Sex and Consistency

Finally, something I’ve been musing about that seems worth turning into a post.

I’ve been watching a lot of the old(ish) sitcom Frasier lately. I won’t go into any detail describing the premise, just say it’s in a class by itself in terms of writing and the sophistication of its humor (that it won 37 Emmys during its eleven year run, more than any other comedy series in television history, should assure you this isn’t just my opinion). At present I’m about halfway through the third (1995-96) season. For the most part I find it to be quite hysterical; it and the 80s BBC comedy Yes Minister/Yes, Prime Minister may be my two favorite sitcoms.

Then there are the episodes in which sex, especially casual sex, is a major plot point. I’m not so fond of those. Throughout the first two seasons I watched them anyway for the sake of viewing the whole series (a compulsion I have when it comes to my TV viewing; maybe it has to do with my Asperger’s. I dunno), and just figured “these are the ones I’ll never watch a second time”. Then I got into season 3 and decided to heck with it, I’d just skip a few here and there. So no more watching the risqué episodes—I didn’t particularly enjoy the ones I had sat through anyway.

That’s not to say, however, that watching them was a waste of time. I had a sort of epiphany as a result. There’s an episode in the first season in which Frasier’s ex-wife, Lilith, comes to town. They talk about reconciling and even end up sleeping together that night—before deciding that was a mistake and they couldn’t possibly get back together. Then in the second season she returns to tell Frasier she’s engaged. It crossed my mind that, for all they could have had the fling they did when she was unattached, now that she has a fiancé they couldn’t do that again—the man probably would not be too thrilled if they did. My next thought was: Why should it matter that much?

Granted, the fact that Frasier and Lilith were once married and therefore had a long term committed relationship complicates things, but overall the show seems to have a “that’s just fine” take on casual sex, as evidenced by a handful of other episodes. That’s hardly surprising given current cultural norms, in which “hooking up” early in a relationship—or sometimes even before a relationship can be said to have started—is seen as acceptable and harmless. While entertainment can shape culture, it also reflects the culture that gave it birth.

So then I pondered: in our culture, sex has largely been divorced from long term commitment. That being the case, why is a couple expected to be sexually monogamous just because they’re a couple? It’s not like their previous relationships were any more serious for being sexual. Which is why, when I think about it, those who are fine with sleeping together on the first or second date can only consistently be for “open” relationships/marriages. They might see value in marriage as a sort of partnership—you marry to own a home, start a family, and join your life together with someone. But I don’t see how people can say marriage also involves monogamy while okaying casual sex during the dating period. It’s highly inconsistent.

Of course, some couples realize this, and that’s why “open marriages” exist, in various forms. Couples who “swing” apparently see it as a way of spicing up their marriage; having another sexual partner doesn’t mean one can’t be emotionally attached only to his/her spouse, after all. Then again, there’s one article I just read on the subject that suggests each spouse have more than just one other person on the side, to make sure things stay casual—because meeting regularly with just one boyfriend/girlfriend will make it easier to stray from just sex to emotional/romantic bonding. Ah, the heights of—something, I’m not sure what. Wretchedness, perhaps. All the while proclaiming that open marriages are great and can work because sex is just, after all, a bodily function, even their proponents have to admit that the activity creates a bond between the two people involved, and to prevent that, you’ve gotta switch it up frequently.

I found a number of articles claiming that swingers had happy marriages, but didn’t find much in the way of statistics. Being a Christian and subscribing to the biblical teachings on human sexuality, I rather doubt they work out so well. Then there’s the Romans 1 bit about people who reject God being blinded and turned over to their sin—that might explain the articles’ claims too, a bit.

Well, enough rambling on about that. Next in the episode queue is “Moon Dance”, the tango scene at the end of which is considered one of the show’s best moments, as I understand. I’ve actually seen that one many times but may just watch it again. Not right now, though. Think I’ll go read some Virgil–just three books left of The Aeneid. Incidentally, remember how I said the humor in Frasier can be a bit sophisticated? I was so happy when Frasier’s brother Niles made a reference to Aeneas’ tragic affair with Dido and I knew what he was talking about!