Friday, July 26, 2013

Sexology, Perversion, and Asocial Sexuality

I was browsing the blogs on XTube today - but only briefly, because they consist entirely of uninteresting hookup personals - and I became frustrated, as I so frequently do, that despite so many people having an interest in sex, there are very few people willing to talk intelligently about it. The extent of most people's desire is to find what gets them hot so that they can get off. And then it occurred to me, that you do hear a lot about sex from the anti-sex crowd - the people who don't like to indulge in sex but like instead to talk about how horrible sex is ("the moral decay of modern society", etc.). And there just isn't enough of a voice from the sex-positive crowd - which I attribute at least as much to the sex-indulgers being ashamed of their indulgence than the proud ones being too busy getting off.

Anyway, a thought came to my mind which has come in the past - that I should be a sexologist of some sort. How awesome would it be to have some kind of official degree declaring my interest in sex beyond the obvious, to the level of intellectualism? I'm not really interested in couples therapy or the biology of sexual activity, but sex from a more philosophical and political/sociological perspective. I'm interested in how people think and feel about sex (more so than the actual sex that they have). I'm interested in how we as a society define sex, and how little that conforms to real human sexuality, and the enormous societal problems that causes in terms of how we deal with sexual issues (personally and culturally), as well as what solutions there might be to ameliorate that damage, and help improve the health of our sexual attitudes in the future.

But there's two problems. One, which is not dissimilar to the phenomenon I described above, being that 'sex' is not as frequently treated as a serious issue for study as, say, medicine, or engineering, or what have you. There is what looks to be an awesome school in San Francisco (of course) - the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality - but that brings me to my other problem. I do not live in (or anywhere remotely near) San Francisco, and I don't have the money to go back to school even if I did. Nevertheless, I began digging into their online journal of research, reviews, and such, and I came across this paper titled Constructing Perversions, which deals with the topic of classification of paraphilias in the DSM (a subject of particular interest to me, as it highlights the dysfunction in our current view of what constitutes normative - or, as the author designates it, "normophilic" - sexuality).

I have long been of the suspicion that our understanding of "perversity", particularly in the context of diagnosing mental disorders of a sexual variety (i.e., "paraphilia"), is a symptom of our grossly negligent misunderstanding of human sexuality in the first place. And the paper linked above does an excellent job of arguing that. The author explains how the religious model of non-procreative sex acts as sin has been redefined in our modern, secular world by designating the "purpose" of sex not as procreation but as being for "reciprocal affection". In other words, the point of sexual desire is to bring people together, to facilitate interpersonal bonding. Any sex acts that do not accomplish this goal are deemed non-normative and thus perverse.

This is actually, exactly the topic of an essay I tried to write once before, but never posted because I ended up going off on a massive tangent. It was titled "asocial sexuality". The dominant paradigm of sexual activity is that it serves a social function - to bring people together. Therefore, sex acts that are viewed as being "asocial" (which I do not consider to be the same thing as outright antisocial) are labeled perverse, and viewed in a negative light. Among these are included such popular pastimes as solo masturbation and private porn use. But, I would argue, these activities are not only a healthy part of normal sexuality, but are also invaluable resources for those who struggle with social interaction (as I do), and that stigmatizing such acts only further marginalizes those minorities who are unable to seek out sex in its accepted form - that is, the form of reciprocal affection.

Wow, I just summarized this long, meandering essay I had written in a single paragraph! Anyway, the paper I linked above is a very good read (for better or worse, the middle section goes on about Big Pharma's monopoly and selfish manipulation of our modern understanding of proper mental functioning), that also touches (albeit very briefly) on the possibility that "exhibitionism" may include a wide swath of behaviors beyond the caricature of the indiscriminate flasher (which itself is just one example of the importance of differentiating between people with truly problematic and antisocial sexual hangups, and other people who just have peculiar, but otherwise healthy, sexual appetites) - which I have approached before (here, and here).

God, the things we think we know about human sexuality are so tragically wrong. It truly is an appalling vista. And every time a lone voice of reason chimes out, cutting through all the din of ignorance and dogma, it is shouted down mercilessly. Oh no, you don't dare suggest that maybe pornography could be good for society. Or that prostitution might be seen as a legitimate vocation. And don't even think about re-evaluating what we teach kids about sex. Because we're absolutely addicted to our sexual dysfunction, and we want it to persist through the generations!

You know, it's true what Jim Morrison said. People are attached to their chains. ;-)

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