What Dan Savage and Dr. Ruth don't understand about sex.

State of the sexual union.
Sept. 26 2007 7:37 AM

Don't Ask the Sexperts

Dan Savage, Dr. Ruth, and others on what still mystifies them.

Read more from Slate's Sex Issue.

(Continued from Page 1)

Dan Savage is a nationally syndicated alternative weekly sex columnist.
What I don't understand is ... gee, how people can be so willfully stupid about sex. Sex came first. Before marriage, there was sex. Before religion, there was sex. Before freakin' humans, there was sex. All human cultures, and all our fanciful religions, were constructed around sex, built to regulate and control sex, sanctify and elevate sex. But so many people want to start with culture or religion before they approach sex, as if the former can teach us all we need to know about the latter. Not true. We have to start with sex. I'm not arguing that we should do away with all regulations or controls, or that sex shouldn't be sanctified or elevated. But there are regulations and controls that are idiotic, products of a time when we didn't truly understand human hair growth—or physics or gravity or the movement of the planets—much less human sexuality, and they should be reassessed. I'm thinking of bans on prostitution, bans on same-sex marriage, the promotion of "normal" sexuality (meaning: no kinks), the cultural assumption that the ability to have sex without love is evidence of some sort of mental illness. In these areas, some of our attempts to sanctify and elevate sex run so counter to human nature that they cause nothing but misery.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is the author of 31 books about sex and relationships.
I'm sure there are many, but one nagging one is what causes homosexuality. I admit, I am curious—but the real importance in getting to the bottom of this question is that the answer would be helpful to the homosexual community. I suspect that the cause is genetic, which would mean all those people who say that gays and lesbians can change to become heterosexual would have to sing another tune. Instead of trying to "fix" a situation that doesn't require fixing, they would have to learn to accept homosexuals. But I am not a scientist, so I can't set about finding out the etiology, the cause of homosexuality. All I can do is act as a cheerleader to encourage scientists to come up with the answer.

Advertisement

Andrea Nemerson is the San Francisco Bay Guardian's sex columnist.
I don't imagine that my answers to the questions about why X person is into Y weird thing ever satisfy anyone, since no matter what the experts, from Krafft-Ebing to John Money, have claimed, nobody has the slightest idea why people like what they like, and it's all completely random as far as I can tell. As for me, I have always been and still am utterly confounded by homophobia and similar hatreds. I don't mean this in a "Why must people be so meeeaaan?" kind of way; I mean I truly cannot fathom why anyone gives a crap, and I've read all the theories. I guess I'm missing the "gives a crap" gene. I'd like to have it, actually—it's not helpful in my line of work to simply not comprehend what other people are feeling, but every time another one of those anti-gay-marriage ordinances passes, I'm all, "Huh? Who gives a crap?" again.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of Kosher Sex, Kosher Adultery, and Shalom in the Home.
What I don't understand about sex is the fundamental contradiction it poses to love. While love deepens with time and shared experience, sex is stifled by relationship and routine. It seems to thrive most through novelty rather than intimacy, through new flesh rather than old love. Sex is the quintessential expression of love. We even call it lovemaking. So, why are so many couples who are so deeply in love with each other, after so many years of being together, utterly sexless? Why must couples choose between being lovers and being best friends, between being passionate and being intimate? King Solomon proclaims in his famous Song that there is a love like fire and a love like water, and it seems that one cancels the other out. The fiery love of sex and erotic passion becomes more and more muted through the more watery love of marital routine, familial patterns, and an increasing number of anniversaries celebrated. Why can't sex and love go absolutely hand in hand, as they should?

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.