Sex and Sexuality in the 21st Century:
How and Why We Got There
I will begin this paper by making what will certainly be a controversial statement. Sex is any activity that excites the sexual pleasure centers of the brain. This simple, but obviously controversial statement bypasses a series of unresolved issue in defining what sex is and, perhaps, more importantly, what is not sex. If we use this definition we avoid a host of problems related to trying to define in a dichotomous way (1 = sex, 0 otherwise) acts that either are or are not sex.
This definition may be alarming, and perhaps even offensive to some. The definition suggests that virtually every human being past puberty, and perhaps many, if not most people before puberty has had sex, and probably regularly. Indeed, if we accept this definition, then sex is a basic element of what we are as human beings. In particular, sex is an activity in which some engage but others do not. Sex in this context is as human as, say, breathing or eating. Indeed, sex is as normal for humans as sunshine.
A related issue is whether sex is a noun or a verb. As indicated above, I prefer to think of sex as an activity, like running or riding a bicycle is an activity. Is running a noun or a verb? If we can answer that question with certainty then maybe we can determine with equal certainty whether sex is a noun or a verb.
Adjectives on Sex
By putting adjectives on sex, we are treating sex as if it were more nearly a noun than a verb. Let us use some examples of modifiers commonly attached to sex as an activity such as
There are those who would like to conclude that sex happens only when certain of these modifiers are used, but not for others. Let’s examine these modifiers one at-a-time. We are actually dealing with a value system here defining what specific acts or activities are thought of as sex versus not.
The partner sex adjective suggests that for sex to occur, two people must be involved. Gender doesn’t matter, but this modifier would suggest that sex cannot or does not happen unless two people are present, presumably both aroused. Those who support the partner sex adjective to describe sex involving two individuals would probably be comfortable arguing that therefore solo sex cannot be “real” sex, since solo implies only one person is involved. There is general recognition that individuals alone can arouse themselves, but whatever this might be called it cannot be classified as “real” sex.
Solo sex is often viewed as a synonym for masturbation, but that is not truly the case. Masturbation can be defined as any instance whereby an individual pleasures him or herself. This might be in the presence of a partner of either sex, or not. Indeed, mutual masturbation between two partners in a relationship can be a very important and immensely enjoyable form of partner sex and it should not be regarded as an option only when “real sex cannot take place for whatever reason. And this definition begs the question of whether mutual masturbation sessions (self stimulation) involving more than two individuals is sex or something entirely different from sex.
When I was growing up, I learned that another commonly applied term for masturbation was “self-abuse” and I frequently wondered why something so entirely pleasant and enjoyable could possibly seen as abuse or perhaps harmful. This terminology reinforces in young people the idea that masturbation is somehow “wrong”, harmful to the body and/or psyche, and therefore should be avoided, with young people punished if caught masturbating. But the same questions haunted me that haunt nearly every young person that somehow there must ultimately be some negative consequence arising from masturbating “too much.”
For a long time, even
Many adults, for any number of reasons, spend short or even long periods of their lives living without a sexual partner. Some people do this because for their own reasons they prefer to not have sexual partners: others have lost partners because of divorce, death or any number of other reasons. The vast majority of these people likely engage in solo sex as adults. I find it inappropriate, perhaps even demeaning, to think of these people as either being asexual or as engaging in something inferior to “real” (aka partner) sex, and therefore these people without sexual partners somehow need sympathy from society because of what they do or because of the “inferior” activities in which they regularly engage.
The idea of referring to people of different genders who are stimulating each other as having “straight sex” probably has its origins in the notion that “normal” sexual behavior involves two individuals of different not the same genders, and that straight sex is somehow “normal” sex, and that any sex involving something other than two people of different genders must somehow be “abnormal” sex. Straight sex is whatever is done by heterosexual couples.
Conversely, the use of the term gay sex has traditionally referred to whatever two people of the same gender might do with respect to sexually stimulating each other. In other words, gay sex refers most generally to sex between two individuals of the same gender. Sometimes the term gay sex is used to apply to sex between two males, whereas, less frequently, gay sex is used to describe sex between two partners of the same sex, regardless of gender.
For obvious biological reasons, penis-vagina sex can only occur between two people of different genders, so this term is sometimes used as a reference to straight sex, particularly those who believe that other forms of sex, ie oral, anal, or gay, are somehow abnormal. A person who buys into the (fallacious) argument that the only reason for sex is procreation, then, penis-vagina sex is the one form of sex that can lead to pregnancy and children. Many parents, on the other hand, strongly urge teen children to avoid penis-vagina sex, and probably for good reason.
Oral sex encompasses a variety of sexual activities all sharing the common characteristic that mouth is in some way in contact with a sex organ. The two most common forms are fellatio (penis in mouth) and cunnilingus (mouth on clitoris or vagina, but there are assorted other sex acts, below that could be broadly construed as oral sex.
When the subject of anal sex comes up, most people quickly think of sex between gay men. However broadly speaking, anal sex includes any activity whereby a penis ends up in an anus, whether the anus belongs to a male or a female. Plus, anal sex might also include other activities such as a partner’s finger in an anus.
Sex in the 20th Century
The 1950s and earlier
I like to label the time that ended in the 1950s as the period in which traditional views about what was and was not sex dominated. The traditional view, course suggested that sex was when the penis was in the vagina, but anything other than that did not qualify as sex. This leads right into the traditional definition of virgin as a female who had not been entered by a male. This, in turn led to endless debates over whether or not the hymen had been torn was an indication that a female was a virgin or not, with some arguing that sometimes the hymen could stretch but not break in penis/vagina sex and others arguing that some women who masturbate with their finger or other objects could break the hymen without having penis/vagina sex. I don’t know that these issues have ever been entirely resolved
It was somewhat later, perhaps the 60s, when the definition of a virgin was generally broadened to include males who had not had penis-vagina sex. On occasion, men who had not had penis-vagina sex would refer to themselves as virgins, if their egos would permit them to say anything at all about sex. Interestingly, the guy who brags to his male friends about his sexual conquests involving penis-vagina sex is considered “normal”, but a guy who has not had penis/vagina sex generally makes no mention of it, for fear of being called “weird”, “abnormal”, or perhaps even “gay”. As a guy gets older, the idea that he might still not have had penis-vagina sex as indicative of a situation whereby either the guy lacks basic socialization skills, is somehow mentally unbalanced, or “likely gay.” Guys of all ages who have not had penis-vagina sex tend to keep their mouths shut about the entire topic, lest they receive one of these labels, be confronted with discrimination in the workplace (a common issue confronting guys beyond their twenties who do not appear to have a female partner, or in many cases, simply not be married).
The classic baseball phrase was used by teen males to explain how close they got with a girl on a date to penis-vagina sex. First base referred to hugging and light kissing (as in “I didn’t even get to first base with her last night.” Second base was not quite so clear, but could refer both to French kissing (that is, tongue in partners mouth while kissing), but probably primarily touching and rubbing the partner’s genitalia through clothing. No nudity or touching or massaging uncovered sex organs at second base. Today we might refer to this as mutual, dry masturbation. An alternative name for third base is heavy petting. A classic anecdote about heavy petting is that it is a situation whereby “the hand is on the thingamajig, and the thingamajig is in the hand, but the thingamajig is not in the thingamajig!” Teen males would also refer to this as “feeling her up” and perhaps putting his hand inside the girl’s panties. The same for the teen girl who masturbates her date, perhaps to orgasm by placing her hand inside his underwear. A home run only occurs if the penis actually enters the vagina and, assuming that at least the male has an orgasm (ejaculates), this would be the classic, 50s definition of sex, and perhaps loss of virginity for the female and, perhaps the male.
It’s interesting to try to examine exactly what parents in the 50s and before were telling their children about sex, how broadly they viewed sex (is sex penis in vagina, or something far more complicated?), and in particular, how they saw obviously sexual behaviors among young people that went nearly to, but did not include, penis-vagina sex. It’s difficult to believe that parents in that time were somehow ignorant of what was likely going on. What was interesting here is that first to third base did not involve any activity that was in any way dangerous to either partner (ok it might be possible to exchange a cold or flu virus by heavy kissing, but that was about it.) Mutual masturbation even at third base was a perfectly safe activity for both teens to engage in, and there was no point is saying anything about anything that might have happened to parents.
Teens generally do not like to discuss the details a lot of sex activities they engage in after puberty with their parents, even if they believe that their parents could be a source of useful information about what is going on in their lives and how they might better be able to deal with changes occurring in their bodies and the situations and issues they are confronting. Apparently, teen females are often more open about engaging in these discussions with their mothers than teen males are in discussing sex-related issues with their father. For example, generally post-pubescent males do not explain to their parents that they engage in masturbation, whether solo or mutual. Parents are not unhappy that their children do not provide them with a lot of information regarding what is happening in this regard, because issues would likely come up that they themselves feel uncomfortable discussing, the parents own habits regarding both solo and mutual masturbation for example.
A teen male who would never engage in a discussion of his own solo masturbation activities with his parents is not likely to be forthcoming with respect to mutual masturbation activities with a girlfriend (that is, the details of getting to second or third base). The parent, frequently uncomfortable talking about various issues associated with sex, often prefer to look the other way, unless of course, the girl gets pregnant or either the girl or the guy acquires an STD. A home run presents a problem only if the couple is unprepared for the event and then, with the potential of either getting the girl pregnant, or acquiring an STD, an entirely new set of issues and significant family problems occur.
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton
Jimmy Carter was a child of the 30s and 40s, Bill Clinton a child of the 50s and a teen in the early 60s. It’s interesting to examine how growing up then shaped sexual values, helped them both define in their own minds, what was sex as well as what was not sex, and in general how they both used words to describe what was going on in their heads psycho-sexually.
Perhaps Jimmy Carter’s most famous quote indicated that he felt he had sinned because he had “lusted in his heart.” These are code words which indicated that there had been circumstances in his life in which he had gotten aroused (and perhaps even erect) by observing something or someone who was not his wife. Consider that this view of lust/sexual arousal as sin is a very far-right conservative religious view of sex and sexuality—a viewpoint that argues that any arousal outside of marriage would somehow be viewed as a sin. The mistaken viewpoint here is that if the guy is somehow pure enough or studies enough religious doctrine he will only become sexually aroused in the presence of his wife but in no other situation. Further, sex is only for procreation and the idea of recreation sex for fun is somehow outside the realm of what God would consider activity humans can engage in considered either “appropriate” or “healthy.”
This same viewpoint tends to be the basic rule that apply to sexually-repressive societies around the world regardless of the specific religion. It would be convenient, at least for some in religion, if both men and women were wired that way, in other words, if both men and women could themselves control exactly the conditions under which they are and are not aroused, but so far as I am aware, this is not how human beings are wired generally, and they no amount of religious training or study can somehow change this. We could take an idea from religion that says that human beings where constructed in God’s image, and if God had wanted humans to only be aroused by their own marriage partners, surely God would have created them so that would be only how they would function (or not function) sexually.
But somehow, that is not how human beings turned out. Indeed, men and women, married or single, gay or straight, get sexually aroused in all sorts of situations outside of a heterosexual marriage. Accepting this all simply as part of being human and then dealing with what happens in a positive way is the underlying issue. I suppose we can believe that God or nature somehow regularly makes “mistakes” in sexual wiring, and people who (admit that they) must deal with this represents the mistakes of creation. However, I cannot believe that this is somehow an accident of nature, but rather that somehow God meant and intended for all human beings to be sexually wired that way.
Bill Clinton grew up somewhat later, in the late 50s and early 60s, but his views on sex were just as much shaped by the period he grew up in. In some respects, these views are more modern than the socially-rigid religiously-moralistic viewpoint about sex that Jimmy Carter has struggled with all his life.
Perhaps Bill Clinton’s most famous quote was that “I never had sex with that woman!” The woman, of course, was Monica Lewinsky. By the 1950s, we were living in an increasingly open society, and it was generally accepted that a lot of married men would have affairs with other women on the side. Think about what Bill Clinton said in the context of the first base, second base, third base analysis. Bill grew up in a world in which guys routinely went to third base with girlfriends, and generally suffered no adverse consequences as a result.
The media and conservative politicians came down hard on Bill Clinton for lying to the public in claiming that he had not had sex with Monica, whereas the evidence pointed otherwise. But to paraphrase Bill, whether or not Bill had sex with Monica might depend on what your definition of “sex” is (or perhaps, in particular, what sex is not).
Has anyone considered in all of what went on that Bill might have been telling the truth based on his sexual value system of the period in which he grew up. He just left off the first part of the statement, in parentheses.
(“If you too define ‘sex’ like all the guys did when I was a teen, that is, sex is hitting a ‘home run’ with penis in the vagina) then I never had sex with that woman!”
I never have quite determined if Bill Clinton had penis-vagina sex with Monica (in which case he was lying) or whether the activities involved practically everything imaginable between two people but traditional penis-in-vagina sex. These activities might include mutual masturbation, masturbation of a sexual partner with the hand or an object (i.e. a cigar, as reported) to orgasm or not, and oral sex in various forms (i.e. cunnilingus and fellatio). Perhaps in Bill’s mind, sex was only hitting a so-called home run. I suppose there was some evidence that he had (i.e. semen stains on the blue dress—I always thought that dress belonged in the Smithsonian along with the gowns of the First Ladies, but apparently the Smithsonian was unable to come to grips with the propriety of doing this given the historical significance of this event in the life of our nation. Even the administrators of the Smithsonian have puritanical sexual hang-ups regarding what is appropriate or not.)
There is little doubt in my mind that there is an element of Bill’s personality that keeps him sexually and psychologically permanently planted in an Arkansas high school at age 16 or 17. He has never quite gotten beyond the 1950s idea that sex involves penis in vagina, and that any sexual activity that does not involve penis in vagina somehow cannot be sex, and that these other activities should not be acknowledged or viewed as being unfaithful to one’s wife in the marriage.
