I don’t know how many of you are old enough to remember the standup comic Lenny Bruce, but surely you know of George Carlin. Both were famous for using words that were unacceptable — words that got Lenny Bruce arrested.
George Carlin, on the other hand, did an entire routine based on the seven words you were forbidden to say on television and in the media without any police intervention. In fact, it became one of his most famous bits.
The humor of that routine lay mainly in the conscious breaking of taboos in media, and the nervous laughter it produced was in part because he was unashamed to use on stage the same speech everyone used in their daily conversations.
It would seem quaint today when, in media, we can pretty much talk about anything.
Or can we?
Our country, has a problem with language. There are certain words and topics we just cannot discuss in an adult and rational manner. The words are pretty much normal everyday words, like the three letter word “S-E-X.”
America cannot discuss sex without it being couched in terms of a joke, through sophomoric references or as a criminal activity.
It is something almost every human being engages in at one time or another. Unless you were the product of in vitro fertilization, you were conceived — and sex was undoubtedly involved.
But try to bring that topic up in our nation’s capital and, unless it is in regard to something illegal, you will be hushed. It’s a topic that’s just not spoken of.
When politicians do talk about sex, it is either as a crude joke, “locker room stories” or with a heartfelt apology for some socially unacceptable act they were caught doing.
Those speeches usually end with something about “leaving politics to spend more time with family,” but they most likely end up spending more time with a divorce lawyer.
The inability to speak about sex cripples our legislatures and warps our country’s already problematic attitudes towards it. In Washington, sex is something to be derided, embarrassed by or legislated against. Our country has created a dysfunctional relationship around what can be a perfectly natural and joyous act. It is an attitude so dysfunctional that it leads to misguided laws like FOSTA (the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and, worse, a repression of natural desires that leads to bathroom encounters and public scandals.
Sex. If there is one thing I would hope to accomplish in my lifetime it is bringing our country and lawmakers to the realization that if we cannot talk about sex, we can never embrace it in a healthy manner. If we can’t talk about sex as adults, we will forever be stuck in a perpetual adolescence.
Sex. If it is consensual and between adults, it should be celebrated not condemned. If we could talk about it rationally, we would be having more of it and doing so in a healthy and honest way.
Sex. Having that conversation as adults will assure that LGBTQ people are recognized as vital and vibrant parts of our society and essential to our rich culture.
Sex. Having that conversation as adults will allow us to educate our children with a realistic and comprehensive view of the full spectrum of consensual human sexual expression. Telling adolescents that abstinence is the only sex education they need is a lie, and worse, a transparent ploy to manipulate their behavior. We have to recognize that they are budding adults and deserve adult answers to their questions about sex.
Sex. Having an adult conversation will allow us to recognize the importance of bodily autonomy in all matters regarding sex, reproduction and economic justice. It will allow us to create healthier relationships and richer lives.
Sex. Having an adult conversation will allow us to accept sex work as legitimate work and understand that sex workers’ dignity and safety is as important as that of workers in any other profession.
Sex! We must talk about it as adults and demand that our elected representatives do so as well!
At this critical time in our country’s history we cannot afford to stay silent. We cannot afford to allow repression to stunt our country’s maturity. We must talk about sex, write about sex, fight for sex, have more sex!
It is a radical idea and a radical act. But these are dangerous times that call for just such radical acts!
Say it with me Americans: I am not afraid to talk about sex!
And one day, perhaps we will be able to talk like adults about other important four-letter words — like “love” — and five-letter words — like “peace” — and seven-letter words — like “Justice”.
Maybe one day there will be no words that can’t be spoken.