I’m sorry but if you were having sex with someone 30 minutes after meeting them online, we’re already starting with a pretty bad view of sex and sexual relationships. You draw a caricature of the traditionalist position (which, to be fair, some fundamentalist Christians do hold) but ultimately the only way out of the libertine-bureaucracy dichotomy is to acknowledge social relation and role (traditionally marriage within a larger family structure) create the place for sexual intimacy and safety. Social roles confer certain duties and responsibilities to another person and society, which is the only way to healthily contextualize the messiness of sex.
I’m not so sure – same-sex marriage is a very recent thing. The legal/cultural setting for gay relationships has changed so much, so fast over the last 50 years, that how could these ‘social relations and roles’ – for gay people – have developed into anything stable so quickly? Unless you think that they now, given the chance, should naturally fall into the pattern that most heterosexual people do.
Maybe the ideal you state is applicable for most people, but not necessarily for everyone, especially the ‘queer community’. One size may not fit all. (Here, if you’re old enough, you could think of Quentin Crisp).
I’m not sure I follow your argument. You’re saying legal/cultural status for gay relationships has changed over the last 50 years…so that disproves my argument that sex needs to be contextualized within a stable and socially recognized relationship? Why does the change in attitudes towards gay relationships matter to what I said?
You wrote: “I’m sorry but if you were having sex with someone 30 minutes after meeting them online, we’re already starting with a pretty bad view of sex and sexual relationships. ”
And I thought that because the author was talking about gay sex, you were making a few assumptions in expecting that his norms about sexual relationships should be the same as the heterosexual community and were … ‘pretty bad’.
I can remember when homosexual acts were illegal, so gay people haven’t had much time to work out what kind of sexual relationships they feel comfortable with from the options now available. They didn’t grow up seeing your ideal modeled in a way that was possible for them, so experimentation is to be expected, and I don’t feel a need to label it ‘bad’ just yet.
Also, doesn’t it seem possible to you that for those 4% of the population whose sexual orientation isn’t mainstream, some different sort of relationships from the mainstream might be more suitable?
Perhaps Chu, a ‘transgender woman’, has changed his ‘gender’ in order to indulge his sexual fantasies of debasement and humiliation, which everyone knows you have to be a woman to experience.
Less a truth about women than one about the all too common pecadillos of ladies like Chu.
In the meantime, a great many people, straight or gay, most likely have a helping of ‘vanilla’ once a week, with the person they are married to or in a relationship with, and are perfectly happy with it.
Vanilla is the most popular flavour. Ask any ice cream vendor.
Don’t forget the strawberries, chocolate syrup, and bananas. There goes the metaphor.
“Indeed, enjoying sex seems to involve a certain suspension of our usual relationship to ourselves, one in which we are overtaken not so much by the other person as by sex itself.”
Indeed; good point; and one that the consent puritans miss.
The wider point is that consent only becomes necessary in a context where people have sex with each other way too soon.
But liberals view casual, drunk, sex as a human right. You’re not allowed to say that its cheap, exploitative and dumb behaviour.
Instead, we must maintain the fiction that wanting to shag someone the same night you meet them is decent and acceptable behaviour. It can be, but it generally isn’t.
If you really are interested in someone, you don’t even want to have sex with them too soon anyway. If you want to bag someone right away, it’s always because you’re planning to dump them shortly afterwards, if you’re being honest about it. Apart from the shag, you have no other plans for them, so why wait?
But if you wait, and *get to know the person first*, over, say, a few months, you will then be so attuned to them that both of you will just know and be able to read each other very well, without needing all this absurd, autistic contract-theory approach.
We used to call this “courtship”, and “dating”, and we need more of it, instead of the “get drunk, hang out and bang” tawdriness of today. As the author notes, the 20 questions approach to consent is embarrassing and un-erotic.
If we started treating other people as people again, instead of treating them as w**k-aids, then none of this autistic consent rubbish would even be necessary.
