Citizenship can be defined as one's responsibility as a member of a particular community. There are also detailed legal definitions, but those largely establish the minimum requirements, e.g., age, birthplace, residency, et cetera. This essay will focus on the proper requirement beyond those minimal requirements of the law.
First and foremost, a good citizen should be a law-abiding person who respects his neighbors and the laws of the community. This does not suggest that a citizen must agree with the laws or even like them, but the laws define a set of standards that govern the community. The law also establishes the basis by which violators are punished and the process by which the laws are changed. In essence, a citizen agrees to live within the laws defined by the community. Of course, if a citizen chooses not to live within the laws of the community, he has two choices: 1.) serve the punishment called for by the law, or 2.) leave the community to presumably find a community more to his liking and acceptance.
Beyond the responsibility of a citizen to live within the rules of the community, a citizen has an obligation to vote. While most will say it is a citizen's right, I believe it is truly an obligation.
Taken to its worst extreme, if every citizen failed or refused to vote, a democracy or a republic would cease to exist. Voter apathy would lead anarchy, dictatorship or some other form of tyrannical rule. We have a perfect example that every vote counts in the 2000 U.S. presidential election [see . . . "THE VOTE"]. Unfortunately, there are still citizens who do not feel it is important for them to vote. The lower the portion of the citizenry eligible to vote who fail to vote, the less viable a republic will be.
Taken in some logical manner, failure to vote is an abdication of one's responsibility to the community. It could also be argued that, while the accumulation of votes on any given issue will decide the outcome regardless of the turn-out, the less representative of the will of the People the more vulnerable the republic will be. For the purpose of this argument, let us assume only 20% of the eligible population actually votes in a given election [an unfortunately all too common number]. As such, potentially, 10.01% of the population will decide the outcome for the whole community. Given such disparity, there may very well come at time when the majority decides it does not like the outcome and takes some other action not covered by the Constitution. While revolution may not be probable, it is certainly far more possible within a disenfranchised population. This argument can be easily expanded in other ways, but I believe the point is clear. It is from this argument that the statement of a citizen's obligation to vote comes. In a republic, where the People speak their will through the election of their representatives in the legislature as well as the chief executive, the failure of any one citizen to exercise that obligation -- to vote -- weakens us all.
While I would be happy if every citizen voted, I cannot ignore the specter of an uninformed voter. Most of us may not care too much for politics and the inner workings of government, but I can guarantee we are all affected by them. Just as you would care if someone decided to chew up your beautiful front lawn doing Brodies in their hot, new, Mustang convertible or painting nasty graffiti on the side of your house, likewise, what the politicians and government bureaucrats do on your behalf is a direct reflection on your house -- all our houses. Thus, whether we like it or not, we must care about politics. A good citizen is an informed citizen. An informed citizen will listen to the news, read the newspaper, ask questions and learn about what is going on around them. In this part of the argument, I could also state that a good citizen is concerned about the larger community of earth. S/he will absorb world events, be knowledgeable about international issues and voice an opinion about topics of perhaps distant interest. By doing so, the good citizen will ensure their vital and precious vote is cast in a manner that best reflects her/his views. In some respects, if someone chooses not to vote, then I think they forfeit any right to criticize the outcome. Voting is that important.
An important aspect of good citizenship is also recognition of the collective will. Any one of us will rarely, and perhaps I might say, never, be in the majority all the time. As such, electoral decisions will not always go our way. However, we must commit to each other to accept and abide by the decisions of the whole. If we disagree sufficiently with any decision, we can and should work to alter that decision with the tools provided by the Constitution and laws of the Republic. Almost by definition, there must be a strong tolerance of diversity. We do not all think the same. We will not vote the same. We will not see issues in the same light, and most probably will not see the same solutions to those problems. Oddly enough, I believe those among us who are the least tolerant of those who are different or have different views are probably the very same people who do not vote or practice good citizenship in toto. It is through our recognition that each of us has different experiences, different views, different opinions, that makes the collective will of an informed citizenry so powerful -- far more powerful than any dictator, despot, regent or demigod.
To ensure the strength, viability and endurance of the Republic, each citizen also bears the responsibility to pass along these obligations and responsibilities to future generations -- to your children and their children. This responsibility does not belong to government or our schools; it belongs to each of us. Being a good citizen also means being a good parent. Many of our society's ills can be directly traced to bad parenting, to abused or neglected children. When we fail to teach our children the proper morals, the proper lessons in life, we fail our community and ultimately the Republic. To put this is very blunt terms, if you cannot be a good parent, do not have children. If you cannot be a good citizen, leave the country.
In discussions such as these, I am always brought back to Abraham Lincoln's immortal words at the close of his Gettysburg Address [19.November.1863]:
"...that government of the People, by the People and
for the People,
shall not perish from this earth."
