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Comes Naturally


Comes Naturally issues: 1-25 / 26-50 / 51-75 / 76-100 / 101-125 / 126-158

In 1992, Layne Winklebleck, editor of Spectator magazine, approached me about writing a monthly column for the long-standing sex weekly of the San Francisco Bay Area. Spectator, primarily a directory of local sex-related events, resources, and services, wanted to increase its editorial content by inaugurating a rotation of four monthly columns by area writers. Layne assured me that I would be free to write about as broad a range of sex and gender issues as I liked, with absolutely minimal editorial input or interference. Spectator, he noted proudly, did not have a unified editorial perspective, preferring diversity, disagreement, and controversy to one-dimensional advocacy.

I agreed to do the column, and have been writing Comes Naturally continuously since then, even though my connection with the magazine ended in 2004, and the magazine itself ceased publication in October of 2005.Several years after I began writing for Spectator, I decided that, in addition to publishing Comes Naturally there, I would offer the columns online (free and confidential) to anyone interested in receiving them. I had serious doubts about whether many people read the articles in Spectator and thought that, as long as I was writing columns every month, they might as well be read by more than a handful of San Francisco sex activists.I sent an invitation to about 150 friends and acquaintances and began sending columns to those who responded with interest. The result has been a paean to the wonders of the Internet. Although the only way to find out about Comes Naturally is by Internet word of mouth, my mailing list has grown steadily. I now send Comes Naturally to some 2700 people, in at least 56 countries. The column also appears, regularly or sporadically, in a variety of online and print journals, and is posted on dozens of online lists and groups — some of which I know about, and many of which I constantly discover for the first time. It’s always a delight when a new subscriber tells me that he heard about the columns for some online list that I never knew existed.

I’ve received email from recipients telling me they were taking my columns home with them to remote villages in the rural Phillippines, from readers in Pakistan appreciating the opportunity to learn about sexual practices they would never indulge in themselves, from readers in the American heartland telling me how important it has been for them to learn that there are other people, clearly not crazed maniacs, who have the very same sexual feelings they have had trouble accepting in themselves.

Judging from the email I receive, there is a broad and appreciative audience for what I hope is clear and thoughtful discussion of sex and gender issues — discussion rooted in the premise that all consensual sexual activity between people old enough to take responsibility for their lives is essentially valuable, important, complex, growth-inducing, and potentially enlightening. I believe that sex is most usefully addressed from emotional, psychological, political, and ethical perspectives, rather than as a lightning rod for moral judgment. I believe that the basic question about sex is how it can best contribute to an individual’s sense of happiness, personal growth, self-empowerment, and psychological well-being.

I strongly disagree with the dominant perspective of American antisexual moralism that sex must, first and foremost, be treated with suspicion and fear, and that the most important thing about sex is knowing how to separate what’s “right” from what’s “wrong,” what’s “good” from what’s “bad.” While there are certainly important ethical issues realted to sex, and while sexual disease, coercion, and unwanted pregnancy are issues of grave social and individual concern, I neverthless see sex primarily as an opportunity and a blessing, rather than as a   threat and a curse. I don’t believe that the failure to impose strict controls on how individuals are allowed to bring sex into their lives will result in society being reduced to a rubble of hedonistic chaos. I believe, on the contrary, that it is the fear of sex, combined with the desire of some individuals to impose their personal sexual tastes and judgments on the people around them, that is the real danger — a social dynamic that every day results in confusion, misunderstanding, self-doubt, disempowerment, bigotry, conflict, and violence of tragic proportions.

I write Comes Naturally from a number of perspectives and in a number of different voices. I try to include discussion of overarching issues with columns that are immediate and personal, to combine seriousness of purpose with humor and a general appreciation of irony and the absurd, to separate objective journalism from personal opinion while including both, to bring nuances of sexual theory and intellectual examination together with an appreciation of the most straightforward details of personal experience. I believe that, in addition to being an arena for intense personal exploration and discovery, sex is one of the dominant political issues of our time, and needs to be recognized and addressed as such. I believe that sex is one of the most profound and deep-reaching aspects of being alive, even as it is one of the most straightforward ways to pursue the simplest and most immediate of pleasures.

If you would like to be added to the list of people who receive Comes Naturally online, click here. There is no cost, and your name, email address, and other information will be kept entirely confidential.