Of course, by the 1990s, when all of this came out in the media, the public had in large measure adopted a much broader and more expansive definition of what sex is and what sex is not (I suppose that depends on what your definition of “is” is!). Jimmy Carter’s moralistic, socially-ultraconservative views on lust, arousal and sex were and are wrong (human beings simply aren’t wired that way, nor was God’s intent ever that they be wired that way!) but for a completely different set of reasons, so is were and are Bill Clinton’s argument that only penis in vagina qualifies as “sex”.
So far as I am aware, Bill Clinton never publicly acknowledged having “sex” with Monica Lewinsky. He did finally admit that what he did was “inappropriate”, and “wrong”. But so far as Bill was concerned, the “recreational activities” he engaged in with Monica, however “wrong” or “inappropriate” in the view of the public did not include what he had leaned as a teen as constituted his definition of “sex” with a woman. By his late 50s sexual-psycho morality, he was still on third base (well maybe edging toward a home run, but the score was not on the board yet). I think he was quite surprised when the public by and large did not buy into his definition of sex and thought otherwise. In this case, the public’s views on what did and did not constitute sex had become much more expansive, but Bill’s views had not. Of course, political fireworks were bound to occur when Members of Congress still clinging to the Jimmy Carter moralistic view on sex clashed with what was actually the “more modern” Bill Clinton view dating to the 1950s.
The 1960s and 70s
Many of us remember the “free love” period of the 1960s and early 70s. The birth control pill had been introduced in the late 50s and was widely used in the 60s. Women no longer were as concerned about pregnancy in casual sex. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) were something that could readily be cured by modern antibiotics, and posed no real barrier to casual recreational sex.
I like to think of the period starting in the early 1960s through the early 80s (when the AIDS virus appeared on the scene) as the period of “free love”. What changed from the 1950s? The first social factor was the increasingly widespread use of the birth control pill, and with it, the idea that responsibility for pregnancy in penis-vagina sex could be shifted from the man to the woman. Guys either encouraged their girlfriends to go on the pill so they could have penis-vagina sex without fear of pregnancy. If the girl for whatever reason did not do that, the resulting pregnancy now was suddenly the girl’s fault, and the guy liked to believe that he bore no responsibility.
It was becoming increasingly socially acceptable for attached couples intending to marry, eventually, to engage in premarital penis-vagina sex, especially if the girl took adequate “precautions” that is, was on the “pill”. Increasingly, however, this was a period in which casual, recreational sex with no real concern for permanent relationships in marriage became increasingly popular, which led right into the free-love accompanied by drugs era of the 1970s. Single moms, often shunned along with single pregnancies in the 50s, became an ever more common and accepted part of our society even as unmarried fathers frequently ran away from their responsibilities (That is, misguided viewpoint that the pregnancy was the girl’s “fault” and sole responsibility because she did not take precautions). This thinking was wrong, of course, but that was the reasoning a lot of unmarried fathers used to rationalize the situation they confronted and were in part responsible for creating.
STDs were still merely an inconvenience, that is, something that could usually be cured with a shot or antibiotic, and no one considered the possibility that unprotected sex could lead to a terminal disease. Condoms were around, of course, but only thought of as being an option for a guy whose girlfriend somehow refused to go on the pill.
All of this presumably led to more open discussion of matters of sex and sexual turn-ons in relationships. But perhaps this was more nearly myth rather than reality. Even though some parts of society apparently were becoming less up tight in discussing matters related to sex, the traditional value system that repressed discussions of sex in any form remained important. Europeans tended to be less up tight on the subject of discussing sexual matters than most Americans were, and they begin to lead the way into the new period with respect to a more open discussion of sexual behaviors and practices.
This would also the period of time when there was a burgeoning in popularity of sex in the media—that is, movies, magazines, advertising and in music. In the 1950s and before, with few exception references to sex were there but not very explicit. The 60s opened a new era in the movies and in magazines with respect to the explicit depiction of nudity and with frank discussions of sex and sexuality.
Beginning in the 1960s and extending into the 70s, a whole series of books and research studies were published that for the first time not only proved that the vast majority of adults were regularly engaged in a wide array of different sexual activities and practices that did not involve penis-in-vagina sex in a marriage. This started with the Kinsey report on male sexuality which describes much of this in detail, and was followed by a similar Kinsey report on female sexuality. Despite the subject, these were dry, research summaries. The book that probably captured the publics attention was the best-selling David Rubin book “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but were Afraid to Ask,” first published in November, 1969.
Rubin was an MD, and presumably wrote based on firsthand knowledge of what he had seen in his own medical practice. The popularity of this book attests too the fact that at the time it was published, there were lots of things about sex that the public largely did not know and very much wanted to know. People generally knew exactly what they were doing sexually in their own lives, but the interesting part was comparing exactly what they were doing with what everyone else were doing, since the topics covered in each chapter of the book generally represented discussions of sexual activities not commonly discussed in polite society at the time. People wanted to find answers to the basic question “sexually, am I “normal” or “not normal”? If a significant number of others were regularly engaging in some sexual practice whatever that practice might be, then it must be considered “normal” for at least some significant part of the population, and I should not feel embarrassed about either engaging in the practice or even be embarrassed by admitting to someone else that I engage in the practice. Finding accurate, factual information was the first step in dealing with each psychosexual issue based on what might be considered normal or not normal by society.
These books were quickly followed in the 70s by a whole series of books that I will call “sexual technique manuals” providing increasingly detailed descriptions on how to stimulate one’s partner and find the most enjoyment out of a sexual experience with a partner, and these details often described activities that went way beyond traditional penis-in-vagina intercourse. The race was on, so to speak, among authors to see who could write the raciest sex manual.
David Rubin tried to enlighten, but his views too were conditioned by the morality of the day. His views were very much shaped by what the popular culture of the day thought might be accurate at the time.
At least Rubin had the courage to use the term masturbation rather than a presumably less offensive synonym, and devoted a separate chapter to the topic. He realizes that discussion of this topic is even more taboo than discussion of the details of penis-vagina sex. Further, he argued that masturbation was not harmful except for the guilt drummed into masturbating children whose parents found it offensive. He finds inappropriate earlier admonitions for a boy to avoid masturbation such as the advice given in the Boy Scout Manual prior to 1945. But he largely saw masturbation as an activity of young children, and of seniors living alone, both of which lacked other, more socially acceptable forms of sex (presumably involving a partner) were available. He admits that some post-pubescent males engage in “group masturbation” with other males, but was reluctant to label this behavior as homosexual or leading to homosexuality.
But, his overall views on masturbation are best summarized by his concluding paragraph:
“Masturbation is simple a sexual expedient that serves an important purpose: It was the primary sexual activity for most people shortly before they came into the world. It may be their main source of sexual pleasure shortly before they leave this world. In between, if they can arrange it, sexual intercourse is a lot more fun.”
Rubin’s viewpoint ignores the fact that for couples, mutual masturbation may very well be a very important part of lovemaking. He seems hung up on the idea that masturbation is acceptable but only for those who lack other sexual outlets such as real (that is, penis-vagina sex). Further, he seems to not accept the idea both solo and partner masturbation often occur even in marriage and that this might be ok. The fact that many if not most men experience stronger orgasms via masturbation than from penis-vagina sex was still to be discovered, and it would be another 10 years, 1978, before Bernie Zilbergeld set the record straight. He takes on David Rubin’s narrow views on the inferiority masturbation directly (in particular, the statement that masturbation is a substitute form of sexual gratification when other sexual outlets are unavailable) in his book “Male Sexuality”.
Shere Hite’s book, “The Hite Report on Male Sexuality” based on self-selected essay survey, reported in 1981 that nearly all men masturbation, but she was the first to report that many men had stronger and better orgasms via solo masturbation than in penis-vagina sex, in direct conflict with the Rubin viewpoint.
As readers of other of my papers on male sexuality are well aware, I subscribe to the basic Freudian idea that sexual orientation is not dichotomous (0 or 1) but rather exists along a continuum, and not simply as an individual being either gay or straight. While I agree that some people are exclusively heterosexual while others are exclusively homosexual, there are many people (Perhaps as many as 40 percent of the population) who under the right circumstances (some would argue the “wrong” circumstances) can be sexually aroused by members of the other sex. Society labels the people who engage in sexual activities with members of both sexes as bisexual, even though many people who can be aroused by members of both sexes choose one sex over the other and live out their lives exclusively that way. That explains why estimates of the homosexual population tend to be 10 percent or less of the total population.
A small percentage of bisexuals routinely engage in sex with both males and females, without any clear preference for one sex over the other. These people often tend to be looked down upon by both gays and straights. A same-sex relationship on the side, if discovered, is disastrous for a marriage. At the same time, many exclusively gay people treat those who engage in sex with both sexes as being latent, closet gays, who are unwilling to come to grips with the idea that they are indeed gay. A practicing bisexual is generally not well accepted in our society. Society very much wants to label people as being either gay or straight and does not know how to deal with more complex situations in which individuals are not clearly one or the other. It would be convenient if everyone fit in a neat box sexually, but unfortunately the real world is a lot more complicated than that.
The chapter in David Rubin’s book titled “Male Homosexuality” is a product of the 60s societal perspective on homosexuality in which Rubin lived, but in many ways is now the most dated, blatantly inaccurate and perhaps even amusing chapter in the entire book. But keep in mind that this was all written prior to the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association that homosexuality was no longer to be seen or treated as a psychiatric disease. But in an effort to provide enlightenment on the subject, he ends up simply reinforcing a lot of stereotypes about homosexuality that represented popular beliefs of straight society in the 1960s.
Rubin opens the chapter by explaining that most male homosexuals in some parts of their lives act out the role of a part-time women, donning women’s clothing, wearing makeup, adopting feminine mannerisms, and occasionally trying to rearrange their bodies along feminine lines.
These comments, first published in 1969, reinforce popular stereotypes about gays primarily as feminine queens as widely held by the straight culture of the 60s. Rubin seems to mix up or confuse male homosexual with male transvestite behavior, and with those guys who really want to have a sex change operation. The idea that any man could be happy and satisfied as a man and as gay, and not somehow acquire feminine mannerisms or wear female clothing seems somehow lost. This viewpoint was reinforced in movies and media of the day. Rubin seems completely unaware that the vast majority of male homosexuals appearance-wise are indistinguishable from their straight save their sexual partners, and that what Rubin describes applies to only a small percentage of homosexual males. It would be another decade or perhaps longer before straight society started to understand that the vast majority of gay men largely did not announce themselves to the world in appearance, mannerisms, dress or in any sort of desire to live out their lives as females.
Rubin tries to be open minded about male homosexuality but the entire chapter ends up being a collection of silly comments about what gay men might do to each other that merely reinforce popular stereotypes about the behaviors of gay males of the day. He argues that in having anal intercourse, gay males are merely trying to do the best they could in a situation whereby the partner lacks a vagina. Never mentioned is the fact that many gay males find stimulation of the prostate via anal sex very arousing, because that argument would conflict with his underlying belief that gay sex has to be a less satisfactory form of sex than penis-vagina sex, if, according to Rubin, anal intercourse between two males deserves to be called sex at all.
He describes in detail other sexual activities that gay male partners might engage, but the continuing undertone suggests that these are all inferior to real “penis-vagina sex” and that somehow gay men are unfortunately stuck in a less than satisfying alternative world in which other men, not women provide the psychosexual arousal. To a certain degree what he describes is enlightening to a straight society somewhat mystified by the entire question of how two males together can have sex. As a consequence, he reinforces the idea that being gay is somehow a disease or perhaps even a handicap. He argues that being gay might be a consequence of genetics or upbringing, but more likely both in combination, a topic still being intensely debated. As a final insult, he argues that gay men could readily be “cured” of this “affliction” if only they wanted to and found the right psychiatrist who some knew how to “treat” the problem and sexually set things right again. This sounds nearly like the position taken by some of the right-wing religious groups, and is the same underlying rationale used to justify discrimination against gays in employment, opposition to gay marriage, and a host of other related societal issues.
A basic problem with Rubin’s book in dealing with homosexuality and the behavior of gay males is that the book was a widely read best-seller supposedly providing factual information on a host of topics. On sex and sexuality topics, he usually does ok, but the chapter on male sexuality reinforces a lot of stereotypes that are not only largely untrue currently, they were by no means accurate even when the book was originally published in 1969. The chapter on masturbation is nearly as obsolete. Both chapters are written in an “I’m the MD and have seen all of this up close,” know-it-all, why would you question what I have to say fashion. Comments in both chapters shaped cultural values then and many people continue to accept what was said in ignorance then as fact today. Nothing has been written since then that adequately dispels these published societal myths and has received the degree of public attention of Rubin’s book. Bernie Zilbergeld’s books on Male Sexuality probably come closest, and while these have been popular reading over the years, generally have not had the cultural impacts of the Rubin book.
I suppose I should give Rubin the credit for at least educating the public respect to the fact that there was something going on called recreational sex, or sex for the pure fun of it. And he firmly states that post-pubescent males will not go blind if they masturbate too much. At least, he got those parts right!
Increasingly through the 1960s and 70s, it was becoming well known that partners both gay and straight were engaging in oral sex, both fellatio and cunnilingus. During this period, oral sex for heterosexual couples, oral sex was treated more nearly as a prelude to penis-vagina sex than a sex act that stood on its own. That is, couples would use oral sex as a form of stimulation prior to penis-vagina sex but not as a substitute for “real” sex. Oral sex was thought of primarily as mutual masturbation with the mouth or tongue. In the 1950s, the entire subject of married couples engaging in oral sex was as taboo as, say masturbation practices. Couples may have been having oral sex on occasion in the 50s, but most would never admit to such. By the 60s and increasingly in the 1970s, this fact became more generally known, perhaps even accepted as part of “normal” sexual behavior among men and women.
