Monday, September 2, 2013
Not So Different.
Because it was a sex thing, and everything I had learned in life up to that point had primed me with the idea that sex things are nothing like ordinary thing things. Sex ed was always set apart from ordinary life skills teaching. Sex movies were special secret movies I wasn't supposed to see. Sex wasn't just a taboo; it was a mystery, an esoteric alternate dimension where people became their animalistic sex-selves.
But there I was, touching a penis, and it turned out to be completely continuous with the rest of his body. It was just a part of him. And the sex we had was just a part of life. A fun part, sure--sometimes a magnificently, transcendently pleasurable part--but it did not take place in a different universe nor did it make us into different people. The me who fucked until I was sweat-slick and screaming was the very same me who got up the next day and made my bed and went to class. The line between "sex" and "life" had been a lie.
Sometimes people say "sex is a part of life" to mean "sex isn't a big deal." I don't agree with that. I think sex is a big deal--but only a big deal. Not a magical mystical none-of-the-normal-rules-apply deal.
Which is to say: the normal rules do apply. Everything you learned from Mister Rogers about how you treat other people--that's how you treat other people when you're fucking them, too. It's simple stuff, mostly, and you don't need some Sex Expert to dispense Sex Wisdom to know it: Be honest. Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours. Be safe. Don't bully or make fun of people. Don't throw tantrums when you don't get everything you want. Keep your promises. Use your words. Brush your teeth.
Really, this is the whole foundation of my sexual ethics. It's not Betty Dodson and it's not Susie Bright. It's Fred McFeely Rogers.
"Is it okay to cheat on my partner if they won't have sex with me?" Keep your promises.
"Are people who've had too much sex icky bad people?" Don't bully or make fun of people.
"Is it okay to have sex with someone who's asleep, if they've had sex with me before?" Ask permission before touching things that aren't yours.
"What should I do if I want an open relationship?" Use your words.
I don't want to make this sound oversimplified--there are lots of questions where it's not immediately clear which option is "being honest" versus "throwing a tantrum", or what exactly constitutes a "promise"--but it's simple at the core of it. Everything you know about how to be a decent person still applies when sex is involved. You don't need to figure out (or more often, not figure out, but excuse your behavior by claiming they exist) special different Sex Rules for everything. Sex isn't a special case in ethics. It's just a case.
The other night, a friend and I kidnapped a man. We blindfolded him and threw him in the back of a car and drove in circles to disorient him (or possibly because I forgot that you can't turn left at the end of White Street), marched him around in public and treated him as our captive, tackled him when he tried to escape, then took him home and interrogated him. (Then we fed him cake.)
This wasn't okay because the guy was kinky, or because we were. It wasn't okay because we didn't really hurt him. It wasn't okay because it was fun and sexy and you can let your morals slip a little for funsexiness. It wasn't okay because we followed some obscure set of specifically kinky rules for how to do this in a correct kinky way. It was okay because we used our words, got permission, and kept our promises.