We simply cannot fail all of those who sacrificed so much to ensure that we live in freedom, and enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship. We must take "We, the People" very seriously. While the president, senators and representatives, and supreme court justices swear to support and defend the Constitution, and the military commits their very lives to the protection of this Republic, the very least each of us must do as citizen is VOTE! It is our obligation to each other and the whole of the Republic.
So, the next time you enjoy and remember on Independence Day, Memorial Day or Veteran's Day, you must remember the importance of a citizen's vote. Please, please, take what little time it requires and cast your vote.
Voter apathy is the cancer of democracy and a slow death for a republic. As good citizens, let us protect the Republic by voting in every election and pass down this responsibility to our children who must in turn carry that obligation as well.
God bless this Grand Republic.
Drugs in the context of this essay must be restricted to only those materials defined by US law as illegal or controlled substances. Although I would like to include all intoxicants to encompass alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, and for that matter common household products used inappropriately as inhalants. But, alas, this debate would go too far afield if allowed to be that broad. Let it suffice to say that some of the thoughts below apply to other intoxicants as well.
The War on Drugs began in earnest 1970's as a direct result of the societal conflagration born from the Vietnam War. This is not to say that law enforcement operations against illegal drugs has not been with us for many more previous decades, but use of other governmental resources beyond local law enforcement like the military, Coast Guard, ATF, FBI, et al were directly engaged in the War on Drugs. The United States has violated the sovereignty of other nations without prior consultation, all in the name of the War on Drugs. From this unprecedented deployment of resources, we have borne witness to a large imprisonment of our citizens in victimless crime, to a suspension of some basic rights, and to feeling the enormous weight of the Federal government. Our prisons are filled with those who use drugs, who commit crimes to obtain the drugs they crave, and who are the merchants of these destructive substances.
No matter what side of Legalize Drugs issue you are on, there are some indisputable realities. Despite the extraordinary expenditure and commitment of national resources of all kinds, we have not made much progress in our many decade battles against the perversion that is -- the abuse of illegal drugs.
The arguments have been well honed.
They say the government has gone too far with enforcement. The Federal government has imposed itself in the legal and constitutional domain of the states. The 10th amendment was designed to limit the powers of the Federal Government and was adopted to gain ratification of the Constitution by the states who rightfully feared the power of a centralized Federal Government. Now the Federal Government has the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, which has been much abused, but which could be stretched to limit the sale of drugs but there's nothing that gives the Federal Government power to limit personal consumption of such drugs. The issue here is the Federal Governments usurpation of States' rights under the Constitution in the name of public safety.
Beyond the legal/constitutional questions, there are the individual issues. What right does one citizen have to force his moral values on another? Some drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, the most addictive and destructive drugs available. What right do we have to fuss at some poor sole who is blowing a bit of grass? Or, for that matter, shooting up with Saniflush? If it is children we are worried about, let us pass a law protecting them. Similarly, pass laws to protect us from harm in public for such things as driving and flying under the influence. We already have those laws; they are not very effective but they are better than the War on Drugs because they make more sense to most people.
The War on Drugs has done nothing but trample on our Constitution, corrupt our police forces, wasted $billions and generate massive amounts of crime. The last people who want to see this madness ended are the drug pushers and the police. It's their bread and butter.
There are those who believe that some day people will view the War on Drugs in the same light as we presently view burning witches in Salem.
The counter-argument goes something like . . .
Yes, the 10th amendment was designed to limit the powers of the Federal Government, but not emasculate the Federal Government. The Constitution provides for a laborious process of defining laws and even more burdensome requirements for changing the Constitution itself. Not only that, but it provides for judicial review once a law is passed by Congress and signed by the President. The 10th Amendment does not categorically prohibit, just provides for the States to define those not established by the Federal Government. The Constitution in essence says, the People must control the process through their election of representatives and the leadership of the Executive Branch, who then act in accordance with the Constitution and defined laws.
Indeed, none of us has the right to force our moral values on others, but hopefully the majority of us share the same values. This is the real essence of the argument. I believe in the rights of the individual as well as the importance of the family to define the morals for each of us as individuals. If the physiological effects of drugs, any drugs, could be confined to the individual, I would say let them have all they want up to and including sufficient quantities to kill themselves. Where the problem lies in my mind is the effect drug use of an individual has on other innocent citizens. Also, under the Constitution and the protections provided to an individual, our society has gone way too far in protecting the rights of the criminal over those of the victim. Case in point, our extraordinarily liberal position in court & by jury trial toward those under the influence of alcohol, thus the enormous tolerance of drunk drivers. In my mind, if we routinely convicted drunk drivers as though they were sober & rational such that damage = property damage deserving full compensatory remuneration; injury = assault with a deadly weapon; and death = murder or at least manslaughter, and punish meted out to the full extent of the law, then perhaps drug abuse laws could be liberalized. The other problem is the conflict in an individual under-arrest, rights to privacy, and the whole fiasco associated with testing to determine the degree of compromise or impairment by drugs.
