By letterhead | October 23, 2009
As LiteralMayhem is very interested in language, and its potential to wreak havoc on human civilization, we offer some thoughts on the quintessential “hot” topic: sex. And more precisely “safe sex.”
Nowadays, at least in much of the Western world, the term “safe sex” is tossed off as easily as one might say… “a side of fries with that?” It’s a given for most sexually active people. And for those who don’t subscribe, it’s a conscious choice, an opt-out. That’s how taken-for-grated the notion has become.
But for millions… maybe even billions… there is a deeper sense in which sex itself will never ever ever until Hell freezes over… be “safe.” As a topic. As a biological function. As a form of intimate personal expression. As a questions of legality and regulation. As a Platonic essence. As absolutely anything.
PUT A LOCK ON THOSE NAUGHTY BITS
Take the following, which at first reads like a skit off Saturday Night Live: earlier this month, Egyptian legislators went ballistic over the sale of an artificial hymen… a device that allows women to fake their virginity. From the company’s website:
No more worry about losing your virginity. With this product, you can have your first night back anytime. Insert this artificial hymen into your vagina carefully. It will expand a little and make you feel tight. When your lover penetrate [sic], it will ooze out a liquid that look [sic] like blood not too much but just the right amount. Add in a few moans and groans, you will pass through undetectable.
According to the UK Telegraph, Egyptian politicians said it would be a “mark of shame” to allow the sale of the product in Egypt. A “prominent Islamic scholar” called for importers to be “punished.” (article) All because religious men — through the police apparatus of the government — would no longer have a lock on women’s nether parts. (Quite literally.)
An Egyptian’s women’s rights activist, however, said: “the Artificial Virginity Hymen ’sticks it in the face of every male hypocrite’ in an Arab culture that condemns women’s sexuality but turns a blind eye to male promiscuity.”
IS IT REALLY “SEX” IF IT’S WITH MYSELF?
At first blush (literally) the artificial hymen story kinda makes you titter. But consider this story from the underbrush of our own backyard. Alabama continues to enforce a ban on sex toys, as do Mississippi and Virginia. (Divine Caroline has a good write up.) And ReasonTV has a hysterical video here:
In January Coweta Count, GA got into the act with its own sex toy ban, one that includes “perhaps even the sale of some condoms and lubricants.” (Times-Herald)
Sex toys are illegal in India, though a government-owned company is involved in the manufacture of a vibrating condom, which some say should be classified as a vibrator and be banned. (BBC)
In China, the government took a wrecking ball to the “Love Land” sex theme park before it even opened (AP via IndianExpress). The government “banned television and radio ads for push-up bras, figure-enhancing underwear and sex toys in the communist government’s latest move to purge the nation’s airwaves of what it calls social pollution.” (AP via Huffpo)
Sex toys are illegal from Malaysia to the Dominican Republic. Hell, sex toys are even illegal in Thailand of all places… where the sex trade is perennially booming.
GETTING A LOAD OFF MY MIND
Why for Heaven’s sake does something so simple… a person alone in a room taking three and half minutes to get their rocks off… provoke an enormous global law enforcement effort?
Clearly when we’re talking about “sex,” were not talking about “sex.” We’re talking about religion, morality, ethics, spirituality, psychology, tradition, mores, personal baggage, guilt, prejudice, anger, chauvinism, cultural taboos, simple habit, education (and a lack thereof), control issues (big time), personal insecurity, commerce, power, autonomy, repression, oppression, nature, nurture, transcendentalism, materialism, and about ten gazillion things OTHER than “sex.”
Unless “sex” actually IS all those things… and always has been, and always will be, making the word itself an armed linguistic nuke. That’s the power of language. It is not an empty vessel. When it’s loaded up and shot into those soft, moist, glistening folds… of the BRAIN you low-life!… get your minds out of the gutter… it vibrates reality… like plucking a guitar string or tapping a kettle drum.
Those of us in the wordsmithing profession tend to forget the power of words. But they are intensely personal. And the reality they vibrate in the listener is nothing but intensely personal. People’s response (i.e., their behavior) on the other hand, affects everyone and everything.
And it’s the echo of our wordsmithing (the action of the listener) that ought to haunt us. When we purposely use words to unleash that kind of power, we are responsible for what we wreak… just as if we had learned how to control the weather.
It is into this, the tenderest part of the public mind, that we insert ourselves every day of our careers. So let’s do it gently, wisely and above all… safely.
As for “sex,” it’s soooo heavily charged it’s no wonder people all over the world want to ban the damn thing. Something that fraught with stress and complexity is surely a load on the mind that needs to be relieved somehow.
Now… if we could only think of a safe, practical way to alleviate all that pent up frustration…