Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Is it just me but is there just way too much sex around at the moment? I’m not talking about the actual act of having it, you understand. I mean, let’s not get silly now. But every time I switch on the radio, turn on a television, open a website, read a book or pass a billboard, there are people talking about sex, people actually having sex or describing the sexual act itself.
Just this morning I switched between three radio stations while I drove. One DJ was talking about masturbation. Another was telling a gross sexist joke about female anatomy (why are these men still allowed on national radio?) and a third was droning on about prostitution. I almost drove into a lamp post to avoid listening to another word. My young daughter was in the car with me at the time. She felt as embarrassed as I did hearing the way women and sex were described. The male announcers talked about sex as if the activity itself and women in general were some sort of recreational action figures for men to use to “relax themselves with” as Jean Jaques Rosseau wrote in the 1790s. Yes, he really wrote those words in relation to women. So has nothing changed? Have our attitudes not moved on from Voltaire’s? And is sex now placed in the same category as the type of beer you drink or which sports programmes you watch on television?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t believe sex is a spectator sport. Perhaps it all stems from a job I had as a vacation student within the organisation which gave me my bursary. I had to work for the company over every holiday. On one of the holidays I worked in the small television department which made training films. One day my then boss decided to lock me into the mobile unit to get me to “check” films he was recording to “ensure there were no mistakes in the footage.” I watched innocently as the film rolled while he went out for a while. Of course it was a porn film. And of course he popped in halfway through it to caress my shoulders excitedly, while asking me if I found the footage interesting. I told him exactly what I thought. It was the most boring thing I’d ever seen. It was on a level of watching people eat with their mouths open. After all it was just sex. Animals do it all the time without the salacious fuss. He was very disappointed, but to his slight credit, he didn’t try to force the issue or anything else on me that day.
So I know that my attitude towards graphic sex in the media puts me in the minority in today’s Sex and the City generation. But seriously, Sex and the City is written by gay men. And if women feel that being liberated is about being able to shag as many men in a week as they have cups of tea, then I really think they’ve missed the point about liberation. True liberation is about not having to shag someone six times a day to feel justified as a human being. Shag someone if you want to, of course. But being liberated does not mean that sex is the ultimate goal in life. We remain at the level of the Victorians if this is the way we behave. Their approach to sex was to make it the ultimate forbidden fruit and, of course, their attention was completely captivated by it. Hence the popularity of the repressed but wildly passionate bodice-rippers and vampire stories which infiltrated their book shelves.
I’m not saying that sex doesn’t have a place in films, literature and so on. But there’s a world of difference between a well motivated sex scene and a gratuitous ‘Romp and Pomp’! So I believe that if we want to be truly liberated, sex should just be that: just sex. Our pendulum has swung so much in the opposite direction of the Victorians that sex has to be mentioned constantly in every medium. I really wish society would get over itself. After all, it is just sex. After all, I’ve always believed that those who talk about sex the most are the ones who do it the least.
First published in The Sunday Independent, and The Witness, 21 and 23 Aug.