Like most Americans, I believe human sexuality is in profound need of a good editing. It is not at all “clearly written”, so to speak. For every rule, there are exceptions. Too many of them. And then the exceptions have exceptions. If human sexuality were a website, it would look like one of those appalling sites full of randomly capitalized words in ten fonts and four colors. The sites that are alive in vivid self-contradictions while claiming to reveal cosmic truths. The ones that dare you — just dare you — to retain your sanity while reading them. Those sites.
For instance: I once READ A BOOK that said we humans are unlike most other species of primates in that we prefer to have sex in private. But I ONCE HAD A FRIEND WHO LIKED TO HAVE SEX IN SEMI-PUBLIC PLACES WHERE THERE WAS A CHANCE WE WOULD GET CAUGHT. In that respect, she contradicted what some scientists believe is SOMETHING OF AN INSTINCT IN HUMANS: our desire for privacy in sexual matters.
To me, one of the more confusing areas of human sexuality are the similarities and differences between male and female sexualities. Especially when you get into such questions as how sexually compatible we are. You can grossly simplify the issue by saying things like, “Just as a penis fits a vagina, male sexuality is different from, but psychologically compatible with, female sexuality and vice versa.” There seems to be some truth to that, but overall, the analogy is imperfect.
It’s imperfect because there seem to be ways in which men and women are not so much compatible with each other as they are in competition with each other. For instance, there is considerable evidence that both men and women evolved to cheat on their partners. And there is also evidence that some of us are genetically more predispositioned to cheat than others of us. (At the same time, it seems likely that some of us might be genetically inclined to stay loyal to our partners.) The upshot is, we are not always compatible: The analogy that we fit each other as smoothly as a penis fits a vagina is imperfect.
A lot of men would love to edit women’s sexuality to make it more compatible with their own. And the favor is certainly returned, for a lot of women would love to do the same to men.
Sometimes you detect a whiff of moral expectation when listening to how someone describes what he or she believes the other sex should be like. I know someone who not only wishes women were ready to drop their pants at a moment’s notice, but he often enough comes across as morally upset that they don’t. Similarly, anyone who has read the 300 plus responses to my post, “Why Do Men Look At Teen Nudity“, knows there are a lot of women who are morally outraged by the fact older men are often enough sexually attracted to naked teens.
In a sense, there might be something charmingly naive in all of that. Perhaps, those of us who want women to drop their pants for strangers and near-strangers think, on some level, that women will benefit from casual sex as much as we ourselves do. And perhaps those of us who want men to focus more on a woman’s mental and emotional maturity than on her body are assuming, on some level, that men will be better off if they do. Moral indignation sometimes — although not always — presupposes that the folks you are indignant at would have their lives improved if they took your advice.
In my experience, moral indignation is the last refuge of hope, and hope itself is the fuel of illusion. Hope encourages us to persevere in our beliefs even when those beliefs bear little or no relationship to reality. The more I hope my cheating partner will not leave me, the more likely I am to be surprised when she does. I knew a man whose wife told him she was cheating on him, yet he still couldn’t believe her. When she got pregnant by the other man, he went for years believing the child was his before he finally recognized it was not.
The hope that women will frequently drop their drawers for quick alley-sex prevents deep resignation to the fact that they most likely will not. And without that resignation, there can be no real acceptance of women as they are. Again, the hope that men will no longer be attracted to naked teens prevents deep resignation followed by acceptance of men as they are. And though everything we witness in life may contradict our hopes, our moral indignation is too often sufficient by itself to keep our hopes alive.
Quite often, men and women want more to meddle in each others sexualities than they want to accept each others sexualities. And a lot of times, when that happens, it’s been the women who have taken the greatest hit. So far as I know, women — almost everywhere in the world — have their sexualities restricted and oppressed to a far greater extent than men. And while those oppressions are almost always couched in the language of, “it’s for your own good”, those oppressions tend to serve the interests of men more than the interests of women.
So, do you think men and women are on the whole better off from all the meddling they do in each others sexualities? Should accepting each other as we are really be our goal here? If so, are there important exceptions — times when we should not accept someone’s sexuality? What do you think?