Sex and sexuality must be addressed in America

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What if there was a sexual conquest video game? Players would prowl different environments, looking for possible sexual encounters. They would have to manage the various factors that precipitate sex — physical appearance, charisma, et cetera. The goal would be to have intercourse with as many people as possible. Or maybe there could be a point system, where sex acts of increasing intimacy or intensity were more rewarding. How about a doggie-style bonus? Triple points for threesomes! Wouldn’t that be a terrific way for kids and teenagers to have a little fun, and maybe learn about the world while they’re at it?

No? Okay. How about a game where characters drive around Miami brutally robbing and murdering innocents. It could feature our favorite ’80s tunes! Bonus points for drug abuse!

One of these entertainments exists. Can you guess which one? Are you as baffled as I am?

Unless you’ve been living in the steam tunnels for the past month, you’ve heard about Pirates and the TBA controversy. Quick recap: AB Films shows its annual pornographic film; students flock to see smut on the high seas; the “righteous” freak out (as usual); KDKA sends special investigative investigator Chicken Little to sensationalize; Freedom and Logic celebrate their recent American emigration by curling up with a little Michel Foucault.

The problem with the pornography debate is that it is stagnant. It’s stagnant because it has been going on for centuries. It has been going on for centuries because ever since that fateful day a couple million years ago when some lucky miracle of genetics produced Homo sapiens (or humankind was intelligently designed, or the apes encountered the monolith, or whatever), there have been some of us who consider certain forms of sexual expression obscene.

And oh, what a journey it’s been! In Shakespeare’s day, a flood of marriage and behavior manuals counseled women that if they enjoyed intercourse with their lawfully wedded husbands too much, they were committing a sin. The Puritans considered the institution of theatre as a whole — not just its sexual bawdiness — obscene. Women were forbidden from appearing onstage lest their dignity be compromised.

In the early 20th century, Hollywood was on a very short leash. Isn’t it heartbreaking when Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman to get on the plane, to be with the husband she’d previously presumed dead? Isn’t it selfless and beautiful? Well no, not really, considering that that was the only legal way to end the film Casablanca. See, back then it was illegal for a motion picture to depict marital transgression. Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris (i.e. the past), because if they had ever tried to have a future, the FCC would have gotten its knickers in a twist.

Where does that leave us in 2005? Up sex creek without a paddle, that’s where. Our nation has no effective public sexual discourse, and we suffer dearly for it in unwanted pregnancies, disease proliferation, and social strife. Watch television for just a few hours and you’re likely to view several public service announcements encouraging, even commanding, parents to talk to their children about tobacco use, drug use, staying in school, and being wary of strangers. Discourses in these topics are encouraged because they are vital to our children’s health, safety, and happiness.

Why is sex ignored? How foolish must we be to think that we can leave it up to chance?

When I was three, I looked up at my mother and posed that classic question: “Where do babies come from?” She looked right back and, her voice neither taut with shock nor hushed with shame, she said: “Babies come from a place in the mommy’s body called the uterus.” Uterus? That sounded awfully uninteresting. I didn’t press the matter. A few years later I asked again with more resolution. My mom brought out her old biology textbooks from college, where she’d earned a degree in nursing. She gathered my three siblings and me, and explained, very scientifically, how a man and a woman conceive a child. (For the record, at the time I was thoroughly disgusted.)

Too many Americans are laughably — tragically — ignorant of human sexuality. It’s not just children. It’s teenagers and even adults, and they’re damaging our society with their ignorant Puritanism with respect to sex. It’s something we sweep under the rug, hush-hush into nonexistence, or at best grant marginal, shameful recognition.

So what’s all this got to do with public pornography showings on campus? You see, the whole reason pornography is controversial — the whole reason pornography exists, really — is a result of America’s antiquated approach to sex. Remove sex’s taboo, and most of porn’s appeal disappears.

Conservatives in this issue love to say that they can prove that pornography inspires sexual violence because sexual predators often admit to viewing porn. For the record, post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”) is one of the classic fallacies of logic. Sexual predators view pornography? I’m not surprised. They’re compelled to commit sexual deviancy and violence. I’m sure that that sickness also manifests in a penchant for porn. I bet they masturbate, too. Could that be the cause of their crimes?

In other words, one trait does not create the other; viewing porn and committing sex crimes may be caused by the same thing, but it’s something deeper and more complicated.

When we sensationalize sex, we remove it from the realm of the realistic, where it belongs. To be sure, pornography won’t inspire sexual deviancy in people who have a healthy, positive, realistic view of sexuality. We must not allow our children to go uneducated about this matter — to deny our sexuality is to deny our humanity.