Letter From the Editor
January: in which we get all Salt-N-Pepa
Hey there. This one’s about sex. Amorous congress. The ol’ slap and tickle.
And because this is an email and you’ve probably got a job to get back to, I’ll tip my rhetorical hand up front: we debuted a new sex and relationships column this week. It’s by the incomparable Esther Perel. Have a look-see.
More on Esther in a minute. First, on the occasion of her column, let’s talk about the state of sex and relationships in America today.
If you’re like me, you remember a time when the mere mention of il flagrante delicto in a public forum incited paroxysms of face-fanning. I’m older than some and younger than many others, but I remember well when a mere mention of Cagney and Lacey birthed fist-shaking rants about the Isle of Lesbos, and when the briefest glimpse of Dennis Franz’s backside (visual analogy: frog standing up) sounded a moralistic alarum in the trades.
These days: Pornhub. I know it. You know it. The New York Times knows it. Cry havoc! And let slip the gonads of cultural war.
My point is, conversations about sex and relationships are less shameful. The kimono, to borrow another cultural artifact, has been opened.
That’s not news. But we should all be aware that we can engage this brave new world in different ways.
One way is, of course, through porn. Porn is mainstream. Forty years ago, the cultural taboo was premarital sex. Thirty years ago, condoms and teenage sex. Twenty years ago, oral sex. In the last ten years, as we’ve all been broadbanded into the future, the taboo has been BDSM and fetish play (SFW). Now today, down in Florida, there’s a 21-year-old Lebanese girl with Arabic script tattooed on her body who makes porn vids while wearing a hijab (also SFW). The conversation has changed.
Yet there are many other ways, besides porn, to engage with the new sexuality. One of them, which I’ve been privy to lately, isn’t as well known. But San Franciscans know it. TED Talkers know it. Anybody who, say, read “My Life With the Thrill Clit Cult” knows it. It’s the Sex Positive movement.
If the conversation around (most, not all) porn is based on transgression, the conversation about sex positivism is about the intrinsic healthiness of consensual and safe sex. I’m not promoting either sexual POV, and they’re not always mutually exclusive. But as we roll into 2015, any human interested in sex (read: all humans) should be aware that many conversations exist. It’s up to you to choose which of those conversations, or how many, you want to join. “What you’re thinking,” Muhammad Ali once said, “is what you’re becoming.” That’s as true for sex and relationships as anything else.
This brings me back full circle to Esther Perel. Esther has been called the most important game-changer on sexuality and relationships since Dr. Ruth. She’s the best-selling author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, a practicing psychotherapist, celebrated speaker and organizational consultant to Fortune 500 companies. And she’s quite eloquent when addressing the paradox of wanting both security and adventure in relationships. I hope you’ll give her monthly column a read.
One last note: next week we’ll be publishing our second annual sex survey. Keep an eye out.
Oh, and I’ve been given to understand that the sexual conversation in 2015 will be all about polyamory.
That’s right, Bill Paxton. Big Love was ahead of its time.