Talk about sex

Talk about sex

It’s difficult to achieve a balance about sex talk. There’s either too much of it or not enough. When forbidden it is irresistibly tempting; when liberally and legitimately available it can lose its appeal. Forbidden fruit tastes best; free apples often rot. Much the same goes for talking about sex. Either we dare not mention it for fear of outraging someone’s modesty or we are so loquacious that it gets boring. West leans too liberal; East, too cautious.

The best discussions I have seen about sex are in David Attenborough’s Wildlife Series. His approach is straightforward. When creatures do it for procreation, he says so. When there is an element of enjoyment and fun, he enlightens us. When a gender prefers sex with its own gender, he tells us that, too. His simplicity and clarity make the issue free from prurience and voyeurism. “Sexit means sexit”, he might have said – but as far as I know, he didn’t.

From my early childhood when school holidays were spent on a farm I was aware of sex as the means of producing calves, lambs, piglets and wild creatures. Its relevance to me didn’t occur until approaching my teens. It was a slight shock when I observed that girls were differently designed than me. It wasn’t something I had previously given any thought to.

Early experiments were as hilarious as anyone’s, I think, but they are for another story. I did notice one thing in those days. My lustful lunges were generally, though not universally, met with an apparent wish to hear tender thoughts and suggestions of lasting relationships. This didn’t always gel with the demands of my assertive young body.

I was told about sex from a man’s point of view. Much of the instruction was technical. Warnings about romps in a haystack did not include birth control, the full impact of which only dawned when a friend’s condom broke with unwanted fertile consequences. I hadn’t heard of condoms before. Then I discovered that my religion forbade their use. The only acceptable method of birth control, it said, was the rhythm method. It was recognised that couples who used this method were invariably known as ‘parents’.

What I learnt about sexuality seemed to be only from my point of view. I discovered that girls had a different view but it was some years before I worked out that theirs was more “apple pie, motherhood and pre-marital chastity” – something that is a quaint idea of sex in 2017. The sexual drive of girls was never explained to me and my experiments in discovering it were not always kind even when kindly meant.

Talk about sex today is much more open. It is not yet adequately directed to explaining boys’ sexuality to girls and girls’ sexuality to boys. The views and needs of men and women are quite different and need to be clearly explained to be reconciled. The internet doesn’t help because it so often tries to turn sex into an issue that most people will never find it to be.

And where is love in all this? Widely accepted as a part of marriage or steady-relationship contracts it flourishes among those who treat it as an herbaceous border and tend it daily. It does not respond to demands or rights but to kindness, generosity of spirit, humour and an understanding of what love is. And what is that?

Love is the gift of self.