Saturday, September 27, 2014

SEX EDUCATION IS NOT JUST ABOUT FUCKING


EFFECTIVE sex education is not about actual fucking.  The people who provide our present kind of sex ed say they are concerned about health issues, which may or may not include pregnancy or HIV.  The parents just want to know whether their children are physically normal.  (Some still can’t decide whether they themselves are normal.)  The kids want the fabled orgasm, but more than that, they want emotional fusion: intimacy, bonding, attachment, safety -- what they had when they were babies.  They want to know how to be wanted.  So what do we give them?  Graphs, statistics, -- all that stuff that lets us handle hot topics in a cold way.


Sex and “love” are a Venn diagram in which the emotional components of “love” overlap but do not include all the physical functions of sex.  Still, I side with the kids.  The actual act of coitus is largely reflex and instinct if you are talking about physical matters.  “How to do it” varies according to whether you are a missionary or not and willingness to experiment, as well as style and temperament (which is physical) but the emotional and spiritual side of it can be almost destroyed by overbearing moral considerations.  Who cares what God and the angels think about it?  What are they, voyeurs?  What matters is in the two (not necessarily two but usually) people involved before, after and during the act.


Too many people, including but not limited to kids, are tugged in the opposite direction from emotional safety and fusion -- towards danger and exploration.  The trouble is that they may get into the sexual realm beyond their capacity to keep their emotional balance esp when the chemical/physical distortions of drugs are involved.  The education that is needed is how to manage intimate relations: how to read the other person and stay open while maintaining one’s own guard, the limits of your self-respect, how to signal, how to maintain awareness during an act that can close awareness to a pinhole . . . which means that trouble is almost inevitable, which means that the skills of recovery after hurt need to be learned.  Pain is not so bad, but suicide IS and strong sexual emotions can pull towards death or serious trauma.  Many of the young male suicides I’ve known about have been over "love" rather than sex.  For girls, physical pregnancy is added to the equation.


One of the main reasons I’ve never been a “hook-up” person is that I can NOT handle the emotional intelligence it takes to keep from hurting myself and others.  I do not know how to keep from attaching nor am I any good at letting go.  I mistake predation for need, narcissism for focus, and rage for strength.  I cannot keep from becoming engaged with someone who has access to my body.  I can’t shut off everything that goes with a sensory connection.  So if there WERE really good sex education, I’d sign up. 

One of my ways of coping has been to avoid pregnancy in order to avoid parenting.  This is not really coping -- just evading.

Howard Stern

Even on a physical level, much sex education does not tell the truth -- “level with us”, as it were.  Until Howard Stern’s rude contest for the man with the smallest dick, the problem of the microdick wasn’t known at all. (Technically, a little over 2”, erect, when 5” is normal.  .6% incidence in the population -- usually a code glitch obvious at birth.) Stern himself had thought it was a joke reversal of the obsession over penis size and was rocked by seeing those tiny penises -- also rocked again by the quality of the men who accepted themselves and willingly allowed themselves to be measured.  Most were married and some had children.  (Nothing wrong with their testes.)  Not until “A Thousand Wicked Thoughts” did we know there was a category of turn-on that was a female with a penis, which is not just a cartoon but a person, though usually addressed by surgery.  More code glitch. I didn’t know about intersex babies until my chaplaincy in a big regional hospital.  In ten weeks there were two cases of babies with ambiguous genders that the ethics board had to address in terms of what to do.  We are all being educated by the trans and queer people, who are no longer secret.

Making babies is as complex as rocket science, but failures don’t fall into the sea.  Fifty per cent (estimated) of fertilized ova don’t “catch” by implanting in the uterus lining or fail in some other way along the nine-month period of gestation.  Some are close enough to the goal to live, but with shortcomings or unwelcome additions.  (My cousins have the gene for too many fingers and toes.)  Some twins fail to separate but live.  (“Siamese” twins.)  Some of them marry and have children.

The substrate of our bodies, the neurological parts that get “hooked” into paraphilias, are very small structures that have whole-body emotional consequences.  Sexual attachments and preferences are a language, a hunger, a movement, an identity -- flexible, adaptive, persistent, easily conditioned.  Otherwise the species would have disappeared a long time ago.

On the other hand, a body that is exhausted, abused, starving, diseased, drugged, or in terror cannot respond beyond built-in reflexes.  There cannot be subtlety, elegance, creative connections other than what is mindless.  In a healthy person, sex can be a source of many good things that we don’t even recognize as sex: art, friendship, political charisma, growth towards a goal.  That’s so obvious it’s almost claptrap clich√©.

The alternative press (people like Dan Savage or Eugene S. Robinson) is now supplying advice for people who are outside conventions, experimenting and curious.  I see that they sound much like any good counselor: “take it slow,” “don’t exceed your own limits,” “dump the crazy fantasies” and so on.  This is great and available online, but I think the need still exceeds the supply.  

Part of the trouble is that we confuse “love” (whatever that is) with sex, a physical act that is connected to a zillion attachments, repulsions, transactions.  We say that “love” justifies any kind of sex, but does anyone ever say “I love you” to a sheep?  Too bad it’s not possible to make love to chocolate, although you can involve it in sex.

Strangely, the graphics for this subject are better on the business sites.

Sex is a lever that can be used for good or ill.  Sex education should include wariness about that, but the “good” side is often neglected.  Sex can heal wounds, bond people together, comfort pain, erase worry, build for the future.  It can lead both into and out of friendship, which might be considered close relationship built on common interests, not necessarily agreement.  Adolescents who are savvy about all this, and capable of managing contraception and disease-prevention, might be free to have sex -- even entitled to it.


Neither good sex nor “love” can be achieved by living the other person’s life.  One must be SOMEBODY before any transaction between parties can occur.  Masturbation is classified as sex, but I wonder if that’s really what it is.  Seems like physical sex should always be about relationship.  But just as arguably, fantasy entities are treated by the brain as though they are reality, so the body reacts as though someone else were present.

Good sex cannot be forced (nor can “love”) but it can be called out, particularly if the party being called has the ability to hear and interpret other people accurately.  I have no idea where the ideas that sex must be forced or that “love” must be impossible and unlikely, ever got their start except that they are obviously self-serving.  Good sex education will keep both “love” and sex from being for sale, esp. not cheap.  Better to buy a ticket to effective sex/love education.

It's all so theatrical.


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