Until we, as a society, can solve those aspects of this societal plague, then my focus will be on those who break the law and endanger others. I choose to obey the laws of the land, and I avoid the penalties associated with disobeying the law.
Again, I am all in favor of avoiding the intrusion of government in any form into the lives of citizens. I truly believe an individual citizen should have the right to live their lives the way they wish and in fact to end their lives the way they wish and when they wish. However, there is a point not far away when the rights of the collective outweigh those of the individual when the actions of an individual affect any other citizen. If we would punish those who transgress and make the message very clear that if you use and cause damage, injury or death of an innocent citizen [and self-induced impairment cannot be used as a defense], you will pay the full price of that transgression up to and including execution for your crime, then perhaps I might change my views on drug policy. Until then, I will focus my attention on those who abuse drugs and threaten my well being and those of my family. This to me is the rights of the collective over those of the individual, period. I genuinely resent those who abuse and threaten me and my family. If their freedom to abuse is affected, then tough . . . the rights of the innocent are greater.
Now, here is an interesting thought. If we had some region, let's call it Nevath or Uvada, some region where those who wish to abuse drugs can go . . . to segregate those who are habitual drug abusers, legalization might actually be a benefit. The quid pro quo would be, we will supply all the drugs [pure and uniform] anyone could ever wish to have for free in exchange for their commitment to remain in Uvada and not affect anyone else other than their fellow drug abusers. An abuser could come out at any time with their commitment to remain absolutely, categorically clean under all circumstances. Any subsequent violation would result in permanent restriction to Uvada. Anyone in Uvada would have complete freedom within Uvada but could not go outside for any reason without the clean commitment. If we could do something like that to rid our society of the scourge that is illegal drug use, I would gladly provide the tax dollars to find that safety. But, then, the abusers would claim discrimination because of their habit.
Beyond the rhetoric of legalize or remain illegal lies the tragedy that really is drug abuse. Why is it that some people fall victim to addiction? Is it some genetically-based addict gene, as some contend? Or, is it a psychological or emotional predisposition to abuse? Or, is it a lack of self-esteem born in child abuse or neglect? What is it that attracts some people to such destructive behavior?
I suspect there really are underlying problems that lead individuals to seek the numbness of addictive substances. We could argue that treatment of those underlying problems would be a more effective use of resources than punishment. However, treatment is a reactionary action, i.e., we see the problem, we react to it. The better approach as with most things is to be proactive . . . to attack the problem at its source before it becomes at problem, rather than wait until it becomes a problem. In my humble opinion, many of our larger societal maladies, e.g., drug abuse, child violence, serial killers, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, in the vast majority of cases can be ultimately traced directly back to abusive, neglectful or uncaring parents. If we could figure out a way to license or regulate those who become parents, then I truly believe we could lick the preponderance of our social blight.
The unfortunate reality here is, governmental intrusion into parenting and the family is probably the penultimate offense on our freedom. So, we cannot stop bad parents from producing troubled children and abusive adults. If we cannot get at the source of these problems, then let's get as close to the source as possible. If parents knew they faced jail or ultimately execution for the most grievous crimes of their children, then maybe, just maybe, people who know they are not going to be good parents will refrain from having children in the first place. While there is an element of tongue-in-cheek here, there is also a serious side to this as well. If you look closely at serial killers, you find adults who were seriously abused as children; why are we not holding those abusive parents accountable? If you look at child violence closely, you will find children who were neglected or abused in some way; why are we not holding those neglectful parents accountable? Much of what is wrong in this country can be traced directly to some breakdown in the family.
The sad reality of U.S. Drug Policy is, it truly is a failure and will never be a success. We are wasting extraordinary valuable resources and tinkering with the Constitution for perhaps well-intended reasons, but without the desired results. However, until we can find a way to make the real culprits accountable and protect innocent lives of our citizens, there is almost no choice left. Simple legalization of drugs will NOT solve the problem. In fact, in my humble opinion, it will make matters worse. So, here we are -- Catch-22!!
What is it about the human anatomy that causes such convulsions?
Why has the word pornography taken on such an ugly image for something that is often so beautiful?
If we do not feel the urge to cover our ears or our noses or our fingers, why are we so driven to cover a breast or a penis or the buttocks? The questions can and will go on ad infinitum. How many of us have seriously thought about the reasons and our own feelings toward this topic?
The body, the entire body, is just that a body; it is the package that carries our brain -- the source of all thought, emotion, and human interaction. With the exception of those afflicted with some malformation, malady or disease, all of us, each and everyone of us, has precisely the same parts. There are really only minor variations. Some have black hair, some red or brown or blond hair; just as some of us have fine, straight hair or thick, curly hair. Some of us are tall. Some are diminutive. And yes, there are differences in breast size and shape as there are differences in musculature, facial features and foot size. So, why is a breast or penis any different from a shoulder or finger?
