Remember the movie Forty Days and Forty Nights? I didn’t see it, but the premise was that there was something extraordinary about voluntarily going six weeks without having sex. I thought that was completely nuts, but apparently that’s normal thinking among some Americans. It’s certainly the norm on some TV shows I watch, like Friends and Sex and the City and Buffy and Scrubs and – and, well, virtually all of them except for Smallville. Feeling incredibly deprived if you’re not having frequent sex is normal.
So I was reading (via Eve Tushnet) this interview with David Biano, a once-gay writer who has recently decided that he can’t have sex with men anymore, because it contradicts “traditional Jewish observance.” He plans on starting a family with some nice (and apparently yet-to-be-met) Jewish woman, but despite that isn’t signing up with the “ex-gay” movement, thank goodness.
Anyhow, this exchange between Biano and his interviewer struck me:
Q: But what makes you think that this fundamental, core piece of who you are, regardless of how it got there, can be put away and sort of just ignored or not acted on? It’s not like you’re deciding not to eat Big Macs because you know that they’re bad for you. This is something much more central to who we are… This is sex.
A: And I believe that American culture and the gay community have overly glorified sex to the point that it’s expected to be the most important piece of our lives. And historically that never happened before the last couple hundred years. And I don’t accept that it’s natural for us or that it’s what God wants for us. I think it is Western culture that is out of whack, not me.
Although I’m not religious, I think Biano is on to something here. But then again, I’m pretty weird about sex. I mean, I like it. A good orgasm with another human being is astounding; the only experience I’ve had that rivals orgasm with another person for pure intensity is trippits (inhaling nitrous oxide while tripping on LSD).
I love trippits. But y’know, if I never have a trippit again, that’ll be okay by me. (It’s been years since my last one). It’s not the end of the world. It’s not even a big deal. There are better things in life than seeking intense momentary pleasure.
Folks who organize their lives around arranging their next drug trip, or making sure they have a steady supply of drugs, are seen as ludicrous or pathetic. But folks who organize their lives around arranging their next sexual encounter, or securing a steady supply of sexual encounters, are seen as normal. What’s the difference?
There’s a sort of fascism of desire in American society. In much the same way lesbians and gays are told they’re not normal, people who don’t want to have sex all the time – who don’t think sex is a “fundamental, core piece of who you are” – are understood to be weirdos, deviants, freakishly far from the norm. If someone goes to clubs five nights a week hoping to find a sex partner for the night, that’s normal; if someone completely throws over their friends and their goals in order to be more attractive to a steady sex partner, that’s normal; if someone sends letters to strangers who want to get married and said so in a classified ad, that’ s normal; but if someone doesn’t feel any particular need for sex, get them to a psychiatrist!
Not that I’ve got anything against people who want to have sex a lot. Hell, go for it. Have fun.(Although please don’t pretend that you’re being a rebel; nothing in the world is more mainstream and conventional than being interested in sex). I’ve also think personal ads are a good idea (some close friends have vastly improved their lives using the personals), and I’ve got nothing against heavy drug use, or going to clubs five nights a week. I still think that anti-gay groups like the Republican party are, for all their excuses, little more than exercises in legitimizing hatred.
But speaking for myself, I’ll be perfectly happy if I never have sex again. It’s simply not a vital issue in my life. Why should that be weird?
Update: Read as well this excellent post by Blueheron – he’s a much more conventional and ordinary thinker than I am on sexuality (I just said that to get his goat), but he and I think in very similar ways about the value – and devaluation – of deep friendships. “It’s very odd and deeply sad that partnerships (being defined here as close and lasting relationships based on serious friendship and shared common interests) have become so marginal in our society.”