Should We Accept Each Other’s Sexuality?

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?

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21 thoughts on “Should We Accept Each Other’s Sexuality?

  1. 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?

    No, I don’t think men and women are better off from all the meddling. We should learn to accept each other’s differences. We try too hard in every aspect to make others fit into the mold the way we think they should. That said, yes, there are important exceptions. Pedophilia would certainly be one. Forced sex would be another. I think anytime your sexuality infringes on the comfort or safety of your sexual partner is a huge exception point. Sexual partners should feel safe and free to express themselves.

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  2. Well, this was certainly an interesting read!

    I suspect a lot of people have trouble coming to grips with the fact that humans are just animals and not some special creation of God with “higher” sensitivities.

    Despite out more highly evolved brains, our animal instincts still have the final say all too often. Our manufactured concepts of “sin” and morality helps curb our animal desires … at least somewhat, and as you point out, seemingly more for some than others.

    I find it funny that the men who would like women to drop their pants with the same reckless abandon they do would find that trait more than a little annoying in a woman they were attempting to have a monogamous relationship with: okay for me but not for thee!

    Another observation I have made from friends and acquaintances is that as wrong as they think adultery and sexual promiscuity is, if they become involved in some illicit affair there will always be found some extenuating, justifying circumstances which led to their exceptive behavior. Again, “okay for me but not for thee.”

    The best thing, I believe, is to accept the animal sex drive for what it is. And I think we ought to use our advanced brains to mitigate our animal instincts into something resembling civilized behavior. I believe we should treat others in these and all matters with the same consideration we would expect for ourselves. Children or the mentally disabled should not be exploited or taken advantage of because their psyches are not fully developed. Sex with another person(s) should always be consensual. Sex with yourself alone is nobody’s business but your own.

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    • Excellent post, Doug!

      I suspect a lot of people have trouble coming to grips with the fact that humans are just animals and not some special creation of God with “higher” sensitivities.

      I think the traditional animal/soul division sets the stage for claims that sex is merely a part of our “animal nature” and needs to repressed in irrational ways. That in turn lends itself to meddling in the sexuality of others.

      The one quibble I have with what you’ve said — and it’s only a trivial thing — is the way you’ve contrasted “animal instincts” with our “advanced brains”. I believe I get your meaning and I agree with it. But I would quibble over the language, because I’m foolish like that. My precise quibble is that our advanced brains are very much a part of our animal nature. To contrast the two might confuse the simple minded, such as myself.

      At any rate, I very much agree that we should not commit the fallacy of thinking that because something is a part of our nature, we must therefore accept it. That is, it would be fallacious to accept pedophilia just because that seems to be the natural or innate sexuality of some people.

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      • You are right in pointing out my sloppiness there, although I think my point came across. Because of that very popular idea that we’re not animals but creatures made in the image of God, it is common to contrast humans and animals. I was referring to our baser animal instincts, the ones we engage in a constant struggle with in order to proudly wear that title – drum roll, please – Human!

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  3. Inasmuch as our sexual desires are different from our partners’, we need to find a way to compromise so that everyone’s needs can be met more or less (which is something a lot of folks on the teen nudity thread don’t seem to want to do).

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    • Spot on, Jonathan! It seems we too often think we have a moral right to have it our own way, and that our partners have a corresponding moral duty to sacrifice their own sexuality for ours.

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  4. I’ve been wondering how fluid our sexuality is. How much do most people feel attractions to a certain type of person because it is hard-wired or because it is culturally promoted?

    And I think our definition of ‘sex’ is really messed up. We’ve defined it by actions (penile-vaginal penetration mostly) and so we have trouble differentiating between intense positive physical and emotional experiences, negative ones, and neutral ones. Rape is seen to be non-consensual sex by our culture but I would like it not to be called sex at all. Some people think lesbians can’t have sex because their definition is so limited.

    How we define sex and sexuality have huge ramifications for how we ‘police’ or accept it.
    I do not think that molesting, pressuring, or otherwise abusing someone is expressing their sexuality. It is more likely expressing their desire to dominate or their lack of ability to empathize. Lumping it together makes it murky.

    If we define sex out of an enforced monogamy (ie: sexuality is something only heterocouples can show when no one is looking) then we are more free to actually look at what is going on. We are animals. We all have individual needs for physical and emotional connections and releases. They vary by day, week, month, and health. They vary between groups and within groups.

    When our aim is not to differentiate ourselves from other animals or control others’ reproduction, we can better discuss what is healthy sexuality. I think acknowledging needs of both ourselves and others with respect as the main value is the needed discussion.

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    • I love your comment, Nymph! It gives me so much to think about, but I’ll just touch on a couple things.

