…Because Getting Off Is Fun


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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38 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimsie says:

    Actually, we’re seeing increased female fertility. The problem is decreased male fertility.
    I’m blaming the mostly untested stuff we throw into our bodies, most particularly the pseudoestrogens.Report

    • Avatar Kimsie says:

      We’re also seeing detectably fewer male births…Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      What? Most countries in the developed world have fertility rates just at or very bellow the replacement level. Israel being the only country with a fertility rate decently above the replacement level in the developed world. Even many other countries in the developing world are bellow replacement level.Report

  2. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Appreciate the response, Sam. Not at all fightin’ words. By “getting off,” do you mean sexual satisfaction generally? If so, I’m not sure if your simple explanation quite works. Conservative Catholics enjoy sex as much as anyone. I’m not aware of any study that shows orgasms are less popular among them than among the general population. They’re picky about the conditions in which they (and maybe others) have orgasms, but in the “appropriate” conditions, fun fun fun is a-okay. In other words, I’m not sure the difference between those who buy Catholic thinking on sexual morality and those that don’t is a division between those who like fun and those who don’t.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

      But they do think mastrubation is wrong, yes? So it is wrong to enjoy sexual pleasure unless you have a husband or wife (who is still alive and well enough to have sex). If you can’t get a husband or wife (maybe because you are disabled emotionally or physically) you are wrong to masturbate and should ask for forgiveness for your wickedness. Yes, you masturbaters who can’t find spouses, you are evil. We who have made you feel shame, we are righteous.

      This is the really yucky part of religion.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I’m under the impression that Catholics once thought it was wrong to enjoy sexual pleasure unless there was an intent to procreate. But that’s just what I assumed; and I know many Catholics no longer practice this because families of 12 or more children are now uncommon.

        Perhaps this is not due to an evolution in views on pleasure, however. Perhaps it’s exhaustion
        cause by both parents participating in the workforce and sleep deprivation becoming the norm for working women, even when they don’t have a baby waking them up at night.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        One of the really yucky things about religion.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      I think that we may disagree. While I have no doubt that conservative Catholics who follow the church’s rules on sexual expression do enjoy themselves in the act, they’re presumably limiting the act’s occurrence in accordance with church doctrine, right? That says to me, at a minimum, that the preference is for church doctrine rather than sex itself? Or at least, the preference is for sex had within the confines of the church’s doctrine.

      I would describe the difference as those who focus on church doctrine and those who focus on sexual satisfaction. I think many more people (at least these days) prioritize sexual satisfaction over church teaching and think that the explanation is their own preference for one over the other. Having sex, in other words, is more satisfying that satisfying Catholic doctrine.Report

      • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

        I think many more people (at least these days) prioritize sexual satisfaction over church teaching and think that the explanation is their own preference for one over the other.

        I agree that there’s a prioritization here of sexual satisfaction over specifically Catholic teaching, sure, but I would be surprised if most people prioritized sexual satisfaction over any kind or norm or standard. You don’t see too many folks pleasuring themselves or another in public, for example. Would you say, then, that most people are interested more in satisfying mainstream social norms about appropriate places for sex than in satisfying their sexual urges?Report

        • Avatar Shazbot6 says:

          I think the fact that people don’t masturbate in public is evidence that they know they can get sexual pleasure at home, thereby achieving sexual satisfaction and not violating public norms.

          The problem with the Catholic position on sex is that it tells some people that they should never get pleasure from sex and/or masturbation, even in cases where there would be no harm caused by them getting sexual pleasure: gay people, those without spouses, those unable to get spouses for any number of reasons, etc.

          That is a deeply immoral position. Shameful. If at all possible, you should avoid being part of an institution that is so shameful.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot6 says:

            “but in the “appropriate” conditions, fun fun fun is a-okay.”

            Then, according to Catholicism, what is wrong with masturbating at home or two men having sex?

            And please don’t say, with a straight face, that Catholicism implies that such sex doesn’t lead to love. Homosexual sex obviously does. And though masturbation doesn’t lead to love, neither does eating popcorn, but both are perfectly fun and good, despite not leading to true love. Not leading to love is not bad in and of itself.

