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Sexual liberation

I happened across this article today.  I do recommend reading it.  It is a gay man's experience in coming to terms with his sexuality--saving himself from the brink of suicide--and finding love.  The title says it is part 4 of 8.  I have not read any of the others in the series, but I just might.

What I wish to address in particular about his article are his comments about sex itself.  He mentions that he has always believed in abstinence until lifelong monogamy.  Then he mentions that when he has voiced this opinion to other people in the LGBT community, he has made enemies doing so.  This is the thing that I wish to speak about.

I have talked before about sex, and I shall probably talk of it often in the future.  I think that it needs to be discussed more openly and frankly in our society.  I think that the shame that is often associated with even mentioning sex is very harmful, particularly to young people just coming to terms with new and heightened sexual feelings.

The first thing I wish to say is that if someone wishes to live a certain sexual lifestyle, ey should feel free to do so.  It is a very personal thing.  So, if this man (Scot) wishes to be celibate prior to entering a lifelong relationship and remain faithful to his partner after entering the relationship, he will hear no complaints from me.  My issue is with teaching that this is the preferred (and, as is often the case, the only moral) way to live.  Biology and psychology indicate that this is simply not true.

This idea of monogamy comes from religion.  Superstitious beliefs such as religion are responsible for many of the harmful doctrines that our society has seen.  Slavery, racism, sexism, and sex trafficking are all very good examples of things that the Bible promotes, which were accepted as moral back in the time the Bible was written, but which now are considered immoral.  And this idea of strict monogamy is one more such thing.  It is harmful to try to force this mold upon every person.

To understand why this doctrine of monogamy is harmful, it is very helpful to make the realization that sex drive is just like any other appetite of the body.  There are certain functions that our body has a regular desire to do.  All of these functions are necessary in order to preserve life--either the individual organism itself, or the species as a whole.  We experience the desire to eat.  This desire comes in the form of hunger pangs.  The body sends a signal to the brain that it is running low on food to digest, so the brain causes the feeling of hunger.  This prompts the individual to eat.  The act of eating triggers a response in the limbic system--the "reward center" of the brain.  The food is necessary in order to live, so the brain triggers a release of endorphins in order to reward the body for eating and thus keeping itself alive.

Similarly, the urge to engage in sexual behavior is an appetite of the body.  This is a way for the species to perpetuate itself and ensure that future generations are born.  The brain actually rewards this behavior very heavily because it is absolutely vital to the process of life.  Because it is so vital, the urges themselves can be very strong.  Often people say that because these urges are so strong, it is impossible to avoid them or ignore them.  This is a red herring.  It is not a question of whether a person has enough willpower to overcome or set aside sexual urges.  It is a question of whether a person should set aside these urges and ignore the signals from the body.  I propose that it is just as unhealthy to cast aside the urges for sexual activity as it is to cast aside the desire to eat.

When I have voiced this opinion to my conservative friends in the past, I have been met with the reply "I don't want my kids thinking that they can have sex with whomever they want."  This is certainly true.  A person who feels that they can and should have sex with whomever ey wishes is called a rapist.  This is definitely not what I am advocating in the slightest.  In fact, to make the jump from what I am saying to this drastic statement here is analogous to saying that when you're hungry, you should eat whatever food you want.  That's called theft.  You can't just walk into a grocery store and start eating things.  You can't just take someone's lunch from the break room fridge and eat it.  You have to be entitled to eat the food--you need to own it.  We don't own other people, but people have control over their own bodies and they may choose whether or not to engage in activities with other people.  In particular, they may decide whether or not to engage in sexual activity with another person.

I am not saying that a person should have sex with anyone ey wants to have sex with.  I am saying that a person should heed the sexual urges of eir own body.  There are so many ways that these sexual urges can be fulfilled.  The most common, safest, and most convenient method is masturbation.  Masturbation is labeled as immoral by most religions, and by society in general.  And yet nearly every man and most women masturbate on a regular basis.  I recommend reading this article for more about masturbation.  Discouraging masturbation is one of the worst things you can do for your child's sexual and psychological well-being.  Masturbating can satisfy those sexual urges that the body feels on a regular basis, and it is completely harmless and entirely safe.  It is impossible to get an STD from masturbation since there is no second party with whom bodily fluids are exchanged.

The world would indeed be a much different place if sex were accepted as healthy and normal, rather than sinful and dirty.  We would have fewer sexually repressed priests who tell children that they must have sex in order to save their dead grandfather in heaven.  (See also this story about pedophile priests.)  We would have better psychological health, better sexual health.  We would be less stressed, less irritable, more loving and connected with each other.  Now go have sex.  Or masturbate.

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