Writing about sex

I’ve been having a series of revelations on the theme of writing about sex, and why my writing strikes some people as controversial. In a thread below that has racked up more than 80 comments, I describe the connections between sex and astrology in theoretical terms: using the astrological houses as a model. Fair to say that my ideas about sexuality and astrology inform one another on a regular basis, and I’ve learned a lot from both reading charts and listening to people. I see the potential in my own chart and I do my best to live up to it and honor the mission I perceive (Cancer rising, Aquarius Moon conjunct Vesta, 8th house, and a bit of Chiron next door in Pisces). Studying astrology opens up a whole dimension of veiled information, much of which involves perspectives on how self encounters self, and how people encounter one another.

Vestal Virgin tends the sacred hearth.

The first issue I’m aware of is that I don’t conflate relationships, sex and romance. I don’t conflate sex with morality. Being natural, sex is inherently moral. Relationships are inevitable. When people get to know one another they often want to share sex. It’s been said that put any two people together long enough and they will become sexually curious about one another. (And we know it often doesn’t take long at all.) I strongly encourage and celebrate sexual curiosity. I believe it’s one of the highest forms of curiosity and self-awareness.

In my view there is no ‘right’ format for relationships or for sex except for some grounding in authenticity. People who take a view that sex must only happen with certain people under certain conditions may find this pushes their buttons: morality, control, disease anxiety, whatever.

I am not saying that sex is appropriate under any special conditions, either — only that the short list is waaay too short, and that we have a lot of room to conduct ourselves ethically under an expanded or more relaxed relationship model.

Next, I bring a value to all of my writing, be it about sex or astrology: I encourage women to be as free in their relationships as they want to be, and as sexually free as they want to be. I believe in free love — the freedom to love, and the freedom to choose our lovers. I encourage women to lead the way, and to be self-aware enough to choose men or other women as lovers who honor their individuality. Men could make some progress here as well, and I am open to that conversation.

I have focused my writing for an audience of women, who I perceive as as having an especially complex situation to work out, due to the conditioning that many receive — what I call the guilt issue.

This freedom of self is impossible without a corresponding sense of responsibility, even an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. It’s not possible to over-emphasize this point, though of course, to connect with someone, there is always a risk involved. So you have to know your boundaries and the direction in which you want to push them. This process calls for a lot more exploration and conscious conversation than we’re accustomed to. Women in my view are entitled to be as monogamous as they want, as long as it’s not compulsory. I am aware how difficult the guilt issue makes sorting out ‘compulsory monogamy’ from ‘monogamy by choice’, and to distinguish the two takes enormous self-honesty and gaining experience that many people will frown upon at first.

What will your mother think? Many women are cruel to other women who aspire to the least modicum of sexual self-expression, with the exception of what happens within romantic orthodox monogamy. Independence and strong self-esteem are necessary for this, and the idea is controversial for a few reasons.

One is that the dominant relationship model in our society is codependency, and women in particular are still trained to feel incomplete if they don’t have a relationship. Some men have this issue as well, but as Simone de Beauvoir points out in The Second Sex, no boy is brought up specifically to be a husband, but many women are still raised wanting to be a wife more than anything. In that work, she writes, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” I use the word codependency in the colloquial sense rather than the clinical one: people who depend on one another to feel like a whole person.

One problem with making the slightest move toward sexual independence is that it can threaten our relationship structure. In the next instant, this can reveal that we don’t feel like a whole person, and that we depend on someone else for our sense not just of completion, but also of existence. This topic is covered by a much more experienced writer than I am, William Pennell Rock, in an article called Jealousy and the Abyss.

Note, this one page collects more views than any other article on Planet Waves and has for a decade (about 12,000 a year). Pennell takes the perspective that jealousy is connected to the fear of death. This is perceptive and useful; it helps us understand why we respond so strongly to jealousy. Pennell distinguishes the differences between jealousy, envy, the fear of abandonment and the lack of self-esteem. I bring another idea, which is that jealousy veils a profound depth of erotic energy.

I have seen how intensely how many people are turned on by what they say makes them jealous. The word for this is compersion. Here is some fairly recent thinking about that idea. Last, I have an idea that masturbation is truly feminist sex. If feminism is women defining themselves as people without the necessary involvement of men, the way that looks in a sexual context is masturbation. Men who embrace conscious masturbation can relax their demand on women as their only possible sexual or emotional outlet, finding their center and easing the pressure for sex that many women feel. In the 70s we were told that the only truly feminist sex was lesbianism.

But that excludes women who orient as heterosexual; and it excludes men. I think that self-sex is closer to the core of who we are — our primary sexual orientation — and it allows for the freedom of self-knowledge that we can share with whomever we want.

Further reading: The One and the Many

Musical interlude: from The Music Man.

24 thoughts on “Writing about sex”

  1. E2,

    Regarding: “In contrast, progesterone may encourage metastases-not that this research is getting any press here in the US.”

    Just for clarification……. from what I have read the progesterone referenced in the studies that showed it may encourage metastases was synthetic progesterone called progestins. Natural progesterone has been shown to help prevent breast and other cancers. I just thought that needed clarifying.

  2. Related article (by me): from The Ecologist.

    As previously mentioned, my science background is in xenoestrogenic compounds: dioxin, PCBs and related substances, which mimic hormones and disrupt both female and male endocrine (hormone) systems.

    One of the names you see published here, Carol van Strum, came into my life as my mentor on this issue; we have spent many hours and indeed years poring over internal documents of Monsanto and other companies. I ran the issue of whether hormone birth control is safe or useful past her.

    “I don’t know enough to judge, and it’s really hard just from her conclusions to know how valid they are. We’d have to see the data (where have we heard that before???).”

    So, one cannot make assessments without having data present, and knowing where that data came from; that is to day, who did the study? She continues, “On one point I am really troubled, though: the assumption that because there are already so many synthetic hormone analogs (PCB, DDE, DDT, etc.) in our systems, it’s somehow okay to add more and different ones to the mix. Not quite the way toxicology usually works.”

    The idea here is that we are already toxed on a diversity of xenoestrogenic [xeno = outside and estrogenic = estrogen-like] compounds and other hormone disruptors (mercury, for example). Adding additional stuff to the mix is a crap shoot at best. The synergystic effects are almost never considered — that is, one substance at a time is tested, but not in the presence of (for example) high dioxin presence, or PCB exposure. I would like to see a study on a widely used birth control pill in households that also use Roundup.

    Speaking in general, we know that substances do not affect people equally. They have worse affects on those more susceptible to them. The analogy Carol gave years ago was that when a gunman shoots into the crowd at a football game, everyone is not in equal danger. If you’re inside getting a beer, you’re safe. If you’re in the line of fire, you’re threatened.

    So while these drugs (giving E2’s view the benefit of the doubt) may be beneficial in the studies she is thinking of, it’s the weak we need to consider; those with adverse reactions; those with genetic makeup that would view the incursion as an environmental toxin, or where prior exposures exist. We need to consider the depression issue with drugs like Depo.

    In truth, we are all a little pregnant. Sperm counts are down, and there are many other signs.

  3. janet —
    thank you for sharing that. its truly beautiful to read of your journey into (and to) yourself.

    i’ve certainly fantasized about all sorts of things while masturbating, and i’ve often just focused on the physical sensation of me touching myself without much fantasy. but you have taken it to a whole other level, to be fantasizing about making love to yourself.


    — amanda

  4. Lets talk masturbation.

    “Last, I have an idea that masturbation is truly feminist sex. If feminism is women defining themselves as people without the necessary involvement of men, the way that looks in a sexual context is masturbation.”

    This seems like the right place.
    I’ve always masturbated. When I was young I figured out pretty quickly how to give myself an orgasm and never stopped. Masturbation has been a place of safety for me, a place to experiment with and experience my body and my desires in a way I’ve never been able to do so openly with a partner.

    About a year and a half ago I started masturbating in a new way. It started out as an experiment to understand, question or maybe just organize my fantasies. That sounds ridiculous but my fantasy life had become confusing. Too many mental images, too little time? I had come to a point that I could not discern what truly turned me on.
    House cleaning was in order.

    I decided that I would set limitations on my fantasies. When masturbating I would only fantasize about myself with myself. Whatever was happening, it was Me doing it to Me.
    Seems simple enough. Well, it took me months (of hard work!) to be able to completely do this. It was a bit like learning to meditate.

