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Fifty Shades of May

That’s a mighty big elephant in the room.

If you recognize the riff of my title, you already have an idea of what this column is about. If you don’t, I can only assume you soon will. I hemmed and hawed about how to write my column this week in this sort of community forum. I’ve never been known as someone with a great ability for censorship, if I think it, I usually say it. So, if you are easily offended, this is an early warning to click away now. I make no apologies if you continue reading and then decide I am out of bounds.

Americans love lurid. It’s why we watch The Bachelor and Bachelorette and The Real World and all those horrible Real Wives shows (by the by — I don’t know ONE wife like that). It’s why we care about politicans and their tawdry affairs and why we want to see starlets enduring public clothing malfunctions. It’s why the Kardashians are famous. It’s why companies continue to photoshop already beautiful women into unrealistic buxom digital hybrids. Men want them and women want to be them.

We can’t keep our minds out of the bedroom. How else can we explain why North Carolina has joined 30 other states in outlawing gay marriage? It has nothing to do with the sanctity of marriage. If so, we wouldn’t be allowing marriages to end in divorce. Instead, it has everything to do with some people wanting to control behavior between consenting adults. In my humble opinion, it’s really no one’s business. Marriage is so much more complicated than what happens between the sheets.

You should not be shocked that sex is big business and I’m not only talking about the $10 to $14 billion dollars in annual sales of online porn, a statistic cited by New York Times Magazine. I’m talking about how, as a society, with our deep seeded Puritan roots, we have a hard time dealing with our interest in sex. We’re great at regulating how we teach, or refuse to teach, birth control and we’re quick to pass judgment on the lifestyles of others. It’s in movies and video games and on magazine covers. We like to see sexy people and we like to try and look sexy.

You know what we don’t do so well? Talk about it. Actual sex. With frank, honest conversation. Don’t worry I’m not going to do that here today with you. That would be pushing even my own level of comfort.

I think those conversations between husbands and wives, parents and children, girlfriends and boyfriends are what we do very poorly. Relationships are about trust and intimacy and love. Sex is an important part of that puzzle. Children won’t know unless we talk to them. Our partners won’t know unless we open up to them. Albeit, these conversations should be age appropriate.

I remember thinking in college....when I have kids....there would be nothing I would hide from them or lie to them about. Whether is was about their bodies or their feelings. I can’t say that putting that honesty with them into practice has been easy. I often find myself fumbling for just the right way to explain myself in answer to their question. I worry what is the right time to tell them what they need to hear. I worry that I’ve told them too much or too little. But above all else, I worry they will hear something from a stranger before they hear it from me.

Sex is not a dirty word. If we deny that we need it, we deny a part of ourselves. Life is not only about work and parenting and ticking off the events in life as they pass us by. The thing that makes us feel full is our connections with other human beings. And while not all of those connections are sexual in nature, those that are, are strengthened with our willingness to practice true intimacy. And that can’t start if we don’t talk honestly and listen openly to one another.

Being modest or embarrassed is natural. Worshipping false ideas and coddling insecurities benefits no one. Man or woman. Our obsession with sex coupled with our unwillingness to speak frankly opens the door to violence against women, abuse of young children, teen pregnancy and the inability to remain in committed and loving relationships. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

Haavey May 15, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Well said! Have you read "50 Shades of Grey?" I'm almost done with the second book.
Deanna Runeman May 15, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I have read all three. It certainly gives a lot to consider and with the number of women reading these books, if I were a man I might pick up a copy and see what the fuss is all about.
carl berke May 15, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I have read reviews of this book. I did not find the view to be very revealing, more confessional. However, I am a man. But I also am a social scientist and I am more inclined to side with F. Engels whose treatise on Family and Marriage was so far advanced that even feminists can't catch up to its analysis. That is, marriage is not a sexual. emotional or even a necessary institution. It is simply a property arrangement. Suffice it to say one need only to observe our current social and economic realationships. In more primitive times families arranged marriages solely on dowries, a practice which still exists in capitalist classes here and in tribal classes in other places. For the majority of humans, real property has disappeared and with it the need to pass it on and to preserve it by fortunate matings. Children were important, but as a secondary level of property defense. If that were not the case, the why have primogeniture wherein the first born male got everything?. Since most don't have the means or the need for this in evolved capitalism, marriage is one of the institutions that are anachronistic. The death of most of our parents means , as far as property is concerned, little more than who gets what useless piece of crap. And, divorce will continue to increase as long as this ancient practice contnues. I think that the more single parents we have the more loved will be the children and the more dmocratic will become our use of property.
Teena Berry May 16, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Well done!
carl berke May 16, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I did some re-reading of what 50 shades is about and was struck how similar it is to The Story of O by Pauline Reage. In both stories, a woman voluntarily submits to every concievable kind of domination. I am struck that Reage was inspired by deSade and clearly 50 Shades is too, a Sadistic story. What strikes me again is that a voluntary submission should be revocable by both parties which is quite the opposite of submisssion in marriage. I am not a Sadist but neither am I a mysogynist. I will stand for any one to have associations with any other person of any sex as long as there is mutual gratification and a respect for those not taking part. The production of children under any conditions is very serious business and should not relate in anyway to one's sexual pleasures or marital status. Many societies practice a policy of moral guilt or as in this country, condemnation and criminslization.
carl berke May 16, 2012 at 06:01 PM
This site is very unforgiving. Somehow it deleted part of a final thought. Which is, that in the last sentence, "...the practice of community responsibilty for all children and an interest in containing unwanted off spring which in turn relieves ...moral guilt....Sorry.
Mark Cain May 16, 2012 at 09:38 PM
How do I get that couple minutes of my life back? Terrible article.

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