Now, some might immediately chime in with, a penis is a sexual organ. Well, yes, it is; but, it is also an organ of the urinary tract and a male appendage located above the scrotum. Some might even say a breast is a sexual organ. Well, yes, I suppose it does have some sexual function depending upon the individual; but, it is also a mammary gland providing sustenance to infant children. Is all this all this tumoil just because these natural, normal, human organs have some utility in sexual relations?
Some people enjoy sexual gratification from simulation of their ears, their neck, their feet and fingers. Are we to insist upon modesty for any organ or patch of skin that has some sexual purpose to someone? The logical answer is, no. The reality is, anatomy is not sexual; an individual's brain - perceptions, feelings, desire, attraction, satisfaction - is the sexual organ. It is sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste that triggers the brain to sexual function. A doctor can examine a penis, breast or vagina without sexual response, and yet a sexual partner doing precisely the same thing can easily trigger a sexual response.
Some of the consequences of this biased view of anatomy can be found in the essay Limits on Gender Integration .
Given that pornography is defined as written or pictorial matter intended to arouse sexual feelings, why is it that we make images of the human body such an onerous thing? We should celebrate our sexuality, not hide from it. This is not to say sexual activity at work or in public is acceptable; it should not be, just like any other behavior that society determines to be inappropriate in the common sense. In the privacy of one's house, why not? However, to deny the sexual aspect of our being is equivalent to denying part of our very life. Furthermore, we have struggled with the definition of pornography for centuries. To some, the sight of a woman's breast as he tries to satisfy her demanding infant is a vile and revolting sight; and yet to others, it is one of the most glorious representations of the renewal of life itself.
There are probably many reasons for our repressive attitudes toward sex, but perhaps the most dominant would have to be Religion . Prostitution has been with humanity longer than recorded history; and yet many of us still view the prostitute as a lower-class person, and prostitution itself as criminal. We have made the process of prostitution undignified largely because of religion. It is through this repression that prostitution has often taken on such an ugly face. If a laborer trades his muscle for compensation, why can't a woman [or a man for that matter] trade sex for compensation? Compensation for services rendered. Prostitution is not a bad profession, just a different profession, and not a profession many of us seek. Let's dial down the intensity surrounding sex. For more, please see the essay Sex .
To the studious observer, the denial or prohibition of anatomy, sexual life and pornography appears to be the root cause of many of society's ills. Rape, as an act of violence, is often a means of an abused person to lash out at women. Repression seems to produce over-reactions, excesses that can be harmful.
While society has the responsibility to define what is acceptable in public, common areas, the workplace or other venues of common purpose, I do not believe society has the right or even an inkling of jurisdiction over what consenting adults choose to do in private, and that includes prostitution, nudity, pornography, or anything else sexual, as long as everyone involved has their freedom of choice. What some people may choose to do might make me uncomfortable, but as long as I have the freedom to leave, avoid or ignore the objectionable activity, then I do not have the right to impose my values on the others.
Someday, I truly hope we can rise above all this cross-wired mess and not get so hung up on anatomy or the appreciation of anatomy.
As Dennis Miller says so eloquently, "That's just my opinion, but I could be wrong!"
With an essay topic such as this, it would be easy to wax ebullient about just the mechanics of what the Internet represents to me, or any one of us. However, that process would most certainly not be original or unique. So, what is an author to do?
Let us start this journey with small steps, little snippets of what one Web surfer has experienced.
I first ventured onto the World Wide Web to indulge my curiosity about a medium others were talking about. My first steps were humble, ill informed, and reflective of the novice I was. Nonetheless, those first steps opened a door that, with hindsight, can never be closed again to a world beyond my wildest dreams.
I taught myself the language from which sprang my modest Website ostensibly to help others become familiar with my writing - my passions. I saw my early effort as a one-way advertisement gimmick. At the time, my imagination and dreams were shockingly plain. Soon after going live, I received a simple email message from a ten-year-old boy in Sweden who found my site. Then came a retired Chinese army colonel and a world-class French sailor with my paternal name. Before long, there were messages from every continent, although not yet every country. Most of these messages did not contain profound words of wisdom or lightning flashes of freedom's manifesto. They were simply - contact - like the radio astronomer who quietly, persistently and diligently listens for the first constructed signal from the ether to confirm his driving premise - we are not alone. My family can attest to the uncontained excitement I felt upon receiving those early messages. Even more astounding is the trickle has become a relentless flood of the most beneficent kind, providing a genuine richness without expectation, qualification or condition.
