Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Prejudice Against Casual Sex

There was an excellent article in Psychology Today recently, written by a very intelligent man named Stanley Siegel. It talked about how sexual encounters outside committed relationships can be meaningful.

I referred some people to this article and was not surprised to receive some negative reactions. One person said, "I can't agree with that statement." The word "can't" is most telling. This reveals a prior belief system that prevents one from objectively and rationally receiving and considering new information. It makes it possible for one to be blind to or simply reject facts. I have found that often people have the strongest beliefs and opinions about things with which they have little or no experience. We fear most what we do not understand. Fear makes us very reactive and defensive.

But however one feels personally about something, the experience of others cannot be dismissed simply because it does not fit into our comfortable belief system. Just because one has not personally experienced something doesn't mean it's not true. If other people have that experience then it simply is. One can choose to disbelieve them because it doesn't fit into one's prescribed beliefs. But one would be presumptuous to tell someone that their experience is wrong. For instance, I may not be a Hindu, but I would be an arrogant, judgmental fool to say that no one can be happy if they are a Hindu just because I don't believe in it. Many are happy being Hindu. To think others cannot be happy because they do not believe what I believe is narcissistic and delusional. Their happiness is just as real as yours or mine. That makes it an experiential fact of the human experience.

The same goes for sex outside what is referred to as a "committed relationship." If sex is only "meaningful" inside a "committed relationship", how long must that relationship go on before the sex is meaningful and how long must it continue after for the relationship to be considered committed? What are the rules and who makes them? Surely we must make our own judgements about our own experiences. No one can tell me what I should or shouldn't feel about something. What an experience means to me is up to me to decide based on my thoughts and feelings.

I know from personal experience that I can have a very meaningful connection with someone I've barely known, through sex or otherwise. It can have great meaning for me, for the other person and for us both. It has happened many times. That doesn't mean I know the person. Experiencing meaning and knowing someone well are two different things. As for knowing someone, some people are married for years and still don't really know each other.

We have a lot of derogatory terms for experiences that don't fit into the monogamous cultural programming. "One night stand," "Casual sex," etc. I've had good sexual experiences with female friends with whom I remain very close friends. It wasn't "casual sex" or a "one night stand." We aren't even "friends with benefits" (a shallow, though rather amusing, term). Our culture shows less respect to single people in general. Why do married people get a tax break? We need to start asking questions about cultural ideas that claim to be the ultimate answers, since these ideas are not working for the majority of the populace, and are in fact, causing much suffering. Most importantly, we need to be asking these questions of ourselves.

Robert Szeles (saylesh)