Public Life Remains Chaste Because Sex Needs Rules

Despite the booming use of Internet porn and conversations skeptical of sexual norms pervading popular culture, physical sexuality remains restricted to private life.

Despite the booming use of Internet porn and conversations skeptical of sexual norms pervading popular culture, physical sexuality remains restricted to private life. Nor does the culture, or multiplicity of American cultures as the case may be, tend to reward libertine behavior. 


Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, argues that the practice of sex relative to social norms has changed very little, if at all, despite public discussions of sexuality having become more acceptable.

Women's view of sex may be the reason why all the talk about freeing sexual norms fails to reach a critical mass. While men's sexual desire is only dampened by monogamy—suggesting they could tolerate a much less chaste society—women consistently reject the kind of chaos that, according to sociologist Roy Baumeister, sex can create:

"Sex can disrupt families, set friends against each other, even produce violence and murder. Unregulated sex creates all sorts of social problems: children with no one to care for them, violence, and disease."

Still, the popularity of apps like Tinder seem to suggest that random public meetings based primarily on physical attraction are becoming more acceptable. The data say otherwise: very few "matches" materialize into actual meetings, and as Ann Friedman wrote in her article Overwhelmed and Creeped Out, such apps only cater to one half of the population.

As anthropologist Lionel Tiger explains in his Big Think interview, sex is too great an instrument of social disruption to not have agreed-upon rules that govern its use:

Read more at First Things

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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