Why the Explicit Stuff?
Nobody cares about sanitized, theoretical discussions of sexuality.
We want stories. We want graphical details. We want to know where our gut desires fit into the picture.
Now, let me pause there. I’m teetering on making the case for porn, which cannot be legitimately made. Nor is it my intent to draw attention to my work by testing the limits of censorship.
Rather, having lived through the Sexual Revolution from founding to foundering, I never noticed an argument being made against it. The other side never seemed to speak up, and when it did, its arguments failed to motivate followers. The Liberators had eye appeal, in addition to a mass media eager to exploit that. So perhaps the deck was stacked.
But that simply means we ought to try harder. That is, if we actually want to win.
So far, in writing and promoting “Sex: What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You,” I’m a little surprised to have come across few others writing about sexuality the way I’ve chosen to do. There is one fellow—Carlos Cuahutemoc Sanchez, Mexico’s best-selling author—who’s created a stir by penning explicit fiction aimed at fostering morality among young adults, but it’s written in Spanish and the translation of one novel I read wasn’t very good.
Stateside, I saw the vacuum as an invitation. Not to print Christian-friendly smut, but to write more frankly and positively about sex than most of us are accustomed to seeing.
Here’s how I support the decision not to exclude graphic content from my writing.
The Value of Storytelling
In this article about electoral politics, Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven explain why the good guys keep losing. It’s their absence of narratives, and on the rare occasions when narratives do exist, they’re weak.
I’ve been active in politics for decades, and while most everyone I’ve worked with still pines for President Reagan, few seem to understand why he won the presidency in two landslides.
In getting people to vote for you, it’s not enough to be right. Reagan really loved America, and he loved Americans. His storytelling — true accounts or legends — grew naturally out of that love. People were attracted to his vivid optimism, and they were willing to vote for him despite the gloomy counter-narratives spewing daily from the media. They believed what Reagan said because he spoke in images they liked, and in visions they shared.
I can’t expect people to get behind an idea like orthosexuality unless I spell out exactly what that is, with descriptions and feelings our culture has ruled out of polite discussion. The bad guys have no qualms about explicitness, even delivering porn to minors. I don’t do anything like that, of course. But I do convey what is right and beautiful about God-given sexuality. That’s not an abstract, but a reality, and it ought to be integrated with the way we think about life and love.
Beat Something With Nothing?
I credit a contemporary writer, Bryan Preston, with the succinct phrase, “You cannot beat something with nothing.” Cheap sex is a something. Porn is a something. It’s not enough simply to say “No” to these things. In fact, it’s an approach very likely to fail.
(Were you around when the best-known way to lose weight was to skip meals, or to replace them with unfilling food like cottage cheese and salads? Those ideas lost out to the Atkins Plan, which at least promised something like red meat to satiate our hunger. So it is with sex: Orthosexuality is a better idea, not just an absence of bad ideas.)
Counter With Truth
About 99 percent of the Internet’s sexual content is posted by liars. The spectacular tales they tell—video, audio, or text—glorify the hookup, the quickie, the exploitative fantasy fulfilled. While a few of their stories might be truthful, I disbelieve even the positive spin on those, because bad sex is like bulimia: Its sufferers look in the mirror and see no problem with all those ribs showing. And many of them think you ought to look more like them, too.
Risk and Reward
To get this new style of writing right, I had to steer around two big landmines. One is simply: porn. If my words were to actually stir erotic feelings in readers, that would make me their pornographer. To avoid that, my writing would have to be judged non-erotic by what the courts commonly call the “reasonable man” standard.
Of course, not every man is reasonable. I knew that no matter what I wrote, I would offend the prudish, and the enemy would gleefully take the role of accuser. But so what? They’re the cause of our problems, not me. It’s the great middle I was concerned about.
So, after I’d written what I wanted to write, I put it before a number of beta readers. After a couple of minor corrections, two of them even commended the book to their teenagers. (Quoth one: “I know they’ve seen worse.”) So have we all. And that was the reassurance I needed.
The other pitfall was—since these are personal recollections—that I might appear to be bragging. My experiences, for better or worse, have made me who I am. But it’s also easy to unintentionally convey a spirit of adventure when recounting one’s exploits, even the downers. (Alcoholics have to watch this with their “bottoming out” stories. The movie “Arthur” was a hit, right? Half the reason people drink is to better enjoy themselves and others.) I never went into a sexual encounter with the intention of hurting anybody, but in the hope of some sort of transcendence. And for the unmarried, sexual exploits often entail some degree of risk, a sense of daring. The young are especially vulnerable to this kind of temptation, so through careful editing, I’ve ensured that such temptation doesn’t come from me. Unlike the phonies online, I tell about the enduring heartbreak that follows the fleeting thrill. As they say about jumping off a roof, it’s the last few inches that kill you.
So far, the literary strategy appears to be working. Several reviewers of the book specifically said they were intrigued by its description of orthosexuality, and none have taken exception to the relatively small amounts of sexual color leading off certain chapters; one even praised my “raw honesty.” One anti-porn group declined to invite me as a speaker, owing to both my inclusion of God in the narrative, and to the explicit language. But that’s been the only direct objection so far.
I owe Mr. Sanchez credit for breaking this ground. I look forward to a chance to thank him someday … after brushing up on the college Spanish that has mostly served to make me look like a fool on vacations.
Then again, maybe the language of love needs no translator. And if it’s spoken carefully, it needs no censor.