Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reclaiming the joy

Sorry to revisit a topic I was going on about only a few weeks ago... but if there is one thing that I really "got" when I was rewriting Joy of Sex, it is that while sex may be the same as it was in 1972, the joy certainly isn't. Given the drip feed of horror stories in the press and the continuous warnings about the dangers of sex from all sides, we've somehow lost our optimism, our innocence - somehow, we've flushed the joy baby out with the bathwater.Link
Don't misunderstand. I'm not advocating condom-free orgies or emotion-free lust-fests. I'm as aware - and as vociferous - as anyone about just what we all need to do is order to make sex safe, sane, concensual and super-enjoyable. But I do feel that we've forgotten that sex is a Good Thing.

Which is why I was delighted to be invited to speak at a ground-breaking new conference in Devon yesterday. Run by the Eddystone Trust (with backing from the thinking person's condom-maker Durex) the training was packed with all sorts of fascinating folk from the world of South West sexual health. We had a great presentation on making older-age sex good, a fascinating interactive workshop on young people and risk taking, and an equally fascinating one on communication. Apparently one of the feedback forms said that it was 'the best workshop' the delegate had ever attended.

My contribution was to set a framework on just why we can get so negative - because of the above mentioned media panic and also, rightly, because of our need to protect ourselves (and particularly our young people) from the very real dangers of sex. I also made the point that sometimes being sex negative comes right from the heart of our own lives. If we love sex, we don't want others to spoil that by being irresponsible... if we've been disappointed in sex, we want to warn others of the dangers. It's all very understandable.

But I stil think it needs a rebalance. I still think we need to recontact the fact that, when safely and lovingly done, sex is one of the most wonderful things in the world. Lose the statistics, let's reclaim the emotion. Lose the cynicism, let's reclaim the joy...


Susan Quilliam said...
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Tony Comstock said...


If I look at the films from that same era, what I see is a tremendous degree of naivete. It would seem that the denizens of the early 1970s thought that the pill and abortion would do away with all negative consequences of sex. (Or that anyone who suffered any sort of a wound that was not related to an unplanned pregnancy was simply a "prude" who needed to "get over it."

Of course by the end of the 70s it was becoming rather clear we had not entered a new, care-free sexual utopia. New physical dangers emerged, and there was still (and ever will be) the chance of getting your heart broken.

My own thinking about sex, both in my person life, and as a filmmaker is tremendously influence by my experiences as a surfer, rock climber, skier, and various other pleasures that reward responsible risk taking. Some of the most interesting literature in the mountaineering world is devoted to forensic examination of tragedies, which necessarily invite the reader/climber to reflect on their own values and form judgements.

"Judgement" is fairly nearly a dirty work in the sex-positive community, but it need not be. Good judgement is at least as fruitful a route to joy as anything else.