So why do humans engage in sex? Reproduction, of course. Really? I would submit that of the estimated 100 million couplings* that occur on the planet everyday, damn few are with the intention of reproduction. If the purpose of sex is merely to reproduce, I think as a species that we could get the job accomplished without all the Sturm und Drang that seems to be associated with human sexuality. The answer “reproduction” comes off like the reply "shelter" when asked what is the purpose of a home. Yes, shelter indeed, but look how much more our homes mean to us than just shelter, or how much more a good meal can be than simply nutrition.
My personal view of sex is that the primary purpose is reproduction but that primary purpose has been shoved to a very distant outlier for human beings. I feel that sex fulfills a number of human needs and by the virtue of the importance of those needs to us, reproduction ends up being a distant purpose at best, yet one that constantly lurks in the back ground…which be no doubt will jump to the top of the list if a couple is careless.
So in my own little world, what, then, is the purpose of sex? I believe it is primarily for the establishment and maintenance of human pair bonding. I have a rather deep belief that men and women need each other for far more than a method of reproducing themselves. Somewhere I read that the original Quakers believed that the primary purpose of sex was for the communion of husband and wife and that children were a secondary blessing of the union—a rather enlightened view for mid 17th century England, and one that has not been fully accepted today. That fairly well sums up my beliefs about sex except that I am not all that concerned with official sanctions so I would re-term that to woman and man and in my latter day enlightenment to loving partners, thus covering same sex unions as well. Please do note, that while I may condone living in sin and anarchy in the form of a refusal to marry, I do believe in long term serial monogamy with fidelity. Good God what a horrifying collection of politically correct lingo, it sounds like something from the nomenclature of a late 50s hi fi. Let me restate that, I believe in marriage with no fooling around. However, the Sacrament occurs in bed not in a church.
So I go bebopping through life believing that sex is a Sacrament between loving partners and God…or at least can be and should be. Then I open the January / February 2011 issue of The Atlantic and read two very dark articles that kind of makes me feel like an old naïve fool—at least at first blanche.
Note! Both of these articles contain language and explicit descriptions that would generally not make them topics for polite conversation. If four lettered terminologies make you uncomfortable, I would recommend avoiding the links.
The Hazards of Duke by Caitlin Flanagan
Hard Core by Natasha Vargas-Cooper
I will discuss The Hazards of Duke in this post and Hard Core in a future post. In the Hazards of Duke, Caitlin Flanagan reports on a young woman who reviews her sexual encounters with 13 members of the Duke University sports and fraternity elite in a Power Point presentation. The presentation which details and rates each partner seems to have an emphasis on their “short comings” both anatomical and timing. The presentation was meant only for close friends but ended up on the Web—imagine that. After appearing on the web, the presentation gathered a lot of fame and media attention. It seems that half the world lionizes the young woman, and half the world condemns her.
Flanagan pities her. “What rotten luck that the first true daughter of sex-positive feminism would have an erotic proclivity for serving every kind of male need, no matter how mundane or humiliating, that she would so eagerly turn herself from sex mate to soccer mom, depending on what was wanted from her.”
But I have to ask why all the brouhaha over the sexual exploits of college students? Surely the notion that college students have a lot sex comes as no surprise. So why does some lurid kiss and tell become huge news worthy of the august pages of The Atlantic? Hmmmm? Let me ask you, do you think that it has anything to do with the Duke University Lacrosse Team? What if our heroine / vixen wrote the same exact presentation on members of the poetry club or the band? Would it become news? Would the author become the heroine of some new brand of feminism or the bane of the old style? Is the fame / infamy about sex or is yet another lionization of sports figures? Society make gods of these people and they don’t behave well—imagine that. It makes my ass tired.
The fact that some of the members of the lacrosse team may have short penises or can’t keep it up while drunk may be a source of fascination for some but is hardly newsworthy. However, Flanagan makes some good points in the article. One is the worrisome trend of the abuse of alcohol among women which according to one of Flanagan’s sources has quadrupled in past 40 years while the trend for men has remained fixed. The fact that alcohol is more damaging to women then men is also notable. She also laments that colleges are doing virtually nothing about the abuse, which is a thorny problem. Are 18 year olds adults? Should we be surprised that 18 year old students will want to emulate the behavior of their 21 and 22 year old peers when there are virtually no controls? Should we be surprised that alcohol induced behavior is going to end up bad?
She makes another point which I find particularly disturbing:
“That female sexual desire is deeply enmeshed in the desire to be seduced, taken, treated—as Karen Owen herself puts it so forthrightly—with a measure of aggression is one reason there will never really be a female Tucker Max. We know from far greater figures than these two that many women’s sexual appetites include (even center on) men who are in most ways beneath them, in terms of intellect, sensibility, social refinement.”
It comes as no piece of news to me that men can be louts. What I find heart breaking is that women are often attracted to them when being louts. What a confusing world! Flanagan states that back in her day, women
“relied on our own good judgment to keep us safe, but also—and this is the terrible, unchanging fact about being female—on the mercy of the men around us. So, too, the young women of today, including this Duke student.** She may have a world of legal recourse that my friends and I didn’t have a quarter century ago, but when it came to that moment in that bathroom, how much did that recourse really help her?”But here is another piece of news, not only are women more vulnerable when they are falling down drunk, so are men. One cannot rely on drunk men to be merciful, honorable, or even conscious of their actions. They are drunk and the normal inhibitions, the normal feeling of respect for another human being, and the normal moral values get washed out with the alcohol. If this is the condition that one finds exciting, if this is how one wants to socialize and how one wants to have sex, well guess what...it is not always going to end happily.
Of the thirteen thousand students at Duke University, my guess is that most of them get along in their lives quite well. I would imagine that there are thousands of men on campus that are normally endowed, can keep it up, respect women, can even love and cherish the right woman, and find no need for drunken hookups. Their names do not appear on anyone’s F--- list. I should also imagine that there are also thousands of women on campus who are attractive, smart, goal oriented, respect men, can even love and cherish the right man, and find no need for drunken hookups. And they do not keep a F--- list. The trouble with celebrity and glitz is that it gets confused with normal life. I doubt that the entire campus is involved in drunken hookups.
I feel sorry for people who are attracted to glitz, drunken partying, and vulgar wealth. If you think a drunken hookup is great sex, you should try it sometime when you are sober. If you think it is great with some stranger you met at a bar, you should try it with someone you love. Booze, sex, and strangers really don’t mix.
So yes I am a naïve old fool, not one of the beautiful people. I have never been lionized or envied. Most of us are not. But we seem to be able to live our lives with a modicum of the wealth, none of the glitz, none of the fame, and a hell of a lot more happiness than many of the beautiful people that we read so much about. Sex can be a Sacrament, or it can be drunken screwing, or, for that matter, something in between. It is really up the individual and their partner. But don’t be surprised that drunken screwing does not have much tenderness, affection, love, or Holiness attached to it, or that you feel pretty shitty when you wake up in the morning. Sturm und Drang indeed!
See part 2 of my naive journey into the world of modern sex here:
Sacrament or Pornography
*100 million couplings. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this estimate. I did a quick search (not exhaustive) and what I found were answers posted by individuals on question and answer websites. Out of the range of numbers I found, this seemed the most reasonable.
** This is a second unrelated female student (not the Power Point author) who was led into a bathroom while intoxicated and in some fashion was sexually manipulated. There is a legal battle ensuing about what exactly happened and whether the young man is guilty of rape.