You have to go the way the blood beats, if you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live another life; you won’t live any life at all. James Baldwin
It is often said that discussions of religion and politics are taboo subjects in polite conversation. To that, sexuality might be added. It is indeed one of the most human acts shrouded in misinformation yet influenced by deeply held beliefs. People feel strongly about sexuality, their own and everyone else’s also. While we might honor our own sexuality and behavior as personal, we freely offer our opinions and conjecture on the sexual identify and behavior of others. We are fascinated by what goes on in bedrooms other than our own. This preoccupation has spilled into the public square and has spawned the re-emergence of attitudes bordering on fanaticism which reaffirms a message of rigid orthodoxy regarding sexuality and sexual behavior.
To be sure, our social and cultural norms rests on the foundation of the primacy and appropriateness of only one type of sexuality and sexual expression. To that, an entire psycho-social and religious apparatus has evolved to support the idea of one type of normative sexual behavior. As such, difference is intolerable and unacceptable. Yet, difference asserts itself and human beings are given to “…going the way the blood beats…”
Sexuality is perhaps the most fascinating and misunderstood aspect of human behavior. It is private in its expression in our lives yet public in defining our identity to others. It is nuanced and multi-layered, given to wide variation in expression yet freely available to the narrow molding of society. It is a gift which allows every mature human being the potential to touch another human being in a wonderful confluence of intimacy and sensuality. It is also a gift that comes with many stipulations; this gift cannot be unwrapped and used freely. To do so in ways unapproved by many is to place oneself in a position to experience a groundswell of ridicule and sanction. Any hand in the dark may arouse, it is when the lights come on that the reaction is shaped by society.
Might we imagine a conversation about human sexuality that generates more intelligence than emotion; more light than heat? More importantly, might we imagine a world where sexuality and sexual behavior is, in fact, a private matter between two emotionally mature consenting adults without the intrusion of the State or the Church? Perhaps it might also be time to re-think our entire approach to human sexuality and the messages we communicate about this very basic human need. We need a new vocabulary to re-articulate our relationship with our bodies and what we do with them. We call pictures of the naked body, dirty pictures. We refer to sexual intercourse as “doing the nasty”. If not conducted within the narrow confines of marriage and for the sake of procreation, we ascribe immorality to any other sexual expression. We define the strictest prohibitions on the context, the circumstances and with whom we are allowed to engage in sexual behavior. We are single-minded in these prohibitions and strident in exacting the strongest punishment for those who offend. What is amazing about human sexuality is , despite social, cultural and religious prohibitions, human beings are compelled, in every culture, to fully express the range of sexual variations available to their imagination.
To be clear, I am no advocate for unfettered sexual freedom; what harms physically, emotionally or psychologically must be prohibited and severely sanctioned. Sexual dysfunction does indeed exist and should be named and treated as such, notably by those clinicians, psychiatrists , psychologists and social workers trained to fully understand human sexuality. In my mind, the prohibitions on human sexuality should not be the province of the Church, in fact, those deeply seated religious views have served to distort our understanding of human sexuality and overlaid an oppressive guilt that we all spend a lifetime attempting to resolve.
At the core of considerable human suffering is our collective angst about human sexuality. Here, I make the case for a healthier approach to fundamental human behavior.