During the 1960s, it is probably safe to say that women as a general rule were more put off by the entire idea of engaging in fellatio with their man than men were put off by engaging in cunnilingus with their women. Many women were very put off by the entire idea of putting an uncovered penis in their mouth or sucking or licking a penis, no matter how sexually arousing a male partner might find such activity. A real source of conflict in the relationship was the fact that many men found such activity very arousing. More than a few marriages came apart because the man wanted fellatio and the woman was unwilling to do so: but it was uncommon for men to complain that the wife wanted cunnilingus but he found the practice objectionable and this refused to comply! Indeed the lack of willingness of many women to engage in oral sex perhaps contributed to the fact that many men engaged in extra-marital affairs and perhaps even visited prostitutes in an effort to find sexual activities that the wife was unwilling to engage in such as fellatio. As the 70s ended there was increasing acceptance of the idea that oral sex was a “normal” part of many marriages, and any discussion of the topic started to become more open, at least for many couples and relationships.
Straight society, even in the 1960s and 70s, was convinced that anal sex was the method of choice for gay male couples. Rubin in his book makes a major point of this. However, the entire subject of anal sex in straight relationships was largely a taboo topic “hidden under the covers!” for married couples in the 60s and 70s. Anal sex was something a woman outside of marriage might engage in, but certainly not something to engage in for a “good” married woman. A married woman, perhaps somewhat uncomfortable With the whole idea of oral sex was certainly not about to go the next step and engage in yet Another “abnormal” activity deemed even more offensive for “good girls” even than oral sex.
The dominant view was that anal sex between straight couples was immoral (not to mention still illegal in many states, where sodomy laws remained on the books). Again we have a situation whereby many straight males were seeking a form of sex in extramarital relationships denied as immoral or abnormal by the wife not to mention by society and by public law.
Of course, a lot of this is driven by basic biological differences between males and females. In the case of females, there are no big (orgasmic) payoffs associated with penis in anus. Orgasms for females occurs primarily as a consequence of stimulation of the clitoris (the so called female penis in penis-vagina sex) or if you buy into the Female “G spot” literature, a spot inside the vagina, ear the top and about a short index finger length in, perhaps less (The internal G spots seems to be not exactly fixed in location for most females, if it is present at all). Neither of these locations are anywhere near the anus. An interesting topic of debate is whether many women find the anal area sexually stimulating at all. Biologically its not surprising that many women “yawn” when the entire subject of anal sex with their boyfriends or husbands comes up (Ok maybe if I’m really open minded about the whole idea and HE finds it really enjoyable, but for me it’s a bore, and perhaps messy besides.).
Men, of course, biologically are built very differently from women. In other papers I’ve discussed the idea of a male “G” spot and the possibility that there could be two of these. It might be useful to consider three not two possibilities here. The first of these spots is near the tip of the penis, on the underside of the glans area. In theory at least, it’s the part of the penis that comes in direct contact with the cervix of the female in deep penis-vagina penetration. Guys who are erect know that they generally will quickly go into orgasm if that particular spot on the penis is rubbed or even touched. It’s easy to run experiments to find the exact location and to test exactly the extent to which this particular spot is sensitive during masturbation sessions, but most guys quickly learn to avoid touching this area of the penis during masturbation until they definitely want to go into an orgasm soon thereafter. This is one of those instances where just running the experiment to test these ideas can be a lot of very enjoyable fun. Supposedly anyway, men are built this way biologically to ensure that in penis-vagina sex they trust as deeply as possible in order to touch the cervix, and that they don’t come until they are deep inside the women’s vagina, whereby the sperm this deposited have the maximum opportunity to fertilize an egg because they travel the shortest distance. But I some men have told me all of this stuff about the cervix touching the glans area in deep intercourse may more nearly be a myth rather than reality, and that in most intercourse, men cannot tell if they have reached the cervix or not in deep penetration. I’m still gathering information on this particular issue.
Anyone who has read any of my various papers on male sexuality and interesting techniques for self-arousal and solo sex fun knows, I am hung up on the idea that the perineum area located between the anus and scrotum is a second sexual hot spot. I’ve read in a number of places that this particular area of a man’s body represents the termination of a whole bunch of nerve endings that psychologically make it a very interesting spot. But this alone likely would not make the perineum area capable of sending a guy off to another planet, least of all like I describe in detail in some of my other papers.
Then too, it seems to me that if men our wired this way, nerve ending wise, then females should also have a bunch of nerve endings located here that they would find erotically stimulating. But I have seen almost nothing on this topic written down and I conclude that this area must be no big deal sexually for the majority of females, who prefer to emphasize either stimulating the clitoris, the G-spot located directly inside the vagina, or some combination of the two during sex.
Over the past decade I have had lots of opportunities to visit with both straight and gay men about sex. One of the things that I quickly learned is that the majority of straight males, there is generally little awareness of the fact that the perineum are when massaged can be a sexual hot spot. On the other hand, in discussing the perineum area with gay males, I quickly discover that gay males generally see this area as a sexual hot spot, and an important place to pay attention to during sex.
So how does this all fit together? Well, the vast majority of guys, both straight and gay, realize that direct stimulation of the prostate using a finger, a butt plug, vibrator, or in the case of anal sex between gay guys, a penis, can be extremely arousing. Guys facing annual physicals in which the doctor places a finger up the butt to digitally examine size and condition of the prostate, often dread the possibility that “something” will happen, or specifically that they are so sensitive that they will ejaculate in the doctor’s office right during the exam.
I have a theory, and it is mostly a theory, that while for many guys internally massaging the prostate through the rectum can be very exciting, I am thinking that part of the erotic fun of massaging or otherwise putting pressure on the perineum area relates to the fact that at this point the prostate, located very near the perineum, is getting a nice external massage. This would also lend further “support” (no pun intended) for some of my ideas as to why athletic supporters and thong underwear can be erotic to wear. If my theory is correct, then anything that fits tightly to or brushes against the perineum to externally massage the prostate is going to have some effect in this regard.
So where does this leave anal sex for gays? Well, one idea that Rubin would be reluctant to admit is that the possibility that anal sex in which penis massages prostate for gay men could overall be as exciting and as emotionally fulfilling as penis-vagina sex is for straight couples. The whole idea that gay males might find this at least as enjoyable as penis-vagina sex for straight couples is disconcerting, because it runs counter to the notion that gay men are engaging in second-rate sexual practices and as a consequence are missing out on a lot of the “real” fun that straight couples have when they engage in penis-vagina sex. That straight society looks down on and has sympathy for gay males because the sex they engage in is somehow second rate (and most offensively uses an anus not a vagina) contributes to the entire set of gay discrimination issues in society.
Finally, many female prostitutes are well aware of the sensitivity of the anal and perineum areas for males. A guy can have plain old penis-vagina sex, or penis-vagina sex while either stimulating with a finger the prostate either externally via pressing on and massaging the perineum area, or internally massaging the prostate with the prostitute’s finger up the butt.
I suspect only a small minority of heterosexual couples even know about these techniques, let alone have tried them. A woman who may be less than enthusiastic about penis in butt for whatever reason may be more than willing to try massaging the guy’s perineum area during penis-vagina sex, perhaps working up to woman’s finger in guy’s anus to internally massage his prostate during intercourse. All of this is logistically complicated in terms of working out exactly when during intercourse each event should logically take place for maximum enjoyment, but I would again think that with a willing partner running these experiments to see exactly what happens when could in itself be enormous fun for both participants. (“Doctor, I don’t need to have a digital prostate exam in this annual physical because my wife did that for me just last night!”).
Of course, almost none of this kind of discussion took place in the 1960s or 70s. If these things were known, they weren’t being written down.
The decade really began with the publication of Shere Hite’s research tome, the Hite Report on Male Sexuality, in 1981. The research technique here was to simply ask guys of various ages, straight and gay, to write down specific details of sexual practices they were engaging in. (i.e. details about specific sexual practices, penis-vagina sex, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation etc), how exactly how they were accomplished. While the research attempted to obtain details from men in a lot of different situations, it should not be seen as a survey that ultimately settles issues relating to how many guys engage in each activity, nor a report on the relative popularity of each sexual practice. Rather, the lengthy book is an interesting glimpse of sexual practices as seen by male respondents in the mid to late 70s.
The revelation here, of course was that sexual practices among males in general were much more varied and creative than was widely believed by most people at the time. Further, a large number of men by then had at least comfortable with respect to providing specifics, if anonymously, about the details of their specific turn-ons and specific sexual practices.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of being able to write about and discuss sexual issues and problems via correspondence with both males in females is to observe differences. I’ve concluded generally that straight females are much more likely to discuss specific sexual practices than straight males. The question “what specific sexual practices do you enjoy?” will likely result in a somewhat evasive though thought to be “politically correct” answer from the straight male (i.e. Its all right to indicate that I enjoy ordinary penis-vagina sex and possibly fellatio, but I had better not mention anal sex and certainly not, at my age, masturbation). In general, women in straight relationships are far more likely to discuss details involving sexual practices occurring that are outside of penis-vagina sex. (A common letter reads something like this: “I just discovered my husband is still masturbating himself. Mom told me I was to be the sole source of his physical pleasure. I don’t understand why he is doing this to me. There must be something I am doing wrong in the relationship. Do you know what it could be?”)
Once I established their confidence generally, gay males have generally been more than happy to discuss practically anything about the specific details of their sexual lives and I felt free to ask and get a response to nearly any question involving details I might have. I find this general openness among gay males with respect to being willing to discuss the nuances of sex the be enormously refreshing relative to the general discomfort that a lot of straight men appear to have when discussing sex in any way other than in generalities thought to be politically correct for the time. I have gotten there is large measure because it is generally recognized that I am very open-minded on varied sexual practices, I believe in equality in all respects for gays, and find the discrimination that occurs on many fronts completely obnoxious, and have no time at all for conservative religious know-it-alls on the topic.
The 1980s, of course, was the decade in which everyone was brought back into reality when AIDS/HIV made its appearance. Here was an STD that could not be readily cured with an antibiotic. I liken the appearance of AIDS/HIV as being the sexual equivalent of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on subsequent airline travel. In the case of 9/11, the terrorist attacks resulted in a significant upgrading of the security required for anyone to board a scheduled airplane. These security upgrades are certainly inconvenient, but we all accept them as being necessary to ensure that future terrorists will find it much more difficult to assume control of a plane.
In the case of AIDS/HIV, heterosexuals engaging in casual sex were initially quite smug, erroneously believing that AIDS/HIV was strictly a disease of gays passing the disease via anal sex and perhaps intravenous drug users who used dirty needles. It didn’t take long to realize, however, that those engaging in casual sex gay or straight and any exchange of body fluids put the partners at risk, and this sullen realization quickly led to dramatic changes in sexual behavior.
No, human beings did not abandon recreational sex as consequence. What changed was how people engaged in casual sex. It was generally recognized that disease transmission was impossible if bodily fluids were not exchanged, so there was increased interest in sexual activities that, while erotic, did not involve exchange of bodily fluids.
I guess it should not be surprising to me that my writings on male sexuality have long had a strong following in the gay community. I think this is in part due to the fact that I was advocating a host of sexual options that represent alternatives not only to unprotected penis-vagina sex but also as alternatives to unprotected anal sex. But also, in particular, there was nothing “wrong” if a guy for whatever reason found himself outside of a relationship, and that there are ways a guy who found himself in this situation to still be able to pleasure himself in an very satisfactory way. Some people might be uncomfortable with this perhaps “post 80s” view because it goes so strongly against basic themes from the 50s and before (sex means penis in vagina; sex is for marriage; sex is for procreation not recreation; masturbation, if not harmful physically, is psychologically bad; two guys having sex together can’t be having as much fun as a guy and a woman do, and so on).
Nothing can take the fun out of recreational sex so much as the thought of in so engaging one could contract a terminal disease. Increasingly the public saw unprotected anal sex (mostly among gay guys with many partners) as the primary mode of transmission, with a much lesser chance with unprotected oral sex. That AIDS was primarily a disease of concern to gay guys engaging in “risky behaviors” as well as intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs and a few other small groups was initially cemented into the psyche of the public. Only gradually did it dawn on most people that AIDS represented a concern if not an epidemic for those who fell outside these specific groups, specifically, heterosexual partners.
Shere Hite reported that based on her analysis that anal sex was the most common sexual practice among gay guys although oral sex was quite popular too. Initially during the 80s, many gay guys were very reluctant to give up on unprotected anal and oral sex, and for a period of time attempted to cope by trying to better understand backgrounds of the partners with which they were having sex.
This may have been an interesting strategy from a socio-sexual perspective. The problem, of course was that from the perspective of reducing the rate of transmission of the disease, as a strategy it was not very effective if at all. A terminal sexually-transmitted disease was still spreading from unprotected sex activities involving the exchange of bodily fluids, and so long as those behaviors continued and people kept trying to beat the odds in unprotected sex, then the disease would spread.
Sex in the 1990s
The 1980s was a sobering decade in a host of different ways. The increasing realization that unprotected partner sex involving the interchange of bodily fluids could transmit a terminal disease and that this possibility was not limited to same-sex couples engaging in risky behaviors very much dampened the enthusiasm people generally have for recreational sex as a very enjoyable activity. The moralists would like to believe that te logical consequence of all of this would be a movement away from sex outside of marriage, as the risks associated with sex outside of marriage were just too great.
