A flowchart of the sexual decision-making process from the point of view of religiously-minded people who view sex as a sin. All options lead to one of two choices: no sex or sex expressly for procreation.

The answer to god is sex.

Think about it. Think about the moment of orgasm. What is going through your mind at that very moment? Something? Anything? Maybe nothing?

For me, there’s nothing except the spectacular sensations filling my consciousness. My entire world becomes that orgasmic experience. For a split second, all that exists is me and my pleasure. There is no room in that brief instant for god, for morals, for emotion, or for thoughts. God bless that wonderful simplicity. Little wonder this self-empowering activity is such a threat to conservative institutions.

All of that stately “close your eyes and think of England,” or spiritual “becoming one with a greater power” stuff is what seems to me to be the perversions of sex, the unnecessary (and potentially harmful) search for greater meaning in something that is better off kept so incredibly simple. I do understand the desire to be able to transform one thing into another, to turn sex into connection, but there is a huge difference between saying sex is connection and saying that sex can become connection. (See also: your fantasy is not reality.)

Inherently, sex should be easy, and it should be simple, and it should be fun. Yet so many people are so uncomfortable with it, and popular culture dictates this unease as “proper” and correct in so belligerent a way, that so much of how we view sex—and consequently ourselves as well—is just as uncomfortable. This is a shame, because sex more than any other force that I can think of in the entire world is the single most universally shared experience, despite (or perhaps because of) its variations. What has the capability to bring people together is perverted into ammunition that keeps us apart.

Evidence of this belligerence is everywhere. It’s endlessly embroiled in politics, where the cultural blind spot about sex is so dangerous that even libertarians who challenge so called “pro-life” campaigns (as if being in favor of the right to choose an abortion makes you somehow anti-life?) are unaccustomed to directly tackling the subject of sex. Republicans and Democrats alike only ever talk about marriage, the presumably pre-sex part of life, and then babies, the presumably post-sex part of life. You would have to pull teeth to talk about sex itself!

From a recent Yahoo! News opinion piece called The One Question the “Pro-life” Presidential Candidates Don’t Want You to Ask:

98 percent of American women have done it.

37 million Americans are currently doing it.

Most of the GOP candidates oppose it.

What is it?

If you said “sex,” you were close. The answer is “use contraception.” In recent weeks, the GOP candidates have been asked a lot about their views on abortion but not one has been asked his position on contraception (or even prevention in general). Really big oversight. Maybe its because everyone just assumes they all support contraception. After all, who doesn’t?

Really big oversight indeed! And it’s typical of people’s understanding of what the “proper” way to communicate about sex is: to not to.

One of my favorite (comedic) examples of this in action is the following quote from the show House MD, which begins as a scene in which (male) Dr. Chase is staring at his attractive (female) colleague Dr. Cameron and spills coffee:

Dr. Cameron: I’m uncomfortable about sex.

Dr. Chase: But we don’t have to talk about this.

Dr. Cameron: Sex could kill you. Do you know what the human body goes through when you have sex? Pupils dilate, arteries constrict, core temperature rises, heart races, blood pressure skyrockets, respiration becomes rapid and shallow, the brain fires bursts of electrical impulse from nowhere to nowhere, and secretions spit out of every gland. And the muscles tense and spasm like you’re lifting three times your body weight. It’s violent, it’s ugly, and it’s messy. And if God hadn’t made it unbelievably fun, the human race would have died out eons ago. (Chase stares) Men are lucky they can only have one orgasm. Did you know women can have an hour-long orgasm?

Foreman enters

Dr. Cameron: (Cheerful) Hey Foreman, what’s up?

To me, this is a reminder that being closeted, uncomfortable, ashamed, or uneasy with something makes that something one of your vulnerabilities. Being closeted about being kinky, for example, makes me vulnerable to anyone willing to use my kinky sexuality to harm me, but being open and proud about it as a part of who I am, makes me (in the personal case) immune to such blackmail or attacks. But this can be generalized.

Most American people are in the closet about sex. Sex is thus easily used as though it were the threat of the executioner’s axe upon the populous. People fear being “outed” for enjoying sex for its own sake, as if pleasure were an intrinsically harmful thing in some way.

In most cases, religion is this axe. Have sex in one of any “uncontrolled” ways, and you have sinned, as the flowchart at the top of this post makes hilariously clear. That flowchart is taken from a page in the book Wages of Sin, whose description actually highlights this connection between religion and sex very nicely:

Throughout history, Western society has often viewed sickness as a punishment for sin. It has failed to prevent and cure diseases—especially diseases tied to sex—that were seen as the retribution of a wrathful God. The Wages of Sin, the remarkable history of these diseases, shows how society’s views of particular afflictions often heightened the suffering of the sick and substituted condemnation for care. […] More recently, medical and social responses to masturbation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and AIDS in the twentieth round out Allen’s timely and erudite study of the intersection of private morality and public health. The Wages of Sin tells the fascinating story of how ancient views on sex and sin have shaped, and continue to shape, religious life, medical practice, and private habits.

I am taking wholly and without alteration from Kate Bornstein when I say the following:

There are more people on Earth who love sex than those who fear god.

And that’s why the answer to god is sex. If it’s a war the Religious Right wants, then the Left should be using sex as their ammunition to fight back.

As usual, some delightful citations via the incredible Gloria Brame.