah, I can hear the jokes already. Comedian Dimitri Martin did it best in his book, This is a Book, in a chapter titled, Better than Sex, where he lists all of the things he once considered better than sex, which includes most anything and everything. He then proceeds to list what is, for him, “worse than sex.” The punch-line? He really hadn’t liked his old girlfriend, and she was his first. All joking aside, that’s not what I mean by “I don’t like sex.” In fact, I enjoy it quite a bit, thankyouverymuch. I am far from an asexual person. When I say “I don’t like sex,” I am referring to the whole enterprise, and all of its societal implications. Like Punky Brewster explained (I know, look it up) after her mother gave her “the talk,” sex is hilarious, from the perspective of an alien unfamiliar with Earthling biology.
First and foremost, we should consider what sex is for, because people tend to forget it’s all about babies. From the increased arousal that comes with puberty to the change in pitch in a woman’s voice to its ejaculative climax, the goal has always been babies babies babies. Of course, we tend to ignore Mother Nature’s designs because sex is, and has always been, a messy and wasteful production. Without bothering to Google it, I can confidently say that I—by myself—can repopulate a small country in an afternoon. And women could, should they grow their eggs in tubes, bring twelve new people into this world every year, if not more. So what are we to do with all of this extra, er . . . stuff? Have fun, that’s what! But here we run into a plethora of problems, problems which society has repeatedly struggled to rectify, with limited or disastrous results.
When it comes to A+B, evolution has developed in us contradictory instincts. On the one hand, we desire as many partners as possible, to more broadly spread our genetic information. Conversely, we have also evolved to commit to a single partner, to aid in the difficult and often life-threatening birthing process, and to better raise children. Between these two extremes, humans have long played a psychological and sociological tug-of-war.
My ethics professor told us in class that sexual morality runs the gamut between one partner, for life, to the rules of tennis. In this analogy, you can have intercourse with anyone you can play tennis with: a woman, a man, two women at once, a group of people, a relative, you get the picture. From the Ancient Egyptians to the Puritans, rules regarding who gets to do it with whom has constantly changed, with nary a satisfying consensus emerging. Religion is often blamed for what some consider excessive prudishness, but the rules established by religion are but a manifestation of our own biases and emotions. Until recently, gay sex was regarded taboo, only because the majority of the people making the rules were not gay themselves. A case was put forth that homosexual intercourse is unnatural, in that gay sex cannot lead to procreation. This, of course, ignored the obvious point that most sex acts never lead to offspring. Confusion about sexual mores, particularly when it comes to homosexuality, has led to violence against gays, and in many countries to this day, can mean a death sentence.
Jealousy drives our values. It is the reason marriage vows regarding intercourse exist, and why women, often viewed as property, were confined to the home in earlier times. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, women are still forced into bags, to cover the parts of themselves that may lead to unwanted sexual attention, and in some parts of Africa, young Muslim girls are subject to genital mutilation to curb their desires. The Free Love Movement of the 60’s attempted to rectify this, adopting a philosophy whereby anyone was free to boink anyone else, but the movement failed, because jealousy remained too great a factor. And it isn’t hard to see why. Up until a half century ago, determining with any certainty the father of a newborn was impossible. Men feared infidelity because they did not wish to rear a child who did not bear his code.
Looking beyond social norms, we find trouble stemming from the desire for sex. To satisfy our driving need to copy our DNA, we’ve invented prostitution and pornography, which has led to legal complications, the mistreatment of women, the proliferation of drug-use (in some instances) and an entire underground society of second class citizens. We are already seeing efforts to normalize this kind of work, now called “sex work,” and though I do not wish to delve into this debate, I will say that I could never condemn someone for doing something that causes no harm, but at the same time, never be content should one of my children (boy or girl) become involved in such a career.
Far from what the Lifetime Channel will tell you, divorce is rarely the result of infidelity. People in happy, committed relationships do not seek excitement “on the side.” That being said, infidelity remains a symptom of unsatisfied urges, and it only takes a single moment for a marriage to dissolve to the point of no return. Without this highly symbolic and hurtful action, loving unions might find greater opportunity to endure, and families to remain together.