But the reality of this new world started everyone thinking in new directions. Is recreational sex still possible? Of course! Will this require rethinking of what we thought we knew respect to what exactly is enjoyable sex, and how we cope psychologically. Of course!
Long the subject of derision and ridicule by those regularly engaged in partner sex, solo sex came into its own in the 90s as the one absolutely safe and readily available form of recreational sex. No one who masturbated had ever acquired a sexually transmitted disease via solo masturbation. Further, as Rubin pointed out in 1969 solo sex is the one completely egalitarian sexual activity, available to all, with the only precondition being a degree of privacy. Solo sex was available not only to social outcasts, loners and other assorted misfits, but was freely available to everyone. Furthermore, solo sex could be a lot of fun to the extent that the person involved was not somehow fixated on the idea that partner sex would indeed be better (but see below). And by the 1990s most people had worked their way through the guilt that they once may have carried about possible negative consequences, all imaginary, of having sex alone.
There is a lot to recommend here: a totally not dangerous and completely healthy form of sex that is entirely enjoyable and requires almost nothing as a precondition. One needs to make certain, however, that one does not become fixated in attaching a letter grade to the quality of each masturbation session (i.e. B-, C+, A-, A+) LOL. The only remaining problem was that if the person who engages in solo sex was somehow “discovered” masturbating, he (or she) would be labeled and derided as a loner or social outcast. But then if the person indeed was a loner or social outcast the probability of being “discovered masturbating was mighty low, if not exactly zero. Proper response to being discovered masturbating (although probably not if you are discovered by a parent or relative): “Would you care to join me?” (See below!).
If solo sex was fun, why could not mutual masturbation with a partner, different gender or same gender (I’m open-minded here, as in whatever floats your boat), then be even more fun? Under mutual masturbation let us include all forms of sex that do not lead to the interchange of bodily fluids. These forms include:
Well, if solo sex in front of a mirror is fun, then would not two people engaging in the same act and watching each other at the same time (with or without a mirror) be even more fun. Goodness, both people get to see not only how they themselves react to increased sexual stimuli, but how the other person reacts at the same time. Look into the eyes of the partner and see if you can “read exactly what the partner is experiencing at each moment as arousal proceeds. This could be nothing short of terrific as erotic activities go. Once again, this works best if partners are not fixated on the notion that sex involving the interchange of bodily fluids is “better” or the only “real” sex. If the partner you are watching is a female, try to determine if she is becoming wet in the vagina. If the partner you are watching is a male, is he dripping viscous but crystal clear pre-cum as the arousal proceeds?
Questions one might ponder: are body parts located some distance from the gonads if touched, rubbed, flicked or whatever finger motion that is used arousing and erotic? Are the lobes of the ears erotically sensitive, for example? What about the nipples? (Let’s not forget that guys have nipples too!) . How about the tummy and the area right around the belly button? How about the pubic area of either sex just above the gonads? Not all human beings are going to necessarily find that these “nontraditional” body parts when touched, stimulated, rubbed of flicked are equally arousing. Some people might find this exploration of each other in this manner overall to be more than a little boring as sexual activity, but others not: Without running a series of experiments with each other it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen.
Generally arousal is stronger if sexual exploration is done in sequence, beginning with areas of the body perhaps far removed from the genitalia while gradually moving closer and closer to the genitalia, with both partners building anticipation and emotional energy as each focus increasingly not only on what is currently happening to them and their partner, but also with rising anticipation as to what is about to happen to them as the emotional energy in the room becomes more and more sexually charged.
What can happen here? Well that depends a little on whether the partners are a man and a woman, two men, or two women. What works in one case might not work exactly the same in another instance. If we are dealing with a man and a woman, and are talking about mutual masturbation employing the hands, obviously the man stimulating the clitoris with the fingers is the logical next step. But female partners might be doing exactly the same thing to each other simultaneously. The next logical step here is finger in vagina, and attempting to first locate and then massage the internal “G-spot more or less located at the top of the inside of the vagina, an inch or so in. “Researching” the exact location for this with the finger can be an enjoyable educational experience for both partners. Meanwhile the woman can use her finger to analyze just how sensitive the man is to pressure in the and rubbing in perineum area between the scrotum and anus, perhaps gradually working up to the idea of her inserting her finger in his anus and internally massaging his prostate.
For finger-sex involving penetration, pharmacies sell little latex devices called “cots”, which come in assortments containing various sizes. These look like tiny condoms, or like latex gloves but built for just one finger. They roll on a finger the same way a condom rolls on a penis. The directions say these are for covering cuts or other wounds on fingers to speed healing, and for inserting suppositories in the rectum. Never mind that these beat latex surgical gloves as the ideal device for use when inserting the finger into the vagina or penetrating the rectum with the finger. One could apply a water-based lubricant to these cots just like one would apply a water based lubricant to a condom. This should especially ease the anal penetration as well as keep the fingernails from cutting the rectum during sexual exploration.
If the woman enjoys being penetrated with a vibrator during solo sex, this is the point at which the guy will want
to have made certain that he has a supply of fully-charged batteries on hand. What I envision happening here is that the male penetrates the female vagina not with his penis but with a vibrator. What I envision is that unlike solo sex for a female with a vibrator, the guy controls the movement of the vibrator while making mental notes of exactly where the sexual “hot spots are located. For female couples, the techniques are very similar, except of course that we will need two vibrators not one, with both partners concurrently exploring each others’ vaginas for sexual hot spots while stimulating each other. This could quickly become so erotic that one would lose the ability to keep up with the mental note-taking, but not to worry if that happens—just “enjoy” the moment. All of this is at least as much about finding sexual pleasure in the moment as it is about conducting research. But it’s also an opportunity for both partners to better communicate to each other the nuances of their sexual likes and dislikes as well as what each discovers to be exceptionally arousing, or not.
I do not want to get too over-the-top kinky here (not that I would ever do that to my readers), but I am visualizing a heterosexual couple also employing two vibrators in way-out mutual masturbation. I am visualizing a guy penetrating the woman’s vagina with a vibrator and searching for sexual hot spots, while the same time the woman penetrates the man’s anus with a vibrator. Obviously this is an extension of the activity in which the woman penetrates the man’s anus with her finger, and then finds and massages his prostate. I think the big issue here is finding a way to do this such that the man doesn’t ejaculate almost immediately from the intensity of the situation he suddenly finds himself in. If that happens, this could end up shutting everything down pretty quickly. We are not trying to compete based on finding techniques to see how fast orgasms can happen—indeed, quite the opposite. Indeed, this may be the ultimate mutual masturbation technique for guys who claim that their wives get off better alone with a vibrator than they get off with a penis in their vagina. In this case, both partners are getting in on the fun.
Techniques here again vary only slightly for two gay men, and here I am probably re-treading information commonly known by most gay men. Obviously, for gay men, we are not in search of “G-spots” located inside the vagina or with the clitoris but in other areas. In addition to the hot spots located on the penis, the perineum area is a potential hot spot for both men, and what I have said about a women stimulating a guy’s perineum area applies equally to two guys, with both guys concurrently stimulating each other there with their fingers. Obviously there are possibilities for both guys to enter each other using their respective fingers as well, and to both do this at the same time, with each exploring for the location of the prostate and how it responds to touch. This could quickly get quite interesting for sure. Finally, the double vibrator approach might work equally well for two men, with the trickiest part being setting up a situation that is highly arousing but not to the point where one or both of the guys ejaculate almost immediately. In this case, starting slower is better, letting the sexual energy gradually but steadily build to a crescendo, perhaps leading to ejaculation 20 to 40 minutes later. Some guys may not be able to lean to last that long, or perhaps think they are unable to last that long, but at least, lengthening the time a guy can remained aroused just below the point of ejaculation should be the longer-term goal of both partners.
The longer sessions like these can be made to last, ultimately the more sexually charged they will likely become. This is true whether we are dealing with straight or gay couples. All of this surely flies in the face of gay sex being some quick encounter in a stall in a public restroom. Remember what I said about this being the superglue that bonds relationships together. And, as these sessions begin to last longer and longer the more fulfilling and rewarding they become. Remember that song with the lyric “it takes a slow man…” Well, the lyric was right and that is why the song was a hit. This all take practice to pull off, but fortunately the practice is one of those not to be missed experiences for human beings in which to engage. I wonder how straight society might respond to the knowledge that gay couples, male or females, in long-term relationships might be at least as concerned about making all of this work for them as straight couples are (or should be).
The best part about all of this is that we have constructed interesting ways to have recreational sex that a lot of people might find to be highly charged emotionally and sexually (at least, that is my hope), and yet with all this sexual energy no one has been placed at any risk for contacting HIV. It seems to me that sexual partners would nearly have to be completely brain dead to not get aroused while experimenting with some of the mutual masturbation techniques I have described here.
Indeed, this is safe and fun recreational sex for the post-HIV era in which we all now live. I suppose there are some minor risks here for contracting diseases that could be transmitted through open sores on the fingers, but then, just make sure to use a finger cot when doing finger penetration of any sort, which is probably a good idea for the other reasons I have outlined anyway. It is also a good idea when using vibrators to employ sanitary conditions. However, people probably aren’t interested in doing this if they have cuts or sores on their fingers and even ere the risks of contracting something are very low if not exactly zero. One scheme here involves putting a lubricated condom over the top of the vibrator whenever it is used for penetration as described above, and then simply disposing of the condom afterward. The lubricated condom should help in smoothing the penetration with the vibrator, too. The last thing we want to have happen is for people to somehow be in pain or get physically injured while employing these enjoyable and generally safe techniques for having sex.
Oral Sex in Post-HIV Times
In college (which I admit was a long time ago), my roommates always seemed fixated on the question “does she suck?” This was a period in history (the 1960s) when oral sex was just emerging from its traditional status as an completely taboo topic, buried even deeper than masturbation in the list of sexual topics not discussed in polite company.
Many, perhaps most, men find the entire idea of an attractive woman taking his penis in her mouth to be one of the most sexually arousing ideas ever invented. Many gay men find this same idea highly arousing, except that the partner here is an attractive gay man, not a woman. This is a staple of both straight and gay pornographic movies, which further establishes the status of the act as an icon of eroticism.
I’ve always believed that perhaps the majority of women, even currently, had and still have rather mixed feelings about the whole idea of penis in mouth as sexually charged eroticism. Let me first say that biology unfortunately created men such that the urethral opening in the penis is used for two purposes, urination and, seemingly as something of nature’s afterthought, ejaculation. If we simply ignore the real potential for disease transmission via exchange of bodily fluids for the moment, I can appreciate why many women might find the idea of taking a man’s unprotected penis in her mouth shall I say, ”unappetizing.” After all, this is the same penis that only recently was used for urination. Not to mention the issue of what diseases could readily be transmitted. Nor the idea that she might be less than enthusiastic about having ejaculate in her mouth, or perhaps even the idea of pre-cum.
All of this as possible pleasurable activity takes more than a little getting used to. At least this was and likely is still true for many women. Taking a guys penis in the mouth is for naughty girls, not good girls. Then there is the possibility of gagging, let alone the repulsiveness of urine, pre-cum and ejaculate. We have problems with tastes and odors here not to mention sanitation and disease transmission. Never mind that many guys walked down the aisle to marriage hoping that if she wasn’t into this on the wedding day, over time she could be convinced to participate and deal with the psychological issues..
It seems to me that the AIDS virus and the possibility of contracting HIV via unprotected oral sex made everything a lot more complex. Women, to the extent that they were willing to participate at all, favored at minimum the use of a condom. There was still the risk that a condom could be torn by teeth if the receiving partner was not careful, but at least the risk was dramatically lower if not zero.
Actually the use of the condom for oral sex solved more of the objections than initially was fully realized. Assuming that the condom stayed in one piece, there was no longer any danger of the woman of coming in contact with urine, pre-ejaculate or semen. So the issue of how she might react when ejaculation in the mouth took place was largely resolved. And the whole idea of sucking or licking on a condom-covered penis raised fewer objections that the idea of doing this to a bare penis. Guys suddenly realized that if they wanted their wives and girlfriends to participate in oral sex, that the lowly and once scorned condom might be the key to overcoming the objections.
Condom manufacturers, seeing a potentially “new” market for condoms specifically designed to be used during oral sex, responded with a host of new products catering to men with exactly that in mind. In particular, flavored condoms appeared. They come in ordinary flavors like strawberry, chocolate and mint depending on the preferences of the receiving partner. But also available more exotic flavors (I love this one) like banana. The woman who disliked the smells and taste of being on the receiving side of oral sex no longer had anything to complain about.
These new flavored condoms designed specifically for oral sex initially showed up in the places selling sex toys. But they quickly made it into the mainstream, the pharmacies and even the discount houses. Currently they can even be purchased in the health care departments of discounters like Wal-Mart or Target.
The fact that these flavored condoms are now so readily available practically everywhere suggests that oral sex is not now the taboo topic it once was. Indeed, a guy can drop a big hint with respect to exactly what he has in mind sexually when the time comes to take a condom out of his wallet if the condom is in a flavor he knows his girlfriend likes. Do you prefer strawberry, chocolate or banana-flavored? Or the married guy interested in making a move toward getting to have oral sex with his wife might drop a strong hint by bringing home a package of flavored condoms picked up while on a shopping errand for his wife to Wal-Mart or Target. The guy brings home the items from the discount store his wife wanted. In the bottom of the bag, she finds a package of strawberry-flavored condoms. Curious, she asks him “What are these for?” That question, of course, is the icebreaker. He explains exactly why a strawberry-flavored condom is a good idea for both of them. The rest of the story, shall we say, is history.
