Back in the day when innkeepers could ask guests to share beds with random strangers, people weren’t sexless. They sang bawdy ballads, chased after girls, and produced offspring. However, sex was simply one part of bodily life—much like birth, aging, and death. Modern sex is different. Modern sex is not supposed to be part of the same cycle as aging and death. Instead, it is part of a strangely innocent, oddly desperate attempt to deny death’s power over our sexy, tanned, and well-toned lives. We have wedded sex and youth in sacred union. Our movies, commercials, and billboards show us that sexy men don’t go bald or lose their six-pack abs. Sexy women have legs that deflect cellulose. To look sexy is to be youthful, even if doing so involves covering wrinkles with makeup, maintaining girlish figures through liposuction, or driving a red sports car while receiving social security benefits. Sexy Americans must be young, not just because youth less often die, but because the reckless young don’t believe that they will die.
Sexiness also includes lingering as long as possible in the adolescent state of freedom from family and marital obligations. In his conclusion to the Narnia series, C. S. Lewis describes the character Susan’s acceptance of this ideal: “I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.” Like Susan, we demand youthful freedom. If we can bestow our sexual favors upon whomever we choose, we can feel that we have control over our sexual and human identity. We are made powerful. Yet “free love” becomes an individual pursuit instead of a joint one, and our partners become expressions of our whims instead of human beings whom we must truly love. We even attempt to free sex from human contact, as evidenced by the growth of porn use (a recent article in Verily Magazine discusses how this issue is acknowledged and explored in the movie Don Jon).