            Sex itself, according to Aquinas, is unnatural and immoral unless it is done a certain specific way. It is unnatural to masturbate even though it is pleasurable. It is unnatural to have gay sex, even if it is pleasurable. The mere fact that these things are pleasurable and not harmful is not sufficient to label them good, according to Aquinas, and really Catholicism in general. Pleasure itself is not a good. The only thing that is good is that a wee-wee goes into a hoo-hoo as God intended those to go together.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I bleeb the official argument is that sex is, ideally, both unitive and procreative.

              Sex that is one but not the other is not ideal sex.

              “What about women who can’t have babies? What about infertile men?”

              The answer comes “yeah, that’s a tragedy, huh?”

              “Are you saying that they shouldn’t have sex???”

              “Hey, God allows for miracles. Look at example from the Bible! The sex is both unitive and allows for the possibility of (perhaps miraculous!) procreation.”Report

            • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

              Then, according to Catholicism, what is wrong with masturbating at home or two men having sex?

              It does not accord with the procreative and unitive meanings of human sexuality. Traditional Catholic morality on sexuality is teleological. Sex has a purpose and a manner in which that purpose is brought into being. To be moral, sex has to be ordered or directed toward the ends of procreation and unity. This can be achieved, so the thing goes, by having sex in the way in which these ends typically come about, even if the ends are not actually brought about. Infertility and sterility are here consider defects, but not a redirection of the sexual act away from its proper ends. The former present no moral prohibition; the latter does.

              Pleasure itself is not a good.

              No, it is a good. It’s just not the highest good. Thomism and Catholicism, as you know, are hierarchical ways of thinking. Sin comes from placing a lower good above a higher good.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot4 says:

                So sex that isn’t unitive or procreative is good, because it is pleasurable, according to Catholicism? Just something else is better?

                I kind of thought non-procreative, non-unitive (what a stupidly vague word) was supposed to be immoral according to Catholicism even if it lead to pleasure.Report

              • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

                What you kind of thought is right. Pleasure is an objective good. So is, say, the welfare of my children. It would be wrong of me to seek pleasure in such a way that I neglect the welfare of my children or actually bring them harm. This doesn’t mean that pleasure isn’t an objective good, only that treating it as a higher good than something that really is a higher good constitutes a moral failure. I chose love of pleasure over love of my children.Report

          • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

            But if you want satisfaction at the moment you are in public, then you have to make a choice, right then, either to hold off on satisfaction, not getting it the moment you want it, or to violate public norms.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot4 says:

              Well the point is to avoid harming someone by shocking them.

              I don’t value the norm of no sex in public, so much as accord to it, because (just like pooping in public) it would harm someone if I did it.

              What is your point here? Conservative Catholics (per my point above) think sex that is pleasurable, consensual, and not at all harmful is immoral. Thus, they don’t value sex that is fun and not harmful and consensual. They value sex that meets, as you say, some outdated teleological concept. Pleasure isn’t bad, but it’s presence (in the absence of any harm) isn’t good. What is good is following God’s plan. If anything, pleasure is a danger, because it could lead you from God’s plan, even if you aren’t hurting anyone. (God’s plan is to make Gay people and singles less happy. What a jerk.)Report

              • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

                Anything can be a danger. The moral live involves risk. In Catholic thought, pleasure is part of God’s plan, but there are things more important than pleasure, things that I would be wrong to put above pleasure. The welfare of other people, for example.

                I suspect your analysis is not all that different. You wouldn’t seek pleasure no matter what the cost, right? You value pleasure, but you value other things more, meaning you wouldn’t sacrifice them for the sake of pleasure. Rather, you’d sacrifice pleasure for their sake. Am I wrong?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “Well the point is to avoid harming someone by shocking them.

                I don’t value the norm of no sex in public, so much as accord to it, because (just like pooping in public) it would harm someone if I did it.”

                This is a strange argument to make. If seeing people have sex causes outrage and, thus, harm, than why isn’t knowing about gay sex, something many folks find outrageous, damaging enough for those people to seek to ban it?Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

          Are generally held societal standards the same as religion specific standards? Perhaps. But most people only have one of those two attributes; conservative Catholics (presumably) have adopted both. That seems to be a difference worth noting.

