Digital Journal

The Fear of Sex

John Ince is a lawyer, journalist and co-owner of Vancouver, British Columbia sex shot/art gallery The Art of Loving. He is also the author of The Politics of Lust. — Image courtesy of John Ince

January 13, 2005

Digital Journal columnist, Mike Drach, interviews John Ince to discuss sexual shame, the male ego and society’s fear of the erotic.

Ince is a lawyer, journalist and co-owner of Vancouver, British Columbia sex shop/art gallery The Art of Loving. He is also the author of The Politics of Lust.

Digital Journal: Tell us your book’s basic thesis.

John Ince: I think many of us are conscious that we enjoy our sexuality, but I argue in The Politics of Lust that there’s a reservoir beneath those positive attitudes of negative, uptight shame and fear about our genitals and our desire for genital pleasure.

Digital Journal: Where does this fear come from?

Ince: It is, in fact, a very complex system I’ve called an “eroto-toxic” system, and it is passed on from generation to generation. It’s passed on, for example, by parents not talking to their children about masturbation. The first sexual experience for 90 per cent of people is playing with themselves — a wonderful activity. And most kids do so without any guidance or discussion that it’s okay, that it’s normal. But they eventually acquire the subtle anxiety that there’s something a little weird about it from our media and from our schools, in so many subtle ways that we take them for granted.

Digital Journal: Are there examples of sexually healthy societies?

Ince: The level of sexual fear varies from culture to culture and a seemingly unrelated variable is the degree of social hierarchy. Let’s look at the most hierarchical culture in the world, which is probably Saudi Arabia, where there is no democracy, where the media are not free. There is no sex education. Homosexuality is a crime. Compare that with Netherlands or Denmark, where there are very evolved democratic structures and very, very relaxed attitudes towards sex.

Or compare Canada and the United States. Canada doesn’t have a huge population of fundamentalist Christians, who are also very hierarchically oriented — you know, God at the top, sinful humans underneath. And in America there’s a lot more fear of sex. Janet Jackson shows her nipple on television and there’s mass hysteria. In Canada, they would laugh that off.

Digital Journal: Who’s more uncomfortable about sexual issues: men or women?

Ince: You’d