Individual connections persisted while some faded. Those individual connections occasionally became groupings we now call networks. Today, many of us share our views, opinions, criticism and experiences. Some of the networks, in which I am but a singular point, are based upon camaraderie - shared experiences of a common nature - while others represent the true forum of public debate - London's historic Hyde Park Debater's Corner on a worldwide scale. Through these networks, I have found branches of my family long ago split off by revolution, migration or neglect, learned history not covered in any book or classroom lecture, and seen sights beyond the reach of television or National Geographic. More importantly to me, these networks have enabled me to commiserate with others of familiar experience as well as allowed me to join in a clash of ideas with others throughout the world I doubt would be possible by any other means. And, most amazing of all, these events are happening essentially every day and in near real time. These connections are immediate, unfiltered and boundless.
If the essence of the Internet and World Wide Web had to be boiled down to one word, it would most certainly be freedom. By design and its very nature, there are few, some might say no, limits, constraints or filters on the Internet. There is no governmental body that decides what is good and what is bad - what we will see and what we will not. The reward touched upon above came from that freedom. The freedom of the Internet in its truest form enables these exchanges of ideas, beliefs, views, concepts and opinions, but it also has a dark side. Some individuals have opened a portal for the world to view their lives from the most basic and banal to the most intimate and private. Some groups have engaged the medium to espouse their manifestoes and spit their vile vitriol upon all those who happen their way. With this freedom comes the good, the bad and the ugly. And, the World Wide Web cannot and should not exist without all those dimensions. While any one of us may find revulsion is some of what we can be exposed to on the Internet, ignorance and denial will not provide protection or safe harbor. The Internet is life, or at least a reflection of life. In short, this freedom that is the Internet has enabled many of us to better appreciate all that is human - good, bad and ugly.
From this appreciation, the Internet has brought human history to its most luminous and expansive form. What was once confined to the papyrus of intellectuals or the whim of the medieval balladeer is now available to each and every one of us in all its glory, sadness, excitement and depression. Families have been reunited. Injustices have been discovered and corrected. What was once the pure domain of the historian, the doctor, the lawyer, the politician or diplomat is now open to public scrutiny, evaluation, judgment and decision. Without the Internet [and I would be remiss if I did not add CNN in this moment], I know I would not have understood the law as well as the facts surrounding the 2000 Florida election fiasco and US presidential election uncertainty, or would I have had the confidence I now enjoy in the ultimate outcome. The Internet gives us access to regions of thought, words and deeds so far beyond any other medium in human history, it is hard to articulate the full specter of its effect on me or anyone else for that matter.
In my writing, the Internet has become an indispensable asset, more valuable than anything else short of the computer I use to write and open access to the World Wide Web. While I believe a physical library will always have a desirable purpose, the importance has shifted from the local to the collective. A day does not pass that I am not looking for something, learning something, or being amazed by yet one more aspect of life I did not know. In fact, there are not many facets of life that cannot be touched or in turn can touch you via the Internet. Until we gain the bandwidth to allow real-time, holographic interaction, the Internet will not subsume the physical dimensions of life, but I would not rule that out of the future.
When you take all of this and look at it from a distance, I see people. Perhaps it is trite to say the Internet has made the world smaller and more intimate, but I cannot avoid the statement. It has brought so many more people into my life than I could have ever dreamed of experiencing even with the liberating aspects of high speed, long range, flight itself. To add weight to this thought, I must tell a personal short story.
Back when there was a Soviet Union and I was an experimental test pilot in the United States, the two governments were sworn enemies. Yet, in 1989, I was asked by one of my Soviet counterparts to help obtain a bone marrow transplant for one of his colleagues, another Soviet test pilot, who had flown critical flight missions over the burning reactor at Chernobyl. We got the transplant for our brother in 1990, but a previous aspergillus infection eventually claimed his life. In 1991, I was their guest in Russia. From this experience, I learned that the difficulties between our two countries were a direct function of the governments not the people. In so many ways, we shared the same values, the same wants and needs, and the same love of family. From that moment, I committed myself to never allow governments to stand in the way of people, and the peace and prosperity we all seek for our children and ourselves. The Internet has been the tool to bridge that gap with so many people, and we have only just begun.
Taking all this to its natural extension, the Internet enables people to talk directly to people without regard to territorial boundaries or the political manifestations of governments. It also enables people to learn about virtually anything of interest, which by definition will make the populace more and better informed. While I will not be so presumptuous to state as fact that the Internet will not allow villainous and vile megalomaniacs like Adolf Hilter to work their evil magic in isolation or secrecy, I will suggest the likelihood of such villainy will be less with every new citizen of the world who enjoys the freedom that is the Internet. While still in its infancy or fledgling form, the Internet will mature and expand to ultimately represent peace on Earth.
Through this process, I have become a more thoroughly informed citizen. As more of us become so informed, government will finally and truly become "...of the People, by the People and for the People." And, more completely, via the Internet and the inherent curiosity it evokes and access it provides, I, for one, have become a more engaged and involved patient, client, participant, advocate as well as citizen. As with so many others who use the Internet, my life has been irrevocably changed for the good and generously enriched.
