34. Perspectives on sex
Sigmund Freud is synonymous with his controversial theories that spelt out psycho-sexual human development, amongst other significant observations on socialisation. Hot on his heels came Masters and Johnson, and Kinsey, collecting evidence to back up their hunches about the wide range of expressions sexuality can take.
Such findings, the invention of the pill, and popular culture ushered in more lax mores in the West from the middle of the twentieth century, which is confirmed by more frank instructions such as is found in The Little Red Schoolbook, from 1969. These were refreshingly liberating compared to the advice doled out to housewives up to that point in women’s magazines, which bullied them into staying in long-suffering masochistic roles. The trend of candour lives on; columnist Caitlín Moran is one example, and film director, Lena Denham, another. There are tips for guys, and plenty of informative TV programmes now on the topic. Pornography has its place for some but toys precariously with expectations and may disrupt or even destroy real intimacy. Reality checks seem to be necessary to dispel false impressions given elsewhere, especially in romantic films and books, whose lies can allegedly ruin love lives. Survivors of sexual abuse may need extra attention.
Unfortunately, the promise of blissful intimacy marketed by internet dating sites may fail to highlight some alarming dangers that go with it. While everyone would encourage taking precautions with total strangers, the picture is even more sobering when it comes to close partners, where the highest risk of assault and homicide has been shockingly linked to law enforcement officials. The phenomenon of misogyny persists in various guises across the globe but, with unflagging shaming and resistance, it can be eventually defeated, just as campaigns to abolish slavery brought relief.
Clearly, of course, sex has been happening from the beginning of time. It has generally been considered a force requiring regulation in tribal groups because of its gift to reproduce human resources expected to act in and for the wider public, despite its assumed private aspect. Attempts to control indulgence have been taken to extremes of genital mutilation of both girls and boys, sometimes to the point of organ amputation. Such practices continue in traditions which generally originated in circumstances of incredibly harsh environments where leisure wasn’t afforded.
Most civilisations, however, do not resort to such harmful measures and never did. The revered ancient Hindu text, the Kama Sutra, affirms the positive aspects of passionate affectionate relationships, as does the Biblical text, The Song Of Solomon. To help people iron out the many neuroses they may be carrying around with them after negative indoctrination and experiences from the past, teachers such as David Deida have been modernising tantric exercises and uniting them with other optimal concepts of sexuality in a variety of accessible programmes.
Flexibility to choose who to love, assuming consent, makes for more mutually-respectful pairings and a more tolerant heart-led democracy. An awareness of the suffering that sexual misconduct can wreak places a responsibility on participants to be considerate, teaches Thich Nhat Hanh. This is what his book Fidelity: How To Create A Loving Relationship That Lasts, is all about. Anthropologist Maurice Godelier believes that, in moving away from conservative nuclear groupings that were most venerated in the Victorian era, the increasing plasticity of family forms better reflects how humanity interacted in the past, as detailed in his book, The Metamorphoses of Kinship. Whatever negative views are held about relationships, the good news is that, albeit with a little corrective thinking and behaviour in some cases, everyone can hope to enjoy positive loving connection with others of their preference. For those already in mutually-cherishing unions, alleluia!