Sex and Sensibility

We are a nation obsessed with sex. Fascinated by it; driven, titillated and entertained by it. We idealize it for commerce, romanticize it for cable and fixate on it for…well, pretty much everything else. We’ve iconicized our porn stars, peeped gleefully in on our randy athletes, pumped and plumped and pummeled our bodies into Ken and Barbie ideals of sexual beauty, God knows how many of us are actually getting any but, damn, whatever we’re getting we can’t get enough!

Yet even with all this hypersexual oversaturation we still seem to have generated a culture of women with not a sexual boundary or moral compass in sight (men’s wives and children be damned), and a complementary tribe of men who seem hell-bent on destroying their lives, careers, families and reputations for the sake of that one body part that speaks the loudest and can’t ever seem to stay put (you know the one). There’s much to be said about the various women in these equations but for the moment, particularly given the Weiner roasting of late, let’s focus on the fellows.

What’s the problem, guys? Illuminate us.

Why do so many high profile men seem incapable of keeping it in their literal and metaphoric pants? Off their social media pages? Away from their cell cameras? Out of their nanny’s, videographer’s, intern’s, best friend’s wife’s, or local prostitute’s…bed?  What is this unequivocally self-destructive proclivity and why is it so prevalent amongst today’s politicians?

(Though, mind you, it’s not just a problem of the high-profile; I’m sure there are plenty of low-profilers with the same self-destructive tendencies wreaking havoc on their own marriages, families and jobs. We just ain’t hearing about ’em because they’ve got less distance to fall and the resulting “thunk” doesn’t resonate as loudly. These higher-profile guys? Meteor blasts of destruction all over the damn place.)

There are tomes dissecting the phenomenon being written by psychologists, doctors, therapists and scholars who know much more about the mind and its machinations than I, and their analyses will surely cover the mental, emotional, psychological and cultural pathology of this dysfunction. Me? I want to talk about Mom, Dad and the Sex Talk.

Even in this more enlightened age, I well remember an exchange I had with a fellow mother when my son was in middle school. The conversation came around to sex and she asked how I approached that red-hot topic with my son (she literally leaned in and whispered the word “sex“).  I very matter-of-factly said, “We talk about it. Always have. Ever since he started asking years ago and will until the day he stops asking. Always age-appropriate, always clear and candid, always on both the emotional and physical aspects of the question, and on any sex related topic he wondered about.” She literally gasped and shook her head in awe, “You’re so brave.”


What does brave have to do with it? Why does it take courage to talk to our kids about sex and its many wonders, complications, and responsibilities?

Because, despite our libidinous public appetites and ravenous over-consumptions, we remain a distinctly and counterproductively Puritanical society, deferring to our various religious, ethnic and cultural mandates  – and personal timidity – to keep us from honestly and openly dealing with this very real, very important element of life in candid conversation with our children. We’ll allow them to watch sex in movies, music videos, TV shows and the pole-dance parties currently all the rage for young teens (seriously), but we get squeamish about face to face, eye contact inducing, heart to heart talking on the topic. In some homes it’s Topic Verboten (yes, capital letters). In others, it’s considered too private and personal to get beyond bromides. Still others glibly figure “the school’ll take care of it!” and, most damaging, the families for whom sex is  too connected to sin and so off-limits that discussion is moot and repression is inevitable, leaving all future pendulum swings assured.

The result of this panoply of avoidance and ignorance is that too many children grow into their adulthood carrying the same sexual questions, confusions, fixations and repressions ignored or imposed in their childhoods, with no language developed to talk about the quirks and questions of their darker corners with anyone, inclusive of wives (particularly), friends, colleagues, even therapists. It’s all pushed down and put aside and out of conscious view and this cauldron of denial inevitably ferments into a great soup of sexual dysfunction and/or destructive acting out that results in the tawdry and embarrassing scenarios that seem to fill our 24/7 news cycle.

As for why so many politicians? Well, add to my thesis the traits endemic to the political personality – ambition, drive, arrogance, entitlement, perceived social immunity and the “sycophantasy” support system a celebrity or politician (the same?) so often accrues – and you’ve got the perfect storm of Bad Behavior Enlarged.

As more families are shattered, constituents disappointed and “good” wives are left to painfully stand by their errant, damaged men, I say, Parents, start now. Start talking to your kids about sex. REALLY talk to them. More than once, many times over the years, as often as they need or want to, even when they don’t want to. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Discuss every detail offered, analyze every urge expressed, leave no thought ignored, let nothing be too private. Make no judgment, acknowledge their natural sexuality, and let shame nowhere near the conversation. Guide them through the gauntlet of its power and pull to get them safely to the other side of adolescence clear on what healthy sexuality, emotional fidelity, sexual integrity and personal discretion look and feel like.

I swear, if at every step of the way the questions and curiosities of developing children were openly met by wise, fearless parents and mentors who would honestly and compassionately answer those questions, we couldn’t help but develop a healthier society of sexually rational men who don’t play out their lifelong repressions behind sex and porn addictions, wolf-pack foraging, social media exhibitionism, clueless sexual acting out and, ultimately, personal and very public self-immolation.

And note I said “wise, fearless parents and mentors…” Huh.

Maybe it does take bravery.

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