Still there are women who have difficulty placing an erect penis in her mouth…gagging is one possible reflex. That doesn’t mean that oral sex is out. It’s just that the technique ends up being a little different than many men once imagined. His penis is now encased on a fruit-flavored condom. She responds buy instead licking his flavored penis just like a Popsicle. Ahhhh..the wonders of modern technology readily available from your local pharmacy or discount house. Here we combine safe sex AND a female partner who is suddenly enthusiastic about not repulsed by the whole idea. Can we try the chocolate or mint-flavored condoms next time?
Anal Sex in Post-HIV Times
First off, there was growing acceptance of the fact that guys, straight or gay, could not “play the odds” and assume that unprotected anal sex would likely not lead to the transmission of the HIV virus. While there still was some reluctance on the part of some men with respect to using a condom during anal sex, increasingly, protection by the man using a condom was increasingly being accepted as the “normal” way to engage in anal sex with a partner, either male of female. With the use of a condom, concern about disease transmission, if not eliminated was reduced by many orders of magnitude/ Psychologically, this made anal sex more fun, as concern over disease transmission declined.
As indicated above, in the case of oral sex, a flavored condom was ideal for beginning oral sex with a woman woman who was put off by thought of taking an uncovered penis in their mouth and what might happen to her as a consequence.
So to it is with anal sex. Indeed, a condom can be they solution to “smooth” the way.
Heterosexual males report an interest in engaging in anal sex because the anus, with a pair of sphincter muscles at the entrance, fits tighter to the penis than the vagina. Guys find thrusting through the tight ring (actually a outer ring and an inner ring in this case, as there are two sets of muscles at the entrance.
Let’s suppose that a guy is contemplating anal sex with a partner for the first time. At this point, the sex of the receiving partner does not matter. Suppose also that the receiving partner is willing but perhaps somewhat apprehensive with respect to what is about to take place.
First, some general comments about anal sex safety. The rectum can be easily cut, and anal sex can be painful for the inexperienced receiving partner, Even worse, it is well known ion the gay community that cuts or bruises to the rectum represents a key entry point for the transmission of the HIV virus to the receiving partner, and perhaps other diseases as well. Recognize first that the HIV virus does not distinguish between gay and straight people, and that a heterosexual guy who seeks to have anal sex with a female needs to be fully aware of the risks involved. For me, this suggests that only fools engage in unprotected anal sex and the decision to have safe(r) protected anal sex is one of equal importance to both straight and gay men.
Suppose that both partners have gotten past all of this, and both have decided to engage in the safe(r) protected anal sex. The fact that the anus fits tighter around the penis than the vagina from the standpoint of eroticism is a good thing, but there are technical problems as a consequence as well. The first technical problem is that the guy is probably going to have to get harder than is necessary for penis-vagina sex if there is any hope of entry through the muscles of the anus. Some guys might not be able to do this.
The second technical problem is that if this is the first time for a receiving partner, even if willing, is going to be apprehensive. The classic comment in the gay community is that the technique is “relax, and use lots of lube”. The exact same comment could apply to straight couples attempting anal sex for the first time. However, I am always more than a bit amused by this comment, for it assumes that people can relax during penetration. I thought the whole idea of sex was that the so aroused partners not be relaxed LOL. I do believe I nearly understand what the gay guys are trying to say—in sex the partners don’t really relax, but it important to remain as calm as possible if this is to work. Also, the receiving partner is going to be much more relaxed if appropriate safety measures are used.
One technique that might work is for the penetrating guy first “explore” the anal area of the receiver with his finger. Here I would first recommend cutting fingernails short. More importantly, I think that it is a good idea to engage in this exploration with a latex-covered finger rather than a bare finger. One could use a latex surgical glove covering the entire hand, but I think a more practical solution is to use a latex finger cot, as mentioned earlier. The whole idea here is to coat the finger cot in a water-based lube (Astroglide® seems to be the favored product here). What happens next is more or less up to the guy wearing the finger cot. The guy can treat the anus of the receiving partner as just another sexual “hot spot”, touching, rubbing and otherwise exploring the entire anal area with the cot-covered finger. At some point, he will want to try penetrating the anus with his finger, while gently massaging the entire area. The whole idea here is to get the receiving partner familiar with what it feels like to have a finger enter the anus. The guy can proceed as fast or as slowly as he feels appropriate, and presumably getting signals from the receiving partner as to exactly what feels good and what feels not so good. This might take only a couple minutes to a much longer period of time depending on exactly how aroused both people are at this point.
At this point, this is really only a very advanced form of mutual masturbation. Indeed, the receiving partner (female, in heterosexual contact) can add to the fun by also donning a finger cot, with the idea of exploring the penetrating guys anal area at the same time. Sexually, this could get quite interesting with both partners together experience sensations from finger exploration both in and around the anus.
I presume at this point that the penis scheduled to enter the anus of the receiving partner already is covered with a condom. Again, the tip here is to go slow and use lots of water-based lube on the condom. At this point, anal penetration can be attempted. Whether this works or not will depend largely on how hard the erection is as well as how relaxed the muscles surrounding the anus are. (One of the reasons why Viagra® has become a recreational drug of choice in the gay community is that it presumably helps make the penis harder for easier anal penetration.)
What happens next is unclear. The heterosexual male penetrating a woman may find that the combination of thrusting trough the anal muscles and the tight fit of the anus to the penis is more than sufficient stimulation for immediate ejaculation. Part of the problem here is that from the perspective of the female, this may be seen as little more that using the female anus as a convenient masturbation machine. No matter how exciting the idea of penile thrusts through a tight-fitting anus is for the penetrating male I believe that the difficult part here for a lot of heterosexual males penetrating a female in this way is how to keep her arousal level on a high plateau throughout the entire experience. It seems to me that some manual stimulation of the clitoris during all of this penile thrusting through the anus might surely be called for, and perhaps finger in vagina as well.. (Although be sure to use a clean cot not the one you used to penetrate her anus with your finger) I think a legitimate question a lot of females might have about being on the receiving end of anal sex is “What is in this for me?’ and so the guy needs to have some good ideas for stimulating her that can be readily employed for responding sexually to this question.
Of course, the guy may or may not get off thrusting inside her rectum. Depending on exactly what happens in this regard, the couple may decide that the anal sex is only preliminary to penis-vagina sex. But if the guy hasn’t gotten off in the anal sex, then it is mandatory to replace the old condom with a new one for subsequent penis-vagina sex.
In the instance of gay sex, everything is quite different. First, men have prostates. The combination of massaging the prostate through the rectum first with a cot-covered finger and then with a thrusting penis can be quite stimulating, and the receiving guy might easily ejaculate as a consequence of all of this.
One of the great myths that straight society seems to believe is that gay males routinely divide themselves into butch and fem roles, depending on whether the guys sees himself primarily if not exclusively as a penetrator versus a receiver in anal sex. Slang terminology for this also is “pitcher” versus “catcher” This is where Rubin’s book goes into all this discussion of receivers in a gay relationship as taking on feminine roles, wearing female clothing etc, while the butch guy wears exaggerated men’s fashions lounging around the house in blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt.
Gay guys find these stereotypes enormously amusing, as if somehow in a gay partnership the catcher takes on the role of cooking and cleaning whereas the pitcher keeps the oil on the car changed. In some small percentage of gay relationships, one guy assumes a primary role of being a pitcher and the other a catcher, but this is no means what happens ordinarily.
Indeed a gay male couple having anal sex might very well decide to exchange roles in the middle of an anal sex session, in which the catcher becomes the pitcher, and the pitcher becomes the catcher. Whether or not this is technically possible in part depends on whether the receiver ejaculated during the penile thrusts as a consequence of having the prostate massaged, or whether he is still able top penetrate and thrust in the anus of the former penetrator.
A final consideration in anal sex is anal sex hygiene. A lot of squeamishness about anal sex for heterosexual couples relates to the whole idea that the male will be penetrating a rectum that at some point recently, perhaps currently, contained or contains fecal material. Some straight couples might erroneously believe that a shower before anal sex is sufficient to deal with the problem. While its true that the last few inches of the rectum ordinarily contains very little fecal material, there can stiff be enough present to make the entire activity objectionable to either or both partners.
In this regard, straight couples contemplating anal sex need to learn from gay couples. Gay male couples, not surprisingly, tend to be fastidious about the cleanliness of the anal area and rectum. Part of being gay and maintaining the relationship involves keeping this part of the body very clean. They rely not only on showers and baths for both partners, but use enemas and machines capable of spraying water into the rectum in an effort to cleanse the entire area.
By the 1990s there was no shortage of books and sex manuals outlining details for having better penis, vagina sex, and I will not try to duplicate them nor even attempt to summarize the techniques they contain. The 1990s of course marked the first widespread use of drugs such as Viagra® and Cialis® for enhancing male sexual function especially during penis-vagina sex. Guys for whatever reason could no longer get or sustain an erection could now get help with aid of a prescription pill. At least according to drug manufacturers, the pills appeared to work regardless of whether erectile dysfunction was due to physical problems (i.e. partially clogged blood vessels in the tiny arteries leading to the, or an inability of valves in the blood vessels leading away from the penis to close sufficiently during sexual arousal) or to psychological problems. One of the problems here is that these pills started being seen as cure-alls for any form of erectile dysfunction regardless of underlying cause rather than making an effort to determine the exact cause of the dysfunction.
Young men in the 1990s were really no different than young men in the 1950s. Most young men then and now spent a lot of their waking hours trying to come up with ways of getting penises into their girlfriend’s vagina and specifically in dealing with the array of objections that the girl might have to doing this.
In the fifties, of course, the big concern was that in
having penis-vagina sex, there was a real chance that he might get the girl
pregnant, leading potentially to a whole host of issues and problems. By the
late 1950s, the girl could go on the pill, and be responsible for whether she
became pregnant or not. Never mind that
she might have more than a little difficulty getting a prescription to go on
the pill, for that would immediately mean that
she was indeed having penis-vagina sex with her boyfriend, and her
parents would quickly find out what was up even if the parents did not have to
approve the prescription. Social conservatives saw the availability of the pill
as the beginning of the decline in sexual morality in the
To me, what really changed in the nineties was the ultimate realization that the guys needed to take full responsibility for what happened during sex. HIV transmission in unprotected sex was very real and there was a growing realization that this was an issue for straight as well as gay couples, even though the more common means of transmission was via anal sex often via tears in the rectal wall than via penis-vagina sex. Plus, a new generation of other sexually transmitted diseases resistant to antibiotics. The birth control pill was of no help in resolving the issue.
Nothing can take the fun out of recreational sex more so than the possibility that by engaging in recreational sex a serious if not life-threatening disease might be transmitted. The moralists hoped that as a consequence of this, human beings would reach a new realization that casual recreational sex outside of marriage was too risky for most couples to pursue. But the moralists for generations have been hoping that people would stop engaging in recreational penis-vagina sex outside of marriage or, for that matter sex between gay partners.
But as a consequence, human beings in the 1990s did not give up having recreational penis-vagina sex. Out of the 1990s emerged recreational penis-vagina sex by a new set of rules of engagement. A new recreational sex concept, “hooking up” entered the scene. Hooking up meant that a guy and a woman could have casual, recreational penis-vagina sex but under strict rules of engagement. The most important rule of engagement was that the guy now wears a condom. Prior to this, condom-wearing by a guy was more or less optional, and many a guys saw himself as a real stud if he could somehow convince a girl to have penis-vagina sex with him without a condom.
Assuming the condom stayed in place and one piece, this resolved a host of problems. First, the unwanted pregnancy issue was resolved. Second, the woman didn’t have to concern herself about whether she was on the pill or not. Third, while the use of the condom did not totally eliminate the possibility of disease transmission, at least the probability was drastically reduced. Casual recreational sex was always fun were it not for the downsides of unwanted pregnancies and STD transmission. But once the guy got over the initial hurdle of now understanding that penis-vagina sex always required wearing a condom, he might discover that the girl engaging in recreational sex was now open to a bunch of different activities he never before thought possible, not only oral sex (keep that mint-flavored condom in the wallet) but (gasp) even anal sex. Wearing a condom, a whole new list of recreational sex possibilities emerged.
Meanwhile, slowly but surely, condom technology improved in the post HIV era. These improvements centered on several key advances:
Obviously, the right size is everything here. A too tight ring will restrict blood flow too much, not tight enough and the ring will not apply any pressure at the base of the penis at all.
For a long time, condoms have been rolled. But gradually this roll has acquired more and more of the characteristics very similar to a c-ring. As the condom is unrolled, the remaining section of the condom still part of the ring will fit to the base of the penis. A major reason for properly sizing the condom is to make sure that the ring of the condom fits just right at the base of the penis in order to help achieve and sustain a better erection. This is helpful for sustaining a firm erection in penis-vagina sex.
A lot of guys might not fully appreciate this last point regarding condoms. If a guy wants to have an erection, I suppose he can take Viagra® as a means. But an alternate (and less expensive) strategy might be to instead just try fitting on a tight-fitting condom.
There are several types of condoms currently available.
Standard sized condoms are made to fit correctly the guy who is “average sized” guy. These are available lubricated or not and with or without studs, ribs or ridges. The latter are supposed to increase the feel of the guy in the woman during penis-vagina sex.
Extra large condoms are supposedly sized to fit the guy who sees himself as being bigger than average. Some guys buy the extra large condoms in something of a personal ego trip. Every guy likes to think of himself as above average in this department even if he is not The real danger here is that an extra large sized condom can more easily slip right off the guy during intensive penis-vagina sex.
Snugger-fit condoms. These condoms supposedly are made for guys that are a little smaller than average. They are a little more difficult than standard-sized condoms put on. Some guys seem to believe that an undersized condom will somehow restrict blood flow to the penis. But a condom that fits snuggly can be a sexually arousing experience in and of itself, and the guy who wants to experience the feeling of a condom as a “c” ring should try a snugger fit condom. I think the real issue here is not whether or not the guy can put the snugger-fit condom at all, but rather in making a decision as to exactly when during the erection the condom is rolled on. In the case of the snugger-fit condoms the guy will likely want to put the condom on just a little earlier. And the snugger fit reduces if not eliminates the possibility of the condom slipping off during intensive sex.
