Is Sex Bad?

Is sex bad? Simple question. Complicated answer. And not just when it comes to zoo stuff either. We've clearly come a long way when it comes to the idea of sexual liberation, but there's still a lot of places where we have a long way to go. And even now, attitudes are still changing.
It definitely used to be seen as something bad. In fact, for a long time sex was up there with things like arson and murder. One of those pesky sins that could land you straight down in the bad place with all the other bad people. Not all sex though. Sex, of course, is what leads to the creation of more little two leggers running around and continuing the species. So it can't all be bad, unless you're one of those people crossing their paws for the end of the human race. We can think of this kind of sex therefore as the most "morally" pure. It's the basis on which all other sex has the ability to exist. One cis man, one cis woman, genital on genital, while both people are in a committed relationship, with the hopes of creating a baby.
So that kinda makes sense. But how did everything else become bad? See, some people back in the day either decided or discovered, depending on your beliefs, that a big guy in the sky created us, and he gave us the ability to feel sexual pleasure as a gift to keep our species going. And so to indulge in that pleasure outside of that given purpose was seen as going against that god.
I should mention, this is true of the big Abrahamic religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam. There may be different nuances here and there, and totally different systems in other faith systems, but considering the percentage of the religious population that falls into Abrahamic faiths, and what those believers have then gone on to do across the world under the name of those faiths, I think it's fair to say it's had the biggest global impact. To give them credit here, there are some interesting theories out there for why the church decided to make such a big deal over sex that I think are worth looking at. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that they didn't believe what they were preaching. I think there's absolutely an element of that. But I also think it's valuable to examine the ways that certain decisions made by the church could have been done for reasons outside of just faith.
There were other more practical reasons they could have decided to do this as well. It's important to remember that the church was a lot more than just people praying, it was a major decision maker that could heavily influence society, and the rulers at the time knew it. If they had an agenda to push, God was a powerful tool to exploit. This is something we've seen throughout all of recorded history, even through to today with preachers trying to shill cryptocurrency and rugpull their congregation, before claiming "god told them to" when they're caught. So, what reasons could there have been to limit sex?
There are some biological ideas. First of all, there wasn't a lot of knowledge about STIs and disease, but that doesn't mean that people weren't able to catch and spread them. Sexual purity meant someone was "clean." That cleanliness can be seen in a religious context, or in the context of them being free of any potential sexual issues they could pass on to a potential partner. Therefore two people screwing around as little as possible and then getting married severely lowered the chances of that. So in that sense, you're limiting your own chances of catching something if you happen to take a partner. You're also theoretically helping to stop the spread of "evil" from passing through the population.
Speaking of population, telling people they're going to die in hell forever for having sex is a fantastic method of population control. It doesn't take a genius to realise more people means more mouths to feed. Sometimes you want your population growing, such as if you're waging a war and need soldiers. Other times you need to limit it when you're going through periods of scarcer resources. If there's political distress, famines, natural disasters, or other general maladies, it's a valuable thing to be able to slow down the flow a little bit. There's no way to 100% make sure that nobody is popping out little ones, but if you create some kind of system where sex is bad unless you give them a certificate to sanction their procreation, that sure does let you adjust the dials a bit. 
I'm not saying that the whole reason sex was moderated was political. Maybe these hypotheticals aren't even the exact reasons, even if it was all politically motivated. I'm sure probably to some people there was a real religious component to it. But just from a logical perspective it feels wasteful to not also realize the advantages having control over people's sex lives had. There's a reason that one of the most commonly associated practices of paganism, the big scare to religion at the time, was wild sex. Sometimes even... gay sex! They demonized the concept of pleasure in the eyes of the people. 
And honestly, I kinda get it. I'm sympathetic to their plights. Given the information they had on hand, I think they did a pretty okay job. I mean, sure, there was a TON of unnecessary violence and death, and also they left crippling scars on society thousands of years later, but that's for sure one way to stop the spread of syphilis! But nothing lasts forever. Rules around sex back then always tended to be more for the common folk than the nobility, and as religion started to lose its stronghold, so too did the stigma around sex. Slowly anyway. 
Isn't it crazy that the majority ruling class were the first to experience sexual liberation, and then they tried to close the door on everyone behind them? Crazy, right? Can't think of any other situation where that's occurred! As we began to accept sex more, the first things that people normalized were the things that straight men liked. Masturbation (hey a lot of people like that one, it's a big hit for a reason), but then oral, anal. All the things that a wife could do to pleasure a husband in an extra special way. 
