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Rock me sexy Jesus

So maybe I’m disclosing more about myself than anyone really wants to know, but I’ve never understood our society’s pre-occupation with sex. I think of sex in much the same terms as I think of a game of pickup beach volleyball – a lot of fun if you have the opportunity, but if it doesn’t happen I’ll find something else to do with my time. My casual attitude about the whole venture stands, at least to my eye, in sharp contrast with piously intoned truisms that come from all corners of society – that sex is a deep and profound part of the human experience, that expressing your sexuality is a fundamental human right, that a person’s sexual identity is an intrinsic part of who they are. Maybe it’s a facet of hetero/cis privilege, but I just can’t get that fired up about the subject.

That being said, there are fewer people who obsess over sex more than religious folks. To be sure, most religious people are just as laissez fucke about other people’s sex lives as I am, but if you want to find people with a level of obsession that borders on the psychotic, you need look no further than religious hardliners. The scriptures are replete with proscriptions about where, when, how, how often, with whom, and exactly how terrible you should feel about yourself afterward. Some folks think that this is an issue of population control – that by controlling this oh-so-crucial component of human life, religious authority can tighten their grip on every aspect of human life. As you might conclude from my first paragraph, I am less than convinced.

That being said, the religious preoccupation with sex, particularly the contemporary evangelical Protestant one, holds that sex has a specific purpose – the whelping of spawn creation of precious life. Much of the counterargument to arguments about abortion boils down to the phrase “well if you didn’t want a baby, you shouldn’t have had sex” (I am being intentionally generous – usually this sentiment is expressed in terms that are much less polite). After all, the argument goes, YahwAlladdha gave us the gift of sexuality for the purpose of populating the Earth with tiny soldiers for Christ. Birth control and abortion interfere with the divine telos of our genitalia.

Of course, this is all nonsense, but if one grants this assertion legitimacy for the purpose of argument, there is a fun contradiction hidden within the folds of this line of ‘reasoning’. Exploring the outer lips of the statements about the intended purpose of sex, we arrive at the nub of the problem – sex feels good. Sex feels really good. Really fucking good, in fact. It’s also a super fun way to burn through a half hour or so – if you can’t sleep, if there’s nothing good on TV, if the lineup at the bank is taking too long (I now manage all of my finances online – by order of the judge).

Why is this a problem? Well, aside from the obvious “if it feels good do it” response (which is more or less good enough for me), the idea of sexual pleasure flies directly in the face of the telos argument. Especially if one holds to the idea of the direct intervention of YahwAlladdha in the design of human beings. If human beings were created special by the gods, endowed as we are with the power of reason, we would not need any other encouragement to fuck. If the production of children were the only purpose, procreating would be something that is done by choice, not by accident. We would choose to join our various bits and pieces when we decided (mutually, one would hope) that another child was desirable. It would be like cleaning the gutters or re-caulking* the bathroom tiles – not something we enjoy doing, but a necessary periodic chore.

Holding all other things constant – length of gestation, difficulty with birth, the fragility of newborns – the simple fact that the clitoris exists and orgasms are just s’darn nifty blows the whole “sex are for babbys” argument right out of the water. It would be a piece of piss for a truly intelligent designer to reduce both the sexual drive and the pleasure derived from copulation. We wouldn’t have any problem propagating the species, it just wouldn’t happen by accident so often. Indeed, removing the fun from intercourse would make compliance with all the ridiculous edicts about who/when/why/how much simpler. It would become a total non-issue, and the people protesting abortion clinics could find something useful to do with their time.

Of course those of us who accept scientific fact know that humans enjoy sex for pretty much the same reasons that other animals do – those individuals with the strongest sex drive out-competed others, and evolution did its inelegant but ultimately powerful work. Human beings had a number of other evolutionary pressures which combined to give us our somewhat-idiosyncratic sexual patterns, but the detritus of the evolutionary process still exists, for good or ill. Of course, this fact stands in sharp contrast to the idea that humans were intentional creations of a divine being who simultaneously wished us to pork for solely reproductive purposes.

Of course the capacity to hold contradicting ideas as both equally true is the hallmark of faith-based belief, so the existence of a simple contradiction like this will not perturb the most hardened minds; however, it is an interesting thing to throw back in the face of someone talking about the “purpose” of sex. Sex has no “purpose”, just outcomes. If we wish to experience some of those outcomes and not others, that is easily accomplished. The more we obsess over how all-encompassingly important the act is, the more control we cede to those who would presume to tell us about their ideas why we should or shouldn’t. For my part, I put as much emphasis on sex as I do on playing squash – I don’t spend my days hell-bent on it, but if I am presented with a skilled and willing partner, then let’s smack around some balls.

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*Hehehe. “Caulking”.

P.S. For those of you who don’t get the reference in the title

Comments

  1. oldebabe says

    I like your attitude, as it’s mostly what/how I feel (or rather, felt), too. Is it common (tho not discussed openly), do you suppose? It will be interesting to read the comments…

  2. says

    particularly the contemporary evangelical Protestant one, holds that sex has a specific purpose – the whelping of spawn creation of precious life.

    Actually, it’s more like the traditional Catholic one — it’s only recently that Evangelicals (and only some of them at that) have started to go anti-contraception, and (so I’m told) they weren’t even particularly anti-abortion 50 or so years ago.

  3. Jag says

    How many organization advocate for the spaying of pets?

    I’m not saying there’s no difference between pets and people, and I’m not suggesting that people should be “spayed” as a means of birth control, but I never hear anyone get up in arms over this. It’s taken for granted that spaying an animal that isn’t intended to be breeding stock (I’m not opening that can of worms, just using it to make a point) is simply responsible pet ownership.

