What’s Normal?Posted: August 15, 2011
The short answer is: Your mileage may vary.
Generally speaking, “normal” is a reflection of what’s deemed morally acceptable in a given group. And of course, morality is varied and relative. There are a few things most of us can agree on, such as murder being wrong, but even that’s up for grabs in some groups.
It’s a good thing that morality is flexible. If you look around, you can usually find a group that considers your choices both acceptable and commonplace. However, it can be challenging to find a group that agrees with all of your particular ideas of what’s morally acceptable. There are many issues to take a position on, and any dogmatic group is a package deal; some things are okay and others aren’t.
Recently the New York Times published a feature discussing the phenomonon of “monogamish” couples who consider extramarital relationships normal and healthy. It’s no surprise this notion has stirred up some controversy, given that attitudes vary by culture and region. All of this merely points to the great diversity of social values regarding sexuality in general and exclusivity in particular. Sex At Dawn, The Myth Of Monogamy and many other books have made the case that Western society is saying one thing and doing another, and statistics are backing them up. There is substantial evidence that sexual exclusivity is more about choice and much less about “human nature”.
Not only are there diverse beliefs about whether and when we should have sex, some people have opinions about how we should have it. There are common attitudes toward “vanilla” and “kink” and the many other flavours. None of this diversity in preferences is new, of course; Kinsey reported most of it several decades ago. Unfortunately, depending on where you live, sexuality-based discrimination may be a fact of life. Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, whereas in several African and middle-eastern countries, homosexuals can be put to death. Prostitution is government-regulated in Nevada, unregulated in New Zealand and some other countries, and (currently) criminalized in Canada*.
The bottom line is that when it comes to sexuality, “normal” covers quite a lot of territory. Too often it’s an artificial concept that some people use as a tool to discriminate, persecute, insult, and otherwise claim superiority over others. I look forward to the day when sexual preferences are respected in the same way that food, music, reading and vocational preferences are. As long as it’s safe, sane and consensual, we have no business telling someone else what they should or shouldn’t do with their body.
Sexuality is like a flower – it can be any shape, size, pattern, thickness, texture, colour(s), and so on. Diversity is normal.
* While the act of prostitution itself is not criminal, everything enabling prostitution (communicating, having a “bawdy house”, etc.) is a criminal offence, effectively driving it underground and creating “adult entertainment” and “escort” advertising.