Society may always have people who are terrified by the diversity and enormous power of human sexuality, and will try to jam any expression of it into narrow, manageable confines.
Jill Filipovic is not one of those people. Or is she? I quote from the very same column:
When one half of the population is cast as the holder and embodier of sex, while the other is the agent who views, desires and gets sex, you have a recipe for disordered relationships with sex and with one’s own body. The sexualization of women and girls—not you personally seeing an individual woman as sexy or attractive, but widespread media and advertising imagery of women and girls as things to be looked at and conduits through which to sell or promote items—has devastating effects on real-life women and girls.
Uncorked sexuality fosters a dehumanizing view of other people as means to one’s ends, whether they be pleasures or profits. The “people who are terrified by the diversity and enormous power of human sexuality” are right. Those “narrow, manageable confines” exist for good reason.
The stupid and naïve columnist will never reach that conclusion. It would mean betraying the “liberated,” sex-saturated culture she’s spent her career advocating. Instead, she would divinely authorize we evolve past everything we intuitively know about the destructiveness of a society oriented towards pursuit of pleasure rather than towards the humanity of the individual.
Sex as pleasure is a good in and of itself, she continues. It need not be reserved until the promise of marriage has been made…
It’s a simple concept, but in a society so disordered and divided when it comes to sex, it’s a radical one. Sex should feel good. Maybe that means candles and a rose-petal-filled bathtub. Maybe it means restraints and role-play. Maybe it means feeling gorgeous when you live in a body that advertisers tell you is ugly or wrong. Maybe it means having sex with someone of the same gender. Maybe it means feeling great about not having sex at all.
Maybe it means using people, Jill! Ever felt used, like someone’s piece of meat? It’s not a good feeling. An even worse feeling is being of no use to anyone, in a world that rejects your humanity, in a world where people see you and wonder first what you can do for them. It is the world of single middle-aged women, feeling the pressure of time and loneliness, left wondering where the good men ran off to. They’re off chasing zestier 24 year-old sex objects, silly!
And we’ll have less fraught gender relations when we quit positioning sex as oppositional, shameful and transactional.
To be clear, trading pleasure for pleasure is still transactional. There’s no way it is better than trading intimacy for commitment. At least in the latter there is trust and love.