This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
One of the most common condemnations of non-standard sex — from homosexuality to masturbation — is “that’s not what those body parts were meant for.” Genitals and sexual desire were supposedly designed for reproduction, and reproduction alone: by God (as the argument most commonly goes), or by evolution (as the argument occasionally gets made). To use these parts/ desires for any other purpose is dangerous at best and sinful at worst.
So why should sex be an exception? No, our mouths and assholes weren’t “designed” for sex, by God or by evolution. So what? We use our bodies in lots of ways and for lots of purposes that they weren’t “designed” for… and nobody considers that immoral. Computers and harmonicas and giant novelty cheese wedges are seen as acceptable and even positively neat. Why is anal sex somehow a perversion of the natural order?
A good argument. And one I frequently make myself.
But today, I’m going to take it a step further.
Off-label uses of body parts and biological functions aren’t just acceptable and morally neutral. They are some of the most beautiful, honorable, and deeply treasured parts of the human experience.
None of these things are necessary for survival and reproduction. That is exactly what makes them so splendid. When we take our basic evolutionary wiring and transform it into something far beyond any prosaic matters of survival and reproduction… that’s when humanity is at its best. That’s when we show ourselves to be capable of creating meaning and joy, for ourselves and for one another. That’s when we’re most uniquely human.
Why should we see this as sinful?
What makes this any different from chocolate souffles and King Lear?
Rigid moralists — of the “don’t use your asshole for sex, that’s not what it’s meant for” variety — are often fond of talking about “what separates us from the animals.” Our self-restraint, our ability to delay gratification, our ethical judgment… these things supposedly make us finer and more noble than the animals, those base creatures who live only to eat and avoid predators and produce the next generation.
But I do think we’re special animals. I do think we have abilities that make us different from other animals. And at the top of that list is our ability to take our animal instincts, and transform them into pursuits and achievements that have nothing whatsoever to do with their original functions of survival and reproduction — pursuits and achievements that serve no purpose but to create meaning, and connection, and knowledge, and joy.
Sex is most definitely one of those pursuits.
It deserves as much respect as any other.