There’s this thing that we all do regardless of our spoken/filtered desires, ones laden with the emotional baggage of upbringing and/or programming, wherein we glance at one another and decide in that almost imperceptible moment that I WOULD TOTALLY HIT THAT. To make an analogy, let’s say that you were in a car, you looked at the window, you saw a butt of the shape and size you commonly enjoy clad in form fitting yoga pants or those brown UPS shorts, and you decided that you wanted one or more of your body parts somewhere under that fabric. (Then you kept driving because you are married and have to go pick up dinner before your spouse gets home and deems you a failure of a mate, which he or she will, because you are a total flake and frankly deserve the label.)
There’s also another thing we do: we look at provocative and/or graphic pictures or videos of one another and our manparts or ladyparts or comboofbothparts get all tingly or some other adjective. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one; just don’t use engorged because that’s just gross. That word alone has led to millions of traumatized 6th graders after they went through health class.
And, to be clear about this porn viewing thing, it’s totally okay. (Just don’t do it on the bus or within a 150 yards of a schoolyard, creep.) In the information age, almost all of us look at “dirty” photos/videos/gifs of one another(s) and get turned on in some manner – ideally turned on enough to inspire some sort of hanky panky, be it self-induced or with a (couple of) partner(s). Those that don’t look at porn are either: A.) Residents of some lost, handless tribe that doesn’t have a member with the ability to draw stick figure porn in the dirt with a stick or B.) Lying.
The majority of people on earth who have been through puberty, regardless of their beliefs, is that they want sex in some iteration. This is especially true of those fire-breathing religious people who would have you believe that sex is evil, but under some specific circumstances – ones generally involving the subjugation of women, unfortunately - there’s always a built in backdoor (hayooooooo) exemption in which God is okay with some “holy” version of gettin’ it on.
Now is a good time to note that there’s also a segment of people who are asexual, in that they just aren’t interested in sex and that’s fine too. Don’t be embarrassed about that, asexual people. You do you, to use the current vernacular. There have been times in my life when I wished I was one of you because, let’s face it, dating is exhausting and expensive.
Here are some generally true things about the current state of sexual relations in the world as a whole, not including enclaves of increased sexual freedom such as San Francisco and my apartment (wink wink):
A. If you are biologically male, life will be and has been easier for you than a person who is not.
B. If you are biologically male and attracted to females, life will be and has been easier for you than a person who is not.
C. Religious puritanism has done a bang up job demonizing any sexual act that is not part of the process which will result in the potential making of another human being.
D. It’s probably easier in your day to day existence if you pretend that sex and any desires to have it are at worst bad and, at best, not to be discussed in polite society.
So here’s where stuff gets even more confusing: American Apparel. (Stay with me here, it’ll make sense in a moment.) American Apparel has been criticized repeatedly for their advertisements featuring women in poses that the majority of people find to be sexual in nature. These photos are often the work of a creep by the name of Terry Richardson, but that’s another discussion entirely. I’m focusing solely on the work, not the photographer. Some have said that these images/advertisements are borderline pornographic in nature, exploitive of the female form, and symptomatic of institutionalized sexism because of that.
I agree that American Apparel makes very sexy ads. I understand that this is done to make people look at said ads and then hopefully go purchase the item the model is (kinda) wearing. I further know that sexism is alive and well in the world and a significant social issue. I also am somewhat ashamed (BUZZ WORD!) to admit that I like looking at these advertisements. And it’s this shame that I believe to be socially ruinous. Why?
Because there is nothing wrong with sex. Adults are allowed to be turned on by other adults. And there’s a kink for freaking everything, man. Some people are super into armpits. It’s not my thing and I find it to be strange, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. There would be something horrible about it if one was taking unauthorized photos of armpits and posting them on the internet without the armpit owners’ consent. There would also be something horrible about it if one was forcing him or herself upon a non-consenting party’s armpit. That would be armpit assault. That is both illegal and immoral.
The point I’m trying to make here is that we cannot be puritanical and sexually liberated at the same time. We can’t get THE VAPORS OH MY from pornography or kinky sexual displays like Folsom Street Fair and simultaneously tell people who are uncomfortable with their own sexuality that the acts and desires associated with gettin’ it on are normal and healthy. Normalizing sexual desires, and allowing people to be comfortable with the junk that turns them on can only further serve to give voices to the timid and make people more inclined to know how to say, “Yes, god, oh yes,” or much more importantly, “No!” when it comes down to it. An environment in which sex and shame don’t exist in the same lexicon will make us all safer.
And we will have much more fun.