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"On Sex."

"I'm dumb again
And numb again
A rich, ready, ripe plum again,
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.
(The lyricist, Lorentz Hart (1895-1943), from "Pal Joey.")

"Morality in sexual relations, when it is free from superstition, consists essentially of respect for the other person, and unwillingness to use that person solely as a means of personal gratification, without regard to his or her desires."
(Bertrand Russell, On Marriage and Morals.)

"The act of intercourse is only an incident, and not an essential of love."
(Henry Havelock Ellis.)

  • 1 - Introduction
  • 2 - The Spice of Life
  • 3 - The All Consuming Passion
  • 4 - The Effect of Sexual Repression
  • 5 - Christianity's Impact on Sexuality
  • [TOC]
    Sex is a subject that has to be approached with some caution; it is a taboo subject. First, it is important to understand that the subject of sex is based on an ethic arising from ancient prohibitions propounded by those of past societies, societies that are wholly unlike the modern society we now live in. To suggest any innovation in the area, one runs the risk of, like Socrates, being one who is out to corrupt our youth.

    The Male and Female, as an evolutionary matter, -- Are Different.

    "The debate on universals has properly centered on claims for adaptively based and genetically grounded differences between the sexes (an aspect of human social organization that transcends cultural particulars, according to supporters of sociobiological theory). The expectation for such sociobiological differences arises from the basic premise that all organisms, at the core of their being, must pursue the Darwinian imperative of individual reproductive success. In most animals, the argument goes, males and females must play the game differently, following the dictates of their biological roles. A sperm, little more than genes with a delivery system, is cheap to make, and each fertilization puts half of you into an offspring without further trouble. Thus, males should win their Darwinian edge by impregnating as many females as possible, as often as they can. This state of maximal spread may be achieved along a wide variety of routes, from stealth to outright domination - hence the variety of male strategies are all turned to one effect.
    Females, on the other hand, invest much more by putting sources of nutrition into more expensive eggs; in addition, in many creatures, females bear offspring within their bodies and nurture their newborns for long periods. Hence, female investment must be prolonged and costly. Females receive no Darwinian edge in promiscuity since no gain in reproductive success attends any copulation after fertilization (while males can sew seed with their wild oats ad infinitum). Hence, female adaptations veer from profligacy toward care in choosing the best and most helpful males to father their offspring. The sociopolitical line of the pop argument now leaps from the page: males are aggressive, assertive, promiscuous, overbearing; females are coy, discriminating, loyal, caring - and these differences are adaptive, Darwinian, genetic, proper, good, inevitable, unchangeable." (Gould, An Urchin in the Storm, 1987, p. 36.)

    The Spice of Life:-

    "But sex endows the individual with a dumb and powerful instinct, which carries his body and soul continually toward another; he makes it one of the dearest employments of his life to select and pursue a companion, and joins to possession the keenest pleasure, to rivalry the fiercest rage, and to solitude an eternal melancholy. What more would be needed to suffuse the world with the deepest meaning and beauty?" (Santayana, Sense of Beauty, 1896.)

    "Life without sex might be safer but it would be unbearably dull. It is the sex instinct which makes woman seem beautiful, which they are once in a blue moon, and men seem wise and brave, which they never are at all. Throttle it, denaturalize it, take it away, and human existence would be reduced to the prosaic, laborious, boresome, imbecile level of life in an anthill." (H. L. Mencken, 1926.)

    The All Consuming Passion:-

    "The propagation of the human race is not left to mere accident or caprices of the individual, but is guaranteed by the hidden laws of nature which are enforced by a mighty, irresistible impulse." (Baron Richard von Krafft-Ebing, 1840-1902, Psychopathia Sexualis, 1866.)

    "The substance of our lives is women. All other things are irrelevancies, hypocrisies, subterfuges. We sit talking of sports and politics, and all the while our hearts are filled with memories of women and the capture of women." (George Moore [1852-1933], Confessions of a Young Man [1888].)

    "If jealousies that gnaw men's hearts out of their bodies, -- if pangs that waste men to shadows and drive them into raving madness or moping melancholy, -- if assassination and suicide are dreadful possibilities, then there is always something frightful about a lovely young woman." (Holmes, At the Breakfast Table.)

    "The sexual impluse...next to the love of life...shows itself the strongest and most powerful of motives, constantly lays claim to half the powers and thoughts of the younger portion of mankind, to the ultimate goal of almost all human efforts, interrupts the most serious occupations every hour, sometimes embarrasses for a while even the greatest minds, does not hesitate to intrude with its trash, interfering with the negotiations of statesmen and the investigations of men of learning, knows how to slip its lover letter and locks of hair even into ministerial portfolios an philosophical manuscripts, and no less devises daily the most entangled and the worst actions, destroys the most valuable relationships, breaks the firmest bond, demands the sacrifice sometimes of life of health, sometimes of wealth, rank, and happiness, nay, robs those who are otherwise honest of all conscience, makes those who have hitherto been faithful, traitors; accordingly on the whole, appears as a malevolent demon that strives to pervert, confuse and overthrow everything." (Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea [1819].)

