This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
So why is the myth of sexual spontaneity so damaging?
I know. I’ve written about this before. Buy why else?
But I’ve been thinking lately about another — and in many ways more serious — problem with the myth of sexual spontaneity.
And that’s that it contributes to the idea that sex is dirty and bad… and thus makes people feel like sex is only okay if they don’t take responsibility for it.
A lot of other feminists have talked about this: the myth of being “swept away.” It’s the myth that sexual desire should overpower you with blinding passion — and that if it doesn’t, if you plan for it, that’s somehow cold and calculating and missing the point. And it’s a myth that fucks up sex lives from beginning to end. It keeps teenagers from using birth control. It keeps people from talking with their partners about what they like and don’t like in bed. It keeps people from educating themselves about sex, on the grounds that it should be “natural.” It keeps long-term couples from making dates for sex.
And I would argue — as many feminists have argued before me — that the “swept away” myth essentially comes from the idea that sex is bad.
Because we basically think that eating is okay. We have some complicated and messed-up feelings about food in our culture, sure; but most of us accept that food is a necessary and valuable part of life. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with planning a meal… because we don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating one.
But that’s patently not the case with sex. Our culture tends to see sex, either as a sin that we must resist, or as a selfish luxury we can do without. We don’t see it as a necessity, and we definitely don’t see it as a central and valuable part of the human experience.
And yet — obviously — we still want it.
It’s essentially a way of abdicating responsibility for sex. It’s a way of convincing yourself that you didn’t really choose this. You were overwhelmed by passion, by an animal urge or emotional flood that couldn’t be controlled. You couldn’t help it. It wasn’t your fault.
It’s like fantasies about bondage or rape: fantasies that, for many folks, let them enjoy sex, or enjoy thinking about sex, while still feeling like it’s against their will and they’re not responsible for it. Now, there’s not a damn thing wrong with these fantasies. There’s not even anything wrong with acting these fantasies out. But it’s no way to live your entire sex life. (Unless you’re into the 24/7 dom/sub thing… and even that takes a lot of thought and conscious choice, more even than most sex lives.) It’s not grownup. It’s not responsible.
And maybe more importantly, the “swept away” myth feeds the monster of sex-negativity. It feeds the monster in our culture and in all of us that says that sex is a sin, and that while letting yourself be overcome with lust might be forgivable, consciously choosing to make room for it in your life makes you guilty of first- degree sex. With premeditation and passion aforethought.
I actually have nothing against spontaneous sex. I love spontaneous sex. Being overwhelmed with lust, blowing off your dinner reservations because your lover’s ass has suddenly become way more important… that’s lovely. It’s like an adventure, like riding a rollercoaster. It lets you feel like your entire life isn’t being measured out in coffee spoons; like you still have the capacity to surprise yourself, and to be surprised.
My problem isn’t with spontaneous sex. It’s with the myth of spontaneous sex. It’s with the idea that spontaneous sex is the best sex, the sex we should all be having all the time, the only sex that counts. As one kind of sex among many, spontaneous sex is great. But as The One True Sex, it severely limits your sexual options. And it feeds into the monstrous idea that making sex a priority makes you a bad person.
And let’s starve the monster together.