Following a sitcom this evening—which I believe dealt with a father flipping out at the possibility of his teenaged daughter having sex—there was a brief flash of public service message on the screen with the tagline, "Sex has consequences."
I understood immediately what the message-writer meant: that sex is potentially harmful, the unconsidered sex is a nidus for disease, pregnancy, and emotional breakdown.
He (or she) wasn't referring to the many things, both positive and negative, that flow consequently from sex; few people choose that word sterilely anymore.
And, of course, sex need not have consequences—not in the vast majority of cases, anyway. We have condoms and birth control, foam and diaphragms. We have dilatation and curettage. Not to mention adoption, sterilization, and rhythm. Men and women with advanced degrees and piles of money to lean on have spent the last century ensuring no one need have any negative consequences from sex, save for bad sex, which may be better than nothing.
So perhaps the "Sex has consequences" people are fixated upon some other harm. Quite a few people in America are convinced the misuse of one's sexual organs constitutes a damnable offense, and for whatever reasons also tend to be people who render unto God everything of Caesar's besides. Some of these people—and perhaps others—also are skittish about mandatory HPV vaccination because of the potential for sexual license among virginal maidens.
Or maybe their souls aren't primarily motivating and, as the feminists have said all along, some people thrive on control, especially of women's bodies. I am probably being sexist as we speak, feminizing the issues of sexual consequentialism needlessly.
None of this really pisses me off. I've lived a fair number of years in this country and I know what its denizens are capable of when they really try. I should not be, and generally am not, surprised.
What does anger me is the missing conversation. If one wants to talk about the consequences of sex, shouldn't we be comprehensive?
Let's talk about orgasms and pleasure. Let's talk about relationships, about one-night stands, about guilty pleasures. About wanting to meet that one guy and just fuck his brains out and then never see him again, even if your one true wish is to marry and settle down.
We can talk about etiquette, about negotiating sex, about communicating with your partner. Not because it's politically necessary, but because it can enhance the sex.
Can we talk about sex as an inherent good? I suppose, as long as we're panting about sex with consequentialist breaths, probably not. The "Sex has consequences" crowd tend to view sex as a catalyst, and never an end.
Why do people have sex, for instance? If one thinks about it a little, he's staggered by the reasons. The number, and the variability. And how often seemingly normal people who watch sitcoms and public service announcements engage in sex for all these unelucidated—but strangely obvious—reasons. People are having sex with and without consequences all the fucking time. No one needs to tell them about it.