This is not one of those posts.
Instead, I want to cut right down to the heart of good old-fashioned sex. You know, knocking boots. Bumping uglies. Making, as Will Shakespeare said, the beast with two backs. Screwing. Banging. Humping. Fucking.
When it comes right down to good old-fashioned fucking people are, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked up.
A man noted for his nontrivial intellect and, occasionally, nontrivial cynicism on another mailing list I read recently said that, when it comes down to brass tacks, the real reason there is such unified and consistent objection in American society to legalized prostitution has less to do with moral concerns, or concerns about public health, so much as the unspoken truth that prostitution screws up the economics of sex.
People, particularly women, in American society are presented with cultural ideas that tell them there is an economic exchange in sex. Women give men sex, and men pay for that sex by giving women love and romance. It's a tidy, neatly-packaged arrangement; the men get laid, which is what they want, and women get love, which is what they want. Each side has to give up something to get what they want, but hey, that's what any economic exchange is all about.
Prostitution, he says, throws a monkeywrench into this convenient arrangement. If men can exchange currency for sex, then they no longer have to pay for sex with love and romance and fidelity. This is deeply threatening and offensive to women; if men can pay for sex with money, then women can not use sex to get love and attention, so how can they get what they want?
There is a certain amount of truth in the notion that women in American society often see sex as a way to get the love and romance they want. Romantic relationships are often defined by and predicated on sex; a partner isn't really a partner until you fuck. And having fucked, now there are certain expectations associated with that fucking. Men are the pursuers of sex; women are the gatekeepers of sex; when the woman decides to provide the sex, she gets things in return, such as fidelity and devotion.
Don't say you don't know what I'm talking about. You may not do this, but I bet you know someone who does.
So the woman puts out, and in return she exacts a price in emotional support, in love and exclusivity. And, frankly, if you see the world in this way, everyone loses. It's an attitude about sex that is predicated on false assumptions and poor understanding of human beings, and it tends to make those people who internalize this foolishness get twisted up in a number of ways.
Sex is often seen in a light different from any other human activity. I don't know any reasonable person who would say "My partner let someone else cook for him; he must not love me any more!" or "My partner likes another person's cooking; why am I not good enough for him?" Any person saying something like this would likely be recommended for counseling; yet if we're talking about sex, people nod sagely and say "HAh, yes, the bastard, clearly he does not love you, for he is getting his sex elsewhere. Best to dump him."
And you see the damage it causes all the time. People place their value and their worth as human beings on the fact that their partner is not having sex with anyone else. People's self-esteem and sense of dignity gets all wrapped up in sex. Should their partner look at another woman, there can be only one explanation--it's because they are not valued, not "good enough," and their partner is seeking to replace them with someone "better"--whatever "better" means.
It's fucked up.
Even the attitudes people have about porn rest, I think, on the notion that sex is what you pay for love. If some guy can go and get sexual gratification without paying for it at all (isn't the Internet great?), then what need does he have to spend love to get his rocks off? If some guy is in a relationship, and he watches porn, then the woman better feel threatened, because now he may withdraw his love from her. He doesn't need to get the sex from her any more, so why should he pay her in love, right?
This attitude is insulting to both men and women. It's insulting to men because it starts with the premise that men don't want love and romance and intimacy; they have to be tricked or cajoled into giving it, with the promise of sex. It's insulting to women because it debases their position to that of a common merchant, a person who sells sex to get what she needs--and there's not even any money in it for her, at least not directly. And the price it exacts in self-esteem and self-confidence is devastating.
And buried in there somewhere is an inconvenient truth, one who divide the world into the pursuers and the gatekeepers of sex, don't like to acknowledge...Women like sex, and men like intimacy.
There is no need to buy one with the other. There is no need to exchange sex for intimacy; and in fact, the two have nothing to do with each other. Women and men like sex; women and men like intimacy; the one need not be predicated on the other. And certainly one's self-image need not rest on the foundation of sexual exclusivity--a slippery and uncertain foundation indeed. When anyone places their self-esteem on external factors, especially factors controlled by another person, then that self-esteem will always be precarious and uncertain.
On another forum, a message I read described how absolutely devastated a person was when she discovered her boyfriend wasn't a virgin. It reduced her to tears; because if she is not her boyfriend's only sexual partner, then what makes her special? How can she ever hope to feel special?
I can't really quite apprehend how it is that the idea of specialness got so wrapped up in sexual exclusivity, but I don't think it's healthy. Predicating one's ego on the sexual past or sexual activity of another person seems harmful and destructive to me.
And it keeps getting worse. Not only is sex the vehicle for getting love and value, but love and value flow only from one specific type of sex. Any other sex is perverse, coarse, crude; sex in this position shows love, sex in that position does not. Ergo, if he loves me, he will have sex with me in this position; but if he wants to have sex with me in that position, it means...disaster. He doesn't value me; he doesn't care about me; I am worth less as a person.
Now, my tastes may be unconventional, but I am quite capable of calling my partner a dirty, filthy whore in the midst of sodomizing her, and still being in love with her. Love, you see, is not a question of what position one's body is in at the moment of coitus, or which part of my partner's body my cock is in. Love is greater than that. You see...
...and at this point I will ask all those peculiar species of feminists who believe that there is only one 'right' way that women 'should' be to leave the room...
...I have lovers who like being called a filthy whore while they are being sodomized.
I do it because it gets me off, and it gets my partner off. A nasty little fact of life, this: not all women have the same tastes. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable; and sex is most enjoyable when it presses the buttons of all of the people involved.
And here's another dirty little secret:
Sex and love are not the same thing. If I love someone, then I still love her even if she's on her hands and knees and I'm yanking her hair and calling her my dirty little slut. If I don't love someone, then no amount of candles and rose petals scattered across the bed will make me love her. All sex done when i love someone is an expression of love. Even the raunchy, dirty, hair-pulling, name-calling sex. Love does not depend on the words you say during sex; love is not counted in terms of candles and rose petals. If you have love in your heart, it is there regardless of what you're doing while you fuck. If you do not have love in your heart, the rose petals and candles won't put it there.
If you want to draw a distinction between "fucking" and "making love," fine. The distinction is in what's in your heart, not what position you're in on the bed, or on the floor, or in the back of the closet with your wrists bound to the bar and your face pressed into the winter jackets. The distinction is in your heart. If you and your partner love each other, then you're making love no matter what you're doing.
Predicating your sense of self-worth on the number of candles around the bed or the number of seconds your lover spends gazing soulfully into your eyes is stupid, destructive, and insulting. Your partner loves you or he doesn't. If he loves you, the number of partners he's had and the positions in which he likes to do the deed don't change that. If he doesn't, you're not going to buy his love with sex.
Get over it. You'll be a happier person, I promise.