Ultra-thin or ultra-sensitive condoms. These condoms are made for guys who somehow believe they are not going to feel anything using a standard condom. These condoms are really thin and appear also to be sturdy enough. But the condom doesn’t have quite as much stretch as a standard condom. The feel is a bit more like wrapping one’s penis in Saran Wrap® rather than being in a stretchy condom. Instead of fitting tight and secure to the penis, they tend to move in relation to the penis. Some guys might like this characteristic in penis-vagina sex; others perhaps not.
Variety condoms. In addition to the flavored condoms mentioned above, there are other variety condoms. Condoms come in all colors of the rainbow, for example, and even black condoms for envious white guys, or for the benefit of white girls who have always fantasized about the idea of having sex with an African-American guy.
Finally, a recent development is the condom that includes a separate latex ring with a tiny built-in vibrator powered by a equally tiny battery. The whole idea here is that the ring is place somewhere on the penis and covered with a conventional condom (one included in the kit). The condom is put on the penis and the vibrator turned on. The guy might get off pretty quickly with a latex ring vibrator around his penis. Assuming the guy can maintain control and not ejaculate as soon as the vibrations start, things could get pretty interesting. AS the guy thrusts inside the girl’s vagina, the idea is to hit the girl’s “G” spot with the vibrator. This seems to provide some particular benefit for women who claim to their male partners that they can only get off with the aid of a vibrator.
Do these latex vibrators work in penis-vagina sex? Well one
clue is that these kits are now available in the condom section of the local Wal-mart, and surely Wal-mart
would not devote shelf space that had not been thoroughly tested back in
Clothing and Appearance as Sexual Signaling Over the Decades
Humans have used clothing and dress as means of providing sexual signals in finding partners over the decades. Probably he most generally recognized instance of this is in women sending signals to men with sexual overtones.
But men have been known to use clothing and appearance top send sexual signals as well.
The decade of the 1950s was particularly interesting in this regard. We can begin with the length of women’s skirts. Many women realized that men frequently found women’s legs to be arousing, so why not take advantage of that by wearing ever shorter skirts? Skirts kept getting shorter and shorter until the mini-skirt became the big item in the early 1960s. Skirts could get no shorter without revealing a good deal more than leg!
Women also realized that many men were turned on by seeing breast or cleavage, the more the better. A proper prom gown of the period for a teen girl was not only strapless, but revealed as much cleavage and bosom as the girl thought she could get by revealing without igniting a fight with her parents. Teen girls on prom dates were well aware of what they were attempting to do. Parents probably knew what they were up to as well, more or less.
Then there was the bikini—ahh the
bikini. Although invented at the close of World War II and named by a French
designer after the
An interesting question is whether any women’s two-piece swimsuit should properly be referred to s a bikini, or whether the term bikini should apply only to two-piece suits that were less than modest from the perspective of both what was revealed by the bottoms and the tops. The tops kept getting smaller and smaller too, revealing more and more of the breast and leaving ever less to the imagination. The vast majority of males were not the least bit offended by any of this, and welcomed the annual parade of fashion that seemed to stretch the fashion envelope with respect to what could be shown in public just a little further each year.
In theory, at least, women were less sexually turned on my seeing men in revealing dress than men were turned on by
seeing women in revealing garments. This was not entirely one-sided, however. The Speedo swim brief ad actually been invented near Bondi Beach in Australia in 1928, it was not until 1936 when the Australian swim team showed up wearing Speedo-branded swimsuits, with only one of the swimmers showing up in the brief-style suit we now associate with the Speedo name. For the 1956 Olympics, the Australian team swam entirely clad in Speedo briefs that were both considerable smaller than the other teams were wearing, and more form-fitting. The team did very well, and that set off the movement of swim teams around the world wearing progressively smaller and more form-fitting briefs—briefs that revealed a clear outline at least of the covered male genitalia.
It is difficult to know the extent to which women of the time period took notice of all the near-naked men thus clad. Male sex organs are larger and more obvious than are female sex organs. It’s difficult to believe that women everywhere were simply oblivious to all of this, any more than men were oblivious to the fact that women’s bikini swimsuits of the period were gradually covering less and less and leaving less and less to the imagination. Some women problem discovered a newfound interest in men’s swimming as a spectator sort. But others seemed to be more than a little put off and offended by seeing a little more of men’s genitalia, even covered, than they thought might somehow be appropriate.
This was also the period of time when Elvis Presley was becoming a superstar with women. Elvis sang well, but it was probably the raw sexual overtones of his appearance and dress that really catapulted him into stardom with women…the wavy black hair, the facial expressions, but also the moves—that is, the hip gyrations that ED Sullivan refused to show on TV that revealed Presley clearly had genitalia. Despite denials by Elvis, young women, not to mention their parents, saw the moves as simulating the moves a guy might make during sex. The parents were angered by all of this: the young women were smitten.
The 1960s was an interesting period. Women’s skirts kept getting shorter. Hot pants for women were newly arrived. A very short garment made as pants could reveal even more leg than a miniskirt would while reducing the possibility that undergarments or even female genitalia would inadvertently be displayed. Men didn’t seem to complain at all.
Somewhere in the early 60s, men discovered that a lot of women were more fascinated by seeing men’s butts in close-fitting garments than by seeing their genitalia so clad. I’m not certain when women first realized this, nor when men first came to this realization about what women were really looking at when men were being studied, but somehow it happened.
At that point, the race was on to see what guy could wear jeans that fit as tight as possible to the butt and the whole body. The slimmer and more athletic guys had an advantage in this game. For a guy to play, it was important to not have a butt that sagged. Men discovered exercises specifically designed to tone their buts and (hopefully) turn women on. Clothing manufacturers responded by coming up with form-fitting designs that especially accentuated men’s butts. Women didn’t seem to complain about these emerging trends at all.
Think about how male athletes clothed themselves during the 1960s. Competitive swimmers were wearing successively smaller Speedos in an effort to improve times, with Australian and European swimmers leading the way in this regard but American swimmers soon following. At some point, it became ok for an average male to show up at a pool or beach wearing a Speedo, even if he wasn’t a competitive swimmer. Consider too how basketball players of the period dressed generally in small satin shorts and an “A’ shirt. Everyone seemed to think this dress was quite ordinary, although basketball players may have attracted more than a few female fans as a consequence.
The Beatles arrived in the mid 1960s. Here were apparently straight, sexy British singers who wore their hair more nearly like a woman than a man. Women, initially perplexed by what sexual signals were being sent, soon seemed to think this was all fine. Once again, women were smitten. Prior to the arrival of the Beatles, long-haired music referred to music by classical composers who somehow also wore their hair longer than “normal people” “Real” guys circa 1960 wore their hair as a “butch” or crew cut. But after the long-haired Beatles entered the scene, it was suddenly ok for straight guys to wear long hair, and this whole idea had gained increasing acceptance among men everywhere as the decade concluded. Clothing and hair styles gleaned from the California hippie flower- child drug scene gained increasing acceptance with the American public at large, even those who saw themselves as unlinked to the so-called hippie movement.
The 1970s were equally interesting. Rubin argues in his book that daring men’s clothing styles often begin in the gay community and only eventually receive more widespread adoption by straight males. Many of the top menswear designers, if not gay, at least catered to gay fashion as a major part of their clientele. He makes the somewhat off-base point that gay men can be identified as gay not straight because they will often be wearing more extreme versions of what are considered to be “normal’ male fashion i.e. particularly form-fitting shirts and jeans more nearly designed for “cruising” other males rather than to attract women. Some styles, Nehru jackets, polyester “leisure” suits, initially worn exclusively by gays, quickly hit the mainstream as the decade progressed.
Whether all or any of Rubin’s comments have a basis in truth or not in the 1970s is difficult to determine, as these styles were very popular with both gay and straight men alike. By the end of the 1960s, jeans had gotten narrow enough such that the guy had to remove both his shoes and socks to get into them. There were limits to how far this was could go, and the logical next step was to go in the opposite way…this was the advent of the bell-bottomed jean that widened not narrowed at the ankle. Jeans still were form fitting through the thigh and hugged tightly to the butt, but the leg got wider not narrower from knee to ankle.
Interestingly, women adopted this same fashion statement as the men. Women, those only recently clad in mini skirts and hot pants, discarded then and snuggled into form-fitting bell bottoms. By the end of the decade, practically everyone was wearing bell bottoms and clothing made in bright colors out of some truly dreadful fabric called double-knit polyester. The image of men appearing in public clad in lime green double knit leisure suits is almost too awful to even think about. Somehow we managed to live through all of this even without clothing made from natural fabrics such as cotton and wool.
The early 1980s can probably be categorized as the period representing the most hideous clothing ever worn by mankind. Theoretically straight men managed to combine elaborately-flowered slick-fabric (polyester fake silk) shirts with horribly wide pointed collars with equally atrocious polyester double-knit leisure suits in garish colors. A side-zip leather “boot” completed the “look”. If clothes were supposed to send sexual signals to interested potential partners, something had clearly gone horribly wrong. Something was being sent in the way of a sexual signal, but neither men nor women could determine what it could possibly be.
Women’s fashion, playing with the same themes, colors and coordinating polyester double knit fabrics, was little different. I find this entire fashion period painful to even think about.
By the mid-1980s, rap and hip-hop music was starting to take
over and with it the clothing culture…specifically ultra baggy clothing
especially jeans that left everything to the imagination. Like a lot of trends
among young people,
I have never quite determined where this new trend fit in relative to previously existing trends. I think it was perhaps a response to a realization that many gay men were sticking with body-hugging clothing, and that the baggy jeans were a type of counterstatement announcing that the guy whatever he was certainly was not gay. Older men, perhaps not as paranoid about their sexual orientation, continued to wear more tailored clothing. How the whole idea of exposing the elastic of the top of one’s underwear at the top of the baggy jeans fits in with other style trends remains a great unresolved mystery as well.
But all was not lost in the dress as sexual signals
department. The late 1980s marked the real emergence of thong bikinis for
women, and shortly thereafter, for men. I was on the
The 1990s to Currently
College and professional basketball players began wearing shorts so long and baggy they looked like they were wearing a skirt, and this trend continued down into the high schools. There are some real technical problems with the baggy shorts for swimming. For starters, baggy shorts create a lot of drag and guys have difficulty swimming in them at all, let alone swimming at any speed.
The emerging jeans culture for women was anything but baggy. The latest trend in young women’s jeans has been low rise and ultra form-fitting. The tighter they fit the better. I think this suggests that women too believe that men are enamored with their butts. Many young men, however, stuck with their loose and baggy jeans.
Dual Clothing Standards for Men and Women
There seemed to be an evolving female backlash against men wearing Speedos, even trim and fit men. Women increasingly claimed they thought men looked hideous in Speedos, but especially so if they were even a little older or a bit overweight and that they preferred to see their men in baggier shorts. Some guys have claimed this backlash coincides with an upswing in the feminist and is ultimately rooted in unresolved female penis envy.
There is something of an evolving dual standard here: That dual standard suggests that in our society women are permitted to wear anything they please no matter how revealing of body parts and need to be concerned only about exposing themselves to the point being potentially charged by police with engaging in public nudity. In the US, the exposure of breasts generally is considered to be fine so long as nipples are not exposed (remember the fuss over Janet Jackson’s half time show at the Super Bowl—a display of nipple that would not even raise an eyebrow in most of Europe). Bikinis are fine so long as pubic hair is not exposed—this has led to a wave of waxing and hair removal using electrolysis by women—the whole idea here that less pubic hair the skimpier the bikini that can be fashionably worn. And, of course the advent of thongs and G-strings means that if such a “swimsuit” is worn there is virtually nothing in the buttocks area that is not exposed anyway.
Men in the
What was out? Well, Speedo-style swimwear for certain, but
for that matter any swimsuit that even provided any hint that the guy might
have genitalia underneath (except for gay guys, of course). But this fear of
being labeled as gay led directly into the baggy clothing styles for men that
made sure that the shape of any body part was not revealed, let alone the shape
of any body part another person of either sex might think was sexy. So for the
moment at least, the feminists won. They no longer were reminded that all guys
have penises every time they seen any guy at the beach or pool. Everything is
hidden under a swimsuit so baggy one could assume that men so clad lacked
genitalia of any shape or form. If we stop and think about this for a moment,
convincing men that they need to select clothing styles that hide everything
with sexual overtones, this becomes a form of “feminist castration” that
The Thong Police
Some local communities, particularly in a few “conservative” areas on the East Coast, are attempting to ban the wearing of thong swimsuits by women (perhaps also men) on local beaches as an illegal display of public nudity. Apparently to at least some of those living there, the buttocks are part of the anatomy that should not be seen by people in a public setting. This led to all sorts of interesting problems for local police in terms of determining exactly which swimsuits were permissible under the ordinance and which were not. There are all sorts swimsuits labeled as thongs or G-strings available. These range from suits that expose just a bit more of the buttocks than a “regular” bikini or brief, to G-string designs in which the entire suit back consists of nothing more than a colored piece of rope or cord. So a local government trying to develop an ordinance regarding permissible versus non-permissible attire faces the tough problem of determining in each instance exactly the extent to which the buttocks are exposed and whether that particular exposure level conforms with or violates the ordinance and then writing the ordinance with enough detail such that those violating the ordinance can be charged with a crime. This leads to humor such as “I see my ideal job as being that of a policeman in charge of monitoring this and arresting offenders in one of these beach communities.”
