What multiple orgasms can teach us about our sexual lives

This is on in a series of short essays that will ultimately wind up in one or more chapters of my book Civilizations and Its Contents. A short precise of the book can be found here. This essay follows up some of the ideas in “You’re The Top: Active and Receptive Modes of Being in Life and Sex” Click here to read this essay full screen.  Continue reading

Patriarchy, homophobia and sexual fluidity in women

It is commonly held that sexual orientation varies in degrees rather than kind. Some men and women are exclusively interested in sex with their own sex; some are exclusively interested in sex and love with the opposite sex, while many of us fall somewhere between these two poles, being little more or less interested in our own sex or the opposite sex. Kinsey claimed that his research found that that most men and women were not at the far poles of his seven point sexual orientation scale but somewhere in the middle Yet it appears that women tend to be more sexually fluid than men. The percentage of women who have had sex with women is higher than the percentage of men who have had sex with men. More importantly, it appears that women are far more likely than men to pursue sex with both men and women during some… Continue reading

Learning from our bodies and failure

One of the endlessly appealing profoundly mistaken ideas found in science fiction is that idea that we human beings could take a pill or have a capsule or micro-chip inserted into our brains and then immediately have all kinds of faculties and capacities we previously did not have. This idea was prominent in The Matrix films, for example. But it certainly didn’t start there. I’m going to argue here that this idea is based on a particular kind of mind-body dualism that is ultimately rooted in ideas put forward by Socrates in some of the Platonic dialogues (although the extent to which Plato embraced these ideas is very much questionable). And I’m going to conclude that is a profoundly problematic idea that encourages us to think of our lives in ways that leads us to (1) misunderstand and become despondent about our bodies and (2) fail to understand how important… Continue reading

Sex as a Relational Phenomena and the “Male Gaze”

Central to the understanding of sexuality I’m developing in my book Civilization and Its Contents is that it is fundamentally a relational phenomena. What makes our actions sexual is that they are designed to elicit sexual desire on the part of ourselves and our partners. Two people are having sex not just because of what they do to each other but because what they do intends to express their own sexual desire and, in doing so, elicit sexual desire in their partners by their recognition of that intention.[1] Now this general point about sexuality can be misunderstood if we think of the play of intention in sexual behavior as that which is common in patriarchal societies in which sexual interactions are structured in large part by what I have called “dominator sexuality” in which men often express their desires through what has come to be called the “male gaze.” The… Continue reading

The modern transformation of asceticism and the origins of the culture war

Many of us have responded to the new threat to Roe v. Wade by reminding people that the aim of the right is not to protect unborn children but to control women. However, for some people, accustomed to living in a world in which they expect women to be treated as full participants in our political, social, and cultural lives,  that notion is odd. They don’t understand that control of women means and why it is so important in right wing thought. There are a number of answers but one is that policing abortion is part of the right-wing project of policing sexuality as a whole. And policing sexuality, especially female sexuality, is, for the  right wing mind, critical to ensuring that men carry out their responsibilities to have and take care of children and hold down a job. As is common in political and social life these claims rest… Continue reading

It had to be us

Stop and think about it for minute: Every woman I know has said “me, too” in the last few days. In fact, it appears that every woman on FB has said, “me, too.” That’s a lot of awful treatment of millions of women. And it was not all done by Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, and three or four other guys. Most of us men have to be responsible for some part of it. Who else is there? Some of us may have only engaged in or tolerated the repulsive, slut-shaming that was common place when I was in college. Some of us may have asked for sex in ways that were unfair or pressured. (My book on sexuality got its start my junior year in college when I recognized that the sexual revolution gave men seeking unattached sex a new way to badger women into having sex that… Continue reading

Why Women Don’t Report Rape

Defending Cosby Many people have long loved Bill Cosby, for his abilities as an entertainer, his attractive persona or, in some cases, his penchant for blaming young black people for their difficulties. And many—although fewer each week—of these people have been so deeply troubled by the multiple accusations of sexual violence against Cosby that they have rushed to his defense. Their responses to the accusations have echoed two themes that are quite common when women accuse men of rape. First, many of the accusers have themselves been accused of lying, of making up stories about Cosby. The motives attributed to these women are varied—some have been said to be gold diggers who either hope for an out of court financial settlement of the kind Cosby gave to Andrea Constand or who hope to parlay their accusation into a magazine or book deal. (The statute of limitations for both criminal and… Continue reading

Civilization and its Contents: Platonic Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars

A précis of the book I’m hoping to finish in 2021. I’m going to start linking from this page to posts of of draft chapters soon. Comments always welcome! Civilization and its Contents: Platonic Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars critiques the conception of human sexuality that underlie both left and right in the contemporary culture wars. It presents a radically new  account of sexuality and its place in human life, one that encourages various good ways of pursuing sex that bring pleasure and a connection to other people and in a way that recognizes and supports the fundamental equality of  men and women. The three philosophical essays of part one of Civilization and Its Contents set out the traditional view of sexuality in some detail and contrasts it with a very different view, inspired by Plato and Aristotle (although admittedly an unorthodox interpretation of them).  I show that extremes of left and… Continue reading

The New Sexual World We Have Made and the Return of the Culture Wars

In the last fifty years, we have seen a dramatic transformation in both relationships between the sexes and our relationship to sexuality. No one thinks that there is any likelihood that we will return to traditional practices and beliefs. But in the last few months Republican candidates have tried to reignite the culture war that has accompanied these transformations.

One reason that traditionalists continue to call the changes of the last fifty years into question is that of those of us who have turned away from traditionalist ideas don’t give as deep a defense of the new world we have made as we could. We defend sexual freedom, feminism, and the acceptance of homosexuality mostly by talking about the ideals of freedom, individuality and autonomy. The traditionalists answer that those modern ideals are empty and low, a mere excuse for doing whatever we want to do. And they claim that the changes in our lives are deeply in conflict with the ideals of love, marriage, and the care of children. Of course we, too, seek love, marriage and the care of children. But we haven’t asserted as strongly as we should or could that our ideals are not only fully compatible with but enhance our prospects for love, marriage and the care of our children.

This essay sketches a new theory of sexuality that underlies an account of the new sexuality we have been creating as we throw off traditional ideas and build a new way of integrating sexuality into our lives. It’s based on my forthcoming book, Civilization and Its Discontents: Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars. focus in the essay on Continue reading