      And I think our definition of ‘sex’ is really messed up. We’ve defined it by actions (penile-vaginal penetration mostly)…

      Now that you brought that up, it strikes me that defining sex as penile-vaginal penetration is pretty lame. It leaves out way more than it includes, both in actions and emotions. Moreover, in the context of my post, you can meddle in someone’s sexuality without even touching on meddling with sexual intercourse itself. Think, for instance, of all the ways you can destroy feelings of intimacy without placing a single restriction on how often you have intercourse.

      Rape is seen to be non-consensual sex by our culture but I would like it not to be called sex at all.

      Here’s where we disagree. I used to be of the opinion that rape was not sex because rape seems to have more to do with power and dominance than it has to do with sex. But I have since rejected that approach for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that rape may well be a reproductive strategy. And while not all sex is reproductive, all reproduction is sexual.

      But, in general, I find it surprisingly difficult to define human sexuality. While a lot of things are clearly human sexuality, what about such things as the inspiration some artists and others take from their sexuality? Is that still human sexuality?

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      • I think rape is a poor reproductive strategy. So poor I think it falls better under war crimes than reproductive recourse, especially since some of these types of encounters don’t include potential reproduction but I don’t really want to discuss that.

        Yes there can be overlap, but calling it a reproductive strategy is close to excusing the behaviour and for that reason alone I wouldn’t put it in that category. It is like saying burning your neighbour’s field is a good food production strategy. Yes, it may cause prices to go up, but in the long run there is less food and less safety for your own crops. (Note: not comparing fertile fields to fertile uteri)

        Also, a quick search shows that rape victims are less likely to conceive than consensual partnering since the natural miscarriage rate goes up due to psychological trauma. Of course, the sites I found are from anti-choice groups that also talk about women lying about being raped which I find disturbing too. They also mention that many of the victims are too young to conceive or too old. (I find that their focus on banning abortions, minimizing rape and not protecting these children or seniors beyond disgusting.) Also, a surprising number of rape victims are male. No chance of reproduction there. And yet, it still happens.

        I do agree that all reproduction is sexual. What could be more sexual than giving birth? Or lactation? But we don’t consider those acts ‘sexy’. How do we talk about people who are not fertile? And do we give people freedom to be asexual too? I’m thinking of all the preteen boys who really don’t want to watch porn but feel less than for preferring soccer or Harry Potter.

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      • You and I agree on many things, Prairienymph, but this might be one issue on which we disagree. When I say that rape may be a reproductive strategy, I mean there seems to be some biological evidence it is a viable reproductive strategy. I do not mean rape is a morally acceptable reproductive strategy. It’s not. Merely because some isotopes of uranium are radioactive, and can be used to fuel reactors, does not in any way imply that fueling nuclear reactors is a good idea.

        Obviously, there is more to rape than a reproductive strategy. I think it’s pretty clear that rape is also about power and dominance. But the two things are not mutually exclusive.

        More importantly, there must be a natural explanation for why rape is a wide spread behavior in our species, but not in, say. all primate species — for there are primate species, such as gorillas, where rape is either exceedingly rare or nonexistent, or lemurs, where it appears to be unquestionably nonexistent.

        Some people will say that rape has a purely cognitive origin, rather than a genetic component. I would argue against that notion on the basis that human behaviors which seem to have a purely cognitive origin — like genuine group marriage (marriage in which everyone in the group is married to everyone else in the group) — tend to be rare, and unlikely to be persisted in by the participants. In my view, rape is just too widespread and too frequently repeated by the same person, for it not to have a genetic component.

        Rape is by far among the most evil things humans do to other humans. But I have heard that 1 or 2 rapes in every hundred result in pregnancy. I don’t know how accurate those stats are, but if they are at all accurate, then rape might be a behavior that increased the odds some males would have of reproducing. It would not take much of an increase for it to be naturally selected for.

        So, unless I get better information, I’m sticking with my opinion on this one.

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    • Nymph, the blog Dover Beach just posted a quote from Carl Jung that might be relevant to the issue of who has power in a relationship:

      “Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”

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    • Too late! I already entered your comment in my database for the July T-shirt drawing. If you win, the ugly shirt you get will forever remind you not to make thoughtful, intelligent posts on my blog, by gawd!

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  5. This subject is way too deep for me. I didn’t read the Teen Nudity post. No interest in naked teens. Used to be interested in MILFs (purely for viewing pleasure) but since I married Tanya, I am only interested in her. And am very grateful for that.

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    • I think naked teens can be beautiful. A few years ago, I knew dozens of teens, and they sometimes invited me to go with them to various nudist resorts here in Colorado. But I soon discovered that I was turned off by their sexuality. Their priorities, needs, and expectations are just too out of whack with mine. So, while I enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoy looking at a good sunrise or a beautiful tree, I’ve not found myself more than mildly attracted to them sexually.

      On the other hand — and this may be a paradox — I enjoy supporting teens in discovering their sexuality. And I don’t look down on their sexuality simply because it is less mature than mine. That is, I don’t try to make them “grow up”. They will do that anyway.

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