Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A couple things I forgot to mention about sex.

1) Sex is not that big of a deal.

Despite the fact that I love it, and I love to write about it, I firmly believe that sex, between consenting adults, is not that big of a deal*. I don't think it's worth falling in love, falling out of love, ending a friendship, breaking up a marriage, impeaching a president, or maiming or killing anybody over. 

I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, and I'm starting to think that this sentiment is unusual. Somehow I keep coming across the type of movie where two people fall in love, have a giant conflict involving sex, hate each other's guts for a while, and then realize that love conquers all and get married. Or, in the tragic version: realize that said conflict has revealed their insurmountable incompatibility, and go their separate ways.

In other words, pretty much every American movie that isn’t about war, or a heist.

I can’t help but wonder whether these movies would be so poignant and popular if we all stood up, en masse, and said, WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT SEX?

How about a movie where the boyfriend casually mentions to the girlfriend that once, before they were together, he had sex with her best friend/sister/nemesis, and she says “that makes sense, she’s a cutie”, and that’s the last we hear of it? How about a movie where the wife cheats on her husband, and then confesses tearfully, and her husband says “Well, that’s a real bummer, but I love you and I think we’re great together and we have all these great kids, so I’ll get over it.”? How about a movie where the heroine has unprotected sex with the dopey-but-lovable guy at the party, and then wakes up the next day and says to herself, “I don’t know this guy at all and this is a terrible time for me to have a baby”, so she takes the fucking morning after pill? Even better, how about a movie where the heroine has drunken sex with the dopey-but-lovable guy at the party, but she doesn’t get pregnant, because she uses birth control like any sane woman who has drunken sex with guys she meets at parties

I would love for sex to exist in pop culture, but not be central to the plot line. I would love to see characters who have other shit to think about. Perhaps if we all start living that way, Hollywood will follow suit.

So here's my advice: have some sex, or don't. Be safe, be honest. Above all: don't freak out about it.

2) There is no normal.

People, as a species, tend to be pretty concerned with whether we are "normal". Which is really too bad, because "normal" is not only impossible to achieve, in many areas it's impossible to identify. Normalcy is determined by your perspective. Louis CK brilliantly illustrates this point in the opening lines of his stand-up act
"Hello everybody. Actually, I shouldn't say everybody, because most people are not here. By a pretty huge majority, most people are not here tonight. In fact, most people are in China.
Actually, most people are dead. Out of all the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead."
So next time you ask yourself, "Do most people dress/eat/fuck/think this way?" Remember: most people are dead.

For example: is it normal to drink cow’s milk? If you live in North America or most of Europe, you might think ‘yes’. But the answer is: only if you don’t live in Asia or Africa. Considering the fact that most people (that's living people; about 5.2 billion of them) do live in Asia and Africa: no, it is definitely not normal. If you drink milk, you are a freak.

As Christopher Ryan observes in his brain-busting book on the topic, Sex at Dawn (I've mentioned it before and I will again - read the damned thing): cultural attitudes about sex vary at least as widely as cultural attitudes about food. Plus, our personal sexual desires seem to be affected not only by our culture but by our genetics, our epigenetics, our family dynamics, our formative experiences, and probably other things that we don’t even know about. Even our species' evolved sexual behaviors are not as you might expect. What’s more: the way all of these things affect our sexual interests and behaviors is complex, unpredictable, and extremely difficult to study.

In short, if there is such a thing as “normal” sexuality, we probably don’t know what it is.

But I can tell you what it's not: it is not normal for two completely heterosexual people to meet in high school, fall in love, get married at 20, lose their virginity to each other, and have mutually orgasmic missionary-position sex once a week, exclusively with each other, until they both croak. 

So if that doesn't describe you, congratulations: you're normal.

