In this year of 2016, we fancy our culture to be one with free societal standards. Especially when it comes to sex and relationships. Notice I wrote “sex” first. More than ever, young children are eager to shed their virginity so they can join the ranks of the mature. Because, of course, no child wants to be innocent. Innocence is equated with immaturity, which is equated with a lack of wisdom on how life works, cruelties and all. Naïveté … so not cool.
But I suggest something perhaps edgy: we actually live in sexually stifled times. How so? Well, look at our online erotica, politely put. It is generally predictable and formulaic, featuring banal circumstantial plots, which lead to making out, to petting, and so forth. Men use their voices to grunt or say “encouraging” three-word phrases, and nubile women likewise oblige them. These days, so many people simply copy what they see online in their own beds so as to be more … “epic” in their love-making, perhaps? It is sad, because the notion of copying pre-programmed images, indicates lack of spontaneity and creativity, which I equate to be a more stifled notion.
True freedom lies in not having to conform. In our efforts to try and “blend in” in our beds, we suffer from creative infringement. We fear “looking stupid,” or “doing it wrong.” Some people have satisfying sex lives regardless, but for so many, we expect that sex is supposed to work “just so.” We play up the noises here, or tolerate that lack of comfort just there, and we figure it is part of the game. Or we might feign a lack of attachment to a partner, when really we’re trying to avoid being clingy and attached to someone we would like to get to know better. This psychologically unhealthy, and it is also indicative of something more sinister.
Allow me to explain.
Since the dawn of human society, the loss of virginity has been perceived as a rite of passage, moving from youth into adulthood, from innocence into maturity.
With this social convention came other limiting assumptions as well. A man and a woman had to be married before being allowed to have sex. A child born out of wedlock was considered a shame, and would ruin a woman’s reputation permanently. An older unmarried woman was considered a laughing stock, while an older unmarried man was considered a free spirit. And non-heteronormative behaviors and lifestyles were disdained, ignored, or at best overlooked. These days, we pride ourselves on how far we have come sexually, because we are no longer shackled to these assumptions. We are now free from such labels, and we all can have sex without care of what anybody thinks about us.
I look at movies and other filmed footage from the seventies and eighties with awe. I am always floored with how openly provocative and flamboyant men’s fashion styles were back then. Athletic shorts so high up into the crotch, you figure the only thing keeping the male junk in is … glue? Brightly colored polyester, stylized hairdos … we find it comical now, but I am filled with questions. Why were men more interested in fashion back then, compared to now? I think that, when a man puts greater effort into his appearance, he will put more effort in trying to please his sexual partner. If a man dresses with panache, he will exercise such in the bedroom too. Perhaps you can imagine the erotic potential here.
Sadly, men these days seem to be slobs. They don’t care about making themselves presentable or snazzy anymore. The “just fell out of bed” look is all the rage. And why would men ever want to revise this “fashion trend,” when nothing could be easier? Yet still, everyone seems to have fallen out of bed with the same fashion sense. Hipsters, all embracing the same social values, all inclined to be heavily tattooed with meaningless doodles, all shopping at thrift stores, yadda yadda. And since their fashion sense is sloppy, I can only assume that their potential for good lovemaking is sloppy too. Hence, the reason why they need to imitate online erotica to have “good sex.” And as for younger children, we have yet to see their rebellious response to hipsterdom and their own appropriation of what they see online.
Was sex more exciting back in the seventies and eighties? I wasn’t around at the time, but I have some little inklings from memories of my youth. The naked human body of another person was only an imaginable mystery, hinted at by an opened collar here exposing chest hair, a dip of a woman’s neckline there. The way pants hugged one’s rear, or the swing of the hair… they had the potential to truly mesmerize. Dirty magazines and little adult theaters and peep booths were things of scandalous quality, and not to be talked about. The “hush hush” of it all… this charged emotion… it is gone from today’s sexual culture. Now we’ve seen it all. And with the aid of search engines, we can even find specific, exact videos that are to our liking.
The scales are still tipped though regarding expectations for men and women. In our waking lives, women still care about looking stylish and attractive. Again this is reflected in contemporary erotica. Often, a hapless adolescent twig will present themselves as all but sexual servants, eager to please the men who are so gracious enough to bestow them with the ultimate gift of the penis. Adolescent girls look at porn, and then model their own lovemaking after it. Where is the interaction of personalities? Even during a one-night stand, lovers can still be spontaneous and racy. But now, porn fails to demonstrate this, which then robs us of being free.
Perhaps things began to get more conservative during the horrendous outburst of AIDS in the 80s and 90s. The notion of free love gave way to more cautious attitudes to prevent the spread of STIs. Rightfully so, we must exercise safe-sex practices to ensure sexual health, but must we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Perhaps we’ve not thrown away bathwater either because our online erotica still shows unprotected sex.
My hope is that we stop learning how to behave in the bedroom exclusively by looking at screens. Intimacy needs to be an explorative process. Because that is how a connection with another person is truly forged. Friendship, love… the foundation of such is NOT grounded in simply acting the part. Our lovemaking now suffers so much, that we now do not even understand the true nature of love. Look at the lyrics to popular songs from then and now. Old songs have sentimental lyrics like, “Can’t take my eyes off of you.” Now, it’s all about pimps, hoes and licking bouncing booty.
Although we equate loss of virginity with moving from innocence to maturity, I venture to present an alternate attitude. Innocence is the lack of understanding of the nature of love. One could sleep with a hundred people, and still be an innocent because he has never experienced love. Think of it… as much as we might try to “sex” away our innocence, it still remains! Mind you, marriage does not represent understanding of this concept either. Every demographic of people is affected.
For a person to determine if s/he is still innocent in this regard, one can ask him/herself a few questions:
1) What am I looking for in the bedroom? Is it emotional excitement in addition to physical satisfaction, or simply the latter by itself?
2) What kind of people do I find attractive? Is it someone whose boisterousness causes me to enjoy myself in ways that I am unable to imagine on my own, or am I looking for someone to do exactly what I want for me myself?
3) Do I find lovemaking to be an experience from which I derive feelings of personal self-empowerment, wisdom and meaning? A person who does not find meaning and life lessons in lived experience is one who does not evolve or grow into a wiser person. And it is an impossibility for such a person to understand mature love, because love is an entity that must grow and evolve in order to remain alive.
We are now sadly watching a generation of children growing up with the influence of easily-obtained internet erotica and overtly sexual displays on television and in movies. And although our culture takes a liberal attitude towards sexual expression, I believe that we are teaching our children that sex only works in certain ways. Boy meets girl, partner meets partner, and then one submits to the other in meaningless sex. There is flirting, skimpy outfits and obligatory dates, all which preclude the “good stuff.” But increasingly, people do not even want to date anymore. It feels like a job interview, and the economy is poor; Everyone is too broke to pay for dinner-and-movie dates. Netflix is cheaper, and sex is free.
We need to rediscover the process of getting to know another person. The steps between strangers, to acquaintanceship, to friendship … it is all now lost in the wash. Wasn’t it such in the conservatively-dressed olden days, that partners were emotionally distant from one another? We are not as free and liberal as we think we are.