Objectively, as a mere means of reproduction, it is hard to see how sex can be considered disgusting. And yet many humans consider it so.
We are driven by many natural impulses. Chemical reactions tell us when we need to refuel with drink or food. Further chemical reactions create the physical urge to eject waste. Many find the ejection part unpalatable, and perhaps understandably so. We are reason, we are thoughts, ideas and lofty ideals. Yet even the Queen must pee and poo – albeit it in a gold plated bog.
Eating and drinking, and waste disposal are essential for the preservation of an existing life. Sex is essential for the continuance of many species. Why should we not enjoy it?
I suspect more people find sex repellent than going to the lavatory.
Objectively then, is sex disgusting? Should we feel ridden by guilt and wracked by existential anxiety because we enjoy a good bonk? Or the reverse? Should we feel guilty because we avoid sex like the plague and consider it embarrassing and disgusting?
I don’t think it is a simple question and under or over indulgence can each play their part in wrecking a relationship.
But I do find it pitiable and absurd that society as a whole has always (or mostly always) surrounded and smothered sex with taboo. The Victorians were outwardly so prudish they covered the legs of their pianos with cotton doilies; and yet under the covers many led lives as steamy as the most enlightened free love hippy of the 1960s.
Much hypocrisy surrounds and has always surrounded the enjoyment of sex. Children may be taught by their parents that sex is dirty and to be avoided – or to be done occasionally and furtively in the dark for the purposes of reproduction only. Religion has played its guilty role – traditionally many religious societies have made it mandatory to despise and avoid sex. And to indulge in self flagellation and cold baths to defeat the evil impulse.
And yet how damaging this perverted attitude has been over the centuries. Such impulses are not expunged but merely driven underground. A more open and encouraging attitude to the enjoyment of regular sex among consenting adults might have done much to prevent the horrors and perversions we have seen in recent years.
The Victorians liked to sweep such smut under the carpet but under the surface, whatever their pious exterior, their natural impulses would out.
And what of pornography and brothels? Provided they entail no under age sex and no forced participation (no sex slaves) then undoubtedly these can cause no harm. Except of course to sex starved nutters who have some warped sense of moral outrage. Indeed they can achieve much good.
Many a marriage might benefit where one or other of the partners feels disgust – the other could pop off and have a bit of fun without harm being done to the relationship. As one dear old Grannie put it “Its only sex, dear”.
Indeed brothels and pornography are an important outlet – freely available sex would do much to counter the horrible and secretive abuse so common in society. Even the awful Jimmy Saville might have been able to slake his thirst in a less harmful way in some sanitized and legal brothel.
It is no more perverted to enjoy sex than it is to deny its wholesomeness. Sex is no dirtier than emptying your bowels or your bladder. And anyway some people find even those natural actions quite enjoyable.
It may not be highbrow, it may not have the finesse of the more intellectual areas of human endeavor.
But those who find it disgusting should not impose their feelings on those who do not. My advice is to get out there and have some harmless fun.
“It’s only sex dear”!
Thanks for another great post. Very good questions and answers. I was immediately struck by how obvious and important a question it is, and how little I knew about how to answer it. But I reckon I can think it through before I do some research.
It seems clear that most of it comes from cultural taboos, as you say. But where did that cultural taboo come from? One cause would be that sex is, in fact, dangerous, or it was until just within our lifetimes (oldies like us) before women gained more control over contraception, more power generally with feminism to manage sexual relationships, and abortion was legalized and became much safer, provided by professionals. Before that, a casual sexual encounter could easily end in tragedy, especially for the woman, who might die from some back-street abortionist’s tricks.
But that wouldn’t explain all of it, I don’t think. Most civilizations since the Neolithic, and probably many before, have been patriarchal, and often polygamous, with chiefs and more important men having harems, and our drive to further our own lineage over others (which is a basic biological drive through evolution) means those powerful men would police the sexual behaviour of the rest of the tribe, men and women, just as the alpha males of many other species do. So taboos around sex would have grown up as we developed civilization, which is why religions have been the conduit for so much of it – the elites were the priests, or employed the priests, who would then fall into the category of those to be policed, and the clergy’s celebacy would both avoid them abusing their privileged position close to the seat of power (and the harem) and provide an example for the common folk to follow.
So yeah, we can now dismantle that as far as safety allows. The younger generation is pretty cool about casual sex, and we oldies just have to deal with our conditioning.