Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Responsibility of Sex

This post is a reply to comments made on the previous post.

Who is supposed to be more responsible when it comes to sex, men, or women? Of course it takes two to tango, and it absolutely shouldn't all fall on the woman. Baroness said a man having sex without a condom is like a loaded gun. Not entirely untrue.

On the other hand, as pregnancy by nature does affect women and men differently; maybe she doesn't bear more responsibility, but she owes it to herself to be more careful. Like it or not, the woman is stuck carrying the baby, and nursing it afterwards, while sex holds no such physical implications for a man, who can (irresponsibly) sow his oats all over the place. As humans we must move beyond mere physicality and biology, but we are still animals, and those millions of years of evolution are still strong in us. Especially with the way sex has been so much diminished and debased into an often purely physical act (due in part, ironically enough, to widespread contraception).

Is the responsibility perfectly equal, or even, as Cym once said, slanted towards the man who "got her that way" meaning pregnant? The loaded gun theory. I'm not so sure. Men are only half the equation, they don't "get" a woman pregnant, because there's more than sperm involved. There's the egg. The language reflects the fact that we didn't know about the egg for a long time, thinking it was the life force in the man's semen, but now we know that he isn't planting something in an empty vessel, they are joining their respective gametes together.

So unless it was a rape, which is akin to shooting someone, it is AT BEST equal responsibility. In a way, consensual sex without birth control is more like her playing Russian roulette with her uterus and his "gun." I would argue that women, being affected far more substantially by unprotected sex (not taking into account STDs), might bear more responsibility. Like, with monogamous animals, they don't mate until a strong pair bond is established, because it takes two to raise the offspring. Everyone knows sex causes babies, at least sometimes, so the fact that casual sex exists is pretty freaking stupid on both sides; it only makes sense because birth control exists. Babies are not easy to raise, if they were, this and abortion would not be an issue. Isn't this why men historically protected daughters' and sisters' virtue, and why women used to deny sex until marriage (theoretically) or at least a good while into the relationship, to be sure the guy will stick around? Now we have contraception, so women have more freedom, but only if she uses it or demand he use it, otherwise we're back the the old days, which is stupid.

That's probably going to piss all the women off who read this, but I'm coming at this from a practical, not ideal, angle. Just like when I said people are going to have sex; preach abstinence all you want, but ignoring the reality is causing some major problems. Like the way the Catholic Church won't distribute condoms in Africa, where there's an AIDS epidemic going on, amid a culture that, like it or not, encourages the men to have sex with multiple partners. Ideals are great, but not when they cause suffering.

I'm NOT saying things are how it should be-- the African cultural trait, the irresponsible men (though not all of us!)-- but that's how it is, at least for now. Work to change all that, yes, work to get men to accept their due responsibility for sex and pregnancy, to help there be less pressure and emotional coercion on women, especially young women, to have sex in order to feel loved by their pushy boyfriend... but in the meantime we have to work with what is. That seems the enlightened, Taoist thing to do, at least to me. I favor this sort of two pronged approach.

By the way, when you do return to the issue of STDs, which I wasn't really talking about in the main issue of this post (only when I mentioned the AIDS crisis), then there is absolutely more responsibility on the man to wear a condom.

Lastly, Baroness, you wrote "People like to eat too, but if we put the same kind of "moral" efforts into sexuality as we are beginning to with health-based nutrition, maybe things would be better. Celibacy is sort of like veganism...maybe you SHOULDN'T have so much sex." Unfortunately, your food analogy fails, because celibacy is akin to fasting. Eating healthier is akin to having sex using birth control. No one's going without, they're just doing it intelligently. And there's been centuries of moral efforts on controlling sex, some very violent and repressive, and it just plain doesn't work.


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  2. "...your food analogy fails, because celibacy is akin to fasting."

    Insofar as veganism can be understood as fasting (from animal products), I meant exactly that. And with such dietary restrictions there is sometimes a moral overtone: You eat animals? How vile! Just as meat eating is overemphasized in this culture, so is sex. But why can we encourage restraint in meat eating, but not sex? We fail to honor the sacred nature of both. Darwinian tendencies aside, I'm not sure we are better off now than when people avoided sex for "fear of detection, fear of conception, and fear of infection."

    And my other point is that I wish there were more positive promotion of contraception FOR MEN. For every Viagra ad (promoting "men's health") couldn't we have something promoting responsible sex? The messages are still weighted with a burden on the female. Potency for him, protection for her. I'm just looking for some balance.

  3. Contraception for men has already been trialled successfully but not rolled out. It has been proven to be fully effective, last nearly a decade and the single injection costs less than the syringe cost.

    I believe that contraception should be an equal duty and men need more choice, that is why I urge everyone to please sign this petition:​en-GB/petitions/​nhs-government-allow-male-c​ontraceptives-equal-respon​sibility-for-both-genders