Hi, all. So, I don’t get on my soapbox often, but I kinda felt motivated to do it after talking with one of my coworkers the other day.
The discussion went something like this:
“I do writing commissions on the side; I’ve written over 500,000 words this year!”
“Really? Wow, that’s great! What do you write?”
“Well, erm, it’s not really work-appropriate.”
“You’ve really piqued my curiosity. What is it?”
“I write erotica.”
That last line right there, one my coworker said, made me realize something: someone was able to guess that it was sexual-related just by my saying that it wasn’t work-appropriate. If it had been about any vanilla topic, it would have been work appropriate. Had it been, “I write graphically violent action stories,” that would still have been work-appropriate. Had it been a love story about someone falling in love with a dead person, it would have been work appropriate—as long as they never had sex. Had it been any story that happened to contain copious vulgar language, it would have been…well, odd to mention the vulgar language, but still work-appropriate as long as I’m not actually saying those words in a work setting. Get my point? Almost anything is fair game to talk about writing…except anything sex-related.
And it really doesn’t matter what kind of sex. Certain kinds of sex can be discussed outside a work setting—after looking around to make sure nobody will overhear your conversation—but other kinds are really considered taboo by everybody except the practitioners thereof. What is it with this country’s hatred of sex? Why is it illegal to wander around in public without clothes on? Health concerns aside (bring a towel to sit on), what’s the harm in seeing someone naked? I have found myself asking this more and more.
Granted, many of the settlers who came here initially were religious with very conservative views: Puritans, Quakers, and Amish, to name a few. But come on: it’s been over 200 years since then. We have come some way—the general public no longer has to wear a suit and tie to work, and spaghetti straps and strapless dresses are acceptable even at formal parties—but when it comes to sex itself, it’s still a dirty secret that people only whisper of as they cast furtive glances over their shoulders. Why is that?
And then there’s the other side of the fence, the hypocritical part. Nobody is supposed to talk about sex, and everybody is supposed to frown in contempt at anyone who speaks openly about it, yet much of advertising is all about getting beautiful people to tout a product. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a commercial with an ugly spokesperson? Underneath the façade of moral outrage over sex, we all—okay, most of us—want sex, want to imagine ourselves with those beautiful spokespeople, want to believe that if we use the product being touted, we’ll attract people like the spokesperson to us.
So, if advertisers know that sex sells, why are we afraid to admit it to ourselves? What is so wrong with sex?
Okay, I’ll concede that there are health risks to sex: STDs are definitely a thing—I get tested semiannually—but there are plenty of other risky behaviors people engage in that aren’t nearly so taboo: smoking may not be “in,” but if I were to write a story about someone who smoked, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to discuss it at work. Drinking gets a bad rap at times (“Oh, look, Harold, it’s the town drunk!“) but it also gets glorified as the thing to do at parties, mixers, and social events. After all, you’re not cultured if you can’t properly choose between a Pinot noir, a cabaret, or a merlot. And again, discussing a story about that—even a drunkard—would not be work-inappropriate. There are plenty of things that will mess you up more than sex that people engage in on a daily basis, so I don’t think we can point the finger at the health risks.
Maybe it’s the “icky factor.” But what makes sex icky? What makes words like dick, cock, cunt, pussy, ass, fuck, and boob crass? They’re synonyms for body parts. Maybe I should start a campaign to make “arm” a bad word. Okay, I’ll admit that I don’t personally care for feces at all—I can understand why “crap” and “shit” are considered dirty. There are a lot of diseases you can catch—and many people do catch—due to exposure (E. coli and salmonella, for instance). Granted, proper hand-washing and food-handling procedures could eliminate most of that, but even still, feces stink. Some would argue that a woman’s vagina or a man’s balls stink, but proper hygiene can generally remedy both of those. The issue isn’t the sex or the body parts; it’s lack of basic personal care. Maybe I should make “dandruff” a bad word, too. Not that it’s a desirable quality as it is, but it’s not like someone’s jaw is going to drop in indignation upon hearing a stranger say the word.
What it really comes down to for me is this: I don’t like not being able to talk about what I write at work. I don’t like not being able to walk around naked if I might be seen by someone. I don’t understand the basis for these laws and mores, and they feel arbitrary and hypocritical without providing any actual benefit to society. I tend to rail against things that constrain without serving meaningful purpose, so…yeah. I’m railing against this.
I could write my congressman, but what would be the point? Texas is notoriously conservative, and my county is particularly so. Still, what would it hurt, right? Maybe I’ll do it just for giggles…