    Old lovers and past experiences were the hardest to exile from my repertoire.
    When I was finally able to truly have sex with just myself, a whole new world opened for me; one I wasn’t expecting. I’ve been able to kiss my own cunt and suck my own cock! I’ve been able to sooth wounds that have been out of reach and mourn losses that deserved to be mourned, not just buried. It has been incredible sexual healing and an enlightenment to the power and connection of sex that hadn’t been there for me before.

  5. Eric,
    Once you talk hormone birth control, you get my attention. I will send you the completed round up when I finish, however, the research on birth control pills, using meta-analysis of many large studies, has some very clear conclusions. First, use of the pill reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancers. It has a neutral effect on breast cancers. Use of the pill for women in their forties, if they have no risk factors for stroke or heart disease that would rule it out, is strongly positively associated with reduced risk of heart disease , the number one killer of women. We have very few drugs that have been studied as much and as long as the pill-this research is solid.

    This does not include Medroxyprogesterone acetate, MPA, brand name Provera. That comes in a shot given every three months and in a small study, was found to be efficient at killing brain cells.

    The appropriate use of the pill of the right pill means a woman can limit the bleed cycles to three to four times a year and control when they happen. This is also a godsend for women who have mood disorders, or psychiatric disorders due to hormonal swings. One of the newest forms of progestins, drospirenone, is anti-androgenic, which makes it a tremendous boon for PCOS women. Pcos women can take Yaz and Yasmine and lower their androgens levels, which will often normalize their metabolism and shut down their ovaries to prevent further scarring of the ovarian surface. Elevated androgens aren’t just a fertility problem, they lead to a greatly increased risk of heart disease, metabolic disorder, and early death. Many girls and women also find that they are misdiagnosed with bi-polar or other psychiatric disorders, which may go away when the excess androgens are dealt with. Women who had a terrible experience with one pill may do well on another one since the progestins are very different and the ratios of estrogen to progestin are different.

    Essentially, it’s very helpful for the female body to think it’s a little pregnant. However, I don’t deny the issue of the excretion of the hormones into the water system and thereby into wildlife areas. However, you need to keep in mind this versus the damage of more humans on the planet. Also, pregnant women pee out a lot more hormones than women on the pill, for the simple reason that a pregnant woman is a hugely productive hormone factory. One example is estradiol, which normally peaks about 300-600 picograms per ML in a monthly cycle, but will be in the range of 10,000-50,000 pg/ml in the final trimester.
    Also, condoms are not manufactured without environmental cost, but they certainly are important for disease prevention.

    I often hear women say that they don’t want to manipulate their hormones, but we are already manipulated. When studies find hormone disruptors such as PCB’s and DDT(in DDE form) in samples of amniotic fluid, not to mention the public water systems, and just about everything we are exposed to, your hormones are already not in any natural state. Sadly, because so many pollutants are estrogenic, estrogen gets a bad rap. 17 beta estradiol, made by human ovaries, has been shown to discourage metastases of breast cancer, and may play a part in breast cell protection. In contrast, progesterone may encourage metastases-not that this research is getting any press here in the US. Natural is probably getting pregnant every three years or so for the balance of your reproductive life, yet most of us choose to not do this. We manage our reproduction, and we need to manage our hormones in the way that each woman feels most comfortable, in response to the challenges in our environment.

  6. Excellent conversation going on here — thanks, E, for expanding awareness, and thanks to all of you posters for your insights.

    From my point of view, life is sexual. Biology is sexual. Matter is sexual. Every relationship, even the one with the dog or the toaster, is sexual. It’s energy that is always present and always vibrating. To not notice it takes a LOT of conditioning, which is probably why the church is so hysterical to make it B.A.D. If we can’t touch ourselves, then somebody else has to come along to do it for us and there are rules for that. This has traditionally been the Someday My Prince/ss Will Come mythology, promoting the kind of co-dependency we’re talking about here. If we can’t touch ourselves, we’re denied self-exploration and directed away from our personal power. Any rules around personal sexuality are BS, of course, and limit the experience of our authentic self but they’re the first thing we learn. Then we argue for our limitations, and they’re ours. Sucks, doesn’t it, that we spend our whole lives untangling what we learn in our first few years?

