Conor Murphy believes Irish law should worry less about the bedroom and more about wider issues
Sex is okay. Sex dressed as a panda, though? Definitely a no-no to chat about to the friends you want to keep. Both acts start the same way – well, the foreplay may have different logistics – and both will inevitably lead towards the same conclusion. So is one wrong while the other’s cool? To claim to be a modern society, we must be able to examine how we, as a society, interact – without laughing in incredulity.
In olden times sex was seen as a base evil, only to be attempted within a set of the most contrived rules and preconceptions. Let’s look to see how far have we advanced, starting with what sex is now. Is it an evil, a good, a weapon or a tool? Can it be a commodity?
Sex is the only non-harmful consensual act you cannot provide as a service. As George Carlin said, “Sex is legal, selling stuff is legal, so why isn’t selling sex legal?” Its illegality dates back to the notion that sex is either ‘bad’ or ‘special’. While sex can be both, we must admit that it’s often either. The problem of, say, prostitution being abused, is irrelevant: in every other facet of business we don’t ban when abuses occur, we regulate. The notion that a select few should decide how degrading an act is for the rest of society is just laughable. If you wouldn’t work in Tesco, for example, you shouldn’t be allowed to automatically pontificate on whether Tesco might be a good enough job for me.
But I doubt this will happen any time soon, because society does dictate the limits of acceptable actions. Society decides what’s right, even if the law deigns not to. This is a ridiculous role – especially when it comes to sex. If I want to fight the most ancient of battles while dressed up as an endangered species, rather than in my birthday suit, it might be legal but it is most definitely taboo to mention at a dinner party. For some pathetic reason we still haven’t reached the point where, as adults, any consensual safe act is normal, and where we all have some sort of awkward (possibly furry) personal closet to climb out of.
It’s not that the law doesn’t preach in strange and unusual ways. We have taken a leap forward recently in bringing age of consent between boys and girls to a uniform 16. But as with all of these progressions, the end result is a half-baked law, unsure what to do with itself. One decidedly untrendy law pertains to pornography, roughly prohibiting the display of sexual material to people under the age of 18. Advancing this logic further, does this mean that we are allowed to have sex two years before we’re mature enough to actually view it? And doesn’t this mean a 16-year-old is breaking the law whenever he has sex unless he wears a blindfold? Or is he innocent if he keeps his eyes closed?
All nonsensical scenarios aside, there are actual serious implications of the group resistance we hold against any evolution to our sex laws. Some Irish people, for example, feel they can’t marry who they want in this country due to ancient preconceived social rules. So, to anyone who feels that there are religious traditions to be respected with marriage, or anyone who feels like screeching “think of the children!”, go bury your head in the sand: you mightn’t want to know that sexuality, for men, is most probably decided before birth (the evidence is weaker for women) so the children will be of whatever orientation their genes decide. And hey – if we’re wrong, the world needs better population control anyway. It is extremely irritating watching the Catholic hillbilly brigade being rolled out on talk shows as if their opinion is worth the 50c Bible it’s read out of.
Even if we were to get all these things sorted out, the general hypocrisy of society’s attitude to sex is amazing. Try this: find someone who you know wouldn’t go out with you, and ask them out every day for a week (Hint – mention panda suits a lot.) We all know that’s creepy, unless you’re good looking, of course. If I had a book’s worth of space for this piece, I could start to challenge the view that sex is something women own and give out to men when they feel like it. While this perception is mostly beneficial to women, it does give rise to the notion that while women become sluts, men become players.
To grow up about this issue we must all realise we are all different and that this is okay. We all have tastes, and when we get the law to stop talking about the bedroom and get our society to start talking about the wider world, it’ll be time to welcome in the twenty-first century.