Part of that was that as the majority they had the most social sway to be able to experiment, but it comes down to more than just that. It also comes back to our "most pure" sex. If a man and a woman having vaginal sex for the purposes of procreation is the "best" sex, then a man and a woman having oral sex is still much closer to the image of the divine than introducing any more complications. 
And so progress began, act by act, until we arrived at where we currently are. We consider ourselves a pretty liberated society, and yet you can still see the effects of this repression today. We know factually that there's a lot more that cis women can enjoy than just penetration, and yet when people complain about lesbians they talk about how the sex is confusing without a penis. Similarly with male/male relationships it's all about who the "female" in the relationship is. It's not as if we don't know that there are plenty of ways for people to explore their sexuality. It's just that we always reference things back to the "most good" sex. To express the validity of gay relationships there's always a "top" and a "bottom." A "butch" and a "princess." Even among gay people it's very easy to find people that believe wholeheartedly in these pairings. So much of the language we have to describe relationships at all starts with "the straight version" and then describes how it deviates from that. 
And god forbid when you introduce bisexuals to the mix. They have sex with women so clearly they fit the "male" role in pure sex, and yet they're also attracted to men, and might even bottom, and so at that point what are they? 
Well, they're pagans. Or they were, at least. When gay men and women were finding their footing socially and legally, bisexuals were the natural enemy to that idea, riding the line between gay and straight. They were depicted as sexual fiends, who were always having wild sex. Once again, sex past the norm was seen as more "sinful," even though in reality bisexuals are just as likely to want to be in monogamous relationships (or not), or even to be asexual (or, asexual biromantic).
Thankfully, this is starting to change with the newer generations and more education around alternative sexualities, but I've full out had people close to me make the claim that "lesbians can't have real sex." Even in younger people, I've had people tell me that "bisexuality is just the term for a gay person figuring out whether they like to top or bottom." In zoo or furry circles, or other progressive spaces, this is all common sense, but even in those spaces I've had a lot of male friends that feel too masculine to be desirable as bottoms, or more feminine men that feel pressured to bottom because of how they present. 
But enough talk of the past. Let's talk about today. Have we finally managed to achieve a perfect sexual future, where we use the scientific method to determine whether or not sex is wrong instead of religious morality? Well... No. Not really. 
There's the obvious of course. The fact that plenty of countries are still very traditional in their sexualities and the way they punish their minorities. From Saudi Arabia executing their gays, to Uganda where they actually went back and re-illegalized homosexuality. It's not just gay stuff either. Plenty of places, sex is still viewed as evil, something to be ashamed of. Especially if you're a woman. But in our good 'ol first world countries things are perfect, right? 
Obviously not. Even discounting the parts of America that are actively trying to criminalize sexuality, even in the most liberal of liberal places, there's still holdovers of our past. We still criminalize sex workers and see them as being of lesser value. We still judge people that want to be in alternative relationship structures. We still think that female nipples are more sinful than male nipples. We still hate zoosexuals. 
Oh yeah, we should probably talk about that at some point, shouldn't we?
Here's the thesis of this whole thing. There's nothing wrong with sex if you're not doing it wrong. There's nothing spiritual about sex if you're an atheist. The whole idea of what sex even is needs to be re looked at. 
Say me and a friend go and play basketball together. We mutually exercise, get all sweaty together, let loose some endorphins. Is that weird? If not, sex shouldn't be either.
Or here's another example. Say you had a long day at work and your shoulders are sore. Your friend offers to give them a massage. They're using their hands on your body to give you pleasure. How is that kind of massage different than a massage on a different part of your body? 
That's not to say that sex can't be wrong or abusive. It absolutely can. Just like any other activity. If I'm playing basketball with a friend and every time I go to shoot I full on body check him to the ground first, I'm clearly not being a very good basketball partner. In fact, I'd argue that I'm no longer within the terms of what "playing basketball" is, and am now violating the implied consent given by performing this action together. It's actively harmful. 
But just because during a basketball game you can hurt someone doesn't mean that basketball is inherently harmful, in the same way that sex isn't inherently abusive just because abuse can happen. I think we would all agree with that. The existence of sexual assault means nothing to the moral value of sex. If you agree to go out with a friend for drinks and he ties you up and shoves gasoline down your throat, that's nothing against the concept of going out for drinks, that person is just using that concept as the means of their abuse. 
