It's Thanksgiving, so let's give thanks for sex.
Not just the huffing and puffing, the in-ing and out-ing, the sloshing around and drying off. Let's give thanks for all the sexual rights we enjoy here in the U.S.—which billions of people in Russia, the Arab world, and many parts of Asia and Africa will never enjoy in their lifetimes.
Most of these rights have to do with privacy and autonomy. These always look dangerous to repressive or religiously-driven regimes. Science and technology look pretty frightening to such regimes when they can be applied for sexual purposes—which they inevitably are, throughout history.
So let's give thanks for the many ways we are allowed to use privacy and autonomy to express our sexuality, and to use science and technology to make sex safer and more life-affirming.
Still, we should remember that these rights are stained by the many limitations that our local, state, and federal governments place on our sexual expression. In an era when tens of millions of Americans are calling for "smaller government," it's especially bitter that many of these same people are calling for more government intrusion into private sexual expression.
So let's give thanks that here in America…
- You can buy birth control in almost every community.
…Although an increasing number of pharmacists claim they are exempt from state laws requiring licensed pharmacists to fill all legal prescriptions. Christ or Napolean: does it matter what reason they give?
The Supreme Court ruled, in Lawrence v Texas, that morality alone cannot be the basis of American laws criminalizing sexual acts, such as sodomy.
…Although powerful and well-financed Christian groups continue to demand—and get—laws to curb "indecency," "smut," "secularism," and "the homosexual agenda."
Sex toys have become so acceptable that you can even buy them via Amazon.com.
…Although most marriage counselors, clergy, and physicians are licensed without ever learning a single thing about them.
You can get tested for many common STDs without a lot of explanation. You can get tested for AIDS anonymously and confidentially.
…Although anti-pornography groups continue to lie that the adult film industry is a hotbed of STDs, and have targeted the industry for scrutiny by government safety inspectors.
Emergency Contraception is now available over-the-counter across the U.S..
…Although many desperate anti-choice activists lie and call it an abortion pill.
In most big cities, you can still go to swingers clubs, strip clubs, and dungeons.
…Although more and more cities are using emergency ordinances and discriminatory "sexually-oriented business" statutes to close these adult businesses—without having to prove they're dangerous.
Many states have developed "Romeo & Juliet" laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for consensual teen-teen sex if the kids are close in age.
…Although most states still treat teen sexting as the felony of child porn distribution.
You can check into a hotel with any adult you like without having to explain why.
…Although Citizens for Community Values continues to pressure hotels to stop renting X-rated films—and has succeeded with the Omni chain and a dozen Ohio hotels.
Women can dress any way they like without fear of religious or state-supported violence.
…Although men and women still get arrested every year for being topless or nude in parks and beaches—unlike our cousins in Europe, where toplessness and nudity are normal at public beaches and parks.
Grandparents like Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, and the Rolling Stones are still performing, showing exactly what sexuality in old age can look like.
…If, of course, you're rich, famous, and very, very fortunate.
I also give thanks for my thousands of readers, and your encouraging messages of support throughout the year. You can always reach me at Klein AT SexEd DOT org.
If you were around in the 1950s, you remember that employment ads in the newspaper were conveniently divided by gender: there were separate listings for "female" jobs and "male" jobs.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act ended that, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was formed to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Today, a want ad reading "female secretary wanted" or "male taxi driver wanted" is almost unthinkable.
So now we're all free to pursue any job for which we're qualified, and whose conditions are acceptable to us, right?
Escorts and providers of erotic services, unfortunately, face enormous criticism and discrimination over their choice of work. One of the worst kinds of judgment is the assumption that escorts are either coerced into doing their work, or that they're too stupid to realize how bad it is for them. That's the basis for the so-called "rescue" operations that activists do.
Let's face the central question here squarely: are escorts mostly like other women, or are they some strange, alien species? If escorts are like most women, they have similar needs, similar interests, and make choices in similar ways. Many activists and other people don't want to believe that. The idea of a normal woman rationally choosing to be an escort—rather than being coerced into it, or being incredibly naïve (or drug-addled) when she chooses it—is far too uncomfortable, and raises far too many questions about so-called "normal" women.
That's another sexist idea—that "normal" women are barely sexual, or are too wholesome to compete with escorts. But it's foolish to stereotype a group as heterogeneous as "women." Women who aren't escorts range from sexually uninterested to sexually average to, shall we say, hot as firecrackers. Of course. Female sexuality is not limited to "professionals" or to damaged women—it's everywhere, regardless of age, social class, or traditionally-defined beauty.
Male-dominated society has been attempting to limit female sexuality for millennia, and the anti-escort movement is part of that historical crusade in two ways: one, by damning escorts as abnormally sexual; and two, by labelling non-escort women as wholesome, whose sexuality is limited.