    I think we focus on celebrities to vicariously live our fantasies through their lives. We think we have no power but they get to live theirs out via glamour every day; we can’t imagine them alone on a Friday night. When it goes wrong for them, we begin to bubble up our own issues — impose our conditioning and expose our condition. The mirror they present is safer, I suppose, than living out our own fantasies and stumbling on them. So we follow the Stars to see how good they’ve got it or how bad, taking some pleasure in one or the other depending on our wounds and expectations. And like Cartman said, last night — with the controversy over, golf’s boring to watch.

    One of my ex’s and I used to play a traveling game: is that [whatever we focused on, whatever person or place came into sight] sensual or sexual? Different aspects of the same organic energy, but different. It’s a way fun game because it links our intellect with our sexual center to ‘palpate’ the subject. It quickly become apparent that the way we sip our coffee or play with the kids or choose a brand of dish soap or interact with co-workers: all sexual or sensual or both — neither predatory nor calculated nor even particularly conscious, but a vibratory imperative akin to breathing. If we could just get that, this wouldn’t be such a loaded topic or so tricky a maze to wander. We think of sex as something we do, not something we are.

    As for pregnancy — my parts, my responsibility. That wasn’t how I thought of it early in my life but that’s how it always turned out and the empowerment, for me, is in accepting the truth of those life experiments. I read recently that they’ve improved the women’s condom and are still working on that to make it more acceptable. Perhaps as patriarchy continues to lose its vice-like grip, we’ll insist someone pay as much attention to this problem as we do to flavors of Pringles or who is suing Lady Ga-Ga.

  7. Just wanted to thank you for another wonderful article on female sexuality. I don’t know any women personally who are sexually free. There’s just so many issues wrapped up tightly in this subject. I think it takes a long time to unravel it all. Your articles are really pushing me to open up more in this area, thank you!

  8. okay —
    that article on the pipefish from carol is fascinating (and very short — check it out). i’m a little curious about how they use the word “affection.” are we thinking it’s an emotional attachment similar to what humans feel & attribute to, say, dogs? or is this a genetic survival-influenced instinct?

    on a related note, the other day i saw a short bit in smithsonian magazine from dec 2009 about alligators. they do not mate for life. but apparently even though they may mate with a number of other gators in a given season, they often return to certain mates season after season.

    maybe we’re not so different after all…

    — amanda

  9. “In my body and emotions and imagination these are, as ideas, emotional experiences that are as sexual as any other and are part of the territory of pleasure as well as responsibility and consciousness. There are times I see or meet a woman and I think, this is somebody I would love to impregnate — the experience is visceral, and it is HOT and I love the feeling.”
    I totally agree with this. As a woman, I remember having felt this same thing very strongly some times. As you say, it is visceral and hot and a wonderful feeling, like connecting with the whole earth and the totality of its inhabitants since the beginning of time. I think it must be in our genes in some way. I had never had a man’s point of view on this… thanks!
    But I don’t have children. I don’t know if women (and men) who actually do get pregnant feel like this when they get.
    Wow, what an interesting subject!

  10. It’s pretty funny that I left out pregnancy – downright Freudian – since as any female I’ve ever been with can tell you I’m obsessed with preventing pregnancy and entirely turned off by women who are reckless about it. Now you know my Room 101: pregnancy with the wrong woman; with a woman with whom don’t share an authentic creative bond, and love, and key values and the desire to spend a LOT of time with.

    I see people flirting with this all the time in a way that makes my head spin three directions at once. [There is at least one woman in the audience with whom I have a strong affinity on this issue with and I will ask her to add her thoughts if she’s willing. She’s working today so it might not be till later.]

    I have as much to say about ST!s, which I touch on briefly above and which need a thorough airing out in this space and anywhere sex might happen. We need a long conversation about HPV, which is the least preventable and one of the potentially most problematic STIs.

    I think that pregnancy is partly a matter of integrity (that is to say, choice), as best one can take steps to be careful about it, though my omission may reveal that I am not coming from the heteronormative place of “heterosexual intercourse is the only sex.” I have such a wide and diverse concept of what sex is that this one thing that can create pregnancy is just one of many potentially fun activities. If men and women work together on this subject I think we’re a lot better off. Most pregnancy does indeed happen as a result of the condoms in the drawer; the ones that were used “all the time” and skipped that one time. I have a potential bias in that to my knowledge, and I think would find out, I’ve never had a pregnancy — but I was trained early by my mom and I have never, ever been careless about this issue; I have approached the matter with the same care that a woman highly cautious about her own body would take.

