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home > sex & society > the sexual system > the meaning of the word sexual
Most people think of sex as a subsidiary or 'lower' part of life. This is understandable, because we tend to think of 'upper' and 'lower' parts of our bodies. The genitals are the most salient part of the lower part of the body, and in public they usually remain covered, even when the rest of the body is bare.
Is sex healthy or bad for you?
People in our society perform thousands of daily activities, such as working, talking, shopping, cooking, watching TV, teaching, fighting, building, and so on. Sexual activities such as masturbating are experienced as being just another activity, perhaps pleasant but to be kept secret, healthy or not, or of great moral importance, but not more than that.
Opinions and emotions surrounding sex show an enormous variety. Is sex healthy or bad for you? This is a frequently asked question. Generally speaking, for married couples a satisfying sex life is considered to be a good thing, and not only in modern times, but throughout history, and in many parts of the world, including the Christian parts. In other words, the importance of sex has been accepted and even promoted in the context of marriage and procreation. Outside marriage, on the contrary, sex often causes concern, severe restrictions, or at least control. This makes sex a matter that has many concealed aspects. It is seen as a private matter, and has, until perhaps the last half century in the Western world, been kept out of public exposure. Sex that is displayed or alluded to in public still causes feelings of resistance, which may vary in intensity depending on time and place.
The sexual system
To discuss 'sex' as only a subsidiary part of life, isolated as it were from other fundamentally sexual realities, is unsatisfactory. We cannot understand 'sex' and all the beautiful and ugly aspects of it, unless we take into consideration the context in which it has come about.
In the following discussion we will therefore attempt to describe the 'sexual system'. This is a much broader concept. Sex exists because there are two sexes, and this fact is fundamentally related to sexual desire or lust and to reproduction and family life. Thus we speak of a 'sexual system', by which we mean that there is a systematic relationship between the following four elements:
The interrelatedness of these four topics is not difficult to see. Reproduction is bound up with the fact that there are two sexes. Sexual intercourse, resulting from lust, leads to pregnancy and birth and is thus linked to family life.
By describing this sexual system, we will arrive at a theory of sex that is different from any other so far proposed. In fact, this theory may imply no less than a Copernican revolution. Instead of a subsidiary part, the sexual system appears to be the very foundation of life and society in all its manifestations.
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