Mischaracterizing Sex

Whether it’s public figures in prominent positions being taken to task for their misconduct or the apparent epidemic of sexual assault and abuse, or whether it’s ire and strife over the rights and status of LGBT people, or whether it’s cultural attitudes towards and public policy involving sex workers, it seems like the current climate for sex and sexuality is an unusually fraught and problematic one. But I’ve been trying, and I actually can’t think of a single moment in my lifetime when public attitudes towards these things have revolved around anything but the same pervasive anxiety that characterizes our approach to them today.

I grew up somewhere between “stranger danger”, the Clinton impeachment trial, boycotts of companies that supported the so-called “gay agenda”, and spooky stories of predators in chat rooms that might accost me while I was surfing the Web, and I’d like to say that things have changed. True enough, the public worries about different things now, but what hasn’t changed is the common thread between all of these things– that sex in America is a kind of universal boogeyman, forever rearing its head in new ugly ways– and it’s time we addressed what a disgustingly dysfunctional attitude that is.

How are we surprised that we have so many societal ills associated with sex when we so routinely set the stage for our sexual lives with such abundantly creepy scenery, while at the same time refusing to consider or entertain anything resembling a healthy, normal, realistic experience of the sexual dimension of life?

Our public approach to sex polarizes things to such an extent that all we have is the condemnation and vitriol associated with misbehavior and the sanitized over-glamourization present in media and advertising, unless you count the awkward 7th grader’s mentality that characterizes sex’s representation in comedy.

The only time we ever address sex publicly is to remind people what a sordid, painful, embarrassing affair the whole thing is to begin with, and that has got to change.

We have to start addressing sex in a more honest way, and that involves acknowledging the good as well as the bad. We have to start being open and candid with more than just our pain and our self-righteousness and and our glamour and our awkwardness. We have to start being genuine and real about sex. It’s the only way for things to get better.


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