Theo Hobson

Has straight sex become shameful?

Has straight sex become shameful?
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Heterosexuality is marginalised by our liberal arts culture. Not by culture in general: it still allows boy-meets-girl to be celebrated by the masses, sort of (Love Island, Harry and Meghan). But liberal arts culture scorns the crude mechanical drudge of heterosexual coupling.

Last night I saw a short monologue on BBC4, one of the series called Snatches, which is part of the Hear Her series. It was about a Liverpudlian typist, circa 1963, discovering the joys of the orgasm. But of course without the aid of a dull old man: it was a female colleague who initiated her. It was well written, well acted, and I make no complaint about the soft-porn content.

But it did make me think: our culture has gone a bit weird. It seems that its liberal creative wing no longer finds sex sexy unless it is grinding an edgy political axe. If it lacks this edge, it is crass, banal at best, oppressive at worst. Sex in which straight men play a role now feels…inappropriate, dirty.

I felt the same during the BBC season celebrating gay love last year. Straight sex doubtless still features on shows like Poldark, but not in things made for more intelligent folk. In cinema too, it is gay love that has an aura of depth and mystery (Call Me By Your Name is one of a long list). You might say: well, there’s more drama in love (or plain sex) that’s edgy and forbidden, but that’s not really good enough: art should be able to find the drama in the mainstream.

I think this is a major cultural problem. There is something unhealthy about a culture that cannot celebrate what is mainstream, for fear of seeming crude or oppressive. We have slipped back into seeing most sex as dirty, shameful - now on the grounds that male semi-violence is involved.

As I see it, this odd situation is an opportunity for religion. It can say, in a way that secular arts culture seemingly cannot: sex is fundamentally good, even the heterosexual sort. (There was an air of this at the recent royal wedding: it was pretty damn erotic seeing them all lovey-dovey, and the ritual setting was part of it.) Christianity’s secret weapon in this regard is Adam and Eve: the Bible’s sexy start is something we with-it believers should be trumpeting. Some of my recent art work (to briefly don my other hat) has tried to foreground this. I even think we should organise a big public festival with big naked puppets of our first parents, to make the point: sex is nothing to be ashamed of, even the straight sort.