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Columns

Kevin Carty ’15: Is Sex Power God counterproductive?

By
Opinions Columnist
Thursday, February 2, 2012

Before the event itself, Sex Power God was touted to me as a naked party and an environment for students to express their sexuality in whatever way they wished. But, after the party was thrown, the narrative changed significantly. Sex Power God was described to me as a night of hookups and non-monogamous sex acts. And, if that alone is to be the essence and legacy of Sex Power God, then Brown’s biggest party is seriously overlooking something.

Most on this campus would agree that as a society, we need to do a better job of allowing more freedom in terms of sexual expression. There is a culturally-established mainstream storyline of sexuality in America that does not afford adequate respect to those who do not abide by its anachronistic assumptions of heterosexuality. Homosexual Americans — as well as others who do not fit the hetero-homo classification — experience discrimination and significantly less personal sexual freedom than that afforded heterosexuals. As far as I understand its underlying purpose, Sex Power God was created to provide a safe, open space for those thrown aside by this pattern of heteronormativity. According to Sex Power God’s Facebook page, the party “gives everyone the opportunity to do and wear whatever makes them feel sexy.” For one night, attendees can feel free to perform gender as they wish and act according to whatever sexual orientation with which they are most comfortable. This is a noble goal and something Brown should be proud of.

However, it seems that for the vast majority of students this purpose is not relevant. Most attendees that spoke to me recounted the number of people with whom they had hooked up and described the sex acts they had witnessed. Not once, in every description given to me, did anyone say that they enjoyed Sex Power God because it was a safe place or because they could express themselves in a way they could not before. Some may have felt this way, enjoying the party for its original, admirable purpose, but it seems that for most attendees this was not the case. For most, it was little more than a long night of numerous hookups.  

This fact is a sad one, precisely because the omnipresent heteronormative narrative that Sex Power God was established to counter is not the only destructive media-induced narrative of sexuality. As our generation stands today, we face a cultural landscape replete with images and examples of sex without meaning. The sexual revolution has, not surprisingly, brought about more non-monogamous sex through friends with benefits, one night stands and casual hookups. Few of us want to live in a society that actively constrains our sexual lifestyles, but a movement beyond dating and relationships and into a habit of hookups is something of concern.

Why? First of all, sex outside of a relationship means less accountability. A traditional relationship comes with mutual obligations that, to a certain extent, safeguard against maltreatment. Hookups and friends with benefits do not ensure exclusivity or even a minimal amount of emotional stability. Furthermore, sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy are more likely in situations of non-monogamy, when one partner may not be as concerned with safe sex. Likewise, though a so-called ‘hookup culture’ can inflate anyone’s self-esteem by easily demonstrating how others find them attractive, we should be suspicious of any cultural construct that primarily focuses on physical attraction. Casual hookups, especially at locations like Sex Power God, are often based on sexual attraction rather than personal connection. A hookup culture, at its very core, sexualizes people, and sexualization is not so different from sexual objectification. Lastly, a culture of sex without monogamy squanders the progress made in this country in the last century. The feminist movement, rightly focused on gender equality, can greatly improve our sexual and romantic lives. It inserts equity into relationships, a prerequisite for wholesome love and true intimacy. But if that equality is only taken advantage of to ensure that we have more sex, rather than to ensure that we have more caring relationships and more intimate love-making, then that equality seems wasted. If we believe in one of the core outcomes of the sexual revolution — that sex need not be limited to marriage — justification for this tenet will not come from debased, meaningless sex. Rather, the proof for this philosophy will proceed from evidence that sex outside of marriage can be something positive. Premarital sex will be validated when we can show that, without spreading disease, bringing unwanted pregnancies or causing psychological harm, it can improve closeness and strengthen relationships.  

As I have heard it described, Sex Power God stands today as a great and sad example of the culture of non-monogamy about which  I’ve written in this piece. I don’t want Sex Power God to stop being held. Its original purpose is far too necessary. But, in the future, while it attempts to challenge heteronormativity, Sex Power God should be careful not to simultaneously validate yet another equally destructive social construct.  

 

 

Kevin Carty ‘15 is from Washington D.C. and would love to hear any responses. He can be reached at 

kevin_carty@brown.edu.

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