    And I think we need to educate boys about this from as early as they understand the concepts, while we’re busy educating girls.

    The paradox of pregnancy is how hard it is for a woman to get pregnant while at the same time how easy it is for her to get pregnant.

    We all need to make friends with the biological impulse to impregnate/get pregnant and raise that to full awareness. In my body and emotions and imagination these are, as ideas, emotional experiences that are as sexual as any other and are part of the territory of pleasure as well as responsibility and consciousness. There are times I see or meet a woman and I think, this is somebody I would love to impregnate — the experience is visceral, and it is HOT and I love the feeling.

    In other articles I’ve called for moms to give their teenage daughters copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves and a vibrator, so that they have information, a measure of autonomy and an available alternative to a fertile penis. I think, and have experienced, that same-sex exploration is ot only normal but an essential element in figuring out who one is.

    I think that if you make a quotient out of risks on the one hand and intimacy/pleasure on the other, sharing masturbation gets the best result of any form of sex.

    I believe that pregnancy is mostly preventable. However, I am someone for whom having a pregnancy with the wrong woman — someone I’m not willing to take a lifelong journey with — is my worst fear, and I engage in potentially pregnancy creating sex (fucking) with relatively few women at this time in my life — and her values, in the moment, toward care about pregnancy are one of the things I’m the most sensitive to as a turn on/off.

    If I’m going to have sexual intercourse with a woman, the issue has to be on the table al the time. As someone who has written for many years about hormone pollution, I have no faith in hormone birth control as being safe and it’s not as effective as everyone thinks; it has to be one of two methods used, which obviates the point for most women (who don’t think about or who are not hip to other potential problems).

    But yes, pregnancy is lurking in the background and I think that it lurks mostly as a tropism; a magnet in the dna, calling us all there. I am, however, with Wilhelm Reich on this topic: fertility is the result of the creative experience of sex. It’s not that we do this baby-making thing and then have fun; it’s that we do this thing that gets our creativity going on all levels and one of those levels is the potential for pregnancy.

  11. Can’t thank you enough dear Eric. Your articles on sex are always a source of inspiration and great support – often very challenging too. I totally agree with you about masturbation. Took up this wonderful past time rather late in life – but still have feelings of guilt around it – and about sex in general I should say. And you’re so right when you say that women are cruel to other women around sexual issues. I myself am guilty of this – have been very judgemental of a dear friend of mine who is on a journey of sexual exploration and discovery, through tantra courses and relationships with men. You and she help me to look at where I’m closed in this area. Thank you.
    Liz xx

  12. this is my first time responding, I really enjoy reading your thoughts on sex, relationships and it’s complexities. Though it really should be a “no brainer” right, sex & relationships. We are conditioned to accept so many limitations and beliefs and then as we do our growing up, we become who we think we are. Then throw in the mix of our expectations and you have a nuclear mess. I haven’t had sex with my husband in many years, though not by choice. I would totally enjoy having my clit and tits fondled and adored every nite if I could. As long as I choose to stay married to this man, I have sex with myself. And it’s very good like chocolate cake but no whipped cream and I do love whipped cream…..

  13. baycyn —
    glad to see you chiming in! it was looking a bit like “boys’ night in” here in the comments tonight. 🙂

    yes, the desire for/fear of pregnancy makes things even more complex, i think especially these days when having children is much less of a given than it was decades ago, yet the pressure is still there to do so. it’s just mixed in with the pressure to have a career. i’m in my mid-30s, and it’s been interesting to me to see distinct waves of peers having children: one sector got right to it straight out of high school; one sector started in earnest about 5 – 6 years ago; yet another bunch seem to be getting to it in the last year or two. and then there’s the last bunch who either know they don’t want to have children, can’t seem to make up their minds, or just haven’t found the right partner yet.

    between the biological clock and the inherited guilt/social conditioning matrix, there’s a lot to wade through to get to that sense of authentic self. or is the biological clock a part of authentic sexual self we’ve managed as a society to divorce and alienate as “other” in our efforts to wrest back female autonomy from the clutches of religious dogma?

