As mentioned in Part 1 of this Blog series, the characters in my novels have very definite ideas about love, sex, and nudity. In Part 2 these three concepts were shown to be truly distinct; and, for intelligent, modern man (and woman), nudity should be accepted as a part of life, and not something that is necessarily connected with sex. One can be open about nudity, even socially, without any thought of love or sex, the wonder and beauty of the human body - and its place in nature - being enjoyed, with respect and trust, and without fear or embarrassment.
In today's Blog, I will discuss the question of sex: How can sex be defined, and how open and intimate can people be with each other, without engaging in 'sex'?
The simple definition of sex as 'intercourse' fails in today's world, when considering the various forms of sex, such as oral, anal, and masturbation. Why should we be concerned about defining sex in the first place? This depends on what we are trying to accomplish, and the role in our discussion played by the concept of sex.
My stories involve many interactions between friends that some people might consider to be 'sex' - such as mutual masturbation. And the stories promote open and trusting relationships and close - even intimate - interactions between friends who are not lovers. In 'real life', for those who are not totally free, sexually, what are the relevant considerations in having sex with other people? What kinds of intimate interactions are acceptable between friends, without 'crossing the line' into sex? And, what kinds of interactions of a person with others are acceptable to that person's spouse or partner?
The primary reasons why 'sex' is considered more than a casual interaction between two or more people in today's society are 1) the fear of unplanned pregnancy, 2) the fear of sexually transmitted diseases, and 3) the fear of emotional attachment and/or interfering with the emotions of a partner or spouse.
Birth control has essentially eliminated the first issue. While the various forms of birth control are not 100% successful, they are quite good, and a combination of methods can decrease the chance of pregnancy still further. For the older crowd, if the woman has had a hysterectomy, or the man a vasectomy, then there is NO issue of pregnancy.
As most of my readers can imagine, I believe that a woman has the right to manage her own body, and to make important life decisions, including whether or when to get pregnant, and whether to allow a pregnancy to continue. Our medical technology is excellent, and it is only the conservative, religious, and intolerant who seek to limit women's rights, by denying access to birth control and/or abortion.
The second fear - that of sexually transmitted diseases - is real: There are many incurable STDs (such as herpes, hepatitis, human papilloma virus, and HIV), and some of these (e.g., HIV) are potentially deadly. While a couple can be tested, and avoid intimate contact with others for a period, to minimize the chances that one or both have an STD, this does not completely avoid the issue, as some STDs have a long latency period, and testing may not identify every form of STD.
Condoms are, perhaps, the best sheild against STDs, among our modern technologies - and the technology of condoms has been in existence for more than 300 years, and possibly back to antiquity. Again, condoms may not be 100% effective, but are usually considered to be the best we have to address protection against STDs.
The third fear - that of emotional attachment, jealousy, and damage to existing relationships - can often be managed by mature adults. I focus here primarily on the issue of 'sex' outside of an existing relationship, such as marriage, or - perhaps - a ménage, where a third person is brought into a relationship.
In the case of an outside relationship I believe the key is honesty and openness with your existing partner or spouse: If everyone knows about the relationships, and accepts it, then the emotional issues are far reduced. There is no 'affair', if your partner/spouse is aware of what you are doing (and, hopefully, accepting of it, without fear that the existing relationship will be damaged). There should be even less fear of damage to the relationship, if both partners participate (e.g., in a ménage, or 'swinging' with other couples).
The first two of the fears we have discussed - that of pregnancy and STDs - can be easily eliminated, by avoiding transfer of bodily fluids (and mucous membrane contact). This may sound technical, but is easily accomplished by people who have control of their own body. And, if the partner/spouse is aware of the relationship with an 'outsider', the emotional factors can also be managed. This may not work for everyone, but I believe that most modern, open, adults should be able to understand this approach.
So, a very practical definition of sex is 'body fluid transfer'. If this is avoided, there can be no pregnancy or STDs. But what does this mean, in terms of what two people CAN do together? By this definition, nudity is certainly not 'sex'. Masturbating in front of someone also would not be 'sex'. Even masturbating someone else - mutual masturbation - would not be 'sex'. Orgasms can be enjoyed, at the hand of another person - something very intimate - without being considered 'sex'.
I am not trying to argue for less sex in relationships, or anything to do with the misguided 'just say no' campaign. What I am saying is that a partner or spouse should be able to have a close - even intimate - relationship with other people, which does not entail the fears of pregnancy or STDs, and which does not necessarily interfere with the existing relationship, cause jealousy, or fear of losing one's partner. There is a lot that two people can do, very intimately, without there being 'sex', as defined here. To me, this opens an entire world of new relationships and experiences - with friends, and others - without guilt, fear, or damage to existing relationships.
A question this raises is, does this definition go too far? Is it too conservative, too protective? After all, 'transfer of body fluids' exists when you eat or drink after someone else; or when you kiss. Therefore, sharing an ice cream sundae could be considered 'sex' using this definition. This is probably going too far for most people, but the basic idea remains: There are many intimate things two people can do together that do not endanger them or their partners. So, it is possible to have honest, trusting, open, and intimate relationships without a health risk, and without danger to the relationship with existing partners or spouses.
In my Experiences series, Sam and Kelly are finding that they need to modify the definition of sex still further; for example, they exclude oral-oral contact as being 'sex'. The question one can ask is whether there is a 'slipperly slope' that leads to further modifiations of the definition of sex - for example, to incluee oral-genital contact. This is certainly a route for STD transmission, so weakens the arguments I've made above. The characters are exploring their sexual identities and their relationship with others, and making conscious decisions on how far they will go with others, in terms of intimacy.
In the next part of this Blog series, I will provide a mock conversation between a man and woman that will demonstrate some of the issues we have discussed, and how far two people can go in terms of intimacy, without actually having 'sex' with each other.