A Scarlet Letter: A Response to ‘Editor’s Letter: Why Elephant posts so much Sex & Porn & Trashy Clickbaity Crap.’

I recently read an article written by Waylon Lewis titled, ‘Editor’s Letter: Why Elephant posts so Much Sex & Porn & Trashy Clickbaity Crap’ in which it would appear that Elephant Journal has been receiving some not so kind feedback in regards to the articles related to sex on its publication.

It surprised me that people today still feel so strongly in regards to keeping sex secret and shroud as though it is something to hold in private lest one be ashamed and riddled with guilt.

Why are topics regarding sex and/or sexuality considered to be taboo? Are we not all living, breathing, sexual beings? Were we not meant to procreate and spread our seed? In the bible, Genesis 3:11, did God not ask Adam, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?”

So why, then, do some still find it necessary to feel shame for following something so primal and savage that lives within each of us? Is sex not a necessary part of life just as we eat and breathe?

Why then, do we feel that desire must remain hidden lest we be judged?

Are we not entitled and created to feel intimacy with another- all the while enjoying the pleasure of connecting as one? Is it shameful to touch one’s self when overcome with desire; something that is done naturally as a part of self-care and self-love?

As I began researching sexual oppression through the ages, it appeared that it was more displeasing to the general public for a woman to express herself sexually and less frowned upon when men would boast of the same desire.

Why is it so much more difficult for a woman to know herself and be brazen about her wants, her needs, her fantasies, and desires?

Should this not be something we celebrate- something that should be revered and held sacred? Truly, in this day and age, it should be legendary as women have clawed their way through history to have evolution and equality.

During my research, I came across an article titled, ‘When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men’ written by Alyssa Goldstein in which she states:

“The idea that men are naturally more interested in sex than women is ubiquitous that it’s difficult to imagine that people ever believed differently. And yet for most of Western history, from ancient Greece to beginning of the nineteenth century, women were assumed to be the sex-crazed porn fiends of their day. In one ancient Greek myth, Zeus and Hera argue about whether men or women enjoy sex more. They ask the prophet Tiresias, whom Hera had once transformed into a woman, to settle the debate. He answers, “if sexual pleasure were divided into ten parts, only one part would go to the man, and nine parts to the woman.” Later, women were considered to be temptresses who inherited their treachery from Eve. Their sexual passion was seen as a sign of their inferior morality, reason and intellect, and justified tight control by husbands and fathers. Men, who were not so consumed with lust and who had superior abilities of self-control, were the gender more naturally suited to holding positions of power and influence.

Early 20th-century physician and psychologist Havelock Ellis may have been the first to document the ideological change that had recently taken place. In his 1903 work Studies in the Psychology of Sex, he cites a laundry list of ancient and modern historical sources ranging from Europe to Greece, the Middle East to China, all of nearly the same mind about women’s greater sexual desire. In the 1600s, for instance, Francisco Plazzonus deduced that childbirth would hardly be worthwhile for women if the pleasure they derived from sex was not far greater than that of men’s. Montaigne, Ellis notes, considered women to be “incomparably more apt and more ardent in love than men are, and that in this matter they always know far more than men can teach them, for ‘it is a discipline that is born in their veins.’” The idea of women’s passionlessness had not yet fully taken hold in Ellis’ own time, either. Ellis’ contemporary, the Austrian gynecologist Enoch Heinrich Kisch, went so far as to state that “The sexual impulse is so powerful in women that at certain periods of life its primitive force dominates her whole nature.”

Yet the times were clearly changing. In 1891, H. Fehling tried to debunk the common wisdom: “It is an altogether false idea that a young woman has just as strong an impulse to the opposite sex as a young man…. The appearance of the sexual side in the love of a young girl is pathological.” In 1896, Bernhard Windscheid postulated, “In the normal woman, especially of the higher social classes, the sexual instinct is acquired, not inborn; when it is inborn, or awakes by itself, there is abnormality.”

My research also took me to article upon article quoting Hippocrates and Pluto in the 5th century as well as articles from the Australian Neurologist, Sigmund Freud citing women with “hysteria”: a condition that only afflicted women. A Freudian analysis of ‘Dracula’ even stated that “hysterical symptoms were caused by repressed sexual feelings.” The Victorian era found a cure for “hysteria” by performing pelvic massages to women who were afflicted which consisted of stimulating the woman’s pelvis (i.e. her genitals).

In times long passed, virginity and purity were of utmost importance as moral capital was used as currency when arranging partnerships and marriages. Sex was also often equated with power. It was a common belief that woman could not hold or harness such power, and therefore, their sexuality must be oppressed. In the 12th and 13th century, churches began to prosecute sexual sinners; punishable by death, mutilation, burning at the stake, hanging, or being suspended in a cage and left to starve to death. Let us also not forget the Scarlet Letter.

It would seem that despite facts that have been presented and upheld through literature and studies that countries that embrace many of the things social conservatives detest- tend to have less sexual dysfunction than the United States, that church and religion will always uphold a sacred secrecy regarding sex.

Have we not evolved throughout the past fifteen centuries enough to embrace sexual liberation? Throughout time, have we not revered the authors of great who talked brazenly about sex?

  • Charles Bukowski
  • Dan Fante
  • Ernest Hemmingway
  • Henry Miller

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Author: Mary Rogers

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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