Today's guest post is by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson, authors of the newly released Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love.
The Children Might Ask Questions
by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson
We live in the outer suburbs of New York City. Our local government is majority Republican, but President Obama garnered around 60% of the vote in the 2012 presidential election. The percentage of residents who identify as being affiliated with a church is considerably higher than the national average, and the overwhelming majority of residents – 72%, of the affiliated – are Catholic; Jews are a distant second, comprising around 14% of the population. Still, ours is predominantly a bedroom community and not an extremely conservative one.
Our first three books made reference to Tantra in their titles or subtitles. Our most recent release – Partners in Passion: a Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy, and Long-Term Love – is aimed at the general reader with a focus on creating sustainable, fulfilling long-term relationships that are satisfying both emotionally and sexually. The cover shows a man and a woman, apparently in bed, smiling, and gazing into each other’s eyes. It’s tamer than what you can see on television or in your local supermarket.
We belong to a local gym, and the membership is consistent with the demographics of the area. It’s overwhelmingly white and includes serious body builders, a large elderly contingent, commuting businesspeople, soccer moms, and high school kids. There are also various programs for younger children. In past years, we’ve posted notices about workshops on the bulletin board and have even held a signing – for our book Tantra for Erotic Empowerment – that the gym hosted and promoted.
In February 2014, we booked a local restaurant for a lecture and book signing to celebrate the release of Partners in Passion. We asked the gym manager for permission to post a flyer featuring the books cover and details about the event. She okayed it without hesitation, but when we returned the next day, the flyer was gone.
We went to the manager who explained that she had received complaints from two members who said the flyer was located over a water fountain and that they didn’t want their children exposed to it. She indicated that she believed the issue was the use of the word “sex” in the subtitle of our book and that she felt compelled to accede because more than one person had objected.
At first, we were angry, although we understood that the manager had few options (she did allow us to post something more generic.) Taking down our flyer was easier than dealing with outrage, even from a small handful of members. Still we recognized a double standard at work – advertising photos of scantily clad body-builders are on display in multiple places. After the anger, sadness set in. Being censored, even in this modest way, is extremely disheartening for an author. And the idea that our book title and cover art might somehow be perceived as damaging to children was bizarre and disturbing.
It’s obvious that sexual information should be imparted to children carefully, with awareness of what they’re willing and able to absorb. It’s also obvious that adults may be uncomfortable talking to children about sex and that children are likely to pick up on that discomfort. At the same time, it’s completely baffling that the very word ‘sex’ should be able to generate such panic and that a book that includes the word ‘love’ and the phrase ‘emotional intimacy’ in conjunction with ‘sex’ should cause so much discomfort.
What will happen to these children as they grow up? If they’re tall enough to drink from the water-fountain and read our flyer, they’re certainly of an age where they’re likely to start asking questions about sex, whether or not the cover of our book is the trigger. If parents are so uneasy about the topic, how will they be able to address the questions in a way that’s relaxed, kind, and supportive? How will they be able to avoid inflicting their own discomfort on their children? Why is a message that links sex, emotional intimacy, and long-term love a threat?
This extreme form of sex-negativity can only be damaging in the long run. It breeds sexual shame, unconscious behavior, and most likely unsafe sexual behavior. While they may believe they are protecting their children, those who are offended by such an innocuous display are probably doing more harm to those kids than parents who aren’t hypervigilant about Internet porn.
A graduate of NYU and Yale, Mark A Michaels writes for scholarly and legal publications and his plays have been produced off-Broadway. He took his first Tantra class in 1997 and gave his first lecture on the subject two years later. Patricia Johnson spent many years as a professional operatic soprano. In 1999, a longstanding interest in Tantra inspired her to attend a lecture by Mark Michaels, now her husband and collaborator. Since then, she and Michaels have taught and lectured throughout the world. They live in New York City. Find them online at @PtrsInPassion and tantrapm.com.