Only talking about sex can make it better
Men may think about sex a lot but they don't talk about it. It may not be our fault but, says Jim Pollard, it is destroying our relationships.
A new book out last month got me thinking about sex. (It's great to have a justifiable reason every now and again). It was Ian Banks's Sex Manual. It's a terrific read — frank and practical. It also has lots of interesting letters from men in it of the type we very rarely see — men talking about problems and difficulties, needs and wants.
Whether or not we practise it, we all know what safe sex is. Wear a condom and you'll stay healthy. But in truth, as these letters show, good sexual health begins in the head. Why then is sex so horrendously difficult to talk about?
I've been writing a book about sex myself recently. It's for teenagers and it was slated for publication in both the US and the UK. That proved impossible. Essentially, in today's USA, abstinence is the only game in town. The American publishers wanted a book that didn't mention homosexuality, didn't mention abortion, didn't mention masturbation, didn't mention anything but the missionary position after marriage. Dragging out 'just say no' over 50 odd pages stretched even my capacity for waffle. How can you write a sex book for teenagers that doesn't mention masturbation? For most of them, masturbation is sex. And a good thing it is too — much better than getting each other up the duff.
Not for the USA. Not for the country with the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the western world. (In 2001, there were around 87 pregnancies per thousand teenagers in the USA. Twice the rate — 42.5 — of the UK.) Doesn't make sense does it? In what other walk of life would we take this 'silence is golden' attitude? How to decide what career is best for you: never discuss it with anyone. How to buy a house without getting burned: never discuss it with anyone. How to decide which movie to go and see: never discuss it with anyone.
I guess if you take traditional American puritanism, add the sexual paranoia resulting from a litigious political correctness and mix in the new fangled neo-conservatism and you're left with some very strange attitudes to sex, indeed. Several books worth of material, at least. But what interests me is what this reluctance to talk about sex to children leads to in adults. Of course, there's the same reluctance, a reluctance hardened by the years. But there's more and it's destroying our relationships.
Imagine how you'd be in some other aspect of your life if you had never talked about it. Food. If nobody had ever suggested that the solid stuff might be tastier perhaps you'd still be munching your way through rusks in hot milk. Sport. If the old man had never explained the offside trap to you, you'd still be building Lego.
So where are we with sex? We've never talked about it and there we are one day with the person we love, desperate to say something that we are certain sure will make our love life better, needing to say it but unable to. Frustrated. Frustrated as kids. When the reluctance is stronger than the need, we all know what happens. You're off. Pastures new. Plenty more fish in the sea. My wife doesn't understand me.
It's dangerously easy to do. If you weren't attracted to people other than your partner, that would be pretty unusual and it's easy to mistake that attraction for something more substantial. Freshness is itself sexy but to need to keep choosing that over the maturer pleasures of a relationship is the rusks response, the lego response, the child's response. The immature response. You do it because you have no choice. You can't talk and if you can't talk you can't have a relationship. I may be wrong but I bet the vast majority of those men of a certain age who can't live with themselves without an ever younger woman on their arm can't talk about sex. Never have been able to. And never heard a word about it from their parents.
Which is where that sex book for teenagers and the American publishers come in again. It's not surprising that it's difficult to talk about sex if every part of our upbringing is pushing us not to. Everytime you deny your child an answer to a question about sex or tell them something is dirty you compound this. You are creating a society of guilt, of sex offenders, of unsafe sex and adultery, of broken homes. Welcome to America.
I think we should try to be a bit more grown-up. How much more enjoyable is sport when we can talk about the skills behind it? How much more enjoyable is food and drink when we can discuss the different tastes and how they're created? How much more enjoyable would sex be if we could just talk about it? Ian's book will help. And, if you have kids, talk to them about sex. It's not a foreign language. It's the language of life.
What do you think?
Page created on March 1st, 2004
Page updated on December 20th, 2011