I know this might be shocking, but not all sex is a preliminary to a relationship!. Sexual desire is complex, it can be related to lust, love, companionship, or any combination of these.
I hope the individual in the photograph never wears that costume outside during an electrical storm.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s plastic anyway, as that much solid metal would likely weigh several pounds. Ever held several six inch long quarter inch thick nails in one hand. It’s not exactly heavy but it’s not something you’d probably want hanging around your neck or sitting on the top of your head.
The problem is that so many people are completely out of touch with what their bodies are telling them. On the one hand is the modern cult of dating apps, pornography, ‘gender’ ideology and compulsory promiscuity and, on the other, the dead hand of ‘marriage and family’. Real, mutual, sexual chemistry is extremely rare. When it happens, go for it. It might well lead to a wonderful, lifelong relationship. If it doesn’t, you will have had something wonderful that many people never experience. Feeling used and dirty doesn’t go away because you have a wedding ring on your finger – if the chemistry isn’t there, it never will be.
The experience of the many (to Westerners, with our notions of romantic love as the proper foundation of marriage, surprisingly many) happy arranged marriages, found in a variety of traditional cultures throughout the world, suggests your last sentence is baseless.
Amen! Well said.
From speaking to friends of Indian Hindu and Sikh heritage, the arrangements they had were less about your parents deciding for you and more about arranged introductions. If the two young people hit it off, they could choose to get married. If not, you move on. Granted, this may not be true of all such arrangements or all cultures where arrangements are made. Their marriages have all lasted; it seems like gut instinct and first impressions may not be a bad way to go.
Sure seems like the Grindr sex delivery system isn’t all that concerned with Monkeypox. Oh, and the guy you ordered wasn’t your “partner”. He was the guy you ordered.
Haven’t you heard? It’s the government’s fault if you catch Monkeypox while not practicing safe sex.
If sex is reserved for marriage then all of the issues become simple and clear. The great thing about principles is that you can measure each issue against them.
Are these sexual advances wrong? – yes because they are not married.
Just imagine, almost: no children without love and financial support, no unwanted pregnancies, no STDs, no prostitution, no need for government to have any part in our sex lives.
We are human so it is an ‘almost’. We would still fail but the problems would be vastly more manageable.
I blame the 60’s sexual revolution and people leaving marriage to later in life (if at all) which causes a big need for casual sex and a massive p-rn industry.
I agree but, as you say, it is theory! Carl Foreman addresses this indirectly in his book, ‘The rise and triumph of the modern self,’ and so does Tom Holland in ‘Dominion.’
The obsession with sex has made it boring…
I’m sorry but if you were having sex with someone 30 minutes after meeting them online, you’re the last person to consult about healthy sex. You draw a caricature of the traditionalist position (which, to be fair, some fundamentalist Christians do hold) but ultimately the only way out of the libertine-bureaucracy dichotomy is to acknowledge social relation and role (traditionally marriage within a larger family structure) create the place for sexual intimacy and safety. Social roles confer certain duties and responsibilities to another person and society, which is the only way to healthily contextualize the messiness of sex.
Last Monday, after a four-day yoga retreat in the mountains of North Carolina, I bade farewell to a beautiful woman. We had worked, walked, laughed and cried together. As we held each other in a magnificent hug, which was of a total and tender surrender I had not experienced in years, without thinking in the slightest I asked if I might kiss her cheek. She said yes, I kissed her cheek, and as we separated she asked if we could have coffee on our return. I have no idea what the future holds, and we will probably back off – but my asking permission framed that kiss forever.
Does having one’s head up one’s own backside count as some sort of sex these days? I was under the impression that the involvement of another human being was still the general idea.
The height of introversion where a lot of things are heading it seems.
Are these recent sex headlines a sign that Unherd has officially entered the silly season: Saure Gurkenzeit in Germany
It certainly sounds like it. Nothing to build yourself up with or learn anything this time.
