FACE IT: Let’s Talk About Talking About Sex

The New York Times recently led its “Review” section with a very long, data-filled summation of where men and women stand on the subject of sex. Alongside pieces on “How Auschwitz is Misunderstood” and “Who Will Rule The Oil Market,” you could learn that “one of the more common questions for Google is “How big is my penis?” and that “women show a great deal of insecurity about their behinds.”

Was the newspaper of record–the one that still resists reporting gossip–finally getting down and dirty? Even while cloaking those ‘he says, she says’ numbers in so-called academia? (Would you tell a pollster the truth on how many times a week?) Forget that there was little context to the survey, or that it felt excruciatingly intrusive. The truth is, it was yet another public step into an area many feel should be kept private.

Alas, more analysis and sex-tistics are soon to come: the justification, I predict, being the movie version of 50 Shades of Grey, which opens in a few weeks. There is nothing inherently wrong with surrounding a fictional phenomenon with interesting perspectives. But you have to wonder when it becomes an excuse for just a tad more titillation, the ultimate in high-brow meets low.

50 Shades, by, the way, has not been previewed by its makers: usually a sure sign that it will not land on any ten-best lists. On the other hand, the movie will likely be critic-proof and already, pre-sales are huge. I confess I have never read one word of the trilogy by author E.L. James: perhaps a shameful admission for someone who supposedly keeps tabs on the culture. Is it snobbism because the books are apparently literary-challenged? Is it reluctance, because I might be intrigued by the sexcapades? Is it pure and simple jealousy that this first-time writer is making zillions? But enough about me.

These are strange times we live in, when virtually nothing is private and everything is virtual. Just ask “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft, whose sleazy texts to a former lover recently enjoyed a tabloid run. Just ask actor Stephen Collins, whose audio messages landed him in what might be called his own Seventh Hell. Much like what the Sony folks learned regarding business affairs, public figures–in fact all of us— need to save erotic thoughts for in-person dealings. Or for academic researchers, apparently.

At times it is difficult to imagine that anything new can be said, or more revealing can be shown, about sex. Personally, even if I cared about the size of one’s genitalia, I wouldn’t share it, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks on the subject. I am insecure about a lot of things, (though not my behind) but am not sure why that matters to anyone else. As for what we see on screen, I will refrain from saying things were sexier when they were implied. Nor will I say that I mostly dislike how Lena Dunham’s girls and boys express their sexual desires because I fear younger generations will wonder why they should ever look forward to coupling.

Perhaps I am in the minority, but regardless, stay tuned, as “experts” lecture about dominance and submissiveness, and why we may secretly crave them. Already the discussion has begun:The author of that New York Times piece claimed she was finally ready to reveal all her research, writing, “Call it everything you wanted to know about sex, but didn’t have the data to ask.”

Really? Who asked?