What We Once Knew About Sex

As a society, we used to know that human physiology is specific, harmonizing, and immutable. So why is it now controversial to know or affirm that sexual intercourse – this goes there – is an integral part of love and procreation? Have we really forgotten that is the way the species endures?

Humans are kaleidoscopic bundles of flesh, personality, spirit, lineage, assets, liabilities, attitudes, fears, humor, hopes, dreams, etc. All those factors are threads in a larger tapestry of life; they cannot be separated without damaging the whole cloth. We bring all that to every relationship. The fact that, in romance, we are primarily aware of sexual desire does not mean the other dimensions are not present. They are all right there…in our dinner conversation, on the dance floor, or in bed.

We seem to have forgotten that the main objective of human sexuality is to bring new people into the world. Naturally it is best if those new people are born into safe and healthy societies. That’s why we impose laws, “rules of engagement,” on sex. Society has a vital interest in governing sexual impulse.

Healthy cultures have always known that sexual intimacy should only be released within the safety of legal, religious, familial, financial and emotional commitment.

In that sense, we once regarded a woman’s beauty as a gift from God. We agreed; it belonged to her, not to those hustlers and looters in the shadows waiting to steal it. Everyone knew that losing that gift would place her at a disadvantage (we also knew it would not be the same kind of loss for a man).

Naturally, parents, extended family, and, in fact, the whole village supported her vigilance to keep her sexuality in the “bank” where it was safe and could grow. Then when she came into a relationship with the right man, and a firm foundation was built for their future and offspring, she could make a judicious (and joyful!) decision to draw it out of her account and place it in their account. We knew it was a very real part of the “investment capital” that she brought to the marriage.

That is arguably the main reason sexual violations are so destructive of personal lives and the whole social fabric. The theft is enormous. Even though the violations have existed throughout human history, the fact that they are illegal is vital to societal health. Deviations must be seen as, well…deviant. But when a whole culture changes its mind about sexuality, it represents a major loss of identity. What follows is not pretty: Abandoned or aborted children, sexual slavery, rape, prison, proliferating disease and poverty.

What the hell did we think would happen when we allowed sex to be ripped from the tapestry of life? What persuaded us to move male – female relationships away from deep and wide commitment? Where were society’s adults when the corrupt and the silly decided that sex exists for personal indulgence, entertainment and other mercantile purposes? How did societies ever decide that men and women could abandon their spouses and children?

When Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in Up Close and Personal proposes marriage to Robert Redford, she mentions her need to have him around in the morning.

He, the typical modern male, counters, “But you already have me around in the morning.” And she replies, “But I want to know you’re legally required to be there.” Smart woman.

Marriage is not a “straight jacket,” “just a piece of paper” or a relic of ignorance. It is entirely reasonable and necessary structure for people seeking a reliable foundation for life. Just as the law pre-qualifies sexual partners (for the health of the species), it also builds a legal “house” for them to live in. This is serious stuff. The law is the rebar in the concrete foundation of joined lives.

I do not admire the cultural voices who work to convince society that:

  • Marriage is an archaic, exhausted and pointless concept.
  • Remaining free of attachments – wild as the wind – is the ideal for men and women.
  • Sex is just a physical act; no need to make it complicated.
  • Pornography is mainstream, accept it and move on.
  • Getting women drunk or drugged is funny.
  • It’s OK for cute little stinkers like James Bond or Bill Clinton to satisfy themselves at the expense of the woman’s estate.
  • Children do not need mothers and fathers who are committed to their children and to one another!


All those positions are profoundly aberrant and toxic. They destroy individuals and communities.

It took society a long time to forget sexual sanity. It will not return to rationality anytime soon. But, I often wonder, what if some reasonable people joined with others in order to live in hope and sanity? I remember when driving drunk was considered funny. Thanks to MADD, it’s not anymore. We remembered what we had forgotten about safe driving.

So, in the same way, what if more cultural voices encouraged us to reach for the very best we can be. Could we, as a society, remember what we once knew about sex?

11 thoughts on “What We Once Knew About Sex”

  1. Thank you Ed, for this valuable and unfortunately all-too-uncommon insight. Thanks also for the simmering righteous anger and the passionate stating of what used to be obvious. May we receive grace to treasure what God treasures; and to know, and show, how valuable we are to Him, to ourselves and each other.

  2. Thanks Ed,
    This is a numbing and sad reminder of this society’s insatiable need to remove God from all we think we hold dear.

  3. I agree, Ed, sex is over exploited. I believe this is why we have more children being molested. They’ve seen too much and want something different. Maybe the old timers knew more than we gave them credit. Talking about the long sleeves and dresses. I’m tired of seeing half nude people. How a parent can allow a child to dress like a hooker is beyond me!

  4. Sadly, the perceived price for societal acceptance and any form of close inter-personal relationship has been sexual availability. The norm has become ‘if you aren’t sexually active it is because there is something badly flawed or wrong with you.’ It is indeed a rare and precious thing to find a young woman or man who values purity and who is willing to withhold intimacy from the casual or uncommitted.

  5. Excellent article!

    However, MADD did not face the “politically correct” insanity and intolerance of the “progressive” political agenda that makes it at best anathema but often a crime to speak openly about sexual deviancy or to call into question the wisdom or viability of “alternate” family structures.

    We are confronting a bullying mob with an agenda to remove all morality and Godliness from our society. I’m afraid we have passed the point of no return and my usual optimism is waning regarding our society.

  6. It is sad that this understanding is not commonplace. This is what I teach my children as they grow in awareness. Well put! God gave us the beautiful gift of sexual intimacy in marriage and so many are either ashamed of it because of how society treats that gift or exploit it with society. Thank you Ed!

  7. Elizabeth Carlson

    I like the objectivity you project in this emotive subject, Ed.mI’m wondering if you might also add a perspective that would ring true for those who would perceive a patriarchal bias coming through (“women must be protected”), and suggest ways that women carry some of the responsibility for how they handle their sexuality, too. I’m thinking of the intentionally seductive woman, or the manipulative woman who belittles men to gain power.

  8. Thomas D. Sutter

    1) As a minister, when I do pre-marriage counseling I ALWAYS tell the couple that, neither the wedding event nor marriage itself, is about a piece of paper. The wedding is about making a public commitment to the spouse, the families, and society.

    2) Along with James Bond and Bill Clinton, I think you could Bill Cosby to the list… not withstanding his politics.

    Thanks, Ed.

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