AMERICA’S OBSESSION WITH SEX AND SEXES – ELLIN CURLEY

There is a vocal segment in America that seems to spend most of their time and energy preoccupied with other people’s sex lives and reproductive practices. The issues that make their blood boil have to do with sex education in schools (a no-no except for abstinence), contraceptives and abortion, gay rights and now transgender bathroom use. This last one is a horrifying mixture of anatomical, sexual, and scatological prurience!

bathrooms in No CarolinaI’m not the first to find this disturbing. Sex and reproduction (and going to the bathroom) should be the most private parts of our lives. My question is why is this a predominantly American obsession?

Western Europe (and Japan ) seem to have a much more relaxed approach to all things sexual. I remember my shock at watching TV in England and Europe for the first time, as long as 30 years ago. Nudity is common in prime time and on mainstream networks. Graphic depictions of sex (with the concomitant nudity) are also common. So are open discussions of sex, sex toys, sexual preferences, etc. on talk shows and news shows. Sex is considered a normal part of everyday life and sexual preferences are considered to be varied and generally acceptable. In Poland, all public bathrooms are unisex, shared comfortably by men and women, just like bathrooms in private homes.

So what separates us from the rest of the civilized world on this issue? I believe it’s the Puritans. England considered the strict anti-sex and anti-pleasure platform of the Puritans to be totally whackadoodle! They were marginalized and discriminated against, even by English Catholics. (Remember from the series “The Borgias”, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, even Popes were married, had mistresses and openly had children out-of-wedlock).

The discrimination of the Puritans in England caused them to leave in droves and start a new society in a new world, in their image. I don’t think America has ever shaken these rigid and repressive beginnings.

Maybe after another generation or two of naked selfies and crotch shots Americans will stop preaching repression, shame and judgment regarding any form of sexual expression. Or are we heading way too far into the TMI zone? Only time will tell.

14 thoughts on “AMERICA’S OBSESSION WITH SEX AND SEXES – ELLIN CURLEY

  1. My mother gave me books. With illustrations. And a lot of science. She wasn’t much of a talker about it, but she would at least answer questions. Usually, though we girls got together and figured it out — often entirely wrongly, I might add. Turns out, we learned anyhow. There was NO sex ed in school. None.

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  2. Great post and yes, we stick to the Puritanital ways very much. I grew up in Catholic schools where abstinence only was taught, you weren’t to learn about the other ‘bits’ at all and sex was a mystery except for your cycle. I’d hope it’d be taught at home, but the internet is the teacher of all now and that’s unfortunate. I’d prefer the European ways to this.

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  3. Interesting piece, Ellin. I encountered the same culture shock regarding sex when I first visited Europe back in the early 60’s. My stay in Paris was especially eye/mind opening. It was like an on scene graduate course for me.
    More than half a century later, sex is still a hot button topic here in the States. Violence, greed, corruption, intolerance, child and spousal abuse raise fewer eyebrows than sex related issues.
    We are a largely ignorant, rush to judgement society with little sense of ethics, justice or morality.
    Now, for our closing hymn…..

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    • It is sad that most censorship in the States involves sex, not violence. I wish there was far less graphic violence everywhere. I still believe that constantly being exposed to large doses of real looking “fake” violence from childhood, immunizes us to the horrors of every kind of “real life” violence. What does it tell our children that it’s okay to watch someone being tortured but you can’t see a woman’s breast or people making love?

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      • It says that the puritanical ways of our founders still lies heavily on us. England has the same problem. But not so in other parts of Europe. It depends on what kind of religious foundation you are working with. Amazing how that stuff clings after all these years.

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  4. I do think they are lot more progressive in England and Europe. It all makes for great humour.
    We have a new sex education program in the schools of Ontario, Canada. There are objections to it from some the new immigrant population.
    Leslie

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  5. Well said post, as a whole. But it has undertones of the still mis-represented case of our NC governor. It is not the transgender community that NC is against, it is the predators that such a law allows into our bathrooms. When there are predators such as the one I named in my post IPNNC who are a part of our society, then ensuring that no one such as him is invited into bathrooms with our young daughters must be addressed. It is those that fail to acknowledge that fact that makes this world a very alien and disgusting place to be a part of.

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    • At the risk of stepping on a toe, what makes you think a real predator is going to observe your bathroom law? They already are breaking the laws of civility, morality, right & wrong, not to mention a whole SLEW of actual laws on the books. The really bad guys are not going to be even slowed down by your law, unless you are planning to put an armed guard in front of every bathroom. An unenforceable law at best that will in the end, prevent no crimes and criminalize a lot of behavior that hurts no one. Sorry, can’t get all sympathetic. It’s a bad law. Because the predators don’t wait for an invitation. The rest of us just want to pee.

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    • Aren’t there already laws against men molesting young girls anywhere? The men going after little girls look like men and belong in the men’s bathroom. The “men” who have gone through surgeries and medications and years of angst to become a “woman”, are not the ones who are going to want to molest little girls in a bathroom or anywhere else.

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  6. We are also still reeling from the fallout of the victorian era, when table legs were carefully covered and human legs were referred to as ‘limbs’–bulls were male cows. It was also a huge market for pornography, and I dont think by coincidence. It was only in relatively modern times that the marriage bed was finally considered private territory, especially among the royals, where one apparently had an audience on one’s wedding night, I suppose to offer encouragement and instruction…

    Between the Puritans, the Catholics and the Victorians its a wonder we procreate at all. And of course the more you suppress any open discussion about sex or reproduction, the more people talk about it privately. endlessly. on the other end of the scale, it is no one’s damn business what we do with or to or for our partners, as long as we dont wake the neighbors or scare the horses.

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    • They actually had viewers in the royal wedding chambers so they could attest that the marriage was truly consummated. This was supposed to put quit to any later attempts to annul the marriage. And we all know how well that worked out, right?

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    • It’s also interesting that the people who are politically for a smaller government that doesn’t interfere with people’s lives, are the same people who want the government in our bedrooms and now bathrooms, telling us what to do and not do and where to pee. Much of the rest of the world looks at us like we are crazy to be so obsessed with regulating such a natural and necessary part of life. It is funny that the more you ban something the more interested people become in whatever it is that is prohibited.

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