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Sexual Ethics: How to Get Your Rocks Off Without Being a Dick About It
Sexual Ethics: How to Get Your Rocks Off Without Being a Dick About It
Growing up Catholic means having some rather repressive sexual mores drilled into your head at a very young and impressionable age. If I had to break down my religious education in sexual matters it would go something like this:
The Church: "Homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and those who practice it will suffer eternal torment in the fires of Hell."
Impressionable Pete: "All right. I'm not into that stuff so I guess I'm willing to believe that."
The Church: "Premarital sex is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and those who practice it will suffer eternal torment in the fires of Hell."
Impressionable Pete: "Uhhhhhh. I kind of wanted to try that someday.... but you're the Church so I guess I'll trust to your judgment."
The Church: "MASTURBATION is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord and those who practice it will suffer eternal torment in the fires of Hell."
Impressionable Pete: "Whoa, whoa, whoa! It is now disturbingly obvious that you people are drunk with power. I was going to let you deny me pre-matrimonial nookie but HOW DARE YOU try to stop me from partaking in my favorite past-time. Coming between a 14 year-old-boy and his self abuse is like coming between a mother grizzly and her cubs. Unless you want to be savagely attacked and partially eaten in a hormone induced rage it's just not done."
And that's why I abandoned my faith (actually it was more a combination of the intolerance, hypocrisy, and moral inconsistencies inherent in Mother Church and every other faith that I took a good hard look at). But just because I stopped listening to all those old know-nothing reclusive virgins didn't mean that I was going to abandon all my moral values. Some of that stuff still made sense (Treat thy neighbor as thou would wish to be treated. Turn the other cheek. If thy neighbor's mule falls into thy well thou shall recompense him one half the commonly held value of his mule. I mean, I don't care what century we're living in, that last one will always be relevant). I felt especially strong about holding onto my moral compass when attempting to get my swerve on. There were some obvious guidelines to operate by. Do not lie to get what you want. This means no promises of committed relationships when all you're looking for is to disseminate your genetic material into as many willing receptacles as possible (oh Pete, you old smoothie, you). Be receptive to the needs of your partner. That means if your lady friend is into being hogtied in under 6.7 seconds and scorched by a cattle brand then you better learn how to throw a lariat and tie a diamond hitch if you want to get her to her happy place.
All of these ethical guidelines are based upon the very simple unifying theme that as you attempt to obtain some gratification for yourself you should make a concerted effort to give gratification back and above all else, do no harm (the medical profession is onto something there. keep your moral code short and sweet). So don't lie and don't get off to the exclusion of your partner. That's the simple stuff. But what about the more morally grey areas. This is what I'm wrestling with as I progress into fullblown adulthood.
First off is something I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about. This summer, I had a tawdry affair with a girl that I was not particularly fond of (truth be told, she got under my skin like one of those burrowing parasites in Africa that belong in a Sigourney Weaver sci-fi horror film). But, like most guys can tell you, liking a girl and being sexually attracted to her are rarely coincident. So after some hot and heavy make out sessions we decided to do the deed. Now, I don't know if it's all the self-abuse or some kind of congenital predisposition, but I'm good for the occasional marathon session. After about an hour and a half of said marathon session my paramour was growing concerned about getting back to her dorm on time so she could get enough sleep to be productive the next day at work. In an effort to speed up the process she told me to make love as vigorously as I was able for half a minute (actually she told me fuck her as hard as I could for 30 seconds. It sounds less crude when I put it in my own flowery words). Well, you don't have to tell me twice so I went to with a vengeance. Jokes on her cause I outlasted that little bit of added intensity for another 15 minutes at least. The point of this overly detailed story is that the next day she comes up to me and says in this really outraged voice, "Oh my God! I can hardly walk today." Here is a clear-cut case where I was simply following orders (I know, I know. It wasn't too convincing when the Krauts said it and it hasn't grown more convincing with time). I also knew in advance that following through on her suggestion would more likely than not end in some discomfort on her part. So the ethical quandary is this: Should we do what our lovers ask us to do even if we're aware that doing so will more likely than not harm them?
Along similar lines of thought, I have encountered a disturbing phenomena when pursuing commitment-free hookups. Even though I am not willing to get what I want the women I'm pursuing seem all TOO willing to do just that. Let me explain. When I'm not hardcore into a chick and I'm about to do my thang I state flat out that I'm not looking for a relationship, just a good time. My future lady friend then says basically the same thing to me. Only when she says it, as I've discovered through bitter experience, she's lying. What she's actually thinking is that she likes me and she wants some kind of relationship with me and she believes that the same kind of strong feelings of attachment that occur in a woman post-coitum must also occur in me after the fact. "Ehhhhhhhh! I'm sorry, incorrect answer, but you won't be leaving us empty-handed. Rod Roddy, tell her about our parting gifts." I'm sorry but that just doesn't happen, ladies (or more accurately, the feelings have to be there to begin with. They may be amplified when you get down wit' your bad selves but they can't spontaneously appear following le' petite mort). I discovered this the hard way when some ladies that I had freaked and left, no strings attached, began making efforts to attach some strings. So now, the next time I have a romantic opportunity (which, the way things are going, may only occur the next time the Karmic Wheel of the Universe reincarnates me in a more deserving earthly manifestation) I will be aware that any kind of promise she makes along the lines of no-strings mattress wrestling will be a lie designed to ensnare me in a relationship I explicitly said I did not want. How should I proceed in such an instance?
One school of thought holds that I can only operate under the assumption that the people I interact with are telling me the truth and the responsibility for any negative aftereffects of their deceitfulness lies solely on their shoulders. This idea is not without it's appeals. It's basically saying that adults in adult relationships are ultimately only responsible for their own actions. That makes sense.
The other school of thought holds that if you have foreknowledge of how most people are, as opposed to how they present themselves, then as an intelligent, thoughtful person you should act in a manner consistent with how the majority of people you've dealt with in the past have ACTUALLY been. This way of thinking is also not without appeal. I have often thought of myself as something of a student of human behavior and if I have gained any insight into people's motivations and secret desires over the years then shouldn't I allow that insight to inform my judgment in making moral decisions.
When all is said and done I believe strongly that people should be held accountable for their actions and it's not wise to start apportioning responsibility for someone's actions to the people surrounding them. So I am inclined to adhere to the first school of thought in mixing it up with the ladies (it may seem self-serving since it's also the option that will allow me to look at myself in the mirror the next morning but before you condemn me as a conscienceless weenie allow me to elaborate). The only way I can think of to lessen my possible moral culpability is by more forcefully stating what I am looking for in those kinds of situations. I'm also thinking of spray painting the outside of my bedroom door with foot high letters that read "PLEASE LEAVE ALL BAGGAGE AT ENTRANCE TO PETE'S DEN OF INIQUITY!"