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.


Anne said...

Don't you think that by now, after so many thousands of years, that humanity would have universally and agreeably evolved to this already if it was such a great idea?

After all, we've come from all ends of the earth and from every culture.

Is it only the various religions that have driven us or could it have been something greater than religions that has brought us to what we all are today and how we conduct ourselves?

Can we just accept a truth or the responsibility that it is only us, humanity, our own ideas and creations that have caused us to be the way we are...perhaps a bit too prudish ...or conservative, socially at least, than we'd like to think we are?

Anne said...

more thought...

Actually, there is no reason for you not to go for it.

Cecilieaux said...

The various comments I have received tell me that this struck a few female nerves. It doesn't start from where many women would start, but I think that, if read carefully, there are major points at which even traditional ideas could play out within this imperative. Contrary to the opinion of several readers, I am not advocating multiple liaisons, even if I humorously allude to them.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have been known to tout the innovativeness of the praying mantis to my husband on occasion. And also the sea horse, the only species in which the male gives birth to live babies. I think that Nature was onto something.

But I digress.

There were ancient religions that thought as highly of sex as the Puritans did not, that worshiped genitalia and educated children on how to use them.

How things change.

Anonymous said...

Re “the oft-cited notion that our children are there to have someone to care for us in old age” - you should have had a daughter. And I can think of a few more reasons that you should have had a daughter but . . .

Another oft-cited notion: a man needs a daughter, a woman needs a son - it helps us learn a few subtleties about life.

Geneviève said...

Three centuries before the Brits, " the little death" was used to mean "orgasm" by the French poets of Renaissance. This becomes quickly a cliché. I don't know whether this expression comes from Italian Renaissance of the
Quattrocento that our king François Ist brang to France after the Italy's wars, or whether it was born in France the century after. Anyway, the little death used to mean a happy death ( "la douce mort" as they used to say as well) nothing Puritan, on the contrary! (I thought that Angloamerican or anglosaxon women were more "free" than the ones of the rest of the world?)

But I can't see what is different here from your former post about decalog or godless commandements you wrote four years ago. It is all about the three reasons to glorify sex: reproduction, self happiness, bonds with others, i.e. humanity, me, me and you or you and me.