    The Effect of Sexual Repression:-
    The sexual activity is an outlet for our passion. It is the most malleable of any of our instincts. Deny it, or limit it, and, it seems, it will come out in other avenues of passion in our lives; some destructive, some constructive. The history books are full of individuals who, sex having been denied, soared to the highest exaltation of art and religion. Anyone of us can over-indulge and take too much of something, anything from food, alcohol, sex, whatever. And some of us have money enough to gratify our sensual desires to an extreme degree, to the point of afflicting much harm to ourselves. But, in spite of this fact, few of us so indulge; and having the money, or not, for such indulgence, is not much of a consideration. The ready availability of something will not generally lead to a destructive course of personal action; and, further more, the scarcity of some sought after substance or activity will not prevent the self-abuser sniffing it out, or simply abusing himself in some alternative way. Besides, limiting a person's normal intake of some activity or substance, which another may think to be harmful, often only enhances the destructive effect. For example, most people will satisfy themselves with a particular meal then think about other things until the next meal. But those, who, whether for ascetic or dietetic reasons, have deprived themselves of all but the minimum of food, become obsessed and dream continuously of culinary delights. And, it is reported, that those who have become marooned, and, thus, reduced to the sparsest of diets, spend their days planning the dinner they will have directly they are found.

    Christianity's Impact on the Sexuality:-

    "... especially in what concerns sex, our current morality contains a very great deal of which the origin is purely superstition." (Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, 1928.)

    "But the person who feels that the sexual impulse is bad, or even low and vulgar, is an absurdity in the universe, an anomaly. He is like those persons in our insane asylums, who feel that the instinct of nutrition is evil and so proceed to starve themselves. They are like spiritual outcasts in the universe whose children they are ... to pour contempt on the sexual life, to throw the veil of 'impurity' over it, is, as Nietzche declared, the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost of Life." (Henry Havelock Ellis, Psychology of Sex.)

    "Puritan tradition, combined with Christian management of adolescence, has converted the sexual life of civilized men and woman into a neurosis." (Robert Briffault, British surgeon and anthropologist, Sin and Sex, 1931.)

    "The sexual impulse is a very powerful one, showing itself in different forms at different stages of development. In infancy it takes the form of a desire to touch and play with certain parts of the body; in later childhood it takes the form of curiosity and love of "dirty" talk, while in adolescence it begins to take more mature forms. There is no doubt that sexual misconduct is promoted by sexual thoughts, and that the best road to virtue is to keep the young occupied in mind and body with matters wholly unconnected with sex. They must, therefore, be told nothing whatever about sex; they must as far as possible be prevented from talking about it with each other, and grown-ups must pretend that there is no such topic. It is possible by these means to keep a girl in ignorance until the night of her marriage, when it is to be expected that the facts will so shock her as to produce exactly that attitude towards sex which every sound moralist considers desirable in women. With boys the matter is more difficult, since we cannot hope to keep them completely ignorant beyond the age of 18 or 19 at latest. The proper course with them is to tell them that masturbation invariably leads to insanity, while intercourse with prostitutes invariably leads to venereal disease. Neither of these assertions are true, but they are white lies, since they are made in the interests of morality. A boy should also be taught that in no circumstances is conversation on sexual subjects permissible, not even in marriage. This increases the likelihood that when he marries he will give his wife a disgust of sex and thus preserve her from the risk of adultery. Sex outside the marriage is sin; sex within the marriage is not sin, since it is necessary to the propagation of the human species, but is a disagreeable duty imposed on man as a punishment for the Fall, and to be undertaken in the same spirit in which one submits to a surgical operation. Unfortunately, unless great pains are taken, the sexual act tends to be associated with pleasure, but by sufficient moral care this can be prevented, at any rate in the female. It is illegal in England to state in print that a wife can and should derive sexual pleasure from intercourse. (I have myself had a pamphlet condemned as obscene in a court of law on this among other grounds.) It is on the above outlook in regard to sex that the attitude of the law, the church, and the old-fashioned educators of the young is based." (Russell's Marriage and Morals, 1932.)

    In part, the preceding quote of Bertrand Russell's is now outdated. I cannot imagine that the average young woman is so ignorant of the sex act that she would be shocked on her wedding night; indeed, most young people by the first night of the marriage (should they bother with the ceremony at all) will have been well practiced. Yet, anybody over the age of 40 will relate exactly to what Russell has to say about the subject. The attitude still prevails that the sexual act - though nothing could be more normal or natural - is a base act; not to be discussed; not to be witnessed. When it comes to sex, it seems, we all must pretend and suppress our passion and our feelings.


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    Peter Landry