Getting Somewhere!

Voice Card  -  Volume 11  -  John Card Number 18  -  Sat, Dec 23, 1989 2:08 PM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to Vol 11 Larry 5 ("But that's the point")...


Now we're getting somewhere! Let me take your questions one at a time.

"Why do we elevate sex to the highest pedestal whenever we discuss relations between men and women?"

But when else can we "elevate" it? We can hardly elevate sex when discussing economics or politics or physics. Sex is a phenomena that arises in only one context: the relationships between men and women. We cannot talk about sex without talking about men and women. And when we do talk about sex, I think we SHOULD elevate it. Sex (and with it, love) is at the core of who we are. It underlies our notions of beauty, all our many passions, our art, our struggles. It is what makes the world go 'round. As many a young couple has been heard to say: "It's bigger than both of us."

"Is sex the ultimate way you demonstrate affection for another?"

Well, yes. When compared to all the other daily sacrifices and individual acts of sharing that go into a long and rewarding relationship, sex, and not just intercourse but all of the hugs and kisses and tender embraces that go with it, is at the top of the list. No act is more honest, more sincere, more tender, more revealing, and more deeply felt. It is the most direct form of communication. The offering up of one's own body is the most essential sacrifice and the deepest expression of trust. And it's fun! It's the best way to become children again and play together! I am eternally grateful to every woman who has ever given me this gift.

"Is sex supposed to be shrouded in mystery and intrigue?"

I think there will always be a certain amount of mystery involved. Sex, and the thousandfold effects it has on every aspect of our culture, is too vast, too complex, too awesome ever to seem trivial. With sex comes "otherness", the otherness of the opposite sex: mysterious by definition. The puzzles which arise from it are unsolvable and endlessly fascinating; as evidence you need only examine ANY religion or any serious work of art or literature or philosophy. As a fiction writer and a mazeophile I celebrate this eternal mystery!

But that is probably not what you're getting at. You talked about grade school children "snickering" about sex. Believe it or not, I probably never once snickered about sex, even as a child. I concede, however, that this places me in the minority. Especially in religious communities such as the one I grew up in, snickering at sex is pervasive and, I think, a great evil.

We think of ourselves as sexually liberated, but in fact I think we're still in the tail end of the Victorian Age. The kind of mystery you were complaining about, I suppose, is not the intellectual kind I alluded to above, the kind that has fueled artists and thinkers down through the ages, but the continuing ignorance about each others bodies and sexual repression in all its ugly forms.

Here we agree. But let's call it ignorance instead of mystery, so as to distinguish the dark from the light. This ignorance is a major source of discord between the sexes. The sooner we can break down these barriers the better off we'll all be. I hope discussions such as this one will help diminish the darkness a little. And if the day ever comes when the snickering is silenced and we can put away our figleafs forever, I believe that sex will be even more "elevated" than it is now.

"What function is sex supposed to have anyway - I mean beyond begetting children? Does it serve some higher function that justifies it's lofty status?"

Well of course it doesn't have to have a "function." It just is. It is a fact of life. And it is, with death, the ultimate fact of life.

In all my studies of literature and life, whenever I tunnel down to the uttermost roots, I always find these two great truths: sex and death. As the poet James Dickey once observed, "Two things are certain, the inevitability of death and the possibility of love."

They are difficult truths, both of them, and most people do whatever they can to avoid confronting them. One of the primary functions of religion is to "disbelieve" in death, but it is neverly entirely possible, and we hide from it at our peril.

Sex (and love - two sides of the same coin), is just as frightening in its way. Winding through all of our lives is a river of chaos, of irrationality, of passion: horrible and sublime. All great writers and philosophers have written about this river and when they trace it back to its source they find Sex. The religious mind mythologizes it in tales such as the Garden of Eden, and the scientific mind adopts it as an axiom (a biology professor of mine once called Sex and Death the two great inventions of evolution).

In the face of all this the most dangerous thing we can do is to close our eyes and pretend that sex is not important. Your final observation is mine as well:

"Before we can solve Dick and Jane's dilemna, and before we can evaluate the trues and falses, I think we have to know why it is that sex is so damn important."