the twisted politics of recursive sexual frustration
For what it's worth, America is far from the only country where sex and sexual health aren't treated with the cultural and political equivalent of schizophrenia.
It seems that every magazine targeted to adults must now have a sex issue, admitting that yes, the audiences do indeed engage in an activity for which humans are wired by nature and for which our bodies spend several emotionally unstable, frustratingly confusing, and acne-riddled years preparing. Depending on the magazines in question, the articles in the said sex issues can veer off into hostile and overly personal polemics, end up as clinical as any introductory med school lecture, desperately and awkwardly try to be raunchy and failing, or pose provocative and rarely discussed questions in the underground press.
But what do you do with a sex issue if you’re a magazine devoted to the more wonkish aspects of international diplomacy? Why, study sexual politics around the world, as was done by Foreign Policy, and use this opportunity to shine a spotlight at the jaw-unhinging hypocrisy and the pathological possessiveness of religious fundamentalists all around the world on the subject of sex and gender relations. It’s a lot like watching a horror show to be perfectly blunt, especially when it becomes extremely evident that the religious fanatics’ obsession with censorship and their reflexive sexism is a product of their self-imposed guilt, shame, and fear of anything related to sexuality.
Since the most sexually repressive regimes around the world are Muslim quasi-theocracies where a woman can be seriously asked to cover her eyes as not to tempt men and punished if she doesn’t comply, there is an obligatory cry towards something other than misogyny in the Muslim world, one sure to fall on deaf ears. If you ever wonder why we’re not trying to explore the solar system and establish cities on Mars, I’d love to point you to the amount of energy and resources expended by fanatical fundamentalists to crushing every last form of sexuality or rights for women in these theocratic lands. If we harnessed their energy for something productive and beneficial to society, we would’ve solved most global problems already just because we would hold so many summits and negotiations that eventually a solution would be found by sheer persistence.
Such is their frustration at having sexual desires and longing to experiment freely with the fantasies they keep under lock and key in their heads, they erupt in fury at all those attractive women around them, blaming them for their self-imposed psycho-sexual confinement and casting them as evil temptresses, all because they were told to fear their own natural desires. And when they do actually get married and are allowed to have sex, they are not allowed to learn anything about it and are often doomed to decades of dissatisfaction and repression.
Ask a religious fundamentalist, any religious fundamentalist, about this lifestyle and you’ll be told that they are extremely happy in keeping as pure as possible in the eyes of their favored deity. Considering that this it the only thing they know and that an equally repressed, embarrassed, and self-punitive mentor told them that any pleasures during their sexual lives were of the Devil, I’m sure that quite a few are. But if they’re all so thrilled to live in this world of only procreative intercourse, why are religious fanatics who lead them and so many of their followers so obsessed with talking about all the sinful things out there in such explicit detail?
Oh the horror of a secular lifestyle with its one night stands, and couples engaging in premarital sex, and pornography, they cry. Why the things you can see in adult videos, they’ll continue and proceed to list in lurid detail every scenario, scene, and position offensive to their deity. Yes, they’ve watched all these sickening videos and read all those filthy books cover to cover, but only to know the kind of demonic evil the secular world is capable of unleashing! And they’ll continue to do it not because they’re somehow titillated nearly to orgasm, mind you, but to keep an eye on the enemy and a hand on the… um… trigger, yeah, that’s it, trigger. This is why the Muslim world ranks among the top porn consumers on the web and other devout fundamentalists quietly join it at nights.
But while the guilt and shame driven repression of religious fanatics often results in sexism and draconian laws to obey a deity they make out to be a judgmental voyeur with a spy cam in every bedroom and shower, there is a reverse albeit far more rare form of extremism on the far left and New Age circles in which women describing themselves as liberated, participate in religions in which male gods are discarded as little more than ghostly phalluses summoned on a Goddess’s whim and existing only for her pleasure, and view sexuality not as just a part of the human experience, but as an ideological and political struggle in which males are only interested in subjugation and domination alone and it’s up to women to deny them a conquest.
Obviously, sexism against women is much more widespread so these ideas seldom manifest themselves as full blown misandry, but I’d argue that treating all men as domineering, sleazy scum will be just as damaging to a relationship as seeing all women as little more than demonic temptresses. And since we went this far into the cycle of misery perpetuated by religious fanaticism, we may as well mention those who rebel against repressive upbringings and end up doing things they’ll later regret and wouldn’t have ordinarily done if they were allowed some basic freedom and education about their sexualities rather than kept in the dark out of their parents’ constant shame over their sin of being human with all the contradictions, desires, and emotions that entails.
Now, of course, a society’s goal shouldn’t be hosting some sort of Discordian inspired orgies in the streets, or swing clubs in former church buildings on every corner. I’m sure that’s the horror-fantasy of those who censor anything even remotely lewd on TV and in print only to later be caught watching RedTube with their hand deep in their pants, but that’s certainly not a good idea. No, the overall goal should be the ability to treat human sexuality as just another facet of existence, as free as possible from politics, shaming, as well as anti-shaming in which a person’s aversion to a certain act is instantly (and very ironically) labeled close-minded.
We should be able to discuss sexuality and learn about it so we can decide what we like and what we don’t rather than have orders about which positions are acceptable, what we’re allowed to wear, and have our status in life determined by a repressed and often hypocritical fanatic’s opinion of our genitals, an opinion he vehemently declares to be the absolute and unwavering word of God. We know for a fact that comprehensive sex education works, and it gives people the tools to enjoy their sexuality responsibly and make their own choices. But of course a fanatic would always be horrified by the concept of someone using his or her free will to decide, which is exactly why they have no business dictating how a modern society should behave and to what it should aspire…