    i think i’ve just confused myself.

    in any case…
    half, my dear, i’m going to see eric’s 3/4 and raise it. upgrade yourself to at least five-eighths! it took me a minute to let the meaning of your comma shift sink in, but once i got it, i loved it. right on.

    and len, don’t you go playing scarecrow! we all know you have a brain and we know that you use it.

    also, while celebrity sex obsession and porn may be opposites, i have a sense they experience a conflation of sorts. how much do you want to bet most of us secretly assume famous, rich people all have better sex and bigger penises and breasts? everything about them is larger than life. porn is more limited in scope, but still larger than life. both seem to magnify what we lack, or fear we lack. perhaps the personalities attached to celebrity give us just enough to identify with that we don’t feel the discrepancy as sharply.

    or do i miss your point, eric? (i’m a little sleepy.) i guess i’m beginning to think celebrity projection and porn are two sides of the same coin, both reflecting back lack, whether it’s consciously understood as such by those experiencing it or not. and that would seem to leave a double emptiness for a lot of people. no wonder “awareness” is not just scary for many people, but completely unheard of. how many people caught in that double-bind existence are going to feel comfortable (let alone compelled) to face the unsettling fear that they may not be whole in order to enter the process of discovering that in fact they are?

    heck, i wouldn’t claim to be through the woods there myself yet.


  14. baycyn – yes! very important not to forget the (possible) consequences of sex and the inhibition or motivation those consequences add to the mix. Thank you.

  15. Am really enjoying this entry, Eric. Lots of food for thought here.

    One thing I don’t see mentioned that can be a big element in a woman’s feelings around sex is pregnancy — the desire for it, the fear of it, etc. And that leads to another element: birth control.

    As a 9 and 10 year old, I saw what happened to my brother & his girlfriend and to my sister & her boyfriend when the women became pregnant as unmarried people in the very early 1970’s. How they seemed to have no choice about the next step in their lives — marriage at 20 and a new baby.

    It’s only lately that I’ve started to understand how profound an influence these events have had on me and my attitude toward sex, relationships, and toward birth control. I orient mostly as a hetero woman, so it’s an “issue” for me.

    My sexual and relational freedom depends on honesty and authenticity. My challenges here don’t seem so momentous when I get down to the nitty gritty, though I still can get lost in the resistance. So thanks for continuing to publish really thought-provoking and healing writing (including the comments).

  16. You bring up an interesting point, Len & Witte, which is sex as a media and celebrity based phenomenon in the form of this kind of gossip. This would be an interesting history to track. In part it’s the history of photography and cinema. This became the mirror…a new kind of mirror. It’s so weird that we project all this relational stuff onto celebs. I go to the supermarket and I am dumbfounded at what is at the checkout aisle.

    Then out of this kaleidoscope we have pornography flourishing into an erotic paracosm, particularly since the VHS tape and then the Internet. Before then it was an exotic kind of hobby that you could only indulge so much. Then suddenly it was ubiquitous. This became the mirror. I think it’s really interesting to hear from people about how their expectations of sex and those of their partners are shaped by what they see in porn. It’s amazing how many young people get their sex education from porn, which is totally impersonal — the opposite of celeb projection.


    When I was like 13-16, I read EVERYthing I could find about sex. My mom had some good stuff around: The Joy of Sex, the Hite Report and others. At my dad’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I had access to Playboy and Channel N on Manhattan Cable (this was in the very first years of cable TV, it was something special in the 70s). One of my breakthrough moments is the cunnilingus scene in the film Coming Home (Jane Fonda / John Voight). I had read through both of the aforementioned books, one of which is illustrated and the other of which is vurrrry woman pleasure centered but when I saw that scene and Jane Fonda letting go into the experience my mind was made up: I had witnessed erotic heaven. The feeling I had was understanding; perhaps my first glimpse of compersion.

    But this is an incredibly humane scene. It’s so friendly and authentic and gently explicit. Contrast with someone whose first visual contact with sex is from a badly done DVD where nobody is really having fun and it’s all about taking.

    I am not objecting to porn here by the way — only to the quality of the stuff. Give me the same actors and resources and I would give you something yummy and liberating.

