Thursday, May 9, 2013

Please, casual sex

Look, I know that I'm not the norm when it comes to sexual relations in this culture. I know that complete abstinence/virginity before marriage is no longer standard. But I'll be darned if someone can tell me what good casual sex does for anyone beyond immediate pleasure.

What do I mean by casual sex? Why am I even writing about this right now? 

To be realistic, let's say casual sex is sexual interactions outside of a serious, long-term relationship. As to why I'm writing about this presently...go look at the news.

There is such an insane double standard about sex in our culture. When it's consensual between peers ages 10 and up, no one takes it seriously. Sexual activity and exploration is expected! It's normal! It's fun! It's not a big deal!

But then as soon as there is sexual activity where one party is not consenting...then suddenly sex is deadly serious. Everyone is supposed to be appalled and treat it as the worst of crimes. 

Don't get me wrong--sexual assault, battery, and rape are among the darkest deeds humanity can commit. Those crimes are deadly serious. But consensual sex is serious too. 

Is there even anything else like this in our culture, that is viewed with two such radically different perspectives? You might say violence--look at video games, TV, movies. But violence is only treated casually in entertainment. In real life, violence is still treated seriously.

In my house, if something is important or fragile, I keep it away from my children. I don't put the Social Security cards and the Crayolas out together. How crazy of a parent would I be if I gave Luke crystal figurines to play with, then punished him for breaking them? I wouldn't just be crazy--I would be gravely irresponsible. 

This is what we do in our culture. We say sexual liberation, activation, and exploration is a good thing. We take this deadly serious, important, fragile thing, we remove all propriety and cultural rules, and just put it out there for everyone to play with. And then when it gets broken--when women are kidnapped and sexually tortured for years, when children are exploited for porn, when women are raped by their comrades-in-arms--we punish people for it. 

Or at least, we ought to. As Jackson Katz talks about in the Ted Talk below, there are far too many inactive bystanders when it comes to sexual violence. Or, as Petula Dvorak says in the link above, there are too many people who "treat sexual assault like one big frat house joke." These people were so thoroughly indoctrinated into the casual sex culture that they missed the memo that sex is always casual except if one person doesn't want it, then it's really really really serious. 


With theft, there are varying degrees of severity depending on what is stolen. You don't get the same punishment for stealing a candy bar as you do for stealing a Ferrari at gunpoint. Why is that? Because as a culture, we realize that a candy bar is less valuable than a Ferrari. Candy bars are trivial, casual, commonplace. Ferraris are expensive, and represent years of hard work and investment. We can't treat sex like a candy bar half the time and like a Ferrari the other half of the time! People will be conditioned to think it's okay to steal sexual activity because it's not a big deal, when in actuality, it is a HUGE deal. Whether it's  groping in Arlington or rape in Ohio, stealing sex is always grand-theft auto, because sex is serious

I don't assert that on religious grounds alone. Sex is biologically serious. There are reasons it evolved with our most potent feelings and hormones. Sex is supposed to be powerful enough to bind two people together long-term so that they will be united in caring for young. Biologically, that is its purpose. Oxytocin is present for sex, for birth, and for breastfeeding, all of which ought to function biologically in binding families together.

I may be completely alone on this, but from where I'm standing, it looks like sex is not something that should be played with casually. It looks like people seem to break it an awful lot.  Just as I wouldn't hand something crystal to a child unless they are sufficiently old and mature, sex should not be culturally condoned in human relationships unless they are sufficiently long and committed. I am deeply curious about what would be different, culturally, if sex was always viewed as something serious. Would there be fewer sexual assaults? Would sexual crimes--including enabling crimes, like human trafficking and running brothels--be treated more seriously by the law? Would there be fewer abortions? Would perpetrators get the full weight of punishment they deserve? Maybe it's barbaric, but in the Ohio case...I think that's the death penalty. Obviously, the world is not a perfect place, and there will probably always be sexual assault. And certainly, there has been sexual assault, even in places and times where sex is not taken lightly. But what would it be like if we had Victorian morals combined with 21st-century women's liberation? This is what I've been pondering.

Now, there's the bright side of all this; it's hard to open your emotional eyes to the bright side after all of this darkness. Sometimes, when people--especially religious people--view sex as serious, that somehow transforms into sex as bad. It is so sad to me when this happens. Within my own religious community, this sometimes happens, and it breaks my heart. Sex is serious because it is special. It is sacred. I rejoice in people who understand this. Also within my religious community, I see the potential joy, comfort, pleasure, and true love that is part of strong marriage relationships that were preceded by sexual purity. I am far from the only happily married Mormon. How exactly do you think Mormons have so many kids?!

Call me naive if you want, but this much I know--my children will know of the serious beauty of sex.