          Again, I’m not objecting to the conservative Catholics that do this but I am saying that prolonged sexual restraint is not as enticing (generally) as sexual expression.Report

        • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

          I think the point that I’d make about prioritization is simply that Catholicism introduces an additional layer of prioritization. Now it’s not just about not having sex in public, but also about not having sex at home unless the point is to make a baby. I think that’s the prioritization that people are rejecting, because it is very easy (and fun) to have sex at home without making a baby and without any of the calamities that the Catholic Church warns about coming true. I think that you yourself were making the same point when you observed that the Church can’t seem to prove its own claims.Report

  3. Avatar Art Deco says:

    Are you capable of pondering an issue without caricaturing your opposition?Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      Which opposition are we talking about?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        The ones with really big heads and exaggerated features.

        Also, “getting off”, BDSM, Personal sexy muscles nude men, and bukkake, all in the last day or two? It’s getting saucy around here. I like it.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Culture, culture, culture.

    The birth control pill was the technology, sure, but it was the soap operas that changed the culture.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      More than that: You didn’t NEED six kids in the hopes one or two would make it to adulthood.

      And people, in general, moved off the family farm. Which meant you didn’t need as many unpaid bodies to keep things running, to make do.

      The Pill helped, but what really triggered the change was antiobotics, the beginnings of modern healthcare, and industrialization taking off in a big way. We aren’t an agricultural society anymore, and we’re one with low infant mortality rates.

      My father’s generation was one of the first really born into that — he had six siblings. None of his brothers and sisters had more than two kids. His parents — both sides — had come from large families, but unlike my dad’s generation — most of his parents siblings hadn’t made it to adulthood.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        It’s probably overdetermined. Right around the time that we got really good at medical tech, we also started embracing feminism (1st wave had been internalized, 2nd wave was being debated), and, at the same time, we started dealing with mass entertainment where there were a *LOT* of messages being sent that the producers probably didn’t even notice (Russian audiences noticing the shoes everyone was wearing, or the ubiquity of automobiles in American movies, for example).Report

    • Avatar Miss Mary says:

      I know as soon as Days of Our Lives is done for the day, or the power goes out, I’m in the mood for some baby making. But when the tv is functional, eh, not so much.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If I’ve learned anything from Soap Operas, it’s that the baby stories aren’t as interesting as the pregnancy stories, and the pregnancy stories aren’t as interesting as the achieving pregnancy stories.Report

        • Avatar Miss Mary says:

          And isn’t porn really just stories about people trying to achieve pregnancy? I think they are going in the wrong direction with their theory about soap operas. If they want increase population we should all take afternoons off to watch our “stories” and act on our feelings.Report

          • Avatar Zac says:

            Um…you’ve seen porn, right? A *lot* of what they’re doing will not, as far as I’m aware, get anyone pregnant.Report

            • Avatar b-psycho says:

              Two sperm are swimming along, one anxious & excited, the other cool & nonchalant.

              The anxious sperm says “I wanna fertilize the egg! I’m gonna FERTILIZE the EGG!”

              Cool sperm glances over & says “relax, we ain’t even past the tonsils yet”.Report

          • Avatar Kimsie says:

            … Kanon. actively underwritten by the gov’t, trying to achieve more pregnancies.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I remember hearing a demographer talk about this. He was on campus carrying a large map to his car, and another professor came over to help him. The helper looked at it and said, “oh, you’re interested in linguistics?”

      “No, I study demography.”

      “Then why do you have a map of French dialects?”

      “I don’t. It’s a map of the demographic transition across France by year.”

      Contraception has always been available. The change is in culture.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    Maybe I’m wrong but whenever I read about the global fertility decline and the impending decreases in population all I can feel is a happy contented inclination to view it as a racial and global civilizational triumph for us as a species.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The concern I have is that the change is sufficiently sudden that we’re going to have a problem with the ageing population. Unless we make great strides in delaying senescence in the next few decades, we’re going to end up with a massive dependant population on our hands.Report