Being of a certain age — I’m certain of it even if you aren’t — I came to manhood amid the loudest and rowdiest years of the Sexual Revolution. Being of a certain height, build, and facial conformation — see the Personal page if you really need to know — mostly I didn’t participate. But I did watch from the sidelines, as it were, and over the years I’ve come to a firm conclusion.
We wuz robbed.
It’s true that contraceptive technology is available to make sex largely consequence-free. And it’s true that the viral hazards, to heterosexuals who don’t use drugs or play with folks who do, have been wildly overstated by a certain special-interest community that lusts after Federal bucks for AIDS research, so that its members won’t have to change their ways. But there are other aspects to sex that contraceptives and public health measures can never address. I will take this opportunity to quote a great American pundit whose wisdom in this area has gone largely unremarked:
“Sleeping with someone changes everything.” — Bruce Feirstein, author of Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche and Nice Guys Sleep Alone.
Truer words have never been spoken… and yet, for something like three decades the young people of Western society have pretended to believe that it wasn’t so. In some ways, we’re still pretending.
It’s worth a few moments to think about why it’s that way. Viewed through a coarsely-grained lens, sex is just a variety of agreeable physical contact between bodies. Why should it differ emotionally from other physical activities we enjoy? What makes it so special?
The mystery deepens when we note that there are devices, available for a few dollars, that can excite the body to greater degrees of pleasure than ordinary sex, or even extraordinary sex, could ever achieve. Yet people overwhelmingly prefer the genuine article, with all its muss, fuss, occasions for embarrassment, and potential for social and emotional disaster.
Everyone has a thesis, whether it be religiously, sociologically, biologically, or otherwise derived. Some of them aren’t half bad, either. Mine is, well, uh, hey, look at that cardinal nesting in the Douglas fir!
All right, all right. Mine is strategic.
You have to open your defensive perimeter, your reflex-reaction zone, to let someone else get close enough to you to make love. A woman has to permit her man to enter her body. Each partner is in a state of total physical vulnerability while their embrace lasts. There are implications and overtones to this that no rationalization about sex being mere happy friction can erase.
Among my other fetishes, I’m a student of military history and military theory. I tell you frankly, viewed from that perspective, the whole idea of sex is the plainest madness.
And it doesn’t stop with the sexual embrace itself. No matter how often we tell ourselves otherwise, every sex act is a test of a proposition: “Will we be a unit? Will I share his home and bear his children? Will she stand by me in my battles and nurture me in my times of infirmity?”
The unit of two is the unit best suited to human beings. One person can accept and bond to another on mutually agreed terms, with little or no ambiguity about the nature, obligations and extent of the intended relationship. Larger numbers don’t work nearly as well. If you disagree, you’ve never been in politics.
No amount of propaganda about sex being just one more way for people to enjoy their bodies can erase these facts. They are graven in our genes, and in our nature as a species.
Does this mean that some sort of official policy about sex and marriage, that recognizes these things and attempts to promote them with statutes and programs, would be appropriate? Of course not. Sexual and marital relations are so quintessentially private that any intrusion upon them from the public sphere would be sufficient justification for revolt, all by itself. That’s not what I’m saying, and if you choose to interpret it that way, the problem lies with you, not with me.
No, it’s more like this.
See that handsome stranger or pretty lady across the bar? What were you thinking a moment ago, about how it would be nice to try the night with him / her, and needn’t come to more than that if it doesn’t work out?
Don’t kid yourself, my friend. From the moment you first touch, forces will be unleashed in heaven and on Earth that will rock you to your core, and it won’t matter a dented copper groat what your intentions were.
Be smart. Know yourself. Know your species.