    But I think that an actual mirror is a more effective erotic tool…than any external imagery.

  17. “As you describe, Len, it is easier to talk about other people than to speak from one’s own personal experience.” Quite.

    I think there is something about celebrity in Len’s point too. Before the advent of Hollywood and mass media shrinking our world you struggle to conceive of how folk thought about other people having sex.

    You had your own sex and knew that others had it too but you didn’t have Sky Movies beaming somebody else’s choreographed moves onto your TV screen. We are exposed to constructs of other people’s sex and we are curious; but we don’t know if these set the definitive standard – or then maybe the porn studs do? Or is it me?

    It is great that people feel they can ask questions in any way, but the models inculcated are often voyeuristic; in a less-than-helpful sense – laden with media bias.

    I’ve always loved South Park for breaking the ‘rules’. If only we found that easier ourselves.

  18. Did anyone see South Park last night (new episode)?

    It covered the issue of sex addiction, starting with Tiger Woods. As the plot develops, Kenny, Butters and Kyle are diagnosed as sex addicts even though they don’t really understand sex. A national mania breaks out. Finally the “sex addiction epidemic” is blamed by Obama on a space alien who lives in Liberty Hall in Philadelphia.

    There is rage, there is injury, and there is a cultural mindset that, for the umpteenth decade minus a few years here and there, pathologizes sexual feelings and experiences of nearly any variety. As you describe, Len, it is easier to talk about other people than to speak from one’s own personal experience. I recognize the fear associated with being open and speaking up. Right away we become subject to one another’s projections.

  19. Eric,
    Thank you for devoting the time and the energy to keep this vital issue open. To echo Half (i think) thank you as well for setting a great example of how to craft a focused, coherent and understandable blog.

    The conflation (confluence?) thing and where to put the comma are bit over my head so won’t go there. My SAT verbal score was less than my shoe size.

    So, my offering will be an observation. At my job i have a cubicle among other cubicles. People talk. Usually they talk about something they saw on a dot com news site during break or lunch. It’s almost always about famous people and their sex lives. Earthquake, tidal waves, war, epidemics, legislation, economics, – never a peep. But Sandra Bullock and her husband seperating because maybe he fooled around sparked an animated conversation today that lasted for half an hour. Did not participate myself, did not see any point plus i was trying to decipher a configuration report from one of our machines. Two things were clear however. (1) The subject of sex gets attention and (2) there is a lot of pain and anger connected with it.

  20. I think the framing presented here is useful in giving focus to the issues at stake. I want to elaborate somewhat if I may:

    “I don’t conflate sex with morality. Being natural, sex is inherently moral.”

    I wish to change the quote in order to illustrate an easily missed point:

    “I don’t conflate sex with morality. Being natural sex, is inherently moral.”

    I would encourage folk to reflect a while upon the difference. At first, the second configuration feels unnatural and even incorrect. You resist that construct because it does not seem to fit or sit right..

    …. Okay

    Of course, biologically-driven sex is a natural and intrinsically healthy manifestation. Yet we all know how ‘unnatural’ sex has become in practice (I lose count of the number of married men I’ve known who sleep downstairs on the sofa – If you’re in different rooms it’s harder to have sex, I kid you not!). Sex is mediated through layers of detritus – cue Eric Francis, Planet Waves.. etc

    You may think that shifting the comma above has effected the redress to the structure of the naturalness of sex – making ‘natural’ adjectival as opposed to conjoining it to a separate noun. Well yes, “natural sex” is, no doubt, an important qualifier on just “sex” – for obvious reasons.

    However, the sense of being is also changed. And this perhaps even more significant..

    “Being natural, sex..” making sex a property of naturalness alone ends up limiting..

    “Being natural sex..” I realised quickly that the property of natural sex is a property of beingness. So, it is quite right and proper to state “I am natural sex”: That sex finds its quintessential expression in/through my beingness – its true dramatis.

    Sometimes we get hung up on language and substitute it for the greater reality we are driving at. But sometimes the meaning can be different (more authentic even) when we notice where to place the emphasis, rather than how we arrange the words.

    Are you natural sex? Working our discomfort, seemingly imperceptibly at times, is often integral to structural transformation. Let’s get moved in spirit..

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