So, you ask, how the Internet has touched my life? Perhaps a better question is, how hasn't the Internet affected my life? The answer would be more succinct, focused and personal. The answer to the former question has been difficult to winnow down to just a few, thoughtful, descriptive words. Nonetheless, herein lies my attempt.
I fully and openly admit to the risk that I take when opening this topic of public debate. Within this essay, the reader may find discussion that makes them uncomfortable or possibly angry. My intent is not to offend, only to open the exchange of views. So, if any other this offends you, please accept my apology in advance.
among us seem to be confused as to what sex is or is not, here is a clear
definition of what sex is.
American College Dictionary definition: the instinct or attraction drawing one sex toward another or its manifestation in life and conduct. [NOTE: It seems to me this definition is rather narrow and perhaps out of date. I take a more pragmatic view.]
Cap's definition: any contact of genitalia, breasts or other body parts for the purpose of sexual gratification or pleasure. This generally means between two or more people but does include autoerotic stimulation, i.e., masturbation is sex. While sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is clearly within this definition of sex, there is perhaps a fuzzy boundary as to whether a hand on a buttocks is sex or not, but it could be. The line becomes even more subjective when a male doctor examines a female patient's breast; the definition then falls upon less definitive elements like intention, perception, or attitude. But, there is a sexual line even for a doctor's touch. This portion of the definition by its nature is mechanical -- the physical aspect of sex. To anyone who is sexually active, there is also a mental/emotional aspect of sex. Further, stimulation of any of the senses for the same purpose of sexual gratification or pleasure falls within this definition, e.g., watching two people copulating for pleasure is sex. Therefore, a male receiving fellatio or inserting a cigar in a woman's vagina is without question sex. Beyond the physical, this entire discussion hinges upon intent -- the intent for sexual pleasure or stimulation. Intent can be unilateral or bilateral. Thus, a sexual comment made by a male doctor during a female breast examination can make that action a sexual event. As such, intent, expectation, desire, or objective can readily change an innocent event into a sexual event.
Beyond the mechanical definition, the next appropriate segment to discuss is anatomy. Much of the attitudes in this country are driven deeply held religious beliefs from centuries ago. The essence of these beliefs is the human body is a sex object -- the source, perhaps even the genesis, of all thoughts sexual. If the characteristics of the body are covered, disguised or otherwise camouflaged, then the inevitable sexual urges or forces that spring from the body can be controlled. While attitudes have changed over time, the Puritan roots of sexual attitudes still largely affect our society through the political and social press on each of us. Our culture has many examples of double standards separating personal and public, e.g., a politician might be perfectly comfortable viewing pornography or engaging a prostitute and at the next moment condemn such behavior in public. Much of this dichotomy appears to find foundation in the Puritan morays of our past.
Why is it that we snicker when a woman exposes her breast to feed her infant child? Why are strip clubs so popular? Why is pornography the singular most successful and popular aspect of the World Wide Web? The answers rest in the prohibition of any public recognition of human anatomy. We could say this manifestation of public abhorrence is a product of religion and private fascination is a product of nature with religion applying the moral controls over nature that defines civilization. Why is it that anatomy has such fascination? It is nature. Nature has provided all the desirable attracting features that make the fascination so strong, whether it is the soft curves of a breast or the warm waves of an orgasm. In inverse of this line of reasoning is why can't we enjoy the pleasures nature has given us without the guilt so many of us feel. It should be easy to see that our public aversion of things sexual is taught -- learned from family, peers, religious clerics, and other societal sources. So . . . why?
As anthropologists and historians attempt to recreate early human societies, we perhaps can find the genesis of these learned attitudes. Most of us have heard the stories. We attach words like decadence, bestiality, excess, and a myriad of other words to label aberrant sexual behavior. To the ancient Greeks, there was no homophobia; many celebrated leaders were bisexual as we describe it today, feeling equally comfortable in heterosexual and homosexual relationship, each for their specific purpose. Romans took the enjoyment of carnal pleasure to the extreme. The blooming of the Islamic-Judeo-Christian teachings and beliefs occurred in the light of Egyptian, Greek and Roman paganism and sexual proclivity. Is it any wonder, probably as a direct response and contrast to that environment, the Middle-Eastern-based religions emphasize anatomical modesty, monogamy and a rejection of the human being as a sexual animal. Even at its minimum, these religions imply that only sexual intercourse for the sole purpose of procreation; sex for pleasure is discouraged and forbidden; even masturbation is forbidden. In the religious-based premise, sex is an instrument of procreation only and thus had to be monogamous and only within the sanction of the church, i.e., marriage and specifically marriage within that singular religion. The argument in favor of such dictates seen in light of ancient, medieval, renaissance, and up to near modern times was clearly to establish the primacy of the family unit to produce future generations. There should be little question as to the validity of the premise. Safe and ordered procreation without the added burden of confused heredity and the concomitant tension of such ambiguity brought discipline to society and undoubtedly reduced some pressure on communities. On the down side, it could also be argued that the religious parochialism born in that era is the wellspring of modern racism, homophobia, religious-based wars and sexual repression.
