Why I’m Sick of ‘Sex’
“Sex” gets boring.
Not sex itself. I love sex, but sex is, by definition, an act. It’s something we do, not something we brainstorm about at a pow-wow. I’m sick of sex dominating the public dialogue, always creeping into pop culture to make something “sexy,” “sensual” or “orgasmic.” Most of my life subscribes to none of those adjectives and I’m ready to consider the billions of topics that aren’t so trendy, but that reflect reality, where even if you have sex for an hour every day (lucky), 95% of your time is still free for drudgery.
Just logging onto Facebook gives a decent sample of our obsession with talking about sex. My newsfeed is filled with Cosmo, Bustle and Jezebel articles about the best ways to get off, like that’s the most urgent item on the national agenda. Recently, a story from The Tab went viral—contributing idiot William Lloyd penned a personal essay on why he doesn’t do cunnilingus, and the Internet exploded as even self-proclaimed “fuck bois” implied that Lloyd was a misogynist. A new reveal about hookups dots Thought Catalog or The Odyssey’s homepage every few minutes—I would know, I wrote a few of them. They’re constantly published because they make for awesome clickbait. People want to read about sex: why it’s good, why it’s bad, why it’s good and bad. Why did you tap on this headline?
As a theater critic, I go to a Broadway or off-Broadway show almost every week. I used to be excited whenever I climbed down the subway stairs en route to midtown, but now I know exactly what I’ll see performed: some variation on sexual angst. A woman sleeps with her husband’s best friend; a tapper in the ’30s rouses two hours of innuendos; a governess in the 19th-century crushes on her mistress; a few teenagers sing about how much they want to be touched, as they masturbate. All of the subjects are engaging, if a bit trite, and they should be explored. But after you’ve seen the same themes manipulated to fit new plots over and over, they become tiresome.
Even books, so sacrosanct with their printed pages that remind you of libraries, are wet and hot. Fifty Shades is obviously the abomination of our age, shaming great authors like Virginia Woolf, Erich Maria Remarque, Toni Morrison and Tony Kushner. The fact that I’ve met someone casually toting around a book about polyamory makes me feel things—not good things.
Some people say this pop-culture-inspired conversation raises “awareness” about “sex positivity,” but Cosmo’s sex tips are more likely to get you sent to the hospital than give you an “education.” Our sex culture is one of voyeurism. We want to hear about the most absurd, dramatic situations that can happen in coitus, but when push comes to shove, the U.S. is still home to a sexually repressed population. In fact, Millennials may be less freaky beneath the sheets than our parents (and that’s embarrassing). A Time article from May cited a study, which “found that millennials were likely to have had an average of about eight partners, while Boomers were more likely to have had 10 or 11.” This seems significant as is, but Time also came up with a separate survey that claimed “almost half of twenty somethings have not had sex at all in the last year.”
I blame Kant (perhaps illogically—he was, after all, a philosopher in 18th-century Germany). I never liked Kant; I knew that he was inciting something dangerous when he advocated that his Enlightenment contemporaries “argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey.” He, and others like him, championed talking and not acting. And now that’s all we do: gab. Sex is apparently always on our minds, but seldom anywhere else.
This isn’t really a new problem. Critics have demonized pop culture’s promiscuity for decades. According to some, Elvis’ existence meant the end of civilization as they knew it. But with the Internet, there’s so much “sex” establishing a new normal. As consumers, we talk about sex because sex is what’s cool. It’s what trends; it’s what sells tickets. It’s what we know.
It’s a shame—paradoxically, we philosophize about our animal instincts. Sex isn’t rational, so it shouldn’t be rationalized. It also shouldn’t be the primary source of discussion in the media, and then on the street. Remember Friends, the TV show? I’m not saying that’s what my life looks like 24 hours a day, but it gets a whole lot closer than William Lloyd and Fifty Shades. Even Girls, which is supposedly the millennial version of Friends, has sex represented in nearly every scene. Had Lena Dunham’s writing been more honest, pre-graduation Shoshanna would have been crying about the midterm she had to turn in by midnight, not the boy who didn’t want to pop her cherry.
If I’m being frank, most of my time is spent either with friends or alone working. Not with an S.O., or a friend with benefits or even a date—definitely not with a boyfriend. The people, who are there for me, and the ones I truly care about, are those who grab Starbucks after class, or who go to Dig Inn for a quick catch-up on a Tuesday night, or who order Seamless and watch a documentary with me in my room. Sometimes, those people are romantic, but usually they’re just friends. Maybe I’m a naïve 20-year-old who’s awkwardly caught in a land where buds trump lovers, but that’s where I’m at.
I’m sick of “sex”—not of having sex, but of talking about it. I’d rather discuss things like Syria, or climate change, or the U.S.’ deteriorating education system. But if our entertainment—our talking points—must be about everyday life and the gossip that consumes it, can’t it at least portray who we are? I want to see me and my friends on stages, in pages and on screens, talking about our lives, our work, our dreams and our breakdowns. And if need be, show sex 5% of the time.
My point is this: let’s do it, but not constantly dwell on it.