Monday, May 14, 2007

Sex & Love

One of my readers (yes, I have one!) asked me: "Why do you have the word 'sex' in your blog?" In other words, why write about sex? It's a good question, and I thought I might ruminate a bit to see if I can come up with a satisfactory answer.

It is difficult to write about sex without also writing about love. Both involve the deep yearning for connection that we humans all seek from each other. For me, sex & love is the pivot around which all else turns. Organized religion flounders on the issue of sexuality, and in the popular phrase "the personal is political" we can see how sexual identity might be crucial to the exercise of politics today. While Jesus brought a message of love, the gay-bashing and abortion-condemning sects that claim to follow him preach hatred and division. The moral agenda of the today's political right is repressive, but religions and authoritarian governments have always tried to control human sexuality. The challenge, for those of us who lived through the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s in America as I did, is to integrate sexuality with spirituality and to promote liberation and love on all political fronts.

In this blog I have tried to write from the heart as well as the head, and that means I would like to offer a perspective on religion, sex & politics that is personal, and even confessional, as well as political. I can easily blabber about my spiritual path and the disgust I feel for the tyrannical, oppressive and anti-planet policies of successive American governments, but it is much harder to discuss one's sexual desires and difficulties in public. There is a tendency to resort to the third person and passive voice. So this is yet another challenge.

But still the question arises: Why do it? Why write about sex at all? Isn't sex, and love, a matter only between two people, something better kept secret? Some cultures today are as morally puritanical as America's was in the 1950s when I was growing up. Abortion is still illegal there, gender transgressions are punished, sodomy is a crime, and women are routinely raped and stoned. While I don't personally expect to change anything globally, I do believe it is important to speak truth to power and stand up for values that involve partnerships between the sexes rather than the dominance of one gender over another, the pattern of patriarchy.

That sounds a bit preachy. Not at all the tone I intended. I write about sex & love because for all of my long life I have sought both, together and sometimes separately. I was raised in the 1950s with all the macho junk they stuck into the heads of male children, and I have been trying for at least thirty years to reverse the brainwashing I received from my parents, schools and peers. Patriarchy is crippling for men as well as women. Ideals that promote male superiority and competitive behavior have damanged my relationships. While I have been married twice, fathered four children, and have enjoyed numerous extracurricular liasons, I am not at all proud of the way I have treated women in the past. Sex, both the opposite gender and the deed, remain a mystery to me. So I write about this to figure it out, to make amends, and hopefully to act differently in the future.

Why write about sex & love? In a way, it is the umbrella under which we huddle for protection from the storms of life. Since the ending of my last marriage, I have lived alone, traveled alone, and manfully resisted the demons of loneliness. Everywhere around me I see couples, sitting together, walking, holding hands, kissing. Humans have the unavoidable propensity to pair off. "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage." Yet many of us are single. Some live vicariously through our children or grandchildren, but most resign themselves to the solitary state. For men, pornography and cybersex become a tempting substitute for "real" sex and love.

I thought I would outgrow it. When we are young we cannot imagine older people having sex, and we are certain that love among seniors is more of a habit than a passion. But now that typical lifespans are passing three score years and ten, sex & love among the elderly is becoming a lifestyle choice. I look with envy upon the white haired couples in the movie theater and on the dance floor. But here's the rub: wrinkled skin and sagging breasts are not erotic to me. And I expect my parchment skin and expanding waistline are turnoffs to most women. Many of us remain captive to the sexual images that were drilled into us during the 1950s and the sexual revolution that followed, the Playboy ideal, the sex drives of Lady Chatterly and Henry Miller, the freedom of Germaine Greer and Erica Jong, the talents of Linda Lovelace. The times changed and we didn't.

I write about sex & love because the pleasure and pain of desire does not go away, so long as the heart beats and the blood boils. In an age of virtual sex and kinky technology, however, when uninhibited teens "hook up" and online ads for "fuck buddies" proliferate, I remember the moments in my life when the snuggling and cuddling could have gone on forever, when tomorrow without Her was no less than death, and when sex & love fit seamlessly together. Then, the giving and receiving of pleasure was a joy and not the topic of a how-to manual.

"All you need is love," the Beatles sang, and I want so much to believe them. But the loves in my life have not lasted. Desire is a fickle thing. Now we are in the midst of the backlash from the revolution of over thirty years ago and sexual confusion abounds. President Clinton, who was impeached for accepting a blow job from a White House intern, fired his Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders when she suggested that masturbation is natural and should be taught in schools. The Bush Court threatens to overturn Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose whether or not to have a child. The internet, some argue, is financed by porno web sites. Gays are denied the rights and benefits of marriage. Sexual violence abounds: in wars and conflicts rape is used for ethnic cleansing. Free love, open relationships and nudism have been curtailed not by community standards but by the HIV/AIDs crisis.

Why write about sex & love? Why NOT write about this mystery at the heart of what it means to be human. I explore this topic in my blog to understand who I am and how I fit in the universe at the macro and micro level. Of all the subjects my generation was told could not be discussed in polite company, this is the most interesting and the most important. And if I can just have another fifty years of life on this earth, I might finally get it right.

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