"The demand for a uniform sexual life for all, which is proclaimed in all these prohibitions, disregards all the disparities, innate and acquired, in the sexual constitution of human beings, thereby depriving fairly large numbers of sexual enjoyment and becoming a source of grave injustice" (C&D 53).He goes on to discuss not just S&M and, what's old hat now, LGBTQ and "non-genital" sexual experiences, but also our practice of monogamy. He opens the question of why civilization, it seems, necessarily restricts sexual practices in a way that doesn't happen with most other mammals, but he's at a loss to answer it. In a previous post, I suggested the following:
I think we are more jealous than other creatures in such a way that if we have open sex it causes animosity that doesn’t exist in the rest of the animal kingdom, and it works against community to have a web of sexual relationships, so we like people to pair up. If people are non-monogamous, then instead of seeing the bounty available to us all, we see that our favourite partner is getting with someone else tonight - or has the potential to, - and we want to kill them both because of it. An unpartnered woman is a threat to this stability, able to destroy family cohesiveness, so she must be persuaded or coerced to partner up, or else is ostracized. And I don't think our possessiveness over one another is going anywhere soon. It's too useful to us even though it unnecessarily restricts us. And I think it's partially because we know that if everyone is free to have sex with whomever they like all the time, it doesn't mean that anyone will want to have sex with me (or you). So, because of the reality that some people will get left out of the game, and it might be us, we're more certain of rewards (sex) if we latch on to one person for the duration and do what it takes to keep them loyal to us. But, really, that's not working either.
Yes, I know there are people who take pains to follow that tradition, but my point is, there's a disturbing split between what we do and what we want to believe we do - still, half a century after Kinsey told us what we actually do.
There's a Manitoba judge who might lose her job because her ex took nudie photos of her and posted them on-line. The question on the table is whether or not she can be viewed as a respectable person capable of delivering judgment on others after people see these photos - will it undermine the public's confidence in her. And the catch is, in some of the photos she's tied up. This is something some people do that causes no harm to anyone, but it's still somehow seen as indicative of moral debasement.
In what way does it help society or the individual to foster denial or fabricate blinders around sexuality?
There's a Toronto woman who has a snuggle service - $90 for an hour and a half of just spooning - no forking. The comments following the article are hilarious and a sign of our times - which are not nearly as liberated as we'd like to think. Sexual liberation isn't just about being able to have sex when you want and how you want, but also about being comfortable saying "no thanks." And lots of people want human contact without sex, but many of the commenters just can't believe that's the case. Even though it seems completely innocent, people are snapping at her for being creepy and weird. And it says a lot that she gets customers willing to pay money for that kind of contact. We pay for sex, and for a massage, and for people to talk to when we're troubled, why is it so outrageous to pay for snuggles? We're dying for human contact, but if the only viable option is sexual, then some people can't play.
It's hard when a couple's drives don't match, and they rarely do perfectly, but maybe that wouldn't be a problem if sexual monogamy wasn't so deeply entrenched. There may be two problems here: that we want marriage to last forever, and that we want marriage to be exclusive.
Here's where Tom and Katie make an appearance. Why do we media-stalk them as they endure the private trauma of splitting up? Judith Timson explains,
But the grip of this story is powerful because we’ve been here before – it’s a narrative that never fails to interest, a reverse fairy tale, the princess fleeing the prince, leaving behind the palace and all its supposed splendours. Run, princess, run. The prince turned out to be a frog, or at least a weirdo.We're at a point where some people need to be rescued from marriages. Actually, that's always been the case, but what's new is that now we're beginning to openly celebrate it. We recognize that forever can be way too long and we cheer for people getting out. Yet we continue to make life-long commitments. Curious.
John Irving gave an interview about his book which "explores issues of sexual identity through the eyes of a young bisexual man in love with a transgender woman." I didn't much like the book, but the comments on the article are interesting. Think Right remarked, "Essentially a long plea for the tolerance of sexual differences... Does that include pedophilia, beastiality, polygamy? If not, why not???" It's not entirely clear his/her stance on the issue (advocating no boundaries, or, more likely, illustrating a perceived slippery slope), but I think it's a good question.
Pedophilia and beastiality, if we're working on a harm model of morality, are no-goes because there can't be mutual informed consent between parties, so therefore it has the potential for harm. But polygamy, between adult parties freely giving informed consent (far from the Bountiful situation), could be the answer to some dilemmas facing partners facing unequal desires. I'm not sure we can go there because of our possessive nature. And we'll likely try to stop it from becoming a reality to keep it off the table for those of us not interested. If we don't want to go there, then we don't want others to go there for fear of being pressured to do it too. We have to make sure everyone thinks it's icky in order to protect our dominion over our exclusive deals.
It seems to me that what it all comes down to is iff we can raise the status of "no thanks," so it's always a viable option released from the negative stigma of the puritanical prude, then we can better open doors to anything that doesn't harm another by acknowledging what people do and accepting it as yet another option, and and thereby stop the grave injustice of depriving fairly large numbers of people of sexual enjoyment. Easy, right? I won't hold my breath.