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Do you feel liberated? You know, as in sexually? Do you feel free to do what you want, the way you want, with whom you want?
However sexually liberated we might feel at an individual level, partaking freely of ever new forms of intimacy, experimentation and a multiplicity of choices, I’ve suddenly been confronted by a glaring void in the supposed sexual revolution. And that void is this: I recently found myself being critical of someone else’s sexual expression.
“Oh, no, not you, K-B, of all people!” you might think.
But, yes, I abashedly admit it, I did. And because I selfishly prefer company when I’m feeling like a miserable schmuck, I wondered if I were truly alone.
How about you? Have you ever found yourself responding critically to someone else’s expression of her or his sexuality, as though she or he is somehow wrong?
“No,” you say?
Hmmm. How about this: Do you think Sen. Anthony Weiner is a wiener for tweeting his wiener — but you have a picture of your honey’s favorite body parts on your cell phone? Do you think that couple over there has way too many years between them — but you relish memories of that fabulous fling you had with someone who could have been, well, admit it, your parent? Or how about that SlutWalk in San Diego a couple weeks ago: Do you think walking the rally in a bustier and thong is anti-feminist — but you wore something similar for the Pride Parade?
And why does extramarital sex elicit such a negative response? Who has decided that despite plenty of cultures in which monogamy did not exist, we now think that to boink outside of marriage is not only headline news but the death knell of a marriage? And is it the extramarital sex that ruins a marriage or the scripted response to the “infidelity” that breaks the union? (OK, it might be both …)
Perhaps it’s a matter of individual proclivities versus social mores. We’re eager to reject at least some of the social niceties in order to exercise the freedom we want to define our sexuality outside of the scripts we have learned — at the individual level. But we latch right back onto the definitions society has drilled into us — of good sexuality versus bad sexuality — when we see someone else doing sexuality in a way that makes our fannies pucker. It’s kind of like a sexual smorgasbord — we pick the fetishes we like and condemn all the others. (I always go for the caviar, but those little bacon wrapped phalluses— feh!
So, I suppose that, although we might have some lovely sexual liberation happening at the individual level, it certainly is not fully generalized or realized beyond that. Socially scripted sexuality is alive and well — particularly in opposition to the other guy.
So, oh dear, what to do?
Well, if we want to be responsible, we will recognize when we are responding critically to someone else’s sexuality and take a moment to examine why. Pedophilia and sex trafficking are for most folks, easy black-and-white calls, but there’s a lot of stuff going on out there that’s just dripping in gray, and if we want to enjoy our own uniquely crafted sexualities, then maybe we’d better cut the other guy some slack.
I guess for me, this means no more Weiner jokes.
Kit-Bacon Gressitt's commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while working for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook's monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.