Don't Ask the Sexperts
Dan Savage, Dr. Ruth, and others on what still mystifies them.
Read more from Slate's Sex Issue.
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.
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?
Morgan Smith, a former Slate intern, is a law student in Austin, Texas.
Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer.