Here’s a sexy thought that anyone can do comfortably clothed. It’s a thought I think everyone has to some degree once they start contemplating their sexuality. I imagine it’s a thought parents have as they watch their children approach sexual maturity, albeit with silent horror. It’s not a kind of thinking that matches up with reality just yet, but it has the potential to be so it’s worth contemplating. So here it is:
What will happen to our understanding of sex if we’re able to remove all its known consequences?
Admit it. This thought has intrigued/troubled you to some extent. It’s a thought that I think people have entertained throughout human history. What would it be like to live in a world where nobody has to worry about getting pregnant or getting some terrible disease when they have sex? Would it be like nearly every bad porno we’ve ever seen? Would society implode, like some social conservatives claim? Would our understanding of marriage, love, and relationships remain intact?
These are all intriguing/distressing questions. How much of our sexual expression is restrained or shaped by our understanding of these consequences? If tomorrow morning, someone announces they’ve cured every infectious disease and created the perfect birth control product, what would change? Would people have more sex? Would they have riskier, more elaborate forms of sex? Would they have sex in ways that even aspiring erotica writers cannot contemplate? It’s hard to say, but it is worth contemplating because this is the 21st century. These are no longer entirely empty questions.
To provide some perspective, it wasn’t until recently that science has advanced to a point where people can control the consequences of sex. When it comes to birth control, the most common method of birth control throughout human history was simply pulling out. That didn’t always work because human beings can’t always be expected to exercise such discipline. It wasn’t until 1957 when the FDA approved the first birth control pill, giving women a genuine medical mechanism for controlling when they became pregnant. It wasn’t perfect. It did have side-effects, but it was a major advance.
There are more advances on the horizon. Today, the options for birth control are varied and becoming more varied with every year. Methods like IUDs (intrauterine devices) provide some of the most effective, reliable forms of contraception on the market today. Since there has always been demand for women to control their fertility, basic economics ensure that even more effective methods will emerge in the future.
Then, there are diseases, the ultimate libido killer. For most of human history, society was at the mercy of these diseases. Encouraging restraint had a real, legitimate purpose because many of these diseases could kill you. You didn’t even need religious zealots telling you that promiscuity was dangerous. These diseases were everywhere and pretty scary. They could actually kill you if left untreated.
As with birth control, it wasn’t until the 20th century that we gained an actual medical method of fighting these diseases. Enter antibiotics, courtesy of Alexander Flemming and the advent of penicillin. For the first time, we had a way to treat these terrible, life-threatening diseases. It’s gotten to a point where a few shots and a round of pills will cure most people of the diseases that ravaged ancient societies.
From a medical standpoint, sex has never been cleaner, so to speak. There are still dangerous diseases out there. However, only one disease, AIDS, is definitively deadly and even that condition has become more manageable over the past decade, so much so that it’s no longer the death sentence it once was. Other diseases can be debilitating, but modern science continues to advance. It’s advancing to a point where we may very well enter an era where every infectious disease is either curable, treatable, or completely preventable.
It’s a promising world, one where suffering and hardship are significantly reduced. Our world is already so much safer and healthier than it has been in the past. People today have more freedom to safely explore their sexuality than ever before. However, a lot of our sex education classes basically amount to this.
It’s a sign that, despite all these amazing advanced, certain parts of society are reluctant to embrace this world. They see these advances and worry that their children will live in a world where recklessness has no consequences. That, or they’re jealous that they’re too old to enjoy that world. It may be a combination of the two.
As I said before, for most of human history, there was a legitimate reason for people to exercise restraint in their sexual expression. However, society has tacked on a lot of other reasons that medical science can’t sure.
Religion and culture have ascribed this arbitrary “holiness” to chastity that has no basis in reality. These same forces hijack the human capacity for guilt and shame to scold those who dare explore their sexuality in ways that society deems inappropriate. This is a major theme in my book, “The Final Communion.” It offers an extreme example of what this kind of sentiment can do to people.
While religion and culture will continue to fight ardently to preserve their current state, we can take comfort in the knowledge that they tend to fail miserably in the long run. No matter how many obstacles or consequences are ascribed to sexual expression, be they legitimate or not, the drive to express these feelings remains strong. It’s one of the most powerful forces in nature. For that reason, it’s impossible to know for sure how society will change.
With all this context in mind, I’ll rephrase the thought experiment. Flash forward to some arbitrary point in the future. In that future, birth control is easy and accessible to everyone. In order to ensure that nobody need suffer the consequences, men and women are given injections around puberty that provide 100 percent effective contraception. In terms of disease, there are now special smart-drugs that can target or prevent any major or minor disease with perfect efficiency.
Now, an entire generation can grow up in a world where they never have to worry about the consequences of sex and they can explore it freely and openly. What kind of society will this generation create? We may not get there in our lifetime, but it will manifest at some point. It’s an important question to ask and one that I hope to explore in future books.