Monday, December 24, 2012

Controlling Sex

It occurs to me that I just don't understand the need to control other people's lives when it comes to engaging in sex and sexual entertainment. Surely it comes from some kind of desire to enforce the way other people live their lives, particularly to promote conformity and eliminate practices that are unfamiliar or threatening to one's own experience or belief systems.

But then, aren't we a relatively enlightened, postmodern society? What happened to the basic tenets of democracy - freedom and equality? Freedom and equality demand a tolerance for diversity, and, indeed, we have concepts like freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and the like to protect the varied beliefs and opinions of the public.

So what business is it of anyone's if some people like to shoot porn for entertainment, or sell sexual favors for cash, or indulge in any of those services from a consumer perspective? I have to think about my own life sometimes, to try to put myself into the context of the rest of society. I am unusual in that I generally avoid vices - drinking and gambling and fighting and what have you - but I revel in the enjoyment of my own sexuality.

And sometimes I want to say, well, everyone has their vice, and this is just the one I choose. But then, I have to wonder, is the enjoyment of sexual entertainment really a vice? Because who does it hurt - myself included!? I avoid things that are legal, accepted, even popular - thinks like drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco - because I have the will to make a choice, and enough wisdom to recognize that those activities are very unappealing, and whatever short-term high I may get from them is not worth the long-term health risks and financial cost.

And what about sex? Surely, promiscuous sex carries health risks, but I'm not talking about engaging in promiscuous sex. I'm talking about consuming pornography, and exploring the rich and detailed realm of sexual fantasy, and being frank and curious in my sex life not with a multitude of strangers but with the few partners I trust - and then maybe talking about that sex life with a multitude of strangers who can't hurt me if they're never in sexual contact with me.

But then we have these harsh restrictions on what we can say about sex and when we can say it, and a cultural tradition of shaming people who aren't properly embarrassed about their sex organs. I respect that, like many other issues, sex is not always an appropriate topic of discussion among specific company and in certain contexts, but what I don't understand is why we have to police who does get to enjoy sex and when.

We have rules against things that hurt other people. You're not allowed to commit murder or violence against other people. You're not allowed to steal from them. You're not allowed to deceive them in issues of particular importance. These are the basic building blocks of a cooperative society. But then we have weird rules pertaining to vices that seem to stem from some kind of moral background.

This runs counter to freedom and equality and tolerance and diversity. Who says your morals are absolute, and should be used to dictate the way I run my life, when my morals differ? We have rules to govern the way people treat other people to facilitate the social order, but there's no reason to extend those rules to the way people choose to run their own lives.

If a person wants to engage in sexual intercourse (no matter how) in their private bedroom with a consenting partner (no matter who), that's their choice. If they want to film a pornography scene for the enjoyment of other people who want to watch pornography scenes, what's the problem? If they want to offer their sexual talents for a price to people who are willing to pay for that professionalism, who cares? You can live your life the way you want to, but you've got to give other people the same courtesy.

And, honestly, of all things a person could get up to - many of which are totally legal and even socially accepted, and some of which are far less 'natural' to the human experience - sex (especially voyeuristic forms of sexual entertainment which carry none of the risks of sexual contact) is not one to get all up in arms about.

And if you think the prevalence of sexual media will give people ideas about having sex that they wouldn't have got otherwise - let me tell you, mother nature has already taken care of that impulse. This is merely satisfying a curiosity that is inevitable. A curiosity for something that shouldn't be feared so much, and a curiosity that can, in significant part, be soothed by indulging in that sexual media.

Watching sex and talking about sex can get a person more interested in sex. But it's their responsibility to make good decisions about their own sexual activity. Being interested in sex did not make me any more willing to engage in risky behaviors, it just made me more keen to develop a safe situation within which I could experiment. Not everybody is that cautious, this is true, but trying to hide sex from them - an impossible task - as if thinking that if they don't see it they won't think about it - may only make them more desperate to seek it out, when having a safer alternative might have helped to sate their craving.

And, ultimately, teaching people (especially, but not limited to, young people) to make good choices about sex is the responsibility of education, however that is implemented. If it's not working, maybe that's a problem that needs to be fixed. But it is not the result of exposure to sexual media, the restriction of which runs counter to the freedom of speech.

I have seen people make poor decisions about sex without significant exposure to pornography, and yet I, who am a pornographer and an avid consumer of pornography, continue to make responsible decisions about my own sexual activity. It's high time we stop displacing the blame for people's decisions and attacking an easier target, instead of facing the issue head-on, and learning to accept some of the difficult truths in life.

It's time, also, we stop trying to control other people's lives that aren't our own, beyond the helpful practice of friendly persuasion, even if we love them and they do make bad decisions against better judgment from time to time. No peace will come from agonizing over others' bad decisions, and no justice will be served by trying to change the world so as to coerce and control the choices other people have to choose from.

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