It occurs to me that the more I describe my liberal - perhaps even radical - views on sexuality, the less obvious it may become that I have any limits or boundaries at all, as far as what I believe is acceptable for people to do in the pursuit of sexual pleasure. Actually, my beliefs on this point reflect fairly well the Wiccan Rede (even though I am not Wiccan) - as long as it's not hurting anyone (who doesn't want to be hurt), go crazy - no matter how bizarre or unconventional your sexual practices may be. Of course, determining what "hurts" others can be a thorny issue (especially in the age of "the right to be offended" - not that I support that notion), but the general idea is to take other people's morality out of the equation and let people get their rocks off in whatever ways they like, so long as they're not victimizing anyone in the process.
Now, just because I am sexually liberated, the assumption that I am not a rational and compassionate being is pretty unfair, but people who already hold moral opinions about the perceived damage inherent in some of the things I believe are acceptable - like viewing porn within the context of marriage, paying prostitutes for sex, open relationships, etc. - will probably have a hard time believing I could possibly be a decent human being, just as the sexual conservatives of recent history have believed that, by engaging in immoral homosexual behavior, homosexual persons were incapable of exercising good judgment in terms of their sexual beliefs and practices. I guess that's one of the pitfalls of moral relativism.
I'd like to take a leaf from the Marquis de Sade's playbook (on whom I'm hoping to write more about in the future, when I revisit his works) - although doing so probably won't endear me in the minds of the sexual conservatives, but this is for the people who are willing to give me a fair chance - and say that while I have an active imagination, and do enjoy fantasizing (and will defend anyone's right to fantasize about anything they want, no matter how perverse or depraved), my actual sex life is, if open-minded, fairly tame; and I'm pretty happy with it that way. In a perfect world, there might be more opportunities to get busy outdoors, willing partners would be easier to come by, and people wouldn't get so hung up about other people's sexual expressions, but it's not like I want to participate in 24/7 no holds barred sadomasochistic sex orgies out in the street.
However, as a rational-minded skeptic, with no allegiance to any prepackaged ideologies (like feminism, for example, or any religion whatsoever) - one of the benefits of not aligning myself to any groups larger than the individual (the smallest, and thus most in need of defending, minority) - I can't help but view with suspicion some of the unchallenged axioms we hold dear about human sexuality. And the one that perplexes me the most is this idea that sex is strictly an adults-only activity. You hear about consenting adults this and consenting adults that, as if sexuality wasn't a fundamental part of the human condition at any age. I do believe in age-appropriate activities, but sexual experimentation and discovery is a lifelong process, and the unconscious learning begins not long after birth (if not sooner, in the case of fetuses observed masturbating in the womb).
Following that, puberty occurs for a reason, and it's not to torture adolescents with sexual frustration for 5-6 years, on average, until they can find a [not just legal, but] socially-approved outlet. I also have a hard time believing, that in every case, sex between two inexperienced teenagers is somehow always more desirable and less risky than sex between a responsible mentor and a younger novice. Or that relationships that involve some kind of "power imbalance" (like the average heterosexual coupling) are always exploitative and never productive. That's not to say that if we didn't have certain restrictions in place, it would be entirely unproblematic, but hiding behind the begrudging acceptance of the fact that adolescents are horny beasts is the hypocritical notion that there is something wrong and - incredulously, from a biological perspective - destructive about the natural process of sexual initiation for youths.
That having been said, I do not advocate anyone engaging in any kind of illegal behavior - no matter how unjustified laws based on morality are - as there are serious consequences to breaking them (and in the case of sex laws, the penalties may be truly dire, sometimes even to a cruel and unusual extent). I also hold high, as most sexual progressives these days do, the importance of consent in any activity. Nobody should be forced to engage in any sexual activities against his/her desire. That seems like a pretty simple and compassionate moral basis for anyone to start with. I just don't believe that a person's ability to consent to any and all forms of sexual experimentation (from the mundane to the extreme) depends entirely upon which side of their 18th
(or 16th, or whatever)
birthday they happen to be on. Sex - like adolescence - is not an on/off switch, but a gradual process of learning.
At the very least, we should be honest about why we have the rules in place that we do - to prevent unscrupulous individuals from abusing the situation (although I wonder sometimes how effective the laws and social taboos are at effecting even that), not because the situation is inherently abusive. I also believe that a not insignificant part of the "trauma" and shame of sexual experience is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy - people believe sex is a Big Deal, and so when people have sex, everyone makes it out to be a Big Deal. This also makes it harder to talk openly about sex, which has the effect of silencing those who are victimized by abuse. Most people are probably attached to this paradigm, as people usually are to the traditions they blindly adhere to. I count myself different in believing that the way things are aren't necessarily the best way things could be. Then again, I hold myself and the human race to rather high standards of civility - standards that probably the majority of the population are currently incapable of meeting. :-\