October 29, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)

Sex is Here to Stay

Teen-agers used to go to the movies to see adults making love. Now adults go to the movies to see teen-agers making love.

Roger Ebert, 1999

Sex has always been a popular theme in the theater. Bedroom farces packed the crowds in for as long as theater has existed, but never before has it reached such large audiences of all ages. What used to be called erotica or soft-core pornography is now featured on prime time television. The definition of the word "pornography" has taken a quantum leap forward or backward, depending on your point of view.

For six centuries The Decameron of Giovanni Bocaccio(1313-1375) was read by a large percentage of those who could read; which weren't many. It is a series of stories concerned mainly with sex and deception. I read the more erotic parts of it when I was in high school. The Bible has its share of people who "lieth with" other people. I am saying nothing that everyone doesn't already know if I say that sex is the most important thing in most people's lives, despite the fact that it occupies a very small percentage of a person's time. I suspect that people spend much more time watching sex on TV than doing it.

The TV series Frasier is good old fashioned farce, with sex being the central theme on most shows. It has superb actors. Even the dog is a consummate professional. It is well written, even though the themes are the same as the ancient sex farces. Another series, Friends, concerns a group of flaky young people who live in the same building. It deals almost exclusively with sex. Those two shows command the largest audiences of any of the situation comedies.

If I were a high school aged male or female, I would get the clear message that promiscuous sex was socially acceptable behavior for all people, young and older, rich or poor. This at a time when promiscuous sex is far more dangerous than being in the military.

Promiscuous sex was just as dangerous in Bocaccio's time since all diseases were incurable then, and no one had the slightest idea what caused them, except that even then, everyone knew that what was called "the pox" was caused by sex with promiscuous women and prostitutes. Men were considered the victims rather than the cause.

I am a realist. I know that sex has always been here and will be here when we are all gone. In fact, without sex, we wouldn't be here at all. For most people, it is the most pleasurable activity that one can engage in. Eating and sleeping comes in second, with all other activities sharing third place.

There are some people who prefer a ball game to a roll in the hay, but they are in the minority. It is what Freud called "sublimation." Balling is still considered to be more pleasurable than playing ball or watching it being played.

If, as you probably do, you advise your children to avoid sex before marriage, make sure to add this ancient codicil: "If you can't be good, be careful." Their lives may depend on it.

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