It is not entirely clear where all of these trends will
ultimately go. The 1990s began a period in the
I would like to think that US men will eventually revolt at
the predicament they currently find themselves in—this dual standard that now
suggests it is ok for women to send sexual signals in their dress but it is not
ok for men to do likewise. Currently, this sounds like increasingly like a
The “Boy Band” Era
The 1990s will also be remembered also as the decade of the “boy bands” and the legions of screaming young women attending their concerts. The two bands that especially come to mind here are N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Not since Elvis and the Beatles had male entertainers sent young women into such an apparent sexually-fed frenzy.
Men generally are often convinced that whatever sexual signals they are sending that women generally are not picking up on them. But put the right boy band in front of a group of post-pubescent girls and young women and one quickly discovers that whatever sexual signals are being sent are indeed being instantly picked up. Watching all of this is most fascinating and more than a bit amusing. A lot of us remember the appearances of Elvis and the Beatles in on the Ed Sullivan show and the young women in the audience screamed their way through the entire event to the point that no one else there could even hear what the performers were singing. For some unknown reason, young women in a high state of sexual arousal tend to scream, and in a concert setting, everything seems to feed on itself. Never was this better illustrated than during the boy band concerts where the women in attendance had clearly worked themselves up to a high state of arousal given the sexual energy at the event. Fortunately, usually these things do somehow seem to have a finite life: the popularity of the boy bands soon declined and young women went back to behaving more normally at concerts.
Finally, a related case dating from the 1990s are the young female fans of, believe it or not, professional bull riding. Much of this is not very well known by the public at large outside of those who keep track of the sport. At one time, bull riding was a part of rodeo incorporating many other kinds of events with participants mostly being older men (cowboys) in their thirties and forties. But this particular part of rodeo suddenly became so popular with fans that it split off from the rest of rodeo. Along with that, the new heroes and big success stories in the sport were seemingly getting younger and more athletic. There is skill involved here of course, but other things being equal generally the fittest young guys are the ones most likely to be able to stay on the bulls and win the top prize money. Nowadays, the top bull-riders are engaged in fitness training not unlike what the top participants in any other sport undergo. The sport, in particular, requires guys with a lot of muscle strength and particularly strong abdominal muscles in order to stay on the bull, and they train specifically for that. Put a handsome and especially fit young man perhaps in his early 20s who looks about 18 or 19 in a pair of snug-fitting, butt-enhancing Wrangler jeans and a cowboy hat, and you have a recipe almost certain to attract the attention of young women. And that is exactly what has been happening. The sport has a sizable group of young female fans who keep track of the young bull riders and follow the bull-riding circuit in much the same way young women groupies used to follow rock stars around. Try and tell me the underlying motivation here is not sexual. I suspect these guys are propositioned at least as frequently as rock stars.
Sex in the 21st Century
I have recently been reading the results of surveys that suggest pre-marital sex is much more common than widely believed. One survey of married couples reports that nowadays, 95 percent or more of married couples have had premarital sex. Human beings nowadays are probably having more not less casual recreational sex than they did in decades past despite the complaints by the moralists that as a consequence surely the world will come to an end.
But the world has not ended, and recreational sex seems to
be more popular than ever. I think the key here is that couples are now fully
realizing that they need to take adequate precautions (precaution equals the
guy wears a condom) . As a consequence, we have not
had a rash of unwanted pregnancies. At least in the
Terrorism and Psycho-Sexual Behavior
It is well known in the literature on criminology and psychiatry that many violent crimes, especially those committed by rapists and serial killers have sexual overtones. Specifically, the crime becomes a substitute form of sexual gratification for individuals unable to achieve sexual gratification in socially acceptable ways.
Could this also be true of terrorism, broadly defined? Many crimes are committed by people who are social outcasts who are unable to deal with what we would consider to be “normal” society. IN some manner they live in a world apart from the majority of the rest of us.
Sine 9/11, the US Federal government has devoted a great deal of money and effort to better understand why terrorists commit terrorist acts as a means of finding ways of coping with an important problem facing US residents. I do not believe that it is accidental that many of those committing terrorist acts grew up in repressed societies and that sexual repression in all its forms in these societies has its unfortunate consequences. I suppose the Catholic Church too has been having its own moments in considering whether the celibacy requirement for priests is a contributing underlying factor to the pedophilia cases. Some people are better at coping with sexual repression than others. Obviously most Catholic priests do not commit acts of pedophilia despite the rules laid down by the Church. But for others this becomes the morally reprehensible form of sexual expression.
Certainly many if not most church leaders would like very much to believe otherwise, and offer as proof the fact that the vast majority of celibate priests do not commit acts of pedophilia. Keep in mind, however, that I do not argue that every man living under a condition in which “normal” sexual activity is repressed is going to turn into a pedophile: everyone has his own way of coping with the situation at hand. I am only arguing that if sex and sexuality is repressed in some form then a percentage of those thus repressed are likely to copy by behaving in unfortunate ways. And this is true whether we are studying the behavior of Catholic priests charged with pedophilia or terrorists who bomb themselves or others in a warped effort to achieve sexual gratification. As a society we can turn our heads and argue that there is no linkage, and face the unfortunate the consequences as a society as well.
Particularly for men, if by religious or national law, the desire to have “normal” sexual activity is repressed, at least some percentage of the men are probably doing some things considered socially unacceptable to cope. As I see it the serial killer, the rapist and the terrorist willing to bomb others or even commit an act of suicide bombing share a lot in common. Repressive rules and societies do not somehow manage to limit sexual desire however convenient that might be for whoever is imposing the rule or law. Not all men who live in sexually repressed societies commit acts of terrorism against others or become suicide bombers, but that is a coping mechanism for a percentage. What repressive rules do is to cause a segment of the population to behave in a socially and morally irresponsible way.
I would argue that the federal government wants to better
understand the root causes of terrorism, then it had
better be prepared to trace at least part of the problem to the psychosexual
consequences of living in a repressive society, particularly one governed by rigid
rules regarding sexual behavior. The solution may very well involve fundamental
changes in how the society operates in this regard, but that brings up a host
of issues relating to whether or not the
In case anyone is missing what I am trying to say here, let
me try to say it more clearly. In
Most Americans know little about what exactly goes on within a sexually repressed society. We observe details such as women covering their hair and wearing robes that ensure no body part is accidentally seen in public, and by our standards this seems more than a little weird. Do men in these societies ever see women even partially unclothed other than the woman chosen to be the wife? The answer, pretty obviously, is “no”.
Can the heterosexual couples living in this kind of society be very “imaginative” when it comes to techniques for having plain ordinary penis-vagina sex? From where would they learn techniques? But this is only part of the set of issues where answers are not clear at all. What happens in one of these societies should a teenaged boy get caught masturbating. Lets not even talk about the possibility of penis-vagina sex among unmarried teenagers and what the consequences might be. What about oral sex in a repressive society? What about anal sex? Presumably the percentage of gays in such societies is no different than in any other population. What happens in a society that officially bans homosexuality and treats sex between same sex couples as a crime perhaps even punishable by death?
Living in the 21st Century, with all of its Warts
In the 21st century, Americans still have
hang-ups in matters of sex and sexuality, but as a society we are managing
somehow to work our way through them one at a time.
Then we went through the “Rubinesque” period in which masturbation was seen not necessarily as wrong but rather as an inferior and psychosexually less gratifying form of sexual activity largely practiced by post-pubescent boys and elderly men who lacked a sexual partner, or by misfits, social outcasts and others who lacked the basic social skills necessary to find a girl and have real, that is the more gratifying, penis-vagina sex.
Rubin’s views on masturbation were dealt a fatal blow when Shere Hite in her 1981 survey reported that many men surveyed had better and stronger orgasms via masturbation that via penis-vagina sex. Furthermore, a sizable share of married men reported that they continued to engage in solo-sex masturbation into adulthood and into marriage. The wonderful techniques guys invariably learn as young teens do not suddenly evaporate just because a guy now has a vagina in which to place his penis as another option in marriage, nor did they go away simply because the wife somehow did not approve of such foolishness or sexually felt left out if the guy masturbates alone.
The same can be aid for oral and anal sex and the question of whether or not either activity falls in the realm of normal sexual behavior or not. Here we even had laws on the books in many instances supposedly prohibiting these acts between couples. Obviously no third party was generally present in bedrooms of heterosexual couples to “police” what these people did with or to each other sexually. So it was up to the two people involved to decide whether these acts were ok to do, appropriate and fun from the perspective of being sexually gratifying. These laws were on the books because they served primarily to curb the “deemed undesirable” activities of gay men engaging in either oral or anal sex but primarily in semi-public places, say a men’s room in a public location. Obviously two gay men in search or oral or anal sex were still able to have whatever form of sex they desired in a private bedroom, just as heterosexual couples do.
But now we are right in the middle of trying to cope with the whole issue of whether same-sex couples deserve the same rights and privileges afforded to heterosexual couples, specifically whether same-sex couples should be permitted to “marry.” That everyone is actively engaged in the debate at all says something about the increasing openness of our society. In a sexually-repressive society we would not even be engaging in these debates. The public is dealing with a whole set of values, religious and moral. A lot of the debate on gay marriage I think has less to do about the argument that marriage exists between a man and a women as an idea taken from religion and the idea that only a heterosexual couple can bear children (the natural way) than the discussion is a consequence of leftovers from the debate as to whether or forms of partner sex that do not involve penis in vagina not oral and anal sex are indeed socially acceptable alternative forms of sex that are not only ok, but desirable. The fact tat gay couples will invariably be engaging in these forms of sex as part of the marriage highlights the issue. Never mind that unmarried gay couples were engaging in sexual activities that go outside the realm of penis in vagina sex. We could cope with that by assuming instead that gays of either sex were not engaging in sexual relations at all. But if these people are married and have a state certificate to prove it, psychological denial about what these “odd” people actually could be doing to and are doing with each other becomes far more difficult.
I have real problems seeing how a married heterosexual couple could somehow see marriage between gay couples as a “threat”, religiously, morally or otherwise. Families aren’t going to suddenly fall apart because gays marry. I fail to see the connection here. Married heterosexual couples can live out their lives just as they did before gays were permitted to marry. For goodness sakes what is the big deal?
Could it also be that the same married heterosexual couples railing against gay marriage as being religiously or morally reprehensible are simply uncomfortable living ordinary boring lives as couples? Rubin painted this picture of gay men as having a zillion sexual escapades and basically living sexually unfulfilled lives because despite their efforts, they could never find a guy with a vagina. Instead, reality suggests that there are large numbers of gay couples, men and women, who live very ordinary lives, both sexually and otherwise. Some gays are unfaithful to their partners but so are many heterosexuals. So what else is new?
The idea of accepting gay couples as ordinary people living ordinary boring, largely monogamous lives flies in the face of so many social and cultural stereotypes that a lot of people simply don’t want to come to grips with the entire possibility of such a reality. Better to use the stereotypes from television and the movies of gay guys as being guys with squeaky voices who take jobs as male hairdressers or as interior decorators who routinely go out to bars on the weekend evenings wearing women’s clothes and makeup, with oral or anal sex in the bar men’s room (labeled “Queens”). Or perhaps consider as well the stereotype of a female lesbian butch with closely-cropped hair wearing jeans and a red-plaid flannel shirt while being employed in some physically-demanding occupation normally held by men.
Sexual Information and Education
At the dawn of the 21st century, American society is still trying to come to grips with this one. In other words we are still trying to get our collective heads around the notion as a society of whether more information is preferable to less information, particularly as kids are growing up. We can ask some basic questions. Will a guy take up masturbation if he learns how to masturbate by reading papers on the subject, and if so is this something we should be concerned about? Will an unmarried teen couple more likely engage in penis-vagina sex if they know the details of how penises and vaginas fit together at an early age, or if they do not? Does reading about what oral or anal sex is encourage people to go out and try it, or not? Will kids be less likely to engage in any or all of these activities if they know and understand what is going on or if they are kept in the dark insofar as possible?
I have always been an advocate of the notion that accurate information is invariably preferable to not having information at all in both sexual and non-sexual matters. For young people, on matters of sex, the traditional sources have been (1) parents, (2) friends, (3) information from classes in school dealing directly or indirectly with sex, (4) books, not only in books about sex, but also reference books such as encyclopedias and medical texts, and (5) the movies and TV. By the mid 1990s we could add as a source of information (6) the Internet and Web.
As a young child I was soaking up information like a sponge about almost any imaginable topic that happened to hit me on any day as being interesting to unravel or challenging to understand. So far as I was concerned there was nothing more interesting, challenging, or full of discovery than anything that had to do with sex in all its forms. The fact that sex was something of a hushed-up topic in the 50s made my “research” even more appealing, challenging and interesting. Growing up on a farm at the time, I had more than ample opportunity to observe a wide assortment of farm animals engaging in penis-vagina sex, taking immediate note that each animal species had its own unique way of engaging in sex. The cows engaged in sex differently from the sheep, and the sheep differently from the chickens, but in all cases each animal species accomplished what needed to be done. Farmers make their livings in large measure because both plants and animals reproduce with seemingly reckless abandon. We all are here because of the success.
Not only was I making detailed observation on farm animals in acts of copulation, I was also soaking up information on sex and sexuality wherever I could find it. I had something of a reputation as being a book-worm and a bit of a nerd. The books I had access to were a set of encyclopedias with a 1955 copyright. Sure enough there were entries on sex and sexual reproduction and I absorbed every work. Only somewhat later did I devote a serious effort to see exactly what various medical texts concluded about masturbation and whether or not it was harmful or not.
