Delusion and Deviants: Why I Write About Sex

“Mitch, am I depraved?” he asked, fearfully.

“In the most beautiful, wonderful way,” Mitch assured him, kissing the top of his head.

— Sam and Mitch in Special Delivery

 

There are many, many things I love about my country and my culture, but on the topic of sex and sexuality I’m not sure it’s possible for us to have a more epic fail. To be sure, there are many places with some seriously whacked views of sex and how to keep it corraled: “sexual cleansing” in Iraq which includes gluing shut gay men’s anus’s and then force-feeding them heavy laxatives, for example. (It kills you. Horribly.) Genital mutilation in Somalia. And of course, there’s Uganda‘s zeal to “kill the gays.” Horrible as all those examples are, though, at least those countries are up front about their horror. I wish I could say the same for the United States.

It takes a special kind of psychosis to be a culture that happily shows anorexic nearly-nude Victoria’s Secret models all but orgasming on camera during prime time television commercials and also a nation that turns on young female celebrities who embody and embrace that sexuality but add the forbidden twist of self-assurance and empowerment. It’s almost a drinking game at this point when ultra-conservative and rabid defenders of “traditional marriage” turn up with rent boys or get arrested for public solicitation of sex. Several states have tried (and some have succeeded) to declare via law that it would be better for children to remain in foster care or state homes than go to loving families if those families consist of same-sex couples, the reasoning being that gay couples are immoral because they have gay sex.

This week we have two new offerings on the buffet of sex in America: revelations of Herman Cain’s apparently multiple settlements for sexual misconduct and the absolute horror show that is the Penn State sex scandal. What’s sickening me on both counts isn’t the crimes, though those are awful enough, especially those at Penn State. What makes my blood run cold is to see, in the instance of Cain, news organizations and politicians ignore facts (the settlements by the NRA because of Cain are facts, because they actually happened) and use victims as shields for their own personal agenda, be it to save their own asses or because it suits their narrative. What has me up writing this post in the middle of the night is finding out that, upon hearing their beloved head coach was fired for knowingly covering up the actions of his rapist, pedophiliac assistant coach, the students of Penn State rioted not because they were horrified at their betrayal by their hero but because they want their coach back, rape-enabler or not. 

I get asked a lot why I write what I write. The “gay part” does confuse some people, but for those who know me the “sex part” trips them up more often. Why so much? Why so graphic? Do you really need to write about fisting? How do you know so much about BDSM? Underneath all the questions sometimes I can hear the whisper of the real one: Why do you write about deviants? Are you one too?

And that right there is why I write. Why I use my real name. Why my bio talks about how I’m a mom and a wife and grew up reading Little House on the Prairie. Because the answer is no, I don’t write about deviants, and no, I’m not one either. I write about healthy, consensual sex within the lives of ordinary non-deviant people. These people in the news and the ones setting up our screwed up concepts of sexuality are the deviants. I’m trying to get you to notice the difference.

A sexual deviant is someone for whom sex is an outward expression of their internal darkness and probable mental illness. A deviant is someone for whom sex is dark and twisted, a kind of self-punishment or fear-based attempt to control their world and the others in it. Raping ten year old at-risk boys who see you as a living god is deviant sexual behavior, for example. Soliciting sex in exchange for advancement or using one’s position of authority to cop a feel is deviant behavior.

So is looking away from sexual abuse or glossing over it because it’s inconvenient.

To be deviant means to go against what is known to be acceptable, which should make things simple enough, and in Iraq and Somalia and Uganda, unfortunately acceptable is rather starkly defined. Being gay isn’t okay. Being female is a lesser state. Human rights advocates in those countries are fighting simply to topple those pillars of belief. In the United States, however, things get murky fast. How many Penn State rioters would tell you rape is wrong? How many in the media circuit running with zeal headlines detailing Cain’s assertions that he’s being smeared, that he doesn’t know these women, that they’re all whores — how many of them would say that yes, assault is wrong, and so is blaming the victim, and so is failing to deconstruct the flawed and increasingly angry argument of the accused?

We have a sick and dangerous love of delusion in the United States when it comes to sexual deviancy. We give lip service to hating it, but when we see it or its potential we as a culture usually become a monster bigger than the abusers themselves. Too often we treat the victims like dogs or like pariahs, and the accused are too often celebrated, especially when the abuser is in a position of power. It’s true that sexual crimes are too often committed with no witness, but our culture slides too comfortably to the defense of the accused if he’s “a nice guy” or we like what he stands for.

