Are Sex Studies Bad for Sex?


Sex ScientistThe vast array of sex science available since the 1950s has demystified sex. Many Americans can now talk about it with their doctors and Bob Dole can speak freely about “erectile dysfunction” on television. Researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson “helped clear away much of the shame and myth that had perpetuated a communal ignorance about human sexuality,” Drake Bennett wrote for the Boston Globe. Today, that research has lost touch with its humanity, according to many researchers, promoting the "medicalization" of sex.

Bennett writes:
At its worst, they warn, [sex science] is pushing us into a sort of sexual arms race as people engage in sex acts that hold little interest for them, partake of a growing pharmacopeia of sex drugs, even get formerly unheard-of cosmetic surgeries to measure up to a fictional sexual ideal.

Researchers often reduce sex down to its most basic, physical elements, viewing intercourse in terms of function and dysfunction, rather than idiosyncratic preferences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the marketing of Viagra. Many people swear by the drug’s regenerative properties, but Bennett writes, “the benefits of Viagra and similar pills have to be balanced against the fact that they have made our sex lives seem like something that can - and should - be fixed with a drug.”

The media hype surrounding Viagra promotes the all-too-common view that “sex is a zero-sum game, a win-lose athletic performance, measured entirely by the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the arousal-intercourse-orgasm sequence,” Michael Metz and Barry McCarthy wrote in the Jan-Feb issue of Utne Reader. A more healthy view of sex is one that changes depending on the couple. “The challenge,” Metz and McCarthy write, “is to stop clinging to the ‘perfect intercourse’ model and replace it with positive, realistic expectations of oneself, one’s partner, and one’s relationship.”

The overly medicalized science isn’t just misguided, it also prevents helpful work from being done. Bennett quotes Amy Allina, program director at National Women's Health Network, saying, “We don't really know - and this is a timely one - how unemployment affects a couple's sex life.”

Scientists are now proposing a new, more “humanistic” model of sex, according to Bennett, that respects the idiosyncrasies of people and their relationships. Looking beyond the physiological, sex science could promote a more healthy view of sex as it functions inside of relationships.

R Cree
5/29/2009 12:52:16 AM

Hmmm, more realistic expectations of me, my partner and my relationship---stop clinging to perfect intercourse model. What planet is this guy from---he seems to be out of touch with the miserable sex/love paradigm foisted on us by religion and the aristocracy controlling the masses with media programming of lifestyles of the rich--not the rest of us. Rather than sex being medicalized, we have made sex available to old rich guys who can afford the medication and a willing partner---don't forget that 4 hour erection :)). Sex is so screwed up in this world, why would I need to worry about something that most of us can't afford anyway thanks to having to work long hours and live pay check to pay check thanks to cheap rich bastards using all the Viagra. Time to look for models of love and relationship that don't fit anyone's model. To accept that their are males, females and androgenous beings in hetro, homo, bisexual and asexual relationships and all combinations are honored and accepted. And just as the Creator loves everyone equally---try to not do the impossible and love just one---love All just as the Creator :)))!

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