Of course, if we’re going to talk about the problems of sex, we can’t ignore rape, and by greater extent, child molestation. The #MeToo movement has only recently shed light on the numbers of sex related victims. By some estimates, one in four women will be sexually abused in some way in their lifetimes. Even among those fortunate enough to escape victimhood, most women live in a state of fear, never quite knowing who to trust, or where to find a safe space. Usually, it’s not so much a matter of a stranger jumping out of a bush, but a coworker or employer, or even a boyfriend who pushes just a little too hard to get what he wants. Even decent, innocent guys (and there are plenty of those too) suffer from abuse directed at women, and the backlash of the #MeToo movement, afraid of being perceived as dangerous. This has led, unfortunately, to a counter-backlash, and to the rise of misogynistic groups like (some) Incels, and the rabid anti-SJW movement on YouTube, who’ve made the Ghostbusters reboot and the recent Captain Marvel films matters of unending controversy.
What really broke the camel’s back, for me, is the deeply disturbing Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland. I recommend it only if you can stomach it, but if you’re a child of the 80s who grew up with Jackson’s music, like I did, you will find it heartbreaking. And yet the documentary helps shed light on the way in which those in positions of influence, like musical celebrities or, in the case of the Catholic Church, men of the cloth, abuse their positions to satisfy their urges. As Leaving Neverland makes clear, pedophilia is a mental disorder, as the idolized megastar could not have had much difficulty finding women to sleep with him. But Jackson did not show any interest in women, or in adults of the same sex. Instead, he manipulated the trust of the children who worshipped him, who believed their hero could do no wrong. As the documentary shows, the web of lies these children are forced to bear, even into adulthood, becomes as damaging as the abuse itself.
Taking ALL of this into account, it is difficult to see how such a simple biological function can be worth the damages. If by ridding the world of sex, we also rid the world of fear and harassment, the mistreatment of women, the breaking up of families, and the irreparable damage resulting from rape and child abuse, is this not a fair exchange? The best aspect of sex, IMO, are not the minutes (seconds?) of pleasure derived from the act, but the emotional bonds formed in the process. As an expression of love, sex is hard to beat, but we need to recognize that it comes at a serious cost.
Now, if this argument sounds bizarre, maybe even a little cult-like, not to fear. Although Christian monks were known to castrate themselves, like dogs, and to wear spiked rings (with the spikes on the inside) over their penises to prevent nocturnal emissions, among other sins, I am not suggesting going the Heaven’s Gate route and neutering ourselves. Destroying a part of what makes us human isn’t the answer. Like any societal ill, we must tackle these issues head on, by adopting the Socratic method, and examining ourselves with openness and honesty. We must recognize that we are sexual beings, and subject to desire, but that above all else we must learn to treat one another with love, respect and compassion.
There is a popular meme that has been going around for some time, featuring a topless girl, with the the words “Still Not Asking For It” written over her body. While I agree with the overall sentiment, in that women own their bodies and should not be subject to harassment, I have long found the meme to be misleading, because it suggests that women cannot be sexual beings, and cannot have their own desires. Some women do, in fact, dress for sex. It is hardcoded into our DNA, just as birds sing and peacocks spread their wings to find a mate. And the problem is, men know this, and become angry when a half-naked woman struts by them, only to reject their advances. I think a better, more honest meme would be, “Not Asking You For It.”
Ultimately, this brings us to my pet philosophy. Contrary to popular belief, nudists are not anti-sex. But what we have long argued, rather, is that we do not need clothing to prevent us from raping and molesting one another. We believe that human beings have the capacity to treat one another with respect, without suffering abuse or harassment, regardless of what a person is wearing, or how they are posed, or whether they appear to be “asking for it.” While there are uncomfortable similarities between children being indoctrinated into abusive relationships and children born into nudist households, in that both deal with societal taboos, the differences between them are crucial. People who prey on the innocent rely on secrecy and deception. Nudism is first and foremost about openness and honesty, which is why so many children born into the lifestyle go on to raise their own children in the same way. Nudism is uniquely optimistic with regard to human potential, trusting in humanity’s capacity to rise above its animalistic nature. In being naked and innocent around friends, family and those of the opposite sex, we learn to see one another not as objects of lust, but as fellow human beings. While pornographers and exhibitionists continually mistake the movement for a fetish, nudism is, at its core, about innocence. In a Buddhist-like sense, the goal of nudism is to free ourselves from unwanted desires. But while I would not go so far as to say nudism is the answer to the problem of sex, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Only when we learn to overcome our instinctual drives can we begin to conquer our moral failings.