What Is Sex, Part II: I Only Do One Thing
Sep 13, 2013
Part I of this post is here.
Not everything is about sex, but sex is about everything. Look at this, from Mr. God, This Is Anna:
Anna had gotten one end of the burst balloon trapped by her foot to the pavement. While she was stretching it with the one hand, she was poking it with her right index finger.
“That’s funny,” she murmured. Her unblinking eyes solidified this experiment like some twentieth-century Medusa.
“Will you pull this for me?”
I got down beside her and was handed the burst balloon.
“Now pull it for me.”
I stretched the balloon for her and she stuck her finger into it.
“What’s funny?” I asked.
“Wot’s it look like?”
“Looks like you’re sticking your finger into a burst balloon.”
“Don’t it look like a man’s bit?”
“I suppose it does, kind of.”
“Looks like a lady’s on the other side,” she said.
“Oh! Does it? Let’s have a look.” I looked, and it did in a way.
“That’s funny, that is.”
“Well, what’s so funny about it?”
“If I only do one thing,” she poked her finger into the balloon again,”it makes a lady’s and a man’s. Don’t you think that’s funny, Fynn? Eh?”
The “one thing,” as I take it, is somehow God’s act of creating us, and not only us but the animals, and not only the animals but the universe as a whole. I don’t know why, but creation is dual: male and female, seed and soil, receiver and giver, divine and human:
All the universe has got a sex-like quality about it. It is seminal and productive at the same time. The seeds of words produce ideas. The seeds of ideas produce goodness knows what. The whole blessed thing is male and female at one and the same time. In face, the whole thing is pure sex. We’ve taken one aspect of it and called it sex, or made it self-conscious and called it Sex. But that was our own fault, wasn’t it?1
It’s one reason Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, about a planet with androgynous inhabitants, was a very interesting idea but didn’t really work: they just all seemed like a bunch of gay guys. Either it would have taken a more talented author than LeGuin to make it work, or nobody could have done it, and I suspect the latter. Humans don’t make sense without gender.
When I tell people I don’t believe that homosexual acts are right, I don’t mean two men shouldn’t have sex; I mean they can’t.
The first time I realized this was while watching porn2 a few years ago.3 These two men were clearly working at something, working pretty hard in fact, and I enjoyed watching it, I guess, but suddenly the whole thing seemed surreal: what on earth were they trying to accomplish? Who were they trying to fool?
I felt like I was watching somebody play golf with a pool stick, or use a tennis racket as a hammer. It was sad and weird and almost funny.
I don’t mean that two men or two women can’t love each other, and take care of each other, and support each other emotionally and spiritually and physically, and be tender towards each other. Recently my friend Jack P. amazed me by saying, of a mutual friend of ours who is also straight and male: “I love him so, so deeply!”
That’s not gay. That’s just people being people.
What I do mean is something like this: masculinity and femininity mean something; they’re not accidental and they’re not arbitrary.
I get that people don’t want to be limited by their bodies, and that between body and soul, or body and spirit, or body and mind, there is sometimes a deep disjoint.
Being both soul and body is a mystery beyond all telling. That mystery goes all the way to the heart of us. That’s why there’s no pain like the pain that happens when it goes wrong. Sex is what we’re made of, and when your sexuality is broken — as all of ours is, in different ways and to different degrees — it feels like fissures in your heart.