Healthy Sexuality and the Pornification of American Culture
(A Talk for Parents, Couples and Single Adults)

How do we find our way to a healthy relationship with sex within a culture that surrounds us with explicit, pornographic images of emotionally disconnected sexuality?

For starters, we do so by embracing a humanistic, moralism-free definition of healthy sexuality.

What is healthy sexuality?

The answer varies with different of our life stages.

Sex for an adolescent can be about coming to terms with all that is stimulated by entering or being entered. It can be about beginning to deal with anxiety, shame, and guilt. It can be about knowing, and using, one’s body. It can be about pleasure, a way to learn, a way to find one’s self. Perhaps above all it can be about beginning to put together the overwhelming physical power of sexuality with an ongoing awareness of the “personhood” of others.

Sex for a young adult looking for a life partner can be about weighing the power and allure of physical attractiveness against the need for honesty, persistence, integrity, sincerity and other qualities that make relationships work. It can be about finding a partner who will be a good father, or a good mother. It can be a mode of self-expression, a way of communicating intense emotions, hopefully love and affection, but also, at times, contained aggression.

Of course sex can be about creating a family.

And then there is the crucial role of sex in our long-term, intimate relationships.

As the years pass, our bodies diverge more and more from the collagen-enhanced, botox-infused, air-brushed images of youth and infinite possibility that have become our ubiquitous cultural ideal. With this divergence we can feel alienated from our lovers, and ourselves. But if we take the risk of being sexually real over time with someone loved and trusted, we will find an alternative to the distorting funhouse mirrors that populate our present-day surroundings. We can, instead, find in each other loving and compassionate reflections of our bodily selves. We can use our sexual relationships to change longstanding, painful and stagnant scripts. And we can sustain the sense of vibrant physicality that all too easily disappears in the face of life’s multiple pressures, and, over time, mounting losses.