I write about sex because my culture has no functional understanding of what “healthy sex” is. I write about horny college boys running off with truckers to have hot monkey sex but also end up finding themselves and their spiritual centers because that’s healthy sex. I write about gay cowboys, so bottled and shut off they barely speak, meeting and falling in love and carefully creating homes for each other in their hearts while they happen to explore thrilling (and metaphoric if you can stop freaking out about the concept of fisting and BDSM) sexual play because this is healthy sex. I write about healthy polyamorous relationships and epic fantasy battles with sex as a theme and sex as self-exploration and sex as salvation and sex, sex, sex as all kinds of good things because we don’t fucking have very many good examples of sex in our culture.

I write about sex because while we all walk around in our sex-deluded bubbles our (straight and gay) neighbors are having anal sex, not for the first time, and they’re still the nice people you play bridge with. I write about sex because yes, there are people in loving committed relationships who don’t cheat on their spouses but do have girlfriends and/or boyfriends, and it’s not cheating because the spouse says it’s okay. I write about sex because there are so many amazing and wonderful ways to do it and explore it, because it feels damn good and because sex is one of the most fantastic aspects about being a human, and I’m tired of our culture being so bloody stupid about it.

But most of all I write about sex because we are so bad at it as a culture that when people in power use sex to harm — by declaring all gay sex bad, by bullying because of sex (gay or straight), by seducing innocents — we too often put our fear and confusion about sex higher than we do the humans affected. We would rather shut our eyes and let abuse continue than stop and untangle the scary sexuality of our culture.

Sex isn’t scary. Sex is great. Abuse is bad. Learn the difference, America. Learn the fucking difference.

9 Comments on “Delusion and Deviants: Why I Write About Sex

  1. We should take a page from the that great philosopher G. Michael – “Sex is natural, sex is good – not everybody does it, but everybody should.” That’s not to lessen anything you said here, because, fucking bravo! I love you so fucking much.

  2. I’m teaching how to write the ACT essay and one of my kids started her’s with “Seven out of ten teen suicides are gays.” When she read it aloud one of my boys – one of my *good* boys who I like – said “Good. They should all kill themselves.” And I stood there speechless because it’s almost 20-fucking-12, and this seventeen year old kid is spewing this… this HATE. Once I caught my breath (cuz I swear he might just as well have punched me in the solar-plexus) I replied, “And what if the statistic was seven of ten teen suicides are black males, and I said ‘good, they’ll just end up in prison anyway?'”

    Don’t know if I got my point across – though we had an interesting class discussion. But it’s that mentality – that mindless continuation of hate for no reason other than it’s what our parents did or our friends or who-the-fuck-ever – that keeps kids out of loving homes, and denies basic human rights to couples, and has college students rioting because their pedophile-enabling coach got fired…

    Thanks for so beautifully articulating something that’s been preying on my mind for a while…

  3. “We would rather shut our eyes and let abuse continue than stop and untangle the scary sexuality of our culture….”

    Thank you for this great article and particularly this point. I feel that I am reeling around a bloggosphere that at the moment is all about the “scary sexuality of our culture” and have been stunned by how many people want to rationalise away the responsibility of us all to act to protect victims, who advocate being the Levite passing by… I think you have got to the heart of why this might be so.

    I am a boring, middle aged, white woman who loves your books and in thinking about why I read m/m and enjoy your books (e.g. Special Delivery and Double Blind) It is because they are hopeful and about healing and being beautifully human in our search for connection and love and our expression of that in our sexuality.

    Thanks for your heart and and your passion.

  4. Thanks Heidi for writing such a well thought out and thought provoking piece. I, like Merrian, read yours and other authors works for the same reason you write it, and because as Dan pointed out, the words of the great philosopher G. Michael.

    Society does have a skewed version of sexuality but when I open a book, I find the real reason sex, two people connecting on a deep level. It is not for selling underwear, or demonstrating your power over another person.

    Bravo.

  5. First, the absolute horror of sexual cleansing. I hadn’t heard of it but I think I’m a bit ill now.

    Besides that, well, every word you wrote, YES. The Cain thing has just had me shaking my head because it seems like he thinks if he just says enough that it’s not true, he knows nothing about it and can we talk about the issues, all the manipulation and harassment will just somehow disappear. And Penn State. I’m disgusted all the way around. YES, those are the sexual deviants and bless you for trying to make sure that people learn the difference.

  6. Stumbled upon this on my Twitter-feed. Not from the US, but damn if you are not making good points. Because I have a lot of friends from the US. And I read about their frustration with this issue in that country all the time. Hear, hear, I say! I’ll be sure to spread this around.

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