Sexual Intelligence

Sex—and culture, politics, psychology—and sex

Imagine: Sex Is Just Sex

When religion says that sex has meaning, it also teaches that sex is shameful.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
           --John Lennon

I’m always being asked why the U.S. is so nutty when it comes to sex.

On the one hand, we have some of the highest rates of cunnilingus and premarital sex in the world.

On the other hand, consider: No one is debating sex education for teens in Holland. No one is questioning the wisdom of birth control in Japan. No one’s freaking out that prostitution is legal and regulated in Switzerland. If anyone suggested withholding Gardasil (the HPV vaccine) from Germany’s young people for fear of increasing “promiscuity,” he’d be laughed out of town. In Spain, Australia, Israel, and dozens of other countries, gay soldiers serve openly next to straight ones. And contraception is advertised quite openly in countries on every continent.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

And yet every one of these issues is considered controversial in American politics. Ours is the only industrialized country in the world in which people actually demand fewer rights and more restrictions on their sexual expression.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

The only reasonable explanation for what separates us from other advanced countries is the toxic American form of Christianity that has a stranglehold on our political dialogue, medical institutions, and childrearing.

The Pope has more influence on public policy in America than he does in Italy. More Americans believe in the Rapture than in Evolution—and while they’re awaiting celestial transportation, they’ve captured our school boards, injecting religious dogma into sex education and history courses. Pharmacy schools teach future professionals that they can pick and choose which prescriptions to fill—if they make their choices based on religion (rather than, say, obeying the voice of Elvis).

Tens of millions of Americans have actually invented a god that condemns their sexual feelings and behavior. Interestingly, this doesn’t affect their sexual impulses or behavior—it just makes them feel miserably guilty and alone. Some 10 million American teens are taught that this same god is deeply offended that they’re interested in sex before marriage. Instead of shaping their behavior, however, this teaching simply makes them unable to plan for sex, leading to all the messy stuff that happens when you have sex unexpectedly—unwanted pregnancy, misunderstandings, exploitation, etc..

When children are taught that certain parts of their bodies are bad or dirty, they often grow into adults who are ashamed of their bodies, unable to accept or even feel their sexual feelings. When children learn that a supposedly benevolent god has created body parts and curiosity that can be dirty and dangerous, their eroticism often becomes the focus of terrible, lifelong internal conflict.

By teaching children that masturbation is sinful, organized Christianity gives sexual impulses and behavior meaning where none exists. It creates an external sexual standard against which people believe they are compared—and are always found wanting, which damages them for life. Intercourse is somehow more "moral" than anal sex? Marriage "redeems" sex? The very idea that the consensual and responsible expression of sexuality can somehow be sinful is psychotic and abusive. Only because religion has so much cultural acceptance in the U.S. are these ideas seen as a system of “morality” instead.

By the way, I spent the weekend in Bethesda, MD, a guest of the American Atheist National Convention. It was as joyful, as thoughtful, and as irreverent a bunch of adults as I’ve ever met. A thousand of them gave me a standing ovation after my talk.

As it is said: religion flies planes into buildings; science flies rockets to the moon. Religion gives people guilt about their sexual desires, and shame about their bodies; science gives people birth control, lubricants, penicillin, RU-486, sex toys, pre-natal screening, and post-partum care.

Imagine.

 

 

 

Marty Klein is a certified sex therapist and licensed psychotherapist. He has written five books and 200 articles about sex; his TV appearances include 20/20 andNightline. more...

Subscribe to Sexual Intelligence

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?