Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Sexual Honor Code

What you do in private is one thing. What you discuss in public is quite another.

Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to sex. My admonitions notwithstanding, more and more people find it natural and normal to discuss their sexual exploits with those near and dear to them.

If we are to believe an anonymous author on The Frisky, when women feel compelled to share the graphic details of their latest romp it means that they hooked up with someone they will probably never see again. In other words, they do it to manage the pain of a traumatic experience.

Anonymous writes:

When I was single, I spent a lot of time talking about my sexual exploits with friends: his penis-to-ball ratio, how chipper of a mood he was in the morning after, whether or not I wanted to “hit that again.” It was one of the fun — well, maybe more necessary than fun — parts of being single. When I had flings or dating stints, all that was left when the dude was out of my life were the war stories…. I was the circus clown making singledom palatable for the crowd. Honestly, when I was single, if I didn’t find humor in my sex life, I would have been a very sad clown.

She is offering an enormously revealing look at the psychology of hooking up. In order to numb her pain, to overcome the feeling of emptiness and to stop feeling that she was exploited, she make herself into a “circus clown” performing for her friends.

She is inclined to overshare about her hookups because, one imagines, her friends do likewise. It’s like a therapy group. But, more importantly, she is trying to disown the experience.

Normally, when you discuss a personal experience in public you are owning it. You are telling other people that you are happy to have them see you in that context.

That is not, alas, what Anonymous and her girlfriends are doing. She and they are describing their hookups in such graphic detail that you come away feeling that she is writing a critique of a porn video. She is talking about the experience as though it had happened to someone else.

In her words:

I used to find something almost satisfying in poking fun at a man who would never love me and I would never love back by talking about his walnut-sized balls. It was an assertion of my self-worth, a battle cry. It was an acknowledgment that I knew he wasn’t good enough for me. But we were both single human beings with sex drives who were waiting to meet someone who was worth getting in deep with. And in the meantime, we were fucking each other and having a decent time of it.

Surely, Anonymous is not condemning the hookup culture. She is not flagellating herself for having participated. She is simply saying that if you submit yourself, even voluntarily, to such a trauma then you will find yourself needing to mitigate and manage the attendant anguish. Hooking up has a price.

Obviously, if she were truly proud of the experiences she would have put her name on her article.

Now that Anonymous has gotten involved in a relationship she finds that her dormant moral sense has awakened. Now, she refuses to discuss her sex life.

Allow her to express her view:

When I got into a serious relationship eight months ago, all talk of my sex life stopped, even though there was more to discuss than ever before. I was out to dinner with a group of single girl friends recently and one of them straight up asked, “Is the sex good?”

I stuttered and blushed. One of my other friends jumped to my rescue, scolding her for asking the question. “Hey, that’s personal!”

She was right, it was personal. But something about that justification irked me. Why wasn’t it personal when I was single and recounting my night with the guy who thought it would be fun to put two vibrators in my vagina at once with the same group of women? I had no problem talking about that guy. But discussing what my boyfriend and I do in bed feels like a violation of his privacy more than mine. I love him so much that the thought of one of my friends laughing about his sexual proclivities, his body, or our most intimate moments together hurts me….

With casual sex, that feeling of loyalty to your partner is completely absent….

But alas, my “serious relationship” status makes me feel bound to a code of silence I never needed to honor before.

Most interesting, her sense of loyalty to her lover, her sexual honor code seems to have kicked in in automatically.

It’s no longer about performing for the peanut gallery. It’s now about betraying a confidence.


Sam L. said...

Wellllllllll, years ago I read somewhere that "A gentleman never discusses his sex life." A lady doesn't, either.

Dennis said...

Sam L,

That would presume that there are people who can be called Ladies and Gentlemen. Thinks like manners, politeness, respect, ladies, gentlemen, et al were discarded as a sign of patriarchal oppression of women. Many of the issues and problems we deal with today stem from a growing degradation of anything that has as its foundation a morality underpinned by respect, et al.

Sam L. said...

How terribly true, Dennis, but there are some--few, and very far between.