(Re-edited due to typos) Sex is a form of Communication.
This isn’t a novel insight, it’s been made before. For that matter, so is handshaking, or kissing, or hugging, or patting one’s back. Indeed, throwing a punch to the face or a bottle over someone’s head is also a form of communication, but lets stick to Sex for now. Part of my writing this is clarifying the idea itself, in my mind. Because it’s part of a larger puzzle I have been considering. But for now, let’s look at the idea of Sex as Communication.
Saying this doesn’t mean that Sex is “only” Communication (which is itself a momentous thing), In people’s lives Sex is and can be many things, but communication is an important one that seems to be often unnoticed. I’m isolating one aspect of a human phenomenon that is an immense aspect of human nature, and that’s important to consider. Perhaps deeply considering the notion that Sex is Communication may help clarify many things that are deeply problematical in our culture, language, and personal lives. This is not fuzzy Deepak Chopra’esque New Age garbage, rather I think an essential truth, and one implicit in the English language itself until very recently.
Everyone speaks about “Sexual communication”, communicating about Sex; such as spouses communicating their sexual needs, desires, or communicating their sexual interest in a person. I mean something else though, Sexual activity itself, right up to coitus itself, is a form of non-verbal communication. I’ve noticed, talking with women it seems to be an unspoken, common, and basic assumption among many of them. Among older women, it seems like a non-unspoken assumption. Many can be quite articulate on this point. Fewer men seem to consider Sex as a type of communication.
Even if you don’t realize it, however, Sex operates as a form of communication. This isn’t just the case for emotionally committed “romantic” sex, no all sex from the most raunchy and freaky, to the most soft sensual romantic, is a form of non-verbal communication.
If Sex is communication what does it communicate? Lots of things, but lets consider that in a bit. I said it was implicit in our language, well in English language, for example, take the old term “congress.” Congress used to be used as a verb for Coition. This wasn’t just a polite euphemism, Sexual congress was a widely used term for what people typically call, in less polite circles, “fucking.”
Have you eve thought why we use the term Intercourse? Think about the word intercourse very deeply for a moment, let your thoughts penetrate the term and its definitions. Here, you find this notion – Sex is communication – still lingers on an implicit level. In the English language because the main formal term we use for Coitus, for Coiton, for the penetrative act of Sex, is Sexual intercourse. Common speech shortens this and understand “intercourse” as a formal euphemism for the Sex act. There are numerous other idioms and terms that people use, that dimly reflect this, even when they lack full understanding of the actual explicit meaning of the term.
Thinking about “Intercourse,” it is a general term for exchange and/or communication between people. For example, there is the phrase ‘social intercourse’ which was once extremely widely used, take the 1856 guidebook “The Book of manners: a guide to social intercourse” – or for example the ‘business intercourse’ appears even in some modern Webster’s dictionaries, listing numerous other qualifying adjectives indicating other types of Intercourse. Or in 1800’s acts of Congress you can find phrases like “improvement of business intercourse between said countries” blah blah, &tc.
Sex is one of the most deeply powerful human motivators, it colors much that both women and men do, and society on the surface elides over this or denies it, which makes dealing with it more difficult. Someone who wants to be sincere in engaging in something without ulterior motives, an art, a craft, a political action, who doesn’t deal with the “am I doing this on a subtle level to get laid” motivator that really does operate in both men and women – will probably not get anywhere serious in their endeavors. That our culture and language is structure to hide this basic motivational structure, while exploiting it commercially to the hilt, is rather interesting.
So much communication about Sex, but so little real considering of the communication aspects of Sex itself. I think that somewhere our culture stopped considering Sex as communication on a substantive level, and regarded it as recreation. Julius Evola wrote back in the 40’s or 50’s about the vulgar American tendency he noticed of regarding Sex as a casual recreational type of Sport or athletic display, both on the part of females and males. It wasn’t the promiscuity per see appalled him, promiscuity existed in European culture and Evola’s generation was a particularly randy one (also interesting he was involved in some Sex Magic circles in his youth also and held Christian morality in some disdain) – what appalled him was that Americans had an incredibly shallow non-sexual attitude towards sex.
Evola, (and others mind you) commented on a sort of vulgarity, an “it’s only Sex” attitude existing then and now, over 70, 80, 90 years ago on a deeply ingrained level. Social conservatives still complain – somewhat cogently though a bit hypocritically – about declining Sexual mores. They forget, as everyone after the rather Self congratulatory Sexual non-revolution forgets, that casual sport “fucking around” isn’t exactly new by any means, polite society just properly cloaked such things. A substantial portion of European society was born congenitally syphilitic from the 1600’s to the 1900’s. Try explaining that.
All of those “funny looking old fashioned people” you see in sepia tint photos? It’s because they were congenitally syphilitic folks, they were born with VD, and it wasn’t just because of a lack of hygiene – it was because people, men in particular, were massively promiscuous. A good deal of the promiscuity involved prostitution which was far more common and widespread than today, and the portion of the female population who were full time or part time prostitutes was incredible by modern standards. So yes, people had dirty casual sex before the “Sexual Revolution” ever occurred.
So, back to Sex as communication. It seems to me that Sex can communicate many things, just as a good deal of social communication from the way we dress, to what we do in our day to day lives, communicates about Sex, if not directly then indirectly in a sublimated way, the actual Sex act itself, chiefly coitus, is a form of communication that is biologically imprinted and programmed into us. What does it communicate however?
Oh, many things. Sex does not always communicate love, or even liking. Sex can communicate hate and disdain. Sex can communicate agreeableness and mutual repose, or it can communicate violence and mutual antagonism. It can communicate need and dependency, or independence. It can communicate like or dislike.
Part of the whole “Sex Positive” movement consists in distilling out the dangerous and negative aspects of Sexuality and labeling it something else, such as power or control. This is because of an ideological need to constantly reify Sex and something in itself positive, and anything negative that manifests in Sexual form isn’t really Sex, rather its patriarchy, or capitalism, or hegemonic social repression. This is fundamentally dishonest but understandable. Sex is something that emotionally touches most people in a very deep place, and if you want to reclaim it as something liberational and empowering there is the temptation to elide over what’s problematic about it.
Resist that temptation to delusion and dishonesty, it is not truly as life enhancing as admitting the truth – Sexuality is deeply ambiguous, and potentially dangerous, wounding, and hurtful as it can be ecstatic and pleasurable and healing. Every Sexual institution and arrangement, from matrimony, marriage, to short term liaisons, has a frisson of danger attached, hence the whole limbic system arousal. When it ceases to be such people become bored and enervated.
In non-humans much communication is sexually oriented, sexual signaling, courtship, displays, fights for territory and social primacy also forms means of actual communication about sex on a primary or secondary level, but for humanity, Sex itself is a very basic form of communication between Sexual partners. So I’ve belabored the point to death, and beat it like a stake into the ground with a hammer. I may re-examine this idea later.