Why don’t we talk about sex?
Why do we not talk about sex? As a society, as individuals — at all the various stages of our lives, in all our ever-changing and evolving levels of development it seems that we are all reluctant to casually approach conversation about the very thing directly responsible for our existing to avoid talking about it in the first place.
Initially I took the reason to be due to social habits and accustomed behaviour patterns, the responsibility of Society at large. After all, if our parents avoid the topic, and their parents avoided it, so on and so on back to the dark distant time of Many Moons Ago, then what sort of environment does the current generation have to discuss sex in? Not much, it would seem.
Sure, it can be easily said that behaviours are changing in this regard. With ever-increasing liberation from attitudes of avoidance and shame association with the topic in all its diversity, there is now unprecedented discussion occurring around sex, sexuality, sexual health, and any other association you care to add.
But this discussion happens not so casually, nor so openly, as a discussion around the latest media-release on war atrocities, or the slavery conditions of workers in a manufacturing plant Somewhere Else in the world. Why are such terrible issues so simply discussed over lunch with a neighbour, but the eternally common topic of sex is shoved to the back of the metaphorical line?
Perhaps it is this very commonality that makes it more taboo than murder as a conversation piece — if you can relate so closely to a topic that is so easily recognised as a part of yourself, it is avoided all the more for this potential vulnerability. After all, it’s not like there is a dearth of sex plastered across nearly every aspect of our social lives. Advertising. Fashion. Even simple seemingly incorruptible food is not left uncoupled with sex in the Western world.
To say that we’re all just too decorous and (I hesitate to use the word and all its religious undertones, but it fits) ‘pure’ to speak about such a subject openly is rightly laughable. We have sex education classes, ‘sexperts’ for advice most expert on the subject yet we do not have a culture of casual sex discussion. This mass hesitancy to speak on one of the most universal topics known to humanity I freely admit somewhat puzzles me, and yet even with this attitude I am reticent to start casual conversations about sex — I even find myself trying to write around the word ‘sex’, here. So I’ll say it again: Sex. Sex, sex, sex. Sexy sex-sex.
As well you might. For some, it holds less fear or avoidant association than others. For most, it seems to be a wellspring of awkward pauses, stifled trains of thought and secret questions kept safely within. While this aversion has roots in social behaviour and custom, it propagates in a continuing climate of support for that behaviour, and I suspect it’s not anywhere near as frightening as the general impression makes it out to be.
Sex is, after all, an inherent part of life.
And so it is not just the result of the faceless force of society as a whole which is the cause of perpetuating the stigma of avoiding sex as a topic. Any group as a whole judges what is proper or improper based around a collection of rules, needs, tradition and assumptions. However, these traditional behaviours run the risk of becoming stale and no longer relevant if they are not adapted to changing factors within and without that group. Ultimately, it is the individuals in that group that make the changes and alter behaviours, which over time become the ‘normal’.
As an interesting example, if you were to ask a senior what sort of discussions were permissible in the 1930s around sex, you’d likely get a very different response to asking them what was permissible in the 1970s, and again what’s reasonable to discuss in the 21st century.
So to put it simply, it comes down to this: If talking about sex is strangely taboo for no good reason other than force of habit, the answer to this is rational adult discussion with your fellow humans about the nature of what is so unacceptable about discussing sex. Even just considering while reading this what prevents conversations about sex is perhaps changing your own perceptions on the subject.
Talk to each other, ask, learn, discuss. It is the very curious nature of humanity that helps push us forward in a universe full of amazing questions waiting to be answered — don’t be afraid to ask a few questions about the part of the universe we’re closest to — ourselves.
By Stuart McKenzie
Image credit: madd0
View the event page – Let’s talk about SEX! (12 April 2012)