We outliers – monogamous faithfully married heterosexual people with families – have a somewhat different view of sex than the one popularly espoused.
Shocking, I know. I hope you were sitting down.
I think one reason this contrary view is largely unknown or, when known, is dismissed is that, to happily married people, sex is something deeply personal, in the sense of being something shared with one and only one other person in the world, in this sense correctly referred to as your ‘lover’. To a married person, sex is not some disembodied abstraction that can be talked about in public like your favorite breed of dog. Sex is something that is shared concretely with one other person, to whom one has become, via sex, linked in a permanent, inseparable and mysterious way – it’s way, way beyond words. Talking about it casually does violence to the reality.
Nevertheless, I’ll here risk mentioning a few general traits of sex as understood by happily married couples with families, to show why the current view of sex is not rejected out of some prudish defect in thought or emotion, but rather because it rings very false to real experience.
First, let us examine one very common portrayal of sex: the one night stand. The current official view is that whatever consenting adults want to do is A-OK, so long as nobody gets hurt. Therefore, an adult who is feeling his sex drive has every right to engage in sex with whomever else is willing to do so with him, and even to otherwise gratify his desire, so long as nobody gets hurt.
This last qualification – that nobody gets hurt – is the only concession made to the reality of sadists and psycho-killers and otherwise violent and nasty people. It is most definitely NOT meant to apply to getting a broken heart, losing the ability to form lasting relationships, abortion, and so on. The lying, promise-breaking, cheating, preying on the weak and other nasty behaviors that form the background to the hookup scene is not only not mentioned, but vehemently denied. The idea that an 18 year old woman, for example, could not quite understand what’s going on and is therefore being abused by a man who is nice to her just to get some sex – well, no matter how often that character occurs in fiction and real life, we somehow must pretend it didn’t happen or, more common, blame her. Dishonesty and violence at that level is to be simply ignored into oblivion. Bringing it up almost certainly gets you tossed into the outer darkness, socially speaking.
So, here’s the one-night stand’s mythology in sum, when played ‘fair’ (consenting adults who are not physically maiming each other):
– everybody has the inalienable right to have sex with anybody else who is willing;
– sexual activity between consenting adults is harmless and fundamentally frivolous;
– if you get hurt by a casual sexual encounter, it’s your fault;
– if there are physical repercussions – disease, pregnancy – that’s your fault in the case of disease, and the woman’s problem in the case of pregnancy;
– casual sex has no relevancy on the question of lasting human relationships – that one could bang away like a rabbit with near strangers for a decade, and then transition to another form of relationship, such as marriage, and be faithful and fulfilled in that relationship (if that’s what you want), and then, after the divorce, segue back to casual sex, and so on – is assumed. No relationship between casual sex and the inability to form real meaningful relationships is acknowledged.
Some people will quibble with this description, but the nature of their quibbles will, I believe, reveal the frivolity of their quibbling.
Now, let’s view sex from a happily married perspective:
– sex is a sacred, mysterious bond which, if honored, gives life new depths of happiness, fulfillment and meaning;
– this depth depends on the total surrender to and trust of one other person;
– the love in a family is rooted in and grows out of the sexual love of the spouses;
– children grow naturally out of this sexual love – the lovers’ expression of their love is only fully realized in their children.
It is typical these days to dismiss this description of sex as a fantasy. Note that it is in fact much less fantastic than the mythology surrounding casual sex listed above. Sure, anybody who lives in the real world is painfully aware of how far our real marriages fall short – but it’s disingenuous to deny that the idea of frivolous, consequence-free sex also doesn’t pan out very often in the real world. Like, never.
Next, even our failures and shortcomings in marriage are failures and shortcomings only because we see the truth of the assertions listed above. When people bring a hook-up mentality into marriage, when they deny the fundamental permanent and sacred nature of sexual acts, the results are not pretty. Sure, I know a few couples who deny any sacred aspect to sex (or anything else, for that matter) who none the less live long faithful married lives. Compare that number to the disasters among the committed relationship crowd. Enough said.
(aside: it’s also standard theory to deny that broken homes are a disaster – a fantasy that falls naturally out of a world view that accommodates the fantasy of consequence-free casual sex.)
Here’s the punchline to all this – who do you suppose has the better sex life? Someone who is getting laid regularly by attractive people in a series of one-night stands, or some faithfully married couple with a few kids and a mortgage and a dog? Of course, it’s the married couple – is there really any question? The trust, love, commitment, and shared life adds way more spice and adventure to their sexual relationship than any amount sleeping around could ever hope to do. It’s a difference in kind, not degree.