From the religion-defined monogamous, procreation only, heterosexual morays, the emotional aspects of sex were undoubtedly born. It is within the domain of the emotion that love exists. Sex can be and often is a very powerful bond between two people. It is not surprising that religion attempts to control or regulate sex and subdue or damp the power of those sexual urges. But, love while not an invention of religion, it is certainly fostered by religion. Love is also much more than sex.
Are sex and love separate? It would appear from antiseptic analysis that the answer is yes. One can exist without the other. Sexual relations is not a prerequisite for love between two people. Likewise, love is not a requirement for sex. So, if they are indeed separate, can they exist in parallel? Again, if one can set aside the teachings of religion, the answer would appear to be yes.
Let's start at the most rudimentary level. According to the classical definition of sex, masturbation or self-stimulation/gratification is not sex. By Cap's definition, it is sex. To the individual, masturbation achieves the same personal result of orgasmic relief. To society or to religion that tends to focus on male masturbation, ". . . the spilling of one's seed upon the earth . . ." as sinful, wrong, abhorrent. Since the female does not ejaculate in the classical sense, it is marginally acceptable for women to masturbate. But, then, as we have in some African tribes, eliminating female sexual satisfaction by excision or at a minimum by religious edict does condemn female masturbation as well. The logical question is why? Why is masturbation such an embarrassing and loathsome activity? What possible injury could pleasing yourself cause to anyone else? Semen/sperm is readily renewable, so it cannot be limited supply, and an orgasm is quite pleasurable by its very biological nature and not likely to discourage seeking a repeat experience. Could the answer lie in the religious premise, in that masturbation violates the purpose, i.e., sex is only for procreation; and since masturbation has no procreation intent it must be a sin. Something sounds oddly wrong about such an innocent, non-injurious activity.
With the advent of reliable birth control, the major foundation element of the religion premise was eliminated. Now, before we go too far down this road, the process of procreation and the raising and education of future generations is absolutely and undeniably paramount to our future. Anything that breaks down the basic family unit, its purposes and processes or foundations cannot be tolerated. I am certainly and emphatically not advocating free sex, open marriage or any other such condition. But, I do think it is important we examine the collateral effects of the religious-based premise.
With the assumptions that the family unit is not affected and adequate birth control is present, why can't sex be enjoyed for what it is a very pleasurable experience? Why can't we accept the human body for what it is -- just a body? We can say it is just nature. We can use some flippant, lame excuse that the human male reverts to some primordial instinctive level that causes him to abandon all reason -- all control -- when he sees exposed female genitalia resulting in only one outcome, fornication. Personally, I would say we probably passed that point in our evolution a couple of dozen millennia ago. Many other cultures attach no significance to anatomy. Some cultures live in a completely naked state. Some cultures bath, swim, sunbathing at the beach in the nude with many generations, both genders and often many families commingling. There are other examples. None of these cultures are sex crazed in endless copulation. Why or maybe how can some cultures -- some considered far less sophisticated than ours -- manage to control these primordial urges? Our public prudish actions in the context of our private attraction and even fascination with the human form is such a contradiction, and injurious to our culture in so many ways.
Has anyone asked why prostitution, strip clubs, the pornography industry et al are so prevalent in this country . . . more so than in just about any country on earth? Has anyone asked why rape, sexual assault and other sex-based crimes are higher in this country than virtually any other country on earth? Like the explosion of prohibition related crime during the effectivity of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution from 1919 to 1933 and the disgraceful degeneration of our society by drug-based crime as illegal drugs and criminalization of drug use expanded in the 1960's, the prohibition or repression of sexual urges, forces, attractions or whatnot clearly have the same result. What is denied or forbidden tends to attracts attention rather than suppressing it.
So, given the above, can sex be recreational or entertainment? An obvious answer is perhaps not, thus the largely religiously defined moral and societal as well as cultural definitions of acceptable behavior. Is that the correct answer or even the only answer? I suspect not. However, if monogamy or even singularity outside of marriage becomes a test of one's devotion, loyalty, commitment or pledge to a partner, then the answer is once again a foregone conclusion. For the sake of this argument, let us assume there is no test and sex and love can be separated. Then, perhaps, sex can be recreational given proper birth control and precautions against sexually transmitted diseases.
There are those within our society who indeed practice such behavior. Decades ago, the salient term was open marriage or free love. In today's parlance, it is the swinger lifestyle; individuals or couples who enjoy sex as recreation. With the explosive growth of general, public use of the Internet and World Wide Web, our awareness of this lifestyle has become quite apparent. Couples seek out other like-minded individuals, couples or groups to enjoy a full range of sexual activity. Sex clubs that used to be a very private if not secret gathering of by-invitation-only membership have become far more prevalent and accessible. While I have not conducted or am I aware of any anthropological studies of such behavior, there is anecdotal evidence that long-term, stable, married relationships exist; couples who have lived and continue to live the swinger lifestyle for many years. Further, these individuals have developed a very comfortable, unselfconscious view toward their bodies and eliminated jealousy or possessiveness from their lives. Are these swingers immoral? To some, the answer would clearly be yes. To them, the question is not relevant. To others, the answer would be no.
