When I coined the now-popular concept “Sex-Positive” in 1976, sex-negative social and political forces escalated their misguided attack on lust in the name of being “responsible,” or to avoid being a sinner. I knew that lust was under attack from the religious right-wing, as well as from some extreme feminists who viewed sexiness as a threat to pristine independence.
The war against pornography was mixed with sexual harassment statutes that failed to distinguish between healthy flirtation and the misuse of power in the workplace. In short, it was a war against lust in a time when the sexual revolution had peaked, and AIDS was not yet discovered.
The Whore/Madonna complex left both sexes confused about the proper role of lust in a society that increasingly sensationalized sex while putting down those who succumbed to lustful desires. Fear was the common bullet against pleasure, especially sex that was not clearly monogamous.
Sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and the sheer embarrassment of being negatively labeled kept some from indulging their desires. Repressed souls were questioning whether sex was necessary and healthy beyond the goal to reproduce. Women were and still are often using sex as a carrot to attract a man while simultaneously withholding eroticism to avoid being labeled a slut or some equally meaningless term.
When women hold out for some magical commitment, they fail to enjoy sex for its own sake. The double standard has not served either sex well. Men do not own pleasure or lust. Women have a greater capacity for multiple orgasms than men. So which sex is superior? How can anyone recommend that women use sex to manipulate men?
Lust is put down until the golden years, when we wonder why we bought into the stupidly conservative “save it for” mythology. Waiting for lust is like waiting for Godot. Why wait? Who or what are you waiting for? Having sex is not a loss of anything. It is a gain of pleasure. Your body cannot be saved—it can only be enjoyed.
Dichotomous either/or statements about love and lust fail to recognize that passion is the synergistic result of love and lust acting in unison. Robust lust is actually a virtue, providing the driving force for mutual love and joy.
Valentine’s Day used to be a Roman orgy about 55 B.C. called La Festa Di Lupercalia. Women chased men into the hills and had their way with them. This was lust with social support! The Christians took the lust out of this day, replacing it with sanitized romance. Today, Hallmark occasionally adds a tinge of lust to Valentine’s cards, but romance still rules. Putting a woman on a pedestal with romance is an extremely difficult position for lusty sex!
The war against lust continues with unimaginative and often unhealthy porn on the Internet. Most porn lacks a script to make it erotic. It becomes like open heart surgery. Who are these people? What does it mean? Why not at the least include a script that encourages honest, mutual lust? At least a new neighbor who comes by to introduce and perhaps seduce!
The reaction to explicit sex on the Internet is the constant assertion that anyone who views porn is a “sex addict.” This is a blatant example of the continued attack on lust. Some people are obsessed with porn, and they spend too much time wishing they were sexual than finding ways to actually enjoy sex. But this does not make them into a diseased category such as “sex addict.”
We are still part Puritan. “Sex addiction” does not flourish in Denmark or Sweden. Porn is produced to export in Denmark, but few Danes consume it. They don’t have to purchase or view it. They are already uninhibited and enjoying lust for the fun of it.
If we developed comprehensive sex education in the schools, we would not have to resort to staring at the Internet to figure out what sex and lust are all about. The Scandinavians have it all figured out. In a cross-cultural study I conducted and published as part of my post-doctoral fellowship, I found that there is an inverse relationship between sex and violence. The more sex is repressed and put down, the more aggression and violence in response. This is one reason why there is more violence in America than in Sweden.
It is time to question Puritan sexual repression by celebrating lust as a positive force for intimate lovemaking. The mindless acceptance of Puritan indoctrination will not produce euphoric sex. Sexual enthusiasts need to band together to celebrate lust. I developed National Orgasm Week for this purpose. My pins exclaimed “I Came For National Orgasm Week!”
Similarly, I developed Petting Zoo Parties at nightclubs where everyone came dressed as their favorite party animal. They all made out and petted with perfect strangers, and some left together after the allure of their pheromones became overwhelming. Lust won out! We need public celebrations of lust to offer playful and humorous pleasure as a more healthy option than sexual censorship, repression and put downs for being normally erotic.
My answer to James Thurber and E.B. White’s classic 1929 humor book Is Sex Necessary? is a resounding YES! Lust is an essential component of passion. It is the glue for love in a caring relationship. It is irresponsible to put down lust when it is the glue we all need! Sexual enthusiasts need to unite in a delightful, imaginative way to ravish each other with shared erotic fantasies and the orgasms that are likely to follow!
Monogamy competes with the newness of a hot stranger. If those who wish to be monogamous do not emphasize lustful variety within their relationship, they are more likely to end up with a brief encounter—a fling—with new lovers. Those who argue for monogamy fail to acknowledge that lust is essential for monogamy to persevere. In the end, we all have to choose how to feel and express lust. Some will opt for monogamy, and others will be swingers, in an open relationship, or polyamorous. Lust exists in all of these lifestyle choices. We cannot all be alike!