Sexual Language

Sex used to be a word that described both the gender of the individual and the mostly nocturnal activity being practiced ("My sex is male, and I had sex last night with a female"). Now, largely as a result first of the woman's movement, then all the other identity-building nouns currently being collected together under the code term "LGBT," the erotic element has begun to disappear entirely, along with the very use of the word sex. The differences between what once were called "the sexes" is now being identified as differences between "genders," while whatever happened behind bedroom doors is generally being kept concealed under the nomenclature. This even includes the use of the words "boys" and "girls," and "men" and "women," not to mention the wearing of pants and dresses or any other signifying clothes. .

In short, the neutered term "gender" is effectively managing to neutralize human sexuality, purging the discussion of its physical components. The current concentration on gender differences in relationships, rather than on mutual affection and sensuality, has created a significant chasm between language and behavior.

The change in emphasis, of course, has been the direct result of certain relatively recent social movements in this country, beginning with Feminism. Feminists have labored long and honorably to free women from their perceived status as sex objects, confined to the kitchen and the bedroom. "We are not our bodies" has been the liberating cry, and later: "Nor are we defined by our gender."

"Nor are we defined by our constancy" might be the newest cry as advances in contraception are encouraging a larger percentage of women to practice the sexual adventurism traditionally criticized in males. According to Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weill, a noted psychologist and marriage counselor, more than fifty percent of married women now cheat on their husbands while a large number at least fantasize about committing an infidelity.

The growing adventurousness in the bedroom, side by side with the abandonment of its descriptive language, may also have been encouraged by the Gay movement, which welcomes diversity more than fidelity in erotic relationships. No doubt the growth of such sexually-transmitted diseases as AIDS and Herpes has helped reduce that incidence in recent years, but the emphasis has remained the same.

So we have an historic situation where access to sexual adventure on the part of everybody has never been more available but where the language to describe it has begun to evaporate. So, indeed, have some of the traditional avenues of erotic stimulation. Playboy Mansion has shuttered its doors. Playboy magazine has ceased to publish all-nude centerfolds (except of Hugh Hefner). Burlesque houses have diminished in size and popularity. Pornographic movie houses are empty.

True, there has been a growth in strip houses and dating bars. And the recent mass murder in an Orlando gay nightclub, which left 49 dead and 53 wounded, most of them Latino LGBTs, has left no doubt that there is still a lot of Trump-style hate being directed towards gays and immigrants in the real world.

Still, there has been a significant transition to the virtual reality of the Internet, among lusty individuals, with its numerous erotic and porno offerings, as well as Escort services, and erotic computer-screen exchanges, perhaps the most frequently-visited sites on the Web.

The disparity between language and behavior in the pursuit of erotic satisfaction remains a puzzling aspect of this phenomenon. Soon I hope to write a more comprehensive essay, or even a short book, about it that might help lend more perspective to this puzzling historic phenomenon.