Another common refrain from anti-escort activists is that these women are routinely abused while working. In reality, most escorts report that they are treated well by their clientele. That's one of the advantages of their job—they don't have to take every customer who comes along, and can usually ditch anyone with whom they really don't want to work. The presence of a financial transaction doesn't prevent an escort from choosing her own customers.
There's some serious sexism in the idea that "escorts can't be trusted to make adult decisions in their lives." So it's especially ironic that many would-be rescuers (including Gloria Steinem herself) call themselves feminists. I guess their motto is "women know what's best for themselves, unless we disagree with their choices." That's exactly what women have been fighting for eons: being told that their choices are not legitimate, thus proving they're not terribly capable. Imagine having to deal with that challenge just because of your occupational choice.
Of course, the challenges facing escorts are not simply emotional or philosophical. Today's coalition of feminists, conservatives, and even human rights activists are attempting to impoverish escorts' lives as a way of defending "women's rights." Their critiques are translated into criminalization, exclusion from social systems such as child daycare, and the prospect of discrimination in child custody battles or allegations of sexual violence.
These are challenges that everyone should be able to recognize as those of "normal" women. And as such, society should be working to eliminate them. That's a legitimately helpful set of projects for would-be "rescuers" and "activists."
In fact, the escort's quest to control her own life IS feminism defined. Or, if you prefer, it's everyone's quest for adulthood—to own oneself. American society debates this question every day: Should I be allowed to end my life on my own terms, such as with physician-assisted suicide? Should I be allowed to terminate my pregnancy with an abortion? Should I be allowed to smoke marijuana? Should I be allowed to go to a swingers club? Should there be a tax to discourage sugary soft drink consumption? Should the tax code force individuals to support religious institutions?
Each of us deserves the right to make our own choices on matters of personal liberty. In a free society, we're all required to tolerate others' choices, even when they are different from the ones we would make. Regarding the decision to work as an escort, adults should be able to make their own choices—even if that adult is a woman.
Say you watch a lot of porn.
Say you want to have really enjoyable sex.
Some people say you have to choose one or the other.
Some say that porn changes your brain so you can't enjoy sex with a real person. Nonsense. If you don't want sex with a real person, it's either because you don't desire the person you're with, or because you have issues about sex or closeness. That's when watching porn is a lot easier than creating good sex. But let's not blame the porn.
Some say that porn gives you unrealistic ideas about sex. Yes, that happens—unrealistic ideas about what people look like, sound like, do, want, and about how communication and hugging have very little place in sex. Unrealistic ideas about sex—whether you get them from porn, from religion, from Cosmopolitan, or from your father—make it hard to create enjoyable sex.
And some say that porn provides such powerful images that we inevitably compare our own sex to the images—and of course we seem pretty lame in comparison. Yes, that happens. That even happens to people who don't look at porn, who have sex with someone who does. They imagine you're thinking about porn when you make love, which makes them think about porn when they make love, and that's bad for sex all the way around.
Some people say the solution is to stop watching porn. Probably not gonna happen.
Instead, I say the solution is to make love consciously, and to watch porn consciously. That helps to keep the two activities separate, which is the key to enjoying both.
So if you want to watch a lot of porn AND have good sex:
- Remember that porn is fiction. It's not a documentary, it's a highlight reel. It involves lighting, editing, and off-camera preparation. It's planned ahead of time so that everything looks perfect.
- Learn how to focus your attention on your body—how your partner's hair smells, how your partner's nipple tastes, how your partner's skin feels, and so on. Center your sexual experience in your body rather than in your head.
- Don't expect sex to feel how porn looks. That's like expecting driving your car to feel like a Maserati looks. Or expecting playing tennis to feel like Wimbeldon looks. Reality can't compete with created images. We have to value reality for itself.
- Know what your partner likes and wants. That won't match what people do in porn films. Adjust your expectations accordingly. Budget plenty of time to explore your partner's desires, and find the ones that you love.
- Remember that unlike watching a porn film, orgasm isn't the point. The goal of sex is enjoy yourself and to feel glad you're alive. Orgasm lasts maybe five seconds. Do the math—five seconds out of 20 minutes isn't much. Learn to enjoy the rest of the sex.
- Be flexible if things don't go exactly as you want. You can be ashamed, angry, or afraid, or you can move closer to your partner, gently smile and say, "Well, on to Plan B, right?"
- In general, talk more and screw less. You'll get more out of the experience, and you're more likely to get more experiences. Kiss more and screw less. Caress more and screw less. Laugh more and screw less. Whisper more and screw less. Sex—and whispering and kissing—is for people. Porn is for paid professionals. Make love, not porn.
- Ask a friendly question every time you have sex. People don't do that on camera—which is part of what can make real sex better than porn.
So sure, you can watch a lot of porn and enjoy sex with a real person. You just have to know which is which.