Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thou Shalt Partake of Sex

What if, instead of mortification of the flesh, abstinence, avoidance, belts and locks and scarlet letters, our religions and reigning ethics had an imperative principle to seek to slake fleshly desires, to engage in carnal pleasure, to seek out every lickerishness, to open the doors of every bedroom and heap praise on the randy hearted?

You'll say that's why they invented the Internet and its seemingly endless parade of porn.

But, no, I mean an imperative: something like "remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day," yet for sex. Certainly our bodies drive us to extremely silly and oft-reckless behavior in response to the stimuli that cause sexual arousal.

To provide an example of a philosophical version of the drive was my intent in penning the ninth of my godless commandments four years ago:
Thou shalt enjoy the flesh of others, respecting their own desires as well as thine and taking responsibility for any consequences thereof.
Today these words feel as unsatisfactory as they day I wrote them, especially since the underlying notion behind this set of ethics I have proposed, is the universally agreed notion that prizes human survival.

From the point of view of survival, sex is principally reproductive. We spawn ... for what? It's not the oft-cited notion that our children are there to have someone to care for us in old age -- ha!

To my mind, the biological point of reproduction is to replace each individual within a species after death, and to provide sufficient replacements to withstand environmental pressures against the species continued existence. If we spawn in large enough numbers, the worst catastrophe won't wipe us all out.

Not for nothing individuals in some species die after reproductively successful sex. The praying mantis female bites off the male’s head immediately after, sometimes during, sexual intercourse. Perhaps it was in a related sense that the dualistic, sex-conflicted English Victorians called orgasm "the little death."

Certainly, also, reproduction was what Pope Paul VI was thinking about in 1968 when he issued the immensely imprudent encyclical Humanae Vitae, reaffirming Catholic docrtine's opposition to artifical means of contraception.

Still, then and now critics in and outside scientific circles have noted that even animals don't engage in sex merely to reproduce. Sex also serves to cement social bonds.

Regular sex with a caring partner, or three, is also recognized among humans as a significant factor in one's happiness, one's degree of patience and tolerance toward others. Doesn't the world seem rosy when one walks out into the street from the arms of a good lover?

Remember, then, to partake, now and then, prudently, with willing and able partners of an appropriate age and suitable health.

Remember, also, that sex has consequences, from irretrievable affection to parenthood to death. Clicking sex into operation, as with software, carries with an implied end-user license agreement. Read his or hers carefully because, even if you don't, the other person's EULA kicks in immediately -- as does yours.

All this notwithstanding, dare to give yourself to another in one of life's most pleasant endeavors.
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