Let's talk about sex with dogs. Ooh, what an icky feeling, you might say, especially after that transition. Just think about it though. I've said the word "sex" (a number of times) in this article already, to the point when it's just become a word. But when you add an animal into the mix all of a sudden it's different. Maybe, depending on who you are, it sounds more obscene. Maybe you're a self loving zoo who's had a lot of nice experiences with that, and adding "with dogs" to "sex" makes it feel ten times more cozy and nice. If you don't get bad feelings from adding "with dogs" then that is awesome for you--some could even say pawsome. You've very self actualized. But even for me, someone who writes about zoosexuality all the time, it certainly has a different flavor to it. But why is that?
If you've been paying attention, you probably already know the answer. It's because we've once again taken a big step away from "pure" sex. With the introduction of a new species in the mix we don't have a viable breeding pair remotely, nor do we even have two humans where one is clearly taking the role of a male or female. Not only that, but humans are taught to see animals as lesser creatures. When we have sex with them it's not as if their status ascends. By all rights we could think of it that way, if we wanted to get on board with there being different levels of status here to begin with. But, anyways, that's not how most people think of it. The animal's status is not seen to ascend. Instead, the human's descends. 
So, why does all of this matter? Two reasons.
First of all, I think it's interesting to think about. The fact that religion created these doctrines around sex that we still follow to this day is fascinating. Especially considering how many people engage with religion differently than how people used to. If there are parts of your bible you don't like, it's much easier to just carve out the parts that matter to you than actually challenge the whole status quo.
The second reason this matters is because I think it's valuable to examine the arguments against bestiality through this lens of carrying around societal baggage that we wouldn't even actually agree with if we examined it more objectively. This article is already plenty long, so I'm not going to go through every argument point by point, but honestly if you made it this far you can probably put the pieces together.
Let's use the consent argument. That's one that we see all the time. Animals can't consent to sex because they're too stupid. And yet, as we've talked about a number of times already in other articles, consent isn't really something pet owners value in animals anyway. There are many more dangerous activities that we feel extremely comfortable exposing animals to where nobody blinks, even though the same barrier of consent applied to those activities shows it's just as--if not more--impossible for the animals in question to consent. Taking a dog for a drive, for instance, or even something as simple as taking a dog to the park and playing fetch when there could be broken glass or other hazards they might not see while running around. Police dogs being sent to chase fleeing suspects. We know that sex isn't automatically physically harmful, accounting for size of course, so why is sex seen as needing a higher barrier of consent while more dangerous things aren't? Because of religious morality around sex. The reason that people are able to excuse the non-sexual activities are because it's easier for them to assume that the animal in question enjoys it more. It's fun and wholesome. Or, it at least serves a concrete purpose. Sex however? That's a dirty thing. Who knows if they enjoy it. The perfect little baby of a dog you know would never do something as morally bankrupt as get horny. Or if they did it was surely solely because they have their eyes set on the future puppies that will pop out. 
Remember the massage example we made way back? About how giving someone a massage is the same at the end of the day as giving them other things? Well, you could make the same argument for giving a dog pets vs giving them that other action as well. If I'm petting my dog, getting really into the scritches, he's having a great time, that's a nice thing. But if suddenly I'm giving him a handjob instead, suddenly some people seem to think there's no possible way to express that he's enjoying that, and I'm taking advantage of him. It's abusive not because the action changed (touching him) or because the goal changed (to give him pleasure), but because the moral sitting of the act changed. It's gone from not sexual to sexual, and therefore there's just more implicitly wrong with it from the get go. 
The TL;DR of all of this is this. Have you ever seen the Mexico meme in movies? You go to a single location in the desert, and while you're there, you shoot two scenes: one that the audience is supposed to think is set in Mexico, and another that the audience is supposed to think is set in the US. That's no problem. But you need a way to show that they're different, and so you slap a weird yellow filter on everything once you're editing the Mexico scene. Suddenly it's not just the same place. There's a difference. It's more dangerous. It's foreign. It's scarier. 
We do the exact same with sex. Anything that's seen as sexual is seen as morally worse. And the weirder the sex, the worse it's seen. And unfortunately for us, even though bestiality has existed for longer than the Abrahamic religions have, those religions set the rules in a way that was not very considerate to us. 
Now that you know all this, keep it in mind next time you're reading arguments against zoos. Ask yourself, are the standards being held here fair, or are they artificially inflated by the sex filter?
I'm sure there are people out there who disagree, but I don't think sex is a bad thing. And we shouldn't judge it as such.
Article written by Tarro (March 2024) 
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