The Meaning Of Sex

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Is sex sacred or have casual sex and sexual imagery in our culture rendered it meaningless?

Anyone born in the last fifty years has been met with increasingly sexy advertising and entertainment. At the same time, premarital, extramarital and so-called "casual" sex are also on the rise. But, as recent film Zack & Miri Make A Porno questions, is sex ever just "f*cking" or does it always have meaning, despite what our sexually liberal culture might lead us to believe?

In her New York Times "Modern Love" essay "Deeply, Truly (but Not Physically) In Love" author Lauren Salter writes about her disdain for sex. Despite her aversion, she's a relatively contented mother and wife. Salter tries to self-diagnose what she sees less as a pathology and more as rational distaste. Is it evoluationary biology that makes her bored after six months of sleeping with the same partner, she asks? Or is it a low libido that drugs or hormones can remedy? No.

Ultimately, for Salter, it seems that she merely can't reconcile the idea of being a passionate animal and productive member of society at the same time. She's capable of enjoying sex, but she doesn't really see the point. She'd rather be making art. To avoid losing her virginity at 19, despite feeling peer pressure to have sex, Salter writes that she lied and told her boyfriend she'd been raped.

"In the 19th century, to be raped was to be shamed, forever. In the late 20th century, to be a virgin was to be shamed. And so I lied, to save my skin... In our culture, sex has lost its sacred quality."

A recent study revealed teens who watch racy programming are more likely than those who don't to become pregnant. In Queens, NY, residents are protesting a racy billboard that promotes a local strip club. Newsday reports that a mother of five recently drove 25 minutes out of her way to ensure her kids wouldn't set eyes on the advertisement, which portrays a buxom blond strategically covered with black straps of fabric. The image exposes no more skin than can be found, with little effort, in a music video or on an internet banner ad. In a poll on Newdays's site, more than half of respondents answered "yes" that the strip club should be forced to remove its sign. It's a cause that seems at once logical and fruitless.

Sex abounds in our society; does this mean the act is no longer sacred? Will clearing our visual landscape of suggestive imagery effectively sterilize the next generation's bedroom behavior? And, does it even need sterilization? Those like Salter, and the billboard-hating Queens parents and council members, seem to think so.