One of the perks of working as a journalist, particularly at Reason (which covers a wide variety of cultural and political topics, and usually from what's considered an alternative point of view), is that you end up in odd situations your younger self could never have imagined.
For me, I think about moments such as interviewing Edward Snowden via Skype in front of several hundred Free State Project people up in New Hampshire. Or about driving south from Reason's headquarters in Los Angeles to Chapman University in Orange, California, to spend an afternoon shooting the bull with Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith, who cast his first presidential vote in 1948 (for the Socialist Norman Thomas!), and could thus discourse via personal experience the differences between the Great Depression and the Great Recession ("I remember the '30s like it was yesterday"). Then there was the time some colleagues and I trundled over from Washington to Baltimore to interview David Simon, the creator of one of the most-revered TV series of all time, The Wire. We were going to talk his less well-received show, Treme, and because he is a self-declared socialist who had gotten increasingly fed up with libertarians liking his work (The Wire is one of the most unyielding depictions of how drug prohibition shreds all the social fabric), he had stipulated that we wouldn't talk about "politics." Which was fine by me, though he immediately started talking about politics and in the first couple of minutes of the interview threatened to get up and not come back (given that we were in his office, that might have been pretty great). After the interview was posted and a big, nasty, online back-and-forth, he literally told me to lose his number.
And so it was that I found myself a few Saturdays ago attending a press event sponsored by the personal lubricant company Astroglide that was dedicated to publicizing and closing "the orgasm gap." That's the company's term for what it says is the difference in how often men and women have orgasms during sex. According to Astroglide's research, 80 percent of women have faked an orgasm and 95 percent of heterosexual men report regularly having an orgasm during sex while just 65 percent of heterosexual women do. The company also cites a study that concludes using a lubricant during sex was associated "with significantly higher reports of sexual pleasure and satisfaction."
At New York's posh Soho Grand Hotel, women clad in purple fake-fur jackets emblazoned with the slogan "Fake Fur, Not Orgasms" wandered around handing out product samples and fake tattoos ("Fake Tattoos, Not Orgasms"), but the main attraction was Dr. Angela Jones, a "brand ambassador" for Astroglide. Jones is an M.D. who talked frankly, funnily, and forthrightly about everything related to sex. A married, black lesbian originally from the Midwest who used IVF to have a child, Jones bills herself as "everybody's favorite OB/GYN" and who's going to disagree? She cracked wise—"forget about the wage gap, focus on the orgasm gap" is a sample line—but also substantively about how so many individuals and couples simply refuse to have the sorts of conversations that will allow them to explore who they are and what they want, not just in relation to sex but so many other parts of their lives.
Her rap had nothing to do with politics per se, but it was a frankly libertarian approach to self-fulfillment that made me wonder about larger questions of social progress. We live in an age of outrage in which virtually everybody, from the president on down, is constantly flipping out about how awful and unfair virtually everything is. There are indeed a multitude of petty and grand injustices in the world, but isn't it also true that many, maybe most, things are much, much better than they used to be? We're phenomenally wealthy compared to just a few generations ago, and more equal across race, gender, and ethnicity. We're more peaceful, long-lived, and free in most important ways. This is, of course, the thesis of Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now and he and other believers in progress (such as Reason's own Ronald Bailey) routinely get roasted for suggesting improvements in the psychic and material well-being of humans.
With that in mind, I asked Dr. Angela whether the sexual revolution and the general loosening-up of American culture hadn't at least made it easier to talk about sex? Sure, she said. But echoing one of the event's slogans, she noted that life is still too short to fake it. Which is true enough—and not just about sex.