I remember a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, studying the Freudian concept of sexual sublimation in school. The example was Leonardo Devinci – who was thought to have sublimated his sexual energy into his work, because homosexuality or any kind of licentiousness was forbidden, resulting in of course a life of incredible productivity and creativity. Earlier today I walked by a very old church and looking at the intricate stone carving that took decades to complete, I wondered why we don’t create beautiful things anymore. This is just a thought – but if there was a little more sublimation of all this energy directed at sex (much of which, separated from real intimacy just seems like mutual masturbation) imagine the progress the human race would be capable of? Maybe we need to stop celebrating people for simply finding ways to feel good without doing anything of real value?
Been married 13 years to a beautiful Christian woman. Never had to wonder what was ok and what wasn’t – that was easily discussed and has long been baked into our relations. Sex for us now is better than it has ever been, and it just keeps getting better. A huge part of it for us is realizing how God has brought us together to provide for each other. The fact that we both get enjoyment out of it is a huge plus; obviously sometimes its better than others, or maybe we’re interrupted by one of the kids (which we are delighted have come from our union). But overall I can’t fathom how people get anywhere near this kind of satisfaction out of fleeting and “casual” (LOL the lies) sexual encounters. I guess that must just be because my wife is brainwashed to enjoy me being all rapey or something.
In America the puritan attitudes toward sex never really went away. Among progressives and their oppressed/oppressor binary way of viewing relationships it is often seen as something a man does to a woman. Title IX is one big mess and needs to go back to being about women’s sports instead of litigating sexual relationships between young people. The American idea of ‘consent’ looks to be written by people who either chronically disapprove of sex or have simply never had it.
I think puritans have the best sex personally. They call them puritans because they wait until marriage then give their gift only to each other instead of spraying it around the streets.
Sex, politics, and Twitter: three things I will never figure out.
WOW!! this is all such high falutin’ stuff I don’t think I understood any of it but the words, Sex, Yes & No.
How is the idea of consent incorporated within a relationship where the dynamic is submission and domination? Obviously the couple can agree on where the submission of one to the other ends but within those parameters consent is not sought.
That is where safewords come in – a safeword is sacrosanct, I favour yellow for slow down and discuss, and red means stop NOW! Provided there is trust, its a far better system than the hesitant vanilla idea of asking for consent at every stage. Obviously there are BDSM relationships where this may not apply but they tend to be long term Master/slave relationships where the couple are very familiar with each other’s needs and desires.
The most interesting thing about this thoughtful article is the invocation of “privatization” near its conclusion. What strikes me is that the bureaucratization of sex is a form of privatization–not its opposite. Indeed, it is “privatization” in the exact same sense we find in “neoliberal” discourse: the coercive imposition of market logic not as a natural fact but as an “achieved and normative” standard.
All societies abhor sex because of its threat to social hierarchies and the limited privacy available in densely-populated areas. But, with our rapid escalation of electronic communications, contemporary society has become more paranoid than most. In fact, with the downfall of religion, it has resorted to a kind of secular puritanism, led by the media and supported by the mob.
Computers also make us believe that everything can be measured and controlled, and American psychology has turned us all into victims, unwilling to take responsibility for our actions, let alone our instincts. Thus, like pollution, racism or corporate greed, it’s always someone else’s fault, and ever more regulation (and data, of course) is needed to bring us back on line for Utopia.
But, as with all natural inclinations, the more we restrict it, the more it goes underground. Meanwhile, traditional societies have always shown that sex is as natural as any other human activity, in fact less dangerous than most.
Those of us who are into kink have it far easier when it comes to consent – safewords take care of the consent issue, and a limits list is the starting point. Discussing a scene and the list can be pretty sexy – its nothing like the awful description in this article of some random person from Grindr.
Dear me. Sex is all about the production of children. Everything else about sex is a penumbra or an emanation.
For everyone knows that the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is grandchildren.
How ghastly and sad.
Not me mate. Speak for yourself. Downvoted.