Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Does Overexposure to Sex Make Us Jaded? By Greta Christina, Greta Christina's Blog.

Does Overexposure to Sex Make Us Jaded?
Does familiarity with sex breed contempt?
Some years ago, I worked for a seven-year stretch for a mail-order sex products catalog. (This very one, in fact.) It's a small company, and it was even smaller when I was starting out there. It was the sort of company where everyone did a little bit of every job that needed doing.
So in the years that I worked there, I packed orders, received shipments, argued with vendors, stocked shelves, talked with customers about their orders, did product reviews and wrote product descriptions of porn, sex ed materials, lube and sex toys. I sat at a desk within a few feet of the stock shelves fully stocked with porn, sex ed materials, lube and sex toys. For eight hours a day, five days a week, my day-to-day working life was spent surrounded by -- indeed, immersed in -- porn, sex ed materials, lube and sex toys.
Almost everyone I knew was aware of my work. Most of them approved. But even among the ones who approved, a surprisingly large number asked me the same question:
"Don't you get jaded working here?"
I remember, in particular, the time my brother asked me that. He was in town for a visit, and came by to see where I worked -- right at the moment that I was unpacking a big box of dildos and butt plugs and receiving them into inventory. He wasn't shocked, exactly, but he was definitely a bit startled -- partly by the big box of several dozen dildos and butt plugs but more, I think, by the casual, matter-of-fact manner in which I was taking them out of the box and checking them off the invoice. And he asked me the question:
"Don't you get jaded working here?"
It's a question I got asked a lot when I worked at Blowfish. It's a question I still get asked as a sex writer. And my answer is this:
In the years that I've worked and written about sex products and sexual issues, I have not become jaded about sex.
I have become relaxed about sex.
And jaded and relaxed are not the same thing.
Being jaded means you've lost your capacity to be excited and moved by something. It means that you've been made dull, apathetic or cynical by experience or by surfeit (to quote Merriam Webster). It means you've seen so much of something that you just don't care about it anymore.
Being relaxed, on the other hand, simply means being at ease. It means being comfortable. It doesn't mean that you've seen so much of something that you don't care about it anymore. It means that you've seen so much of something that you think of it as normal.
I'm fascinated by the assumption that exposure to sex will make people bored with it. After all, sex is one of our deepest, most fundamental animal drives. Our interest in it is not going anywhere. I mean, we're exposed to food every day, several times a day, and we're not showing any signs of becoming jaded or bored with it. Why do we think being exposed to sex all day would make us jaded or bored with that?
Here's what I think.
In American society, our interest in sex is often very tied up with anxiety and forbidden-ness and secrecy. True, we have a popular culture that's saturated in sexual imagery. But it's sexual imagery that heightens our anxiety about sex instead of diminishing it. It's sexual imagery that's all about how sex is for the young and beautiful and fashionable, and none of the rest of us are good enough. And our popular culture also has the fucked-up paradox of being saturated in sexual imagery -- while at the same time, being pathetically lacking in sexual information. We have exposure, but I
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