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?

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We all ride a ball that is 8 thousand miles in diameter and moves 67,000 miles an hour in its perfect orbit around the sun. Our whole solar system is traveling about 45,000 miles per hour through our galaxy, a galaxy that is 100,000 light years wide and contains about 200 billion stars. And all those stars move in their own orbits. And never bump.

How was or is it ever considered wise (or cool) for humans to swagger around our planet, insisting that the vast and synchronous universe, darnedest thing, just came blowing in one day? Just as a great martini doesn’t just happen, most people know they and the universe didn’t either. They are instinctively confident about a creator. Of course, individuals have the right to deny it, but how could belief in creation ever be viewed as stupid or scandalous?

Let’s look at another issue, sex. Consider that people are born male or female. The mosaic of sensuality, desire, love, compatibility, lineage, and the transmission of values and identity through family is obvious and sweeping. That some may dispute sexual design or choose to live in same sex relationships does not invalidate male and female sex as pivotal in civilization.

Come on, folks; it is not ignorant to assume a Creator of the universe or the familial pattern of society. It is fine for individuals to dispute or deconstruct such ideas. But for a whole culture to do so is like losing confidence in gravity or osmosis.

This is not a free expression issue. And I don’t have a problem with the contrarians. My real question is, “how does a society lose confidence in reality?” For example, gender is no longer assumed. People in academia, psychotherapy, sociology, and other professional areas know they can lose everything by writing or speaking in “male” and “female” terms. How does that happen?

To answer that, we have to first look at the basic units of a society – human beings.

Humans have wondrous capacities – moral, ethical, spiritual, physical, intellectual, computational, etc. A mature person is one who keeps them all in some kind of balance and perspective; after all, they are gifts, not sources of identity. They are adjectives, not nouns. We would never call a person “an ethical” or “a spiritual.” Uh-oh. It seems that one of those, intellectual, did somehow become a noun.

And “intellectual” does have a weird effect on those who take it on as an identity, similar to the grotesque human sculptures of extreme bodybuilding. To overemphasize anything creates an aberration.

Now, I know people who handle their intellectual gift with grace and humility. But they are like a stripper at a family reunion; they keep it on a chain. That gathering is just not the appropriate arena for showing their stuff.

Family reunions and other micro-societies should reveal and reflect the Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV). Too many intellectuals do not seem to know that. They and other elites (like journalists, politicians, and entertainers) pretend to possess “secret knowledge.” So they grab the microphones and presume to become our guides into their esoteric wisdom.

But, wait a minute. Life’s big question is “Who am I?” It is not “How do I display dazzling logic?”

Stephen Covey wrote, “People cannot live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key…to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about, and what you value.” Restoring cultural confidence requires that we first know who we are. That solid foundation is essential to navigating change.

Change comes through many voices, even those we call intellectuals. Yes, of course, Rachel Carson changed the way cultures and nations view the environment. We will always need those voices, but those voices also need to think, write, and argue within cultural confidence. That is a “keel.” It keeps our vessel from capsizing in strong winds.

Joanne once had a doctor who assumed that his area of expertise gave him the right to intrude on our territory. When he grew visibly irritated that we didn’t properly react to his dire assessment, we corrected and bounced him back to the small “box” of his value. In complying, he became a valuable voice. He even admitted later that he was wrong; he saw an illusion.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a parade of illusions (in all disciplines and across a wide spectrum of philosophical and political views). All were championed by elite voices that should have been tested first. Perhaps a renaissance of recalling our foundations would equip us to better manage the voices.


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Risky Sex

Several years ago, Vanderbilt University and the Nashville Police Department designed a Rate-Your-Risk test. “Rate your risk” for…being robbed, raped, stabbed, shot, or murdered. The project director was a former FBI agent.

One of the questions was “How many acts of adultery have you committed within the past two years?

Now THAT question blows all the smoke out of the room. Reality Time at the Ranch: If you’ve developed improper sexual attachments, your risk of being assaulted or murdered has just red-lined.

Hmmm, “Sir, are you saying that sex could have ramifications beyond the moment?”

At a tip from Jesus Creed, I just read a very wise essay on sex. Risky Sex by Michael Hildalgo examines our culture’s shallow and vacant approach to sex. Yes, I do know that others have excavated that ground. But this one is good enough to warrant your time.

Sample quotes:

…“Safe Sex” is a myth. What protection is there to prevent to intertwining of minds, hearts, and souls that happens when two people are joined together sexually?

“Sex, by its very nature is not safe. It is the ultimate act in giving your whole self away to another person. It requires vulnerability that no other relationship asks for. It is to be fully exposed to another human being. It’s putting your full naked self out there as a gift – that’s risky.

“…This is why so many people have sex with so many people, and feel more and more alone. Somewhere, deep inside their heart, something is being ripped apart and taken from them, and nothing can protect that. What they mistake as a physical act, can cause emotional and spiritual heartache.

“Make no mistake, sex is risky – and what is at risk is our hearts and souls.”

I think this essay can be very helpful to parents as they shape a morality worth integrating into lives and legacies. The piece provides nuanced, textured, and trustworthy ways of thinking about sex. It lifts the topic out of the immature, mechanical, and soulless approach that is so pervasive in our society.

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