Who Can Discuss Sex Without Discussing Damage?

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Is there any point in talking about cars without mentioning car accidents? Certainly. Is there any value in discussing the Golden Gate Bridge or Niagara Falls without bringing up drowning or suicide? Of course there is.

So why do so many people find it impossible to tolerate a serious conversation about sex that doesn’t include human trafficking, rape, kiddie porn, and child molestation? Why do such conversations have to be “corrected” with grim recitations of these problems—and why aren’t comments about these supposed “omissions” seen as off-topic?

American marriage counselors and psychologists get notoriously brief training about human sexuality, typically emphasizing child abuse, basic plumbing, and the half-century-old Masters & Johnson model of sexual function. Most therapy consumers would be dismayed to discover that their therapist is not required to know anything about vibrators, Viagra, or voyeurism (or contraception, faked orgasms, porn, or “technical virginity”) before counseling people on their sexual problems.

As a result, when discussing sexuality, most therapists rely on their personal experience or the distorted crap spewing out of the media and internet—the same personal experience and media/internet crap that creates most sexual problems and brings people into therapy.

As part of my ongoing work of educating professionals about sexuality, I recently wrote an article for The Therapist, published as “Sexual Diversity: It’s More than Just GLBT.”

In it, I referenced practices and preferences some therapists find uncomfortable, such as consensual non-monogamy, S/M, and pornography. I challenged therapists to learn about these alternatives and to treat them with the same objectivity and compassion with which they’re committed to treating everything else they encounter.

Most readers, presumably, either skipped the article or yawned (or, I suppose, clipped it and are waiting to read it, or loved it and sent it around the globe). Such is the life of a writer.

The only letters the publication received decried the “omission” of sex trafficking and the ways pornography supposedly destroys families. The fact that I had not written an article about sexual crime or sexual problems, or an invitation to sow panic among an uninformed population, seems to have escaped these critics.

These letter-writers might as well criticize baseball announcers for not mentioning jock itch—or the harm suffered by thousands of kids every year trying to throw a curveball when they’re too young.

Just as some anti-sexuals can’t see a female breast, hear the word “penis,” or see two men holding hands without thinking SEX, some people can’t hear about sex without thinking DANGER. A coalition of well-meaning professionals, cynical politicians, end-of-days religious leaders, and frightened lay people has turned ordinary sexuality into a public health crisis. Their anti-secular, anti-democratic, anti-teen, anti-woman solutions are damaging our nation, our relationships, and our children far more than mere sexuality possibly could.

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