Jennifer Hancock is the former executive director for the Humanists of Florida Association. She now writes a blog called Happiness Through Humanism and just released a book called The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom:
[This] is a book that basically says — here are personal ethics, here is why they are important, and here is how you can apply them to your daily life and why doing so will help you live a happier more productive life. It isn’t a philosophy book so much as a book about the pragmatic reasons for being an ethical, compassionate and responsible person.
I’m all for books that are light on philosophy and heavy on practical wisdom.
Among the section topics: love, treating others well, embracing your inner dork, being healthy, ending relationships, and death.
An excerpt from the sex portion of the book is below:
The Costs and Consequences of Sex
“Sex always has consequences. When Hitler’s mother spread her legs that night, she effectively canceled out the spreading of fifteen to twenty million other pairs of legs.”
– George Carlin
Everything has a cost. Before you act, you really need to consider whether you can handle the consequences. And this is doubly true when it comes to sex. Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right. Sex is a big deal and it has emotional, physical, and sometimes financial consequences. Before you have sex with someone, make sure you are prepared for those consequences. This is where being responsible comes into play.
First and foremost is your heart. If you are having sex for the wrong reasons, you will regret it afterward, and that kind of ruins the experience. Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical. If, however, you are having sex to keep your partner with you, then when (not if) they leave you, you will be miserable. The question you need to ask yourself is, if the worst that could happen happens and this person never calls you again, how will you feel about what you have done?
Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you. Sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) are real, and if you have sex, you are at risk of contracting one. You can mitigate that risk by choosing your sexual partners very carefully, making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships, making sure each partner is tested for STDs before engaging in sex, and using protection anyway. If you think all this would kill the moment, consider how bad it would be if it actually killed you instead.
Sex can obviously lead to pregnancy, even if you use precautions. And if you aren’t prepared for that possibility, you might want to hold off on having sex until and unless you are ready to handle an unintended pregnancy. Also, if you don’t think your partner can handle that consequence, don’t have sex with him or her.
Finally, there are sometimes financial consequences. Sex with prostitutes isn’t the only sort of sex that costs money. Having a child, even if you give it away, costs money. Contracting an STD costs money. Affairs can be very expensive. People have lost their jobs because of sex. Do you want sex badly enough to lose your job, or get extorted by a spurned lover who is threatening you? If not, then it is best to keep your pants on and pass on that offer of free sex. Nothing is ever free.
The Humanist Approach to Sex
“In all sexual encounters, commitment to humane and humanistic values should be present.”
– The American Humanist Association, Sexual Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
Sex is a big deal. There are consequences to having sex and you should be prepared for those consequences before engaging in sex with anyone. The Humanist approach to sexuality is that it should be pleasurable, loving, and free of guilt. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes. With the freedom to express your sexuality comes responsibility. From a Humanist perspective, sexual morality cannot be separated from general morality. Both must include compassion, ethics, and responsibility.
Whether any given sex act is morally acceptable from a Humanist perspective really depends on whether it helps the people involved become happy or causes suffering. Sexual pleasure must not come at the expense of someone else’s happiness.
To make sure sex is a source of both pleasure and happiness for you, take precautions to keep yourself and your partners safe. Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually fantasy. Choose your partners wisely. And always approach sex as a responsible, educated, compassionate, and ethical person.
Jen’s has graciously offered to donate a copy of the book to one lucky reader.
Since her book is all about practical advice for those of us who don’t believe in a god, it raises this question:
What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?
Leave your thoughts in the comments and make sure the word “Trampoline” is at the end of it if you’d like to be considered for the prize! (If the word isn’t there, I’ll just assume you want to comment but not win.)
Jen will pick a winner among all the entries next Tuesday!