“You people have gone too far!”
“Think about the children!”
“Your latest issue is a disgrace.”
When Xtra West published its Sex Issue on Apr 13, these were some of the comments the public saw fit to pass on to us. We heard similar gripes from straight women who claimed their gay friends agreed with them, people of unidentified sexuality, religious zealots from Mission, and most dishearteningly, from gay men.
One corporate advertiser decided not to renew its contract. Another long-time advertiser refused to pay his invoice, claiming he could “no longer support Xtra West’s editorial policy.” One apartment building manager asked us not to distribute our papers to his building in the future. But curiously, The Sex Issue was very popular with our readers. It flew off the racks and elicited many letters and phone calls of support.
As the guy who answers the phones at Xtra West, I was the first person most of the fussbudgets complained to. As I listened with patience to one after another of these rants, I started to think: what is it about sex that rankles us so?
Now, let’s get one thing straight (if you can pardon the pun): the front cover of The Sex Issue was not pornographic. To refresh your memory, it featured two naked men–a real-life couple–in a sexy embrace. The man in back is covering his lover’s genital area with his hand. No cocks or anal regions are visible. A tuft of pubic hair is shown.
So what was the big deal?
My theory is this: Sexually, we humans live in a terribly repressed state of being. We are taught from a very early age to fear our bodies, to be ashamed of our sexual urges and to hide any expressions of lust. We sense that sex is powerful, so it scares us.
But it doesn’t stop there. Because of our inability to explore ourselves fully and embrace everything life has to offer, we shy away from intimacy–and our dealings in love, sex, and even honest dialogue are clumsy as a result.
I don’t believe the beacons of decency that called to complain were simply worried about “the children” or “the seniors” as they repeatedly claimed. The real problem lies in their discomfort with anything even remotely sexual.
And now they’re passing their own repressive natures on to “the children.”
I’d venture to bet that if we stopped hiding reality from little Jimmy and Susie, they would grow up freer, happier and more responsible. What we’re doing now–“protecting” our children from anything sexual–ain’t working, baby.
Look around you. It’s a mess of bad relationships, unwanted pregnancies, chatroom addictions, sexual diseases, consumer madness, drug and alcohol abuse and mass depression.
The Sex Issue will not scar “the children” for life. But bad role models like the woman who told me she was “afraid to pick up the paper” will.
In Kurt Vonnegut’s 1976 novel Slapstick, he wrote that loneliness is the human race’s biggest problem. It imprisons us, makes us do unhealthy things, and can be a kind of death. If we hugged each other, said nice things to our neighbours and smiled at complete strangers on the bus, we’d feel more a part of the human family. It could cure us, Kurt said. His motto? Lonesome No More.
It occurs to me that the same thing could be said about repression.
It’s an insidious, cunning and powerful demon that keeps us down. It reduces us to bland, uninteresting and, ultimately, sad souls.
Sometimes a kick in the pants like The Sex Issue is just what we need.
For those of you who bristle at erotic pictures, worry about “the children,” threaten to have Xtra West brought up on obscenity charges, and want to ban the free flow of ideas and images, I have only this to say: You’re repressed. Plain and simple. Not bad people, just repressed.
Why not smile, flirt, sing, touch, dance, make love, speak from the heart, act silly, cry deeply and laugh great, big belly laughs? Let’s get naked: physically,
emotionally and spiritually. Repressed No More, I say. It’s time for a revolution, one of a most profound and personal sort: a revolution of the soul.
Wiggle your toes, run through the sprinklers, revel in ecstasy, shout for joy, and plant a surprise kiss on that beautiful friend of yours: it’ll make you feel good.