“Men fare little better. We are viewed as sexual junkies who seek to satisfy our relentless physical appetites at the expense of all who cross our paths. We are not to be trusted.”
And that’s why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love
Cold Cape Cod clams, ‘gainst their wish, do it
Even lazy jellyfish do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love
Lets take a look at the list of the typical online sexuality conversations, shall we?
- Sex: Not getting enough
- Sex: Not getting the right kind
- Sex: Not liking the person you’re getting it from
- Sex: Oops
- Sex: Porn
- Sex: Rape
- Sex: I’m quite happy with it, thank you very much
Please note: Category #7 doesn’t actually result in very popular articles because it isn’t infused with rage, shame, condemnation, annoyance or regret. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would write that #7 stuff. Honestly.
A lot of people are thinking about sex a lot of the time. This should come as no surprise because having sex is the single, absolute A#1 top priority programmed into every single strand of our DNA. Here’s the genetic imperative in a nutshell: Make little portable packets of your DNA. Run out and add them to the gene pool. Repeat.
We pass on our genes, which in turn, gives rise to new human beings who, not surprisingly, have a genetic imperative to pass on their genes and so on and so forth. For those employing birth control, this whole pass on your genes thing may seem like a moot point, but the fact remains: the URGE to pass on your genetic code, to spice it in with that of another human being, is paramount no matter what you think you’re actually doing.
If being really uncomfortable made people procreate more, that is what would happen when we have sex. But oddly enough, sex feels really good. I guess a million years of evolution has settled that issue. Sex should feel good. Okay. Let’s go with that. And maybe that’s where all the guilt comes in. If something feels good, of course we should condemn people for doing it. Right? Somewhere back down the line, feeling good became bad.
Which makes you wonder when exactly that all started. For example, its clear that for thousands of years adult silverback gorillas have been telling younger male apes, “Nope, no sex for you.” This was not because sex is bad, this was to insure that the alpha male’s genetic code g0t passed on. But when did the first humanoid come racing through the jungle yelling, “None of us should be having sex! It’s EVIL!” I’ll bet they beat the stuffing out of him. And rightly so. But apparently, he kept coming back.
On some level, we’re all just a mode of genetic transmission. An animal that appears, runs around for a few frantic decades, and then gets tossed in the cosmic recycling bin. The pesky URGE to transmit our genetic data? It remains until we fall, with one last lingering sigh about that girl we kissed behind the bleachers in 12th grade, into our graves. And then some worms come and have babies all over us. Because they’re confronting a similar challenge. Making more worms. At all costs. Forever.
Every plant and animal on the planet is subject to the rule of procreation. You can’t avoid it. Why the hell would you try? Is anyone out shaming broccoli in the fields? “Stop having broccoli sex! Shame on you, broccoli!” Or birds? Or cows? No, we reserve shaming for other humans. For our spouses. For our children.
I sometimes despair that, despite our lofty ambitions, we are essentially ephemeral transmission points on the long line of genetic data stringing out for millions of years onto our collective past; genetic data whose sole agenda is to figure out more efficient ways to replicate itself. That would explain high heel shoes. And back shaving. I despair, not because I think our DNA’s imperative to replicate itself is necessarily bad. I despair because so many people seek to condemn the impulses linked to this imperative. We’re sexual creatures. Of course we are. Yet, culturally, we shame, attack, condemn and reject people who act on their need for sex. Especially if they do so in non-normative ways. Even as we stare, drooling, at the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Or Taylor Lautner. Or whomever.
Collectively we remain conflicted and confused about sexuality. Caught up in a culture war which sexually isolates and misinforms successive generations, who go on to act out in angry, self destructive and abusive ways. All because they have no path forward to finding their own bliss.
The bottom line is, you can’t beat city hall. Respect the system, people. Sex feels good because millions of years of evolution have determined that for humans it absolutely must feel good. So don’t beat yourself up over it. Really.
My point is not that we all should be procreating. My point is that we’re highly sexual creatures. And, being moderately evolved, we’ve risen above our simple genetic imperatives. Unlike bacilli, which engage in sexual activity simply to procreate, we are, on our better days, self aware. We perceive our sexuality as something we can enjoy, play with, explore. We can use our sexuality as a way to experience pleasure, express our identities and form relationships to others that are potentially transcendent.
Recently, Ferrett Steinmetz authored an article titled Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex. In this article, Steinmetz makes a deeply personal argument for not guilt tripping our children about sex. Be careful. Be thoughtful. Sex is good. Have a great life. The article is that simple and yet, what do we see as one of the threads in the comments section? That this guy was telling his daughter to go out and be promiscuous.
Promiscuity. The bogy man of sexual liberation; not very coded language for slut, tramp, whore, etc. I’m searching my mind for gendered slang that describes male promiscuity and all I’m coming up with is stud, player and George Clooney. Whats up with that?
We have so many bogus double standards where female sexuality is concerned I don’t even know where to start. Madonna/whore complex? No thank you. That whole frame is completely messed up. And this is just one in an endless stream of conflicted and dangerous cultural narratives about sexuality and women. Narratives which encourage the subjugation of half of the human population.
Men fare little better. We are viewed as sexual junkies who seek to satisfy our relentless physical appetites at the expense of all who cross our paths. We are not to be trusted. Because we don’t want or need emotional intimacy. Male sexuality is what your mother warned you about. It is dark, destructive and selfish. I defy any man who is reading this to look inside and not find some version of that tape running.
Yet, the simple fact remains, procreating is why we exist. It is any species’ purpose. And given that pleasure increases the likelihood that our species will continue, why is it any surprise that we have powerful, complex and widely varying sexual capacities?
Accepting ours and other’s sexuality doesn’t mean we grant people permission to do harm. It doesn’t mean we are obsessed with sexuality above everything else. It doesn’t mean we ignore the sexual boundaries of others. We know sex is meant for consenting adults. We know all of this. It just means we cut ourselves some slack and enjoy, sans the grinding depleting shame, what the universe has given us. You can toss in creating a few babies if you want. That’s fine, too. But we need to come to terms with the war on sex and sexuality. Because if we don’t, it will continue to fuel rampant pain, isolation and despair for men and women alike.
Meanwhile, Steinmetz’s article continues to generate millions of hits on the internet precisely because a lot of men and women want to break the cycle of sexual shaming in the world.
Feel free to share it. I have.
If you’d like to explore more about couples and sexuality, I strongly recommend the work of Esther Perel.
Follow Mark Greene on Twitter:
REMAKING MANHOOD–Available now on Kindle Reader for Windows, Macs, Android, iPhones and iPads
Good Men Project Executive Editor Mark Greene’s articles on masculinity and manhood have received over 100,000 FB shares and 10 million page views. Remaking Manhood is a collection of Greene’s most powerful articles on American culture, relationships, family and parenting. It is a timely and balanced look at the issues at the heart of the modern masculinity movement.
More by Mark Greene:
More by Mark Greene:
Click here to view a full list of Mark Greene’s Articles
Like our article? Please consider sharing it via the buttons below. And thanks!