An often advertised joke, if it’s not already stale, is that the calculated odds of winning a lottery are at 50%: you either win or lose. Without some understanding of probability and a sprinkle of common sense, the premise of that joke would appear to have some valid grounds to be taken seriously. Similarly, human sexuality, if taken for granted, can incur the same errors of assumptions. It is common (and too easy) to assume that there’s a grand spectrum of normal, accepted behaviour and anything fringe is abhorrent and frightening: you are either sexually normal or sexually deviant.
Yet, every survey done to gauge sexual conduct and perceptions across cultures and eras has always come with a caveat – a reminder that the survey is never accurate because people are 1) unwilling to truly disclose their thoughts and perceptions which they may find embarrassing or criminal or 2) not carried out in large enough samples to conclusively reach a consensus. Human sexuality varies tremendously from culture to culture, and what’s seemingly innocuous in a pagan tribe, may be absolutely terrifying to learn about under more modern climes. The Sambian tribe of Paupa, New Guinea, conducts longstanding manhood trials for coming of age boys that involves the ingesting of seminal fluids, while in certain areas of Africa, women have to undergo an absurd cleansing rite. Of course, superstition and religion (and largely a lack of education) are primary reasons for such behaviour, but it’s still a reminder that all is not as normal as it seems.
Homosexuality also used to be considered an abnormal behaviour – an obscene perversion of ‘standard’ human sexual conduct that has thankfully but slowly gained some traction of acceptance in the 21st century. But that still speaks nothing of the horrible persecution and stigma faced, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia that not only forbids anything gay, but has a tendency to follow the Koran’s recommendation for punishing homosexuals: flogging and the death penalty. A long time ago, and for a considerable duration, the annals of psychology used to file homosexuality as an abnormal condition. Though no longer classified as such, what an embarrassment then it must be for the many who insisted that there was only one acceptable sexual behaviour. And there was a point of time where admitting to being gay was to risk having your neck on the chopping block. While it’s easy to say times have changed, that’s too easily forgetting the immense pain and suffering gay people went through to hide who they really were.
And if one were to argue for ‘normal’ sexual behaviour, be reassured that no one follows standard conduct because the different practices, beliefs and rights to privacy mean anything and everything goes. And not everyone necessarily feel the same level of sexual interest or attraction. Though they make up a much smaller minority of the LGBT community, asexuals are a reminder that there are people who do not feel any (or very little) romantic desires, if at all. Expanding outwards of human sexual orientation, we also have those who are bisexual (romantically attracted to both males and females), yet another wake-up call that not everyone sees love or experiences romance the same way we assume it should be on TV and movies. We have always understood that everyone’s different – a term commonly applied in education that no discrimination should be brought to bear on students of different backgrounds, races and religion – yet human sexual orientation is something everyone feels they must pass a judgement on. Why?
To make it worse, a quick look at a list of known sexual fetishes should give us a glimpse into how varied (and very dark) human sexuality can be:
Acrotomophilia: Sexual arousal to amputees (those without arms or legs)
Coprophilia: Sexual arousal to feces
Necrophilia: Sexual arousal to corpses
Pygophilia: Sexual arousal to buttocks
Zoophilia: Sexual arousal to animals (horses, cows etc)
The list of known human fetishes are far longer, and perhaps the most famous and often tossed around terms are masochism (sexual arousal from being hurt or dominated by another person) and sadism (pleasure from inflicting pain on others). They are sometimes conveniently reduced to S&M, and many an on screen joke has been based on confusing these terms.
And if that isn’t enough, consider that many relationships and marriages in the world often aren’t the norm. A woman who holds the Guinness world record for being the most obese (she could barely move) was able to find a man who was willing the marry her. He found her extreme obesity a huge turn on, and didn’t mind the trouble of washing and cleaning her since she was too overweight to do it herself. There are also those who fall in love despite impossibly challenging cultural and language barriers; those who have to overcome age differences; and others who continue to love each other even though one of their partners may die soon. The long and short of it is that human love, which is really just human sexuality, is complicated, irrational and as Stephen Fry puts it so well: erotically dark. We all want access to love and being loved, and one’s devotion to religion proves a point about how much we want unconditional love. Religion is rubbish, but it’s appeal of a benefactor who will love you despite everything you have done is enough to transform people into believers. What does that tell you about love and sexuality?
And so, let’s be clear. No one is remotely normal. Everyone has their own disturbing fantasies, odd peculiarities they find erotic, and while they may practice a normal lifestyle, it doesn’t necessarily allude to the fact that they don’t wish for something different. We are in a way, sly perverts. We learn to mask our deviant thoughts and desires, and like most well mannered functioning social folks, we know well the rhythm and public image we must wear to appear normal. Yet, in a way that’s deeply obsessive and disturbing is how religion is so desperately insistent on legislating sexual conduct. Most of us simply get on with our lives but almost every religion in the world has a well-defined rule book on appropriate human sexual conduct. Given that most religions often claim to be able to ‘free’ you and offer the cup of liberation, most religious folks fail to see the steel shackles coming on.
So, have you thought about (HYTA) how everyone is a pervert?