The hijacking of Sex

Posted on July 26, 2012


I recently finished reading “the happy hooker” by Xaviera Hollander. While it would be a stretch to say that it was a good book, it was definitely interesting and got me thinking about sexuality.

It occurred to me in particular that public ideas on sex are heavily skewed towards the views of a few small segments of the population who have loud voices. I say “public ideas”, but I struggle to quite pin down the notion I have in mind – it’s the sea of sexual memes, the ideas that float around the public consciousness and mass media, the things people are expected to think, the “in” ideas… it’s going to have to stay nebulous but you get my drift.

We get strange and contradictory directions on sex. Well obviously I’m not the first to think of this, others have talked about the Madonna/whore and knight/beast dichotomy we are presented with, as well as strange and warped religious dogmas on sexuality.

The places that create our sexual culture are also pretty warped. Take Hollywood. The USA in general is weird with sex, being simultaneously the home of the worlds biggest porn industry and of evangelical Christianity. So predictably Hollywood struggles to present healthy sexuality. Portrayals of sex in movies vary between the cliche, the Puritan, the slutty, and more without ever passing through anything that resembles a real person’s emotional or sexual life. But Hollywood isn’t what I want to talk about, its a bit more general.

See most things that are said about sex are said by people who have a *thing* they want to say. They have an Opinion, with an big O (appropriately). On top of that, the ones who are heard are those who get through media to do so. This narrows the demographic to quite a specific group of media savvy sex talking people. Who bring the opinions and prejudices of a specific social group, furthermore one which internally reinforces its own ideas.

There are of course the traditionalists – the tired abrahamic religious set who seem to insist we all forget we have genitals for some nebulous reason. These do piss me off, but since they also piss me off for all sorts of other reasons they’ll get their own article sometime.

The arts and media set are a bit different, and ironically less under the spotlight for their behaviour. These form an (admittedly sex-happy) caste who like to interview each other about their sex lives, who also want to tell others. Already anyone not inclined to discuss sex lives on air is going to be excluded – so pretty much most people, really. And so the opinions of a small group get broadcast as a normative message. You only have to look views on sex in magazines – and not just the usual culprits (Cosmo, Mens Health et al). Without going into details about exactly *what* they say, I find the ideas within clearly share the same DNA. A given meme-set has hijacked the whole discussion.

I find it quite tiresome in fact, being pelted from all sides with repetitions of the same old memes, each claiming to be something new and naughty. Take writing about sex for instance. It seems there is a secret board of editors who ensure that every  thing written about sex follows a well trodden pattern for writing about “naughty” things. It has this… ah, it’s hard to explain in a few words what is in my mind a structure, a set of linguistic patterns, an impression of a certain kind of voice and tone in which the article is written.

Point is, I am tired and bored of it. No one says anything new, anything different. There is no real information contained in this endless public broadcast on sex, nothing really radical. It seems to me more like an attempt by the notoriously neurotic media caste to seek confirmation and reassurance about their own lifestyles.

And it’s not without consequence either. For instance, I think many people have been properly fucked-over by the disastrous mess that is the public idea on virginity. On the one hand, you’re supposed to lose it only to the one you love, possibly only after marriage. On the other hand you’re supposed to lose it around the age of 12 or something. What’s for certain however, is that if you haven’t lost it by the time you’re 18 you’re a loser and probably a pale computer nerd who can’t talk to girls. Of course if you have lost it by the time you’re 18 then you’re probably a slut.

More seriously, there is a damaging pressure on people, one which makes people take terrible decisions in order to fit into this public idea – one which, as I have said, is not much more than the bland bleating of a mass media machine that doesn’t actually have any relation to anyone’s healthy sex life.

Sadly there’s not too much to do about this – the mass media will, as a logical consequence, only ever be a stage for the kind of person who has the desire, drive, and ability to get themselves talking about sex on air (or in magazines, you get the idea). The internet can give people some options – places where people can write and read about their experiences and feelings, places where I imagine a lot of people have the reactions “omg I thought I was the only one!”. Of course to find a forum to your liking means navigating the abyss of porn and misinformation that is the rest of the internet.

And finally, if you read this far, the simplest maxim you can go by is, if it feels right, everyone consents, and no one gets hurt  it’s probably fine! And that goes for not having sexual activity too. And Jesus doesn’t count as “someone who is negatively affected by your sexual activity”. He can go fuck himself (in fact, i’m sure he did!)

Posted in: Musings