I’m generally a fan of the Guardian’s website, and sometimes write for it, but I’m sick of how much space it gives to ladettes banging on about sex.
It’s a firm rule that, to write on matters sexual, you have to be a young female with a jaunty prose style and a strong belief that (fully consensual) sex is GREAT! It’s good dirty fun – if you’re doing it right! Articles that take a more nuanced line are as rare as non-Etonian cabinet ministers.
A visiting Martian might be curious to know why this puffing of sex has to come from female writers – don’t men enjoy the bliss of sex too? Yes they do, but when they express this they are prone to a dodgy excess, to thinking Bad Thoughts that disrespect women, to tainting this magic playground with the sins of our fathers. They must patiently stay on the naughty step a while longer. All sexuality is equal, but some is more in tune with the basic goodness of sex. Only women can fully express this goodness. (Male writers must stick to sober, sad sex topics like erectile dysfunction.)
There was recently a piece by a young ladette called Hannah Slapper (a canny pen-name presumably), saying how GREAT sex is, and wondering why young people were reportedly having a bit less of it these days. Such chat is just babyish; it talks about a profoundly complex matter with a self-righteous narrowness of moral scope. It’s like saying ‘Money is great! Let’s admit it! Let’s stop being all puritanical and evasive about how much we value and need it!’
Ladies of the Guardian: please stop writing about sex, because you’re not good enough at it. Serious writing about sex means pondering some difficult truths – for example, that the sexual impulse is something that needs to be reined in, most of the time. It has to be kept within pretty tight confines. This is difficult to reflect on; it means suspecting one’s own impulses, admitting their moral fallibility. Easier to pretend that sex is just a pure, easy, innocent pleasure-source, and that people who doubt it are repressed reactionaries.
I recently came across an excellent essay on this issue, by the American writer Mark Greif, called ‘Afternoon of the Sex Children’. Sexual liberation was a good and necessary thing, he says. But, fuelled by commercialism, it developed a downside: it led to a culture of the simplistic promotion of sex, as a badge of being a liberated modern. A true test of liberation, he says, ‘must be whether you have also been freed to be free from sex, too – to ignore it, or to be asexual, without consequent social opprobrium or imputation of deficiency. If truly liberated, you should engage in sex, or not, as you please, and have it be a matter of indifference to you; you should recognize your own sex, or not, whenever and however you please.’ Instead, our culture of liberalisation has led to a ‘cruel betrayal’ – ‘the illusion that a person can be free only if he holds sex as all-important and exposes it endlessly to others – providing it, proving it, enjoying it.’
There’s a fine line between a healthy frankness about sex and an unhealthy evasion of its complexity. By ignoring this line the whole time, the Guardian makes itself look lightweight.