I was going to start this introduction with a definition (can you tell I’ve been writing university essays all year?). However, on consulting the OED for, what I admittedly hoped would be an antiquated explanation of sex, from which I could launch a red-hot promise of journalistic exploration, I was diverted.
Underneath the meticulously inoffensive (and unsexy) definition of sex, which, by the way, only addressed its applications as a verb in section 4.b (how much does this say about Britain’s sexual legacy?) came an intriguing phrase from D. H Lawrence:
‘If you want to have sex, you’ve got to trust/ At the core of your heart, the other creature’ –Pansies, D.H. Lawrence.
To my mind, the phrase raises three central issues that make it a superior introductory hook to the OED’s unappealing dissection of sex. Firstly, Lawrence grounds sex with ‘trust’, secondly, he places sex in and/or next to ‘the core of your heart’ and thirdly, he terms the sexual partner a ‘creature’- interestingly ungendered and physical, or animalistic, even.
With 91.7% of St Andrews students under the age of 24, our student body is largely made up of ‘millennials’, who fall at the younger end of the Generation Y brackets (1980-2000). Considering the rapidity of changes in socio-sexual norms and beliefs, our post ‘90s birthdays are significant. Unlike our ‘80s Gen. Y ‘contemporaries’, we reached our sexual maturity at the dawn of technological abundance: from MSN and AOL chatrooms to online dating and apps that facilitate one-night-stands; anonymous, rapid and often somewhat transactional sexual exchanges are our norm. Our generation began having sex earlier than any other in the last 60 years- 30% of the population between 16 and 24 first have sex before 16, compared to 15.4% and 4% respectively, of 65 to 75 year olds. The current UK population have twice as many sexual partners in our lifetimes compared to those surveyed in 1990 and 1999. In our sexually liberated, sexually conscious society is sex still grounded with ‘trust’, as Lawrence felt? In having more casual sex, do we shortchange ourselves, losing the intimacy that sex based on ‘trust’ can have? Maybe we are simply broadening the parameters of sexual experience, redefining sex, shifting the physical act of sex up from 4b to a much more prominent ranking. Perhaps these broadened criteria allow for sex for sex’s sake, unemotionally attached.
At the same time, the quantity of reported sexual assaults is ever-increasing. Sexual consent is the central issue to many of those engaging in sexual activity and awareness of your partner is positively encouraged- in a sense then, ‘trust’ is more important than ever. But, of course, trusting a person with your safety; to respect your physical and emotional integrity, is quite different from placing your relationship ‘At the core of your heart’. How then, does ‘love’ interact with ‘sex and relationships’? Is the very name of my section outdated, oxymoronic? Or are its components still close, liable to slide and melt in to each other as Lawrence might have suggested?
And what of ‘creature’? A critic of Lawrence would undoubtedly read that choice as the codification of his suppressed homosexuality- purposefully ambiguous and gender-avoidant. This is another core tenant of Generation Y’s sexual revolution; the rejection of heteronormative codes and creation of increasingly open dialogue about sexual preferences. We boast a progressive LGBTQ community and continue, albeit slowly, to bring in groups previously marginalised by society for their sexuality. In Generation Y, would ‘creature’ be chosen just to allow a range of readers, with different sexual preferences, to partake in the poem equally- or is the shade of the word still needed, for comfort, if not protection.
These and many more are the questions that ‘Love, Sex and Relationships’ will address over the coming year. Above all else, the section belongs to and represents the readers and writers who will create it. As such, contributions are welcome from everyone who wants to voice their opinion, share their experience (especially in the bedroom please, we want something juicy to lighten the mood), or to illuminate an issue they feel is being overlooked.
Expect both the serious and the salacious, from the bedroom to the boardroom, from crushes to the clinic. Welcome to The Tribe: let’s talk about sex, baby.
Interested in writing for this section? Contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org