Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Puritanical Hypocricy Watch

Remember back when I posted about a friend who asked, "Which is more intimate, 'I love you' or sex?" For me, 'I love you' is more intimate than sex, and I suspected that this would be true for others as well.
Well, I got an update on my friend's informal survey today. It seems that when people were initially asked this question, they responded that they were more conservative with sex than with "I love you". This is the opposite of my own response, and the opposite of what I thought other responses would be. But when my friend confronted the people being querried with examples of their past behavior, many of them revised their assessment and "admitted" they were more likely to have sex with someone than say "I love you" to someone.
Now this is fascinating to me. The fact that people could be in such denial about their own sexual behavior that they cannot answer this question accurately the first time around is really frightening. But of course I shouldn't be surprised, given all the lying, revisionism, and denial our culture routinely engages in when sex is the subject. (For a prime example, see my post on virginity pledges.)
This kind of denial is highly entertaining to see exposed, and highly supportive of my view that puritanism rests on a foundation of hypocricy. But it causes real harm to real people. Puritanism kills. It kills people because it prevents us from fighting disease in the most effective ways. Yes, 100% abstinence is a perfect prophylactic against STDs. But this is not how people behave here on planet earth, even under puritanical regimes far more draconian than anything the American prudes would consider (or am I being naive here?). And my objections to the "war on sex" are not just practical. I don't think we should be asexual, even if we somehow somehow could be. I think the moral condemnation of sex is itself wrong. That is not to say that sex isn't dangerous, that it doesn't have enormous consequences. But that's why we need to educate people about it.
Imagine if we taught children about knives in the same manner that puritans want us to teach them about sex. Instead of telling them that knives are useful tools, and showing them how to hold and use a knife safely, and showing them what to do if they do cut themselves, we'd just tell them "KNIVES ARE BAD! NEVER TOUCH ONE, EVER! YOU DON'T NEED TO CUT ANYTHING UNTIL YOU GET MARRIED! THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID CUTTING YOURSELF IS TO PLEDGE ABSTIENCE FROM CUTLERY!" etc.
We cannot pin our hopes for social progress in the sexual arena (whether it be reducing AIDS, reducing teen pregnancy, or reducing the number of abortions) on the deluded notion that sexuality can be excised from the human psyche. I reflexively dismiss any social enterprise that does not take into account a human's need to have some form of sexual expression. It would be like trying to get to the moon without taking into account something called gravity. And yet much of humanity seems locked in this delusion.
As Dan Savage says, "This is some serious shit, breeders. You're being attacked. It's time to fight back."


Anonymous Justin said...

You know, I'm not sure the problem is really one of actual "revisionism." I think what's really going on is that people are trained not to think of these concepts objectively.

I mean, I may have resorted to a damnatio memoriƦ or two, but I would not say that I'm given to outright lying about my sexual history (of course, as such lying would include lying to myself you may have to correct me on this point ;) ), but my reaction to the question was actuall similar to the one your friend reports. It's just that you only saw my final answer.

It's rather like how people are more frightened of airplane crashes than car crashes, even though the latter are far more common. Likewise, our society is virtually founded on the idea that there is such a thing as too much sex, but the idea emotional promiscuity is rarely even broached.

11:47 PM, May 23, 2006  

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