Being observant, even then I was interested in the entire notion of whether or not farm animals found sex to be an enjoyable activity or not, and in particular what I could glean about this subject simply by looking into the eyes of the animals while they were engaged in sex. My mom was an advocate of the notion that eating fertilized chicken eggs were better for you than eating unfertilized eggs. So in addition to 50 or more hens, we always had a large number of roosters (perhaps as many as 8 or 10 for each 50 hens) As you might imagine, this high ratio of roosters to hens ensured that we would always be eating fertilized eggs. But it also kept the hens quite busy, as they were often being chased down by a series of giant roosters each with amorous intentions.
My first research addressed the question of whether or not the hens were really trying to get away from the roosters, or whether all the running around was simply “faked” with the hen thinking it somehow useful to play “hard to get”. Somehow the bigger rooster always seemed to catch the hen without too much difficulty, and I finally concluded that the hens putting up fuss when the roosters approached them was all part of an elaborate “act” designed to convince the rooster that in matters of sex this hen was no “easy girl.” Hmmm..a lot like some humans.
Once the rooster caught the hen, things got more intriguing. Depending on the age of the hen, the exact spot where the rooster’s organ needed to go was often camouflaged with feathers. And the hen was still moving around. This tended to create a noisy barnyard scene, as the rooster attempted to have sex the hen with feathers flying everywhere. If you ever wondered where the expression “feathers flew” came from, this is it.
But the big old rooster had a real trick up his sleeve for calming the hen during lovemaking. He would grab her by the nape of the neck and usually, in the process, pull out some feathers there. But, like a mother cat paralyzing her kittens by grabbing them by the nape of the neck to carry them, the rooster’s beak on the nape of the hen’s neck seemed to calm the hen as well and perhaps paralyze her to a degree as well like the kittens and their mother. So the rooster was standing on top of the hen with his beak grabbing the back of the hen’s neck and having sex with her. The hen at this point was prostrate on the ground and suddenly seemed quite calm.
During all of this I couldn’t resist looking into the eyes of the hen for clues as to whether she was having any fun. The rooster certainly seemed happy about the entire situation as it was playing out. But if the hen was having any fun, she didn’t exactly overjoyed. Terms like distraught, haggard, and just doing my duty more nearly come too mind.
As the hens grew older, they tended to lose more and more feathers on the napes of their necks. And their butts eventually were free of feathers. It was easy enough to tell which hens were getting any from the roosters just by observing them carefully.
More Than You Probably Want to Know
Chicken reproduction (for that matter, bird reproduction) is a fascinating topic. Both rooster and hen have a single external opening called a cloacae (apparently Latin for "sewer"). This opening serves to expel feces from the intestinal tract and act as a duct for eggs to be laid. Chickens have kidneys but they do not urinate. The product of the kidneys gets mixed into the fecal material as the kidneys are connected into the same tube. A rooster, when mating with a hen, just places his cloacae tight up against hers and the semen shoots into her. This is similar to a spaceman going from a shuttle into a space station. The semen travels several inches to her ovaries where it stays and fertilizes a number of eggs.
Here is a photo of how everything is constructed.
The same duct used to lay eggs and expel feces is used for this purpose to get sperm to the maturing eggs as well.
Only a few male birds of any type have anything resembling a penis. They include large land birds like ostriches and some waterfowl. The penis is mainly a mammalian invention as most reptiles. Hens (female chickens) do not re have periods when they will or will not mate with males like other farm animals except that they will mate for a few days prior to when they are beginning to lay eggs, through egg-laying. Generally clucks (non-laying hens looking to incubate a clutch of eggs) will not be willing to put up with the rooster mating. They run off and eat grasshoppers instead.
This whole idea seems to be an incredibly sloppy way to reproduce. But birds have been doing in this way for millions of years. Had it not worked pretty well, birds would no longer be with us. Fish have even sloppier ways. It's common for male fish to just spray semen into the water when they see what they think might be a female ready to breed, and hope for the best.
To see a diagram of the gory details of exactly how the biology of male and female chickens works, look at http://www.nhm.org/birds/guide/pg016.html
So what exactly is the philosophy of David Sebringsil, not only on sex and sexuality, but on religion, morality and life in general?
On Religion, Sex and Sexuality
First, let me say that I regard myself as a religious person, but not on the context of religion as laying down a simple set of “this is right and that is wrong” rules that everyone should follow to the letter in order to achieve moral behavior. For me this applies to life in general, but never more specifically than with respect to matters of sex and sexuality.
I believe that sex, broadly defined (see above) is a God-given gift, and as human beings we alone are responsible for what we do with that gift. Sex is not only about procreation but about a whole lot more than that. God wired human beings so that sex would be fun, not something of dread or revulsion.
I have real problems with religious zealots who somehow feel that the Bible sets up a rigid set of rules on matters of sex and sexuality, or for that matter any piece of religious doctrine arising from any other religion that attempts to define what is and is not behavior that is morally acceptable to God or whatever higher power one’s religion happens to believe in.
Of course, ultimately there are bounds even in sexual behavior. Some behaviors that clearly provide sexual gratification to some people are off limits and illegal, and rightfully so. Notable examples here include sexual arousal from murder by serial killers, rape incest and pedophilia. But this is a very short list.
I cannot help but to be struck by the violence created by people who live in sexually-repressed societies. The suicide bomber living in a sexually-repressed society may be engaging in such activity as an outgrowth of being unable to confront sexual expression and deal with sex and sexuality in an open and positive way. Mentally, the suicide bomber may be not far removed from the serial killer who kills others in search of sexual gratification. I cannot help believe that things might be very different for these mentally ill people if they lived in a society less-repressive society. How many sexually-open societies have started wars? Somehow I don’t think the Danish, the Norwegians nor the Dutch pose any major threat of war to anyone. The countries that pose the real threats to the rest of the world are the ones living under severe sexual intolerance. People who live in sexually-repressed societies have missed out on a lot of what it means toi be human in the broadest sense of the word, and its not surprising that many of these people end up mentally unbalanced and readily willing to commit acts the rest of the world would find as repulsive.
So where does that leave us aside from seeing serial murder, rape, incest and pedophilia as inappropriate, illegal and morally reprehensible? Well for starters, religion needs to recognize that sex and sexuality is a gift and needs to be treated as a gift.
Is masturbation sinful?
Well, there are Biblical passages that could be read and interpreted as such,
but in the
Is anal sex sinful? Well, the Bible has quite a lot to say on that specific subject, certainly more than it has to say about masturbation. After all, where do you think the term “sodomy” came from? Again, if one were to read the Bible as literal truth, then one would need to conclude that anal sex is sinful. The funny part about this one is that those who argue for literal interpretation of the Bible with regard to what is ok versus what is a sin spend a lot less time on this issue than they do on a lot of other “can be interpreted as a sin” issue?
Is gay sex sinful? This issue is not unrelated to the issue of whether or not anal sex is sinful, as heterosexual society largely believes that the primary sex act between gay men is anal sex. So if anal sex is sinful then so must be gay sex, at least according to some. The objections of mainstream churches to the ordination of gay men in some measure must have to do with the possibility that these gay men may be regularly engaging in sodomy. But buying into this argument might also argue that churches should not ordain anyone who has ever masturbated, let alone anyone who is currently masturbating. After all, the Bible comes down on both sexual activities as being inappropriate.
Is sex before marriage sinful? That’s an
interesting question in that the Bible appears to be not nearly so specific on
that subject as on topics such as masturbation and anal sex. The bible comes down hard on extramarital
affairs as being sinful, however. Yet traditionally, most Christian churches
and many other religions have railed against premarital sex. In the
Sex can be thought of as the biological “superglue” that bonds people together in monogamous relationships. If two people are to bind together in a lasting relationship they need to have as much information as possible in order to determine whether they are compatible as partners, and this is no more nearly true than for sexual compatibility. For two people to find this all out AFTER the marriage takes place only sets both people up for something that will not and cannot last.
In our society at least, if we somehow conclude that from a morality perspective, it is important that people ONLY find out the extent to which they are sexually compatible after the marriage taxes place sets society up whereby a lot of couples are going to quickly discover that from a sexual compatibility perspective the two people are completely different. The result is high rates of divorce and broken families.
Which approach is better? I say that the more two people know about each other before marriage the greater the chance of success in the marriage. This is no more nearly true than on matters of sex and sexuality. This is really the area where two people considering marriage need to be most in tune with each other if the marriage is to ultimately work.
The sad part here is that while Americans may have a lengthy and detailed courtship procedure, a lot of this is, to put it bluntly, perfunctory, at least for a lot of couples. Couples really need to get inside the heads of each other, sexually, before the marriage. Getting inside the heads of each other sexually is ultimately far more important than getting inside thee bodies of each other, sexually. Neither partner learns anything about what they really need to know before marriage by eating a meal together at a fine restaurant. While this may be the modern American idea of what it means to “go on a date” its not really what dating should be all about. Does he seem to know which fork to use first? Does he tip the waiter adequately? Does she like to talk about herself in conversation or about some other failed previous date? I suppose this information says something about the person and the personality.
But the really important information is exchanged AFTER the meal. What specific sex acts does SHE enjoy? What specific sex acts does HE enjoy? What sex acts does SHE find particularly objectionable? What sex acts does HE find objectionable? Does HE like activities other than penis-vagina sex, say oral or anal sex? How important are these to him in the overall scheme of things? Does SHE enjoy these acts? What might she do if she catches him masturbating alone in the bathroom? Is she ok with this? Will she join in or start to cry for somehow not providing him sexual fulfillment? Extra-curricular relationships: That is, re both going to assume that these are completely off limits or not. Then there is the entire subject of same-sex relationships. What if the guy has had sex one or more times with another guy at some point in his past? If the surveys are correct, this is quite common, and includes perhaps as many as 40% of the guys out there. How is she going to deal with this? What would happen if this pops up again in the marriage? I raise these questions not because I could answer them, but rather because they have no simple answers.
As some no doubt have already concluded, I write under the pseudonym “David Sebringsil” in large measure because I have a host of academic papers on topics completely unrelated to sexuality and I think it would be most amusing to see these academic papers appear in a Google search along side my detailed papers on sex and sexuality, not because I’m embarrassed about writing on the sex and sexuality topic as such. OK, my family and academic colleagues might be a bit surprised, but I guess I could deal with that should the information come out. Besides, it turns out that the Pseudonym is a good one because a Web Search on it leads back to papers I have written and no one else. I often like to think about this issue and specifically how I want to be remembered on my gravestone. Will it be for a host of academic papers completely unrelated to sex and sexuality that were only occasionally read and then quickly forgotten, or will it be for the Internet paper Understanding Male Sexuality” which virtually everyone doing a Google Web Search on “male sexuality” quickly found and read from one of several different locations where the paper is now stored. I can see in my obituary the words “This guy was successful at writing a lot of quickly-forgotten scholarly academic papers on non-memorable tops , but is best known for his Web paper “Understanding Male Sexuality” that educated and enlightened the masses on matters of sex and sexuality that had never been discussed before.” I can only hope!
I also might mention here that I have the sebringsil.com Web site in large measure because one day a couple years ago AOL decided that my sexuality papers were too explicit for their supposedly family-oriented Hometown Web hosting system. But I had reached the point where it was time to get my own domain name and in essence copyright that domain, no longer fearing that the in any way the sexual “thought police” were going to come down on me for saying things and describing the details of specific sexual activities that some people thought for whatever reason, religious or otherwise, should not be said on the Internet, and at least not in polite company. AOL might have left me alone had I confined myself to discussing nuances of penis-vagina sex, but the detailed discussion of enjoyable masturbation techniques was way over the top in terms of what AOL could tolerate on their family-friendly Web sites LOL. Goodness, young people could get on top these, and AOL might somehow be held responsible and accountable! AOL seems to want their user uploaded Web sites to be popular but not overwhelmingly so. I was becoming increasingly angry that AOL was continually trying to using my writing as a means of generating ad revenue for themselves from lord only what company anyway, so it was time to move on to an ad-free location where I could say exactly what I wanted to say without fear of retribution by morality “thought police” nor watch a company basically profit from the popularity of my work with those accessing the Web.
Enough of that, except to say that what I ran into with AOL is a good indication of exactly the extent to which mainstream Americans are and are not tolerant of discussions relating to the details of sex. Anyone who has searched the Internet for more than 5 minutes realizes that the Internet is filled with tons of content far more explicit and pornographic (intent to arouse) than anything I have ever said or written. I continue to be amused as to how the filtering engines treat my writings. Generally I fall into the category of “Internet papers that outline sex acts in detail but without the intent to arouse.” This is as opposed to pornographic materials specifically designed to arouse, complete with photos of nude women (or men, LOL). For parents and others who are concerned about all of this I would like to think that I am one of the more sensible sources of useful sexual information out there, and that groups like Planned Parenthood and courses dealing with sex education at some major universities are now pretty regularly citing my writings. I have real problems with those who want to police and place limits on the availability of information about sex leading to activities that are safe, enjoyable and harmful to no one. We should be encouraging people and helping them find such information, not coming up with all sorts of electronic barriers designed to limit access to this information.
Also, most sites writing about sex and sexuality are now loaded down with ads for various products, pills, sex aids and whatever. I have not made a cent off of any of this. My day job keeps me comfortable and I can continue to do this strictly as a hobby, with comments about my writing my only reward.
© 2006 by David Sebringsil.
Hite, Shere. The Hite Report on Male Sexuality. Random House, 1981.
Rubin, David. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but were Afraid to Ask, a paperback Bantam Book published by arrangement with the McKay Company, McKay edition published November, 1969.
Zilbergeld, Bernie, Male Sexuality. Little, Brown ed. 1978, followed by The New Male Sexuality, published 1992.
. Other papers in the series;
Me, We and Sexuality NEW!
Fun with male sexuality
and the overall Web site