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About This Work


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, which was 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 wrote 158 Comes Naturally columns from 1992 through 2006, continuing to write for what had become a substantial online audience when Spectator ceased publication in October, 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 was a paean to the wonders of the Internet. Although the only way to find out about Comes Naturally, separate from Spectator, was by Internet word of mouth, my mailing list grew steadily until I was sending Comes Naturally to over 2700 people, in at least 56 countries. The column was also reprinted, regularly by some, sporadically by others, in a wealth of online and print journals, and was posted regularly on dozens of online lists and groups — some of which I knew about, many of which I only discovered over time.

The extent of outreach made possible by the Internet constantly amazed me. I received email from recipients telling me they were taking my columns home 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 had been for them to learn that there are other people, clearly not crazed maniacs, who have the same sexual feelings they have had trouble accepting in themselves.

Judging from the email I have received, there is a broad and appreciative audience for what I think of as 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 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 related to sex, and while sexual disease, coercion, and unwanted pregnancy are issues of grave social and individual concern, I nevertheless see sex primarily as an opportunity and a blessing, rather than as a threat and a curse.

I don’t believe that 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 wrote Comes Naturally from a number of perspectives and with a number of different voices. I tried to include discussion of overarching issues with columns that were 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.