Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The high cost of casual sex

At the recommendation of a friend, I’ve recently been reading Michael Lewis’ excellent book The Blind Side. While until now I knew little about football beyond the fact that the quarterback is the one who throws the ball, they all hunch over before the play, and you score by running into the end zone (except when you kick or throw it through the end posts), Lewis succeeded in making the sport both fairly intelligible and compelling to me. If I thought I could actually witness some of the strategy he was talking about in a play, I might even schedule time to watch a game sometime this fall.

One interesting thing that struck me, though, toward the end of the book, was a passing exchange that highlighted how much is often at stake in one’s sexual license. Lewis is describing a Thanksgiving meal at the home of Michael Oher’s adoptive family, to which Michael’s brought some from friends from the Ole Miss football team.
To Thanksgiving dinner, for instance, Michael had invited a freshman linebacker named Quentin Taylor, who had no place else to go. At the start of the meal Michael leaned over and whispered, sternly, “Quentin, you’re supposed to put your napkin in your lap.” Right after that, Quentin let it drop that he had fathered three children by two different mothers. Leigh Anne [Michael’s adoptive mother] pulled the carving knife from the turkey and said, “Quentin, you can do what you want and it’s your own business. But if Michael Oher does that I’m cutting his penis off.” From the look on Quentin’s face Michael could see he didn't think she was joking. “She would too,” said Michael without breaking a smile.
It’s often very easy, I’ve noticed, for conversations about sexuality that tend toward the secular/liberal corner of the quadrant to stress heavily the importance of our “individual freedoms” and the “right” to self-expression. But what is often overlooked in such idealistic conversations is all the accompanying assumptions about class, race, sex and education that play into this simplistic view of things. The fact of the matter is, certain policies/freedoms/rights that many in America have long vociferously defended can take on very nefarious consequences in situations where the circumstances we have mostly unconsciously assumed for said rights are not all present.
Thus, for instance, a recent New York Times bloggingheads post discussing the problem of abortion’s use to drastically thin the population of female babies in India -- “sex-selection abortion,” they called it. And thus, as David Briggs noted in an article for the Plain Dealer earlier this summer, the urgency to a growing emphasis on abstinence in some urban communities and churches. As one source he interviewed put it, “There’s no way in the world we can avoid talking about sex because we see the devastation it does in our community.”

Sometimes what we think we’re defending can lead to very different results than those we meant to champion. And sometimes the self-control needed to not take full advantage of one’s rights can be a matter of far more than just a little pleasure or convenience. Sometimes it’s a matter of justice.

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