The Costs and Consequences of Sex
“Sex always has consequences. When Hitler’s mother spread her legs that night, she effectively canceled out the spreading of fifteen to twenty million other pairs of legs.”
– George Carlin
Everything has a cost. Before you act, you really need to consider whether you can handle the consequences. And this is doubly true when it comes to sex.
Okay, sure, with you so far!
Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right.And the alarm bells start flashing. This sounds like it's about to set us up for some awesome "Sex is only safe and pleasurable when in a monogamous relationship!" bullshit typically used by Christians. Let's see!
Sex is a big deal and it has emotional, physical, and sometimes financial consequences. Before you have sex with someone, make sure you are prepared for those consequences. This is where being responsible comes into play.
First and foremost is your heart. If you are having sex for the wrong reasons, you will regret it afterward, and that kind of ruins the experience.
Okay, sure. If you're having casual sex but what you want and expect is a long term monogamous relationship, probably not going to end so well. And vice versa - if you want something casual but you're trapped in a long term monogamous relationship, you're probably not going to be very happy. That's what you're about to say, right?
Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical.
If, however, you are having sex to keep your partner with you, then when (not if) they leave you, you will be miserable. The question you need to ask yourself is, if the worst that could happen happens and this person never calls you again, how will you feel about what you have done?
Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you. Sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) are real, and if you have sex, you are at risk of contracting one. You can mitigate that risk by choosing your sexual partners very carefully, making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships, making sure each partner is tested for STDs before engaging in sex, and using protection anyway. If you think all this would kill the moment, consider how bad it would be if it actually killed you instead.
Sex can obviously lead to pregnancy, even if you use precautions. And if you aren’t prepared for that possibility, you might want to hold off on having sex until and unless you are ready to handle an unintended pregnancy. Also, if you don’t think your partner can handle that consequence, don’t have sex with him or her.
Wow, can you say sex-negative? This is reminiscent of a deep South's high school's sex education. OMG NEVER HAVE SEX BECAUSE YOU'LL DIIIEEEEE! Or worse, GET PREGNANT!!!!11!!one!!!
Look, people. Yes, STDs are a problem. Yes you should always use protection, get tested for STDs, and sleep with people you have at least some level of trust with. But the way to deal with them is not through fear mongering and omitting practical information (ironic given the title of the book). This is exactly what abstinence only education programs do, and they've actually been shown to increase the rates of STDs in teens. Knowledge is power.
Stuff like this contributes to society's stigma about STDs. You know, most STDs really aren't that bad. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. 65-90% of people have Herpes 1 ("oral" Herpes, though it's not limited to the mouth), and 15% of people have Herpes 2. Symptoms can be reduced to practically nothing with medication. And about 80% of sexually active Americans have HPV, though it usually clears without any symptoms showing.
Does anyone want an STD? No, just like no one wants bronchitis or any other disease. The stigma is blown so out of proportion compared to the actual harm, and fear mongering adds to that. But people shouldn't feel like getting an STD is the end of the world. That can have more consequences than the actual disease (source: read any sex advice column).
Finally, there are sometimes financial consequences. Sex with prostitutes isn’t the only sort of sex that costs money. Having a child, even if you give it away, costs money. Contracting an STD costs money. Affairs can be very expensive. People have lost their jobs because of sex. Do you want sex badly enough to lose your job, or get extorted by a spurned lover who is threatening you? If not, then it is best to keep your pants on and pass on that offer of free sex. Nothing is ever free.
The Humanist Approach to Sex
“In all sexual encounters, commitment to humane and humanistic values should be present.”
– The American Humanist Association, Sexual Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
Sex is a big deal. There are consequences to having sex and you should be prepared for those consequences before engaging in sex with anyone. The Humanist approach to sexuality is that it should be pleasurable, loving, and free of guilt.
Free of guilt? ...Does anyone see the irony in that statement compared to the guilt-filled paragraphs that proceeded it?
I do agree with her closing remarks, mainly because I do consider myself a Humanist. But that just makes the previous paragraphs even more disappointing. Precautions, responsibility, and avoiding harm shouldn't be connected to guilt trips about monogamy and fear mongering about STDs. Not to mention she provides no actual evidence for what she's saying. Seriously, sex-positivity FAIL.
But that doesn’t mean that anything goes. With the freedom to express your sexuality comes responsibility. From a Humanist perspective, sexual morality cannot be separated from general morality. Both must include compassion, ethics, and responsibility.
Whether any given sex act is morally acceptable from a Humanist perspective really depends on whether it helps the people involved become happy or causes suffering. Sexual pleasure must not come at the expense of someone else’s happiness.
To make sure sex is a source of both pleasure and happiness for you, take precautions to keep yourself and your partners safe. Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually fantasy. Choose your partners wisely. And always approach sex as a responsible, educated, compassionate, and ethical person.
I wish there was The Atheist's Guide to Sex to counter this. Featuring Greta Christina, Dan Savage, Heidi Anderson, Jen McCreight...