The Worth of Sexuality

Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood profiled the erotic romance market last Sunday. It was mildly interesting, but it reminded me what I don’t like about erotic romances. It’s much the same thing I don’t like with most porn. It has to do with invoking titillation that’s pretty independent of factors that I find vital to human sexuality, sensuality, or intimacy.

I like sex. I’m sex-positive. Sex is life-affirming and good.

But I don’t like empty sex. The term “casual sex” is not very useful here because it means different things to different people. Sex with a best friend who is not a romantic partner might seem casual to one person and not at all to another. For me, it depends more on what partners are bringing to the encounter – what they’re contributing, what caring and generosity they are showing, what delight they are taking – it depends more on these than what the details of the relationship are.

I’m deeply offended by unthinking, unfeeling, or automatic sex. Mainstream porn is stuffed to the gills with automatic sex. Most of the romance fiction I’ve encountered was stuffed to the gills with formulaic sex. Or at least formulaic sexual situations. The characters don’t get development and undergo a pretty predictable series of conflicts and predicaments. I just don’t find this exciting or fun.

Two notable examples of how I do like sexual fiction depicted:

  • Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Jamie and Claire are hot and only get more so after menopause and arthritis. What makes them hot is the complexity of the characters and the flavor of their relationship. We get to watch their marriage grow and change and weather horrible tragedies along with triumphs and celebrations. They’re humany humans and amazing.
  • J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Eve and Roarke are hot and only get more so with every case. Again, complexity of characters and the relationship they form. With Eve and Roarke, the more discover about each other, the more they discover about themselves. The storylines uncover more about their pasts, even while they are learning to cope with domestic life and an ever-increasing circle of intimate friends. It’s a journey of discovery, and their sexuality is a part of that. And again, this is a married couple, which I find refreshing.

With porn, it’s not exactly the same, because there’s not a lot of opportunity for character development, for example. But I like encounters that are authentic, where participants seen to be interested in each other and enjoying each other, probably as entire human beings with minds and feelings, not a collection of sexual parts.

One thing I like about kink.com’s family of sites (no link, because, obviously, NSFW) is that this kind of authenticity comes through loud and clear, and is further reinforced by the wrap-up interview that occurs at the end of most, if not all, of the videos. You get to see the participants happy and glowing and grateful to have had an enriching encounter. When it’s kink, it’s easy to worry that someone is getting injured or victimized or otherwise having a bad trip. It’s helpful to see everyone satisfied and obviously feeling good about each other.

I like media that reinforce the worth of sexuality, that it’s an engagement between people that has real value. I don’t like media that trivialize it for titillating effect. I don’t like media that use sexual content to manipulate consumers, fooling around with their psychology, endocrinology, and neurology to get their attention and thus their dollars. I like media that reflect sexuality as a vital and enriching facet of the human experience.

And with that, I bid you goodnight.

PS: Outlander is coming to Starz as an original series! I’m so excited!