    Now try to apply the same level of logic and responsibility to human reproduction and watch the fun begin.

  4. quantheory says

    “My casual attitude about the whole venture stands, at least to my eye, in sharp contrast with piously intoned truisms that come from all corners of society – that sex is a deep and profound part of the human experience, that expressing your sexuality is a fundamental human right, that a person’s sexual identity is an intrinsic part of who they are. Maybe it’s a facet of hetero/cis privilege, but I just can’t get that fired up about the subject.”

    Hmm. I think part of the reaction from the queer community has been due to what we see as a politically convenient trivialization of the positive value of sex. I’ve spoken with a few religious types whose basic argument came down to “Sex is just one facet of the human experience, so why would you make such a big deal out of it when we tell you to never have any? (Unless you’re just huge perverts…)” (Similar arguments are used on anyone who advocates for access to abortion and birth control.)

    But there’s a distinction between saying that having sex right at this moment is not a big deal, and saying that the *ability* to have sex in general, on one’s own terms, without the threat of being punished for it, is not a big deal. I think it’s the latter that we react to; I don’t have a fundamental right to have sex right this minute, but I should have a right to have sex from time to time without being punished for an ultimately harmless act.

    And part of the way that social conservatives attack this distinction (and thus label advocates for sexual freedoms as sluts and perverts) is by disregarding the contexts within which sexual activity often happens. So instead of being an experience that relates to love or expression, or a basic psychological need/drive, sex is presented as a sort of illicit drug.

    Not that I’m opposed to sex-as-beach-volleyball casualness (it’d be pretty hypocritical if I was). But it’s also the case that, for most non-asexuals, relationships of the romantic variety are partly based on sex, and it would be disingenuous to say that having or not having sex, in general, doesn’t impact other areas of people’s lives in a fairly profound way. In the case of homophobia, the desire to affect someone’s sex life effectively entails a preoccupation with all their relationships, starting with sex and romance, but entangled with everything else besides.

  5. Dalillama says

    Well, they used to be in favor of economic justice, but apparently pope benny thinks that hating the queers is more important.

  6. dianne says

    I’m convinced that the primary “purpose” (that is, it’s main evolutionary advantage) of human sex is bonding. People get attached to each other when they have sex* and that makes the relationship stronger, whether the purpose of that relationship be parenting a child, fighting the neighboring tribe together, keeping the neighboring Hauptling happy so you won’t got to war, or making sure no one is bored to death tonight. Reproduction…happens sometimes, but given the variety and frequency of human sexual behaviors, that’s almost an incidental afterthought. Sex is necessary once for conception, many times to get the spawn to spawning age itself.

    *I mean emotionally attached. Get your overly literal minds out of the gutter!

  7. Dalillama says

    What quantheory said. I’m pretty strongly in favor of me having sex, and I tend to get bent out of shape when people try to tell me what sort of sex I’m allowed to have with my consenting partner(s). I don’t actually like beach volleyball that much, but I’d still get pretty bent out of shape about people telling me that I couldn’t play beach volleyball with my consenting partner(s) if I wanted to.

  8. says

    The scriptures are replete with proscriptions about where, when, how, how often, with whom, and exactly how terrible you should feel about yourself afterward.

    Actually, they’re not quite “replete”. The so-called Scriptural emphasis on sex has been invented, and “proven” by cherry-picking.

    Sure, there’s sex in the Bible, everything from rape to gay sex to adultery and incest, but told as stories (history, supposedly), usually without any condemnation attached. David and Beersheba is an exception, and the guilt attaches more to David’s murder of her husband than to his adultery.

    There are rules; when divorce is allowed, when it is obligatory (pagan wives), when it is not allowed (rarely). On abortion, the Bible has nothing to say, except, (paraphrased) “No big deal. Pay the father the value of a kid.”)

    On homosexuality, there are 7 or 9 pronouncements in the whole Bible, and some of those are doubtful, having to do more likely with temple prostitution.

    Prostitution is frowned on, but the OT also has the prototype of the “whore with a heart of gold”” in Rahab, who is honoured by being named among the few females in Jesus’ ancestry.

    Sexual positions, masturbation, contraception, age limits? As far as I know, and I’ve read the whole Bible many times, they’re not mentioned. Marriage is a private affair, of interest to no-one but the families involved; neither government nor religious leaders are informed.

    If you were to look at the Bible as a whole, social issues like poverty and health take pride of place, on a par with ritual rules; when, how, where to worship. Sex is a minor issue, brought to the forefront by obsessed church leaders.

  9. says

    Apologies for the derail, but one of the sentences kind of leaped out and grabbed me by the eyeballs: “I now manage all of my finances online – BY ORDER OF THE JUDGE.” (emphasis added) If this isn’t a joke, there’s got to be a story behind it… please to explain, or (if you already have explained) provide a link to where you’ve done the explaining?

  10. 'Tis Himself says

    Here’s the obligatory Butch Hancock quote:

    Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in Hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on Earth and you should save it for someone you love.

  11. baal says

    Masturbation is blasted by citing to the story of Onan (Genesis 38:3-10)”spilled his seed on the ground” but it looks like quote mining. If you read the rest of the section, Onan was refusing to impregnate his brother’s widow as required by the Jewish(?) law, culture or tradition of the time.

  12. says

    What with quote mining and cherry picking and a bit of creative etymology, many Christians get the Bible to say whatever they jolly well feel like. After all, they do “have the mind of Christ,” so they’re entitled.

  13. Zachariah says

    “Exploring the outer lips of the statements about the intended purpose of sex, we arrive at the nub of the problem…”

    I hate you right now.

  14. Riptide says

    I don’t think Mr. BennyDICKt single-handedly wrought all of the Catholic Church’s gold-plated toilet seats…

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