Is the key mutual consent? For such behavior to remain stable, there must be an explicit and implicit trust between partners. The commitment two people make to each in love and marriage exposes each to compromise or betrayal. The trust that protects them from such exposure must be preserved. Does that mean monogamous sex? I am not sure I see the connection. If for example, a couple decides they want recreational sex, it would seem, like all other relationship-based decisions, it must be mutual whether it is sex with others only in the presence of the partner, or by prior consent, or any other mutual restrictions, controls or limitations. As long as such activity is by mutual consent, open and non-injurious physically, emotionally or mentally, then I can see no harm. Decisions regarding private conduct are the sole domain of the individuals.
Now we come to the question of what is public and private? And, perhaps more directly, what is acceptable on the Internet? Erotic or pornographic material has certainly proliferated on the World Wide Web probably for several reasons; its openness, accessibility, anonymity and near total lack of governmental controls. By design, no one as an individual or as a government can establish a code of conduct for behavior. It is wide open, some might even say, it is the Wild, Wild West. While the word pornographic has taken on a negative connotation, in reality it simply applies to material meant to elicit an erotic or sexual response. We also apply the word in our society to nudity, public displays of affection, or provocative behavior. The criteria for acceptability appears to be evolving around a couple of basic rules, non-adults must be protected from casual or inadvertent exposure, portrays activity between consenting adults, and cause no injury to others. The range of people exposing themselves by partial or total nudity, to provocative poses, to sexual activity is enormous. The entire age spectrum seems to be participating including all races, nationalities, gender and sexual orientation. Perhaps the proliferation of pornographic material on the World Wide Web will serve to reduce our public aversion, predilection or bias toward the human body. Everyone is there -- thin & fat, old & young, tall & short, black to white -- everyone. Perhaps we will become less sensitive to genitalia. Perhaps, as I have written elsewhere, that environment will allow women to join and serve with distinction in the combat arms of the military. Perhaps by this mechanism, we will become more tolerant of others and appreciate the wealth of experience that is diversity. Who knows?
Now, despite the societal hazards of this segment of the discussion, here is an even steeper, more slippery slope regarding sex. If through some undefined intellectual enlightenment we can accept the argument above, an obvious question pops up. Does sex care about gender or sexual orientation? If sex is truly recreational, for one's personal enjoyment, then would it matter whether that satisfaction is achieved by self-stimulation, or activities between the opposite or same gender? What of the hermaphrodite, an individual who has elements of both genders, can they only have sexual relations with another hermaphrodite? If you put the religious bias and culturally-learned behavior aside, I think you will arrive at the answer -- no, it does not matter. Manual or oral stimulation to orgasm does not depend upon gender, only one's learned bias one way or the other. I have no intention of entering the debate of whether homosexuality is genetic, environmental or some other basis. I am saying it does not matter. An individual's disposition toward opposite, same or both gender sexual activity is a matter of personal preference and is categorically none of my concern nor the concern of anyone else. Using a obvious mechanical logic, anatomical predisposition is to male-female relations. Whether we want to admit it or not, the female vagina has evolved to accept the male penis; there are no other explanations. The evolution of the human species has and will most probably continue to depend upon male-female copulation for the purpose of procreation. But, to extend that logic to encompass sex as a recreational pursuit is not reasonable or appropriate. Anal intercourse, for example, has not requirement for gender. With the advent of sexual toys, even conventional copulation does not depend upon gender. As an unscientific or maybe even casual observation, our culture accepts female-female sexual activity far more broadly than male-male activity. Why is that? If it is not OK for males, why is it OK for females? Or, if it acceptable for females, why isn't it also acceptable for males? A growing number of women define themselves as bisexual. As yet, even though reality may be otherwise, there are not very many men who declare themselves bisexual. I can see no logic for such discrimination. Is homophobia just another form of racism or intolerance? In my mind, the answer is yes.
As the reader will note, I have asked many questions? I find this topic to be enormously curious, and I have reached an age where I am not afraid of the questions or the answers. The reality is, sex is a very personal activity no matter you choose to look at it. So, my opinion or yours do not matter to anyone other than to ourselves and perhaps our partners. I try very hard not to judge others, for that is not my place when it comes to personal choices, preferences, or whatnot. The only value of this essay is to take a bold step in the light of public debate for a very sensitive and controversial subject for the sole purpose of improvement. If this topic or my words have made you angry, uneasy, vengeful or any other potentially damaging emotion, please accept my most humble apology; my purpose is not to offend.