And if you're not married, but you're still having sex, congratulations to you, too. And if you're gay and married, gay and partnered, or gay and single. And if you're a transgendered bisexual sex worker who's into threesomes, or a super-femme housewife who's dominant in bed. If you need a lot of time to have an orgasm, or you need to use your hand to have an orgasm, or if you have orgasms at 'inappropriate' times, or if you don't have orgasms at all. If you need to be in love to feel aroused or if you can't get it up unless you're with somebody new. If you had sex when you were twelve or if you've never had sex at all. If you love giving head or hate getting head or love porn or hate porn or like being slapped or hanging from the ceiling or fantasize about animals or high heels or, actually, if you're only into missionary position once a week with your high school sweetheart:

Congratulations to all of you. You are just as normal as anybody else. Which is to say perfectly, blessedly, magnificently abnormal.


  1. Spot-on, Carsie.

    Sex at Dawn describes at length about the "standard narrative," and the forces working to keep the standard narrative in place despite its VERY many inconsistencies with actual human nature. As you mentioned, it's tough to watch most Hollywood movies and TV shows with that deconstruction in mind - to see depictions of people making painful decisions in order to preserve artificial presumptions of human nature.

    The good news is that actual culture is steadily coming around to your way of thinking. Open discussions like this are both a sign of that progress, and a motivator of it. So, yes, please keep talking.

  2. Love this post. Love it to pieces.

  3. Carsie! I wish I could scream your sentiments about Hollywood's depictions of sex from the rooftops! I can't tell you how many times I have had that conversation with people. Pop culture is trying to "show" us what "normal" is and I have to tell you...I'M BORED WITH IT!!!

    Thanks for this awesome post, my love! Can't wait to see you soon!

  4. What I'd REALLY like is for everyone to have some fluidity of thought. Me, I think sex is incredibly special…except when it's not. And when it's not, I can be perfectly happy with the fact that it's not a big deal. I'm at a time in my life when sex doesn't have to be sacrosanct, but it has been before, and I know that I will swing that way again. You, Carsie, clearly see sex as no big deal…but I have to imagine that sometimes, for you, maybe it IS a big deal. At certain points in our lives, we treat a thing differently. And for that reason, we need to be open to seeing, hearing, and honoring the ways in which others regard sex at any given moment.

    Overall, then it becomes less about whether or not sex is a BFD, and more about how emotionally grounded we are as a people. I'd fucking LOVE it if the conversation swung that way.


    On another note, let's take a look at one of your examples: "How about a movie where the wife cheats on her husband, and then confesses tearfully, and her husband says 'Well, that’s a real bummer, but I love you and I think we’re great together and we have all these great kids, so I’ll get over it.'?"

    Y'know, I do like what you're saying here, at least with regard to mending fences. But it's a little pie-in-the-sky for one big reason: trust. It shouldn't matter so much that sex happened, but it should matter WHOLE LOT that trust was broken. Everyone has the power (I think) to define what marriage means to them (as an individual AND as a partnership), but they also have a responsibility to uphold the trust that's implicit in the agreement. If my theoretical spouse and I had agreed to never stray from one another romantically, you'd better believe I'd consider ending it, regardless of how sex-positive I am. It's less about whose body part was in whom, and more about betrayal of trust.

    1. But isn't the idea that having sex with someone is a betrayal of trust contingent on the belief that sex is a BFD? I mean, let's say you go out to a bar, get drunk, meet a woman, and take her bowling. And the next day you tell your wife, "last night I drunk bowled with a strange girl." She probably won't care because bowling with a girl is not a BFD (unless you have one of those women who think *all* contact with women is a BFD).

      So if sex is not, in fact, a BFD, then really, in Carsie's example the confession wouldn't even have to be tearful.

    2. The short answer to this is that it depends on your relationship with your partner. If you have previously agreed that having sex with someone else is a BFD - and for some people, it will be - then it would be entirely justified to get angry about it. But the point is, it doesn't necessarily *have* to be, and for many people, it isn't. Basically, every relationship except the most casual ones has its own rules, and everyone should stick to the rules of their own relationship.

  5. nice. I doubt hollywood will ever portray violence or sex well at all... they screw up both pretty well as you point out with sex or as characters really never reload unless it advances the plot-not to mention the horrors of actually killing someone, I doubt the realities of violence or sex will ever be portrayed which really is a shame... More for the sex than the violence but the violence too... too many dumb kids thinking killing people is glorious or honorable in any way. Sure it might need doing sometimes but it really isn't glorious. More than enough from my soap box, good piece. A tip of the hat to your penis! :D

  6. Yay! I'm normal! Phew. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful, refreshing, and kind sex prose. You're good at reminding us that kissing, coupling and coming arrive in all kinds of packages, places and times in real life. -Carly

  7. Carsie, it's been so long since we've seen each other or spoken, but I just have to say this is brilliant - and brilliantly written!


  8. "Have some sex, or don't" Love.


  9. I just stumbled on your blog while researching unschooling, and while I used to share your views on sex, I've become more wary of it after catching herpes about 8 months ago. I now have painful sores on my dick that recur monthly unless I take daily medication... And if I had sex with you, you might get them too, even if my dick looked normal. Sorry to be showing the frightening side of casual sex, but I want to warn you. I've used the morning after pill, gotten an abortion (well, I drove her to the clinic, anyway), etc. It's mostly fun and games but you should still be careful! I guess you could say the same thing about driving on the freeway, or many risky activities... just be aware.

    1. - see #4.

  10. Maybe part of the BFD about sex (of the heterosexual penis penetrates vagina kind) comes from one of the two BFDs you actually acknowledge: birth. I think birth control has radically change our ability to think about sex.


  11. That there are no normal people is has a mathematical foundation in high dimensional "normal" (bell-curve) probability distributions:

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  13. I love that you've acknowledged that there is no "normal"--and should everyone else follow suit in that empathy, I think we'd be much better off.

    I disagree that sex is not a BFD *all the time*. Sometimes it's not, often it can be. But making it a big deal doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can be a real thing, or a thing that makes things seem real, or a glue that holds shabbily constructed relationships together. It's powerful in that way. It's not criminal; no. But it can have weight, if you let it. If you trust it to not go all cockamamy-bullshit-style panic attack.

    I found it funny that you should remove both music and sex from the BFD category. I consider making music and making whoopie in the same category for the same reason: because I want the things I release from my body to mean something. I value strong relationships over strong faith or great knowledge or almost anything else, except perhaps expression. And you *do* acknowledge that sex is expression... but not that there is an end game to that expression, and that resultant product can mean something.

    When songwriting, that product is a song. It stands for you; Backbone stands for you, as does any and all things you create. The process you took to get to the product isn't always evident to the viewer (read: your audience/fans), so I'm guessing you don't factor it into "what makes my music, my music."

    When fucking, that product could be a baby, a shared STD, an orgasm, or any host of other goodies. They stand for you, too. The little high you give someone, for example, can be your stamp. But the process (in this case, "the act") stands for you too. The turn-ons and -offs, the pace of your breathing, the moans, groans, and fluid loans are all you, too. You are making an impression. You are still an artist, and you are branding yourself.

    People like me want to know what people stand for. So for artists, I read their blogs, look at their photo photos, I listen to their lyrics, see the way they talk to their fans. For others, I watch the way they deal with waitstaff, or talk to telemarketers, or to their grandmother. Then I see them in mood-lit bedrooms or lamplit alleyways and I see how they deal with light and dark and skin and clothes and hair. I see if they give or take or both (or neither!), and when they pull away. Sometimes (often) people are too closed down to see any of that, and then it's just the equivalent of a T-Pain song--an auto-tuned replica of what came before it. But imo, if you're lucky, BFD or no BFD, something is being created, expressed, stamped, solidified, left. You're leaving something behind.

  14. What makes something or someone normal?

    I really doubt that it has much of anything to do with being able to find things or people that are the same. I would argue that a thing is normal when it functions as it was built (for lack of a better word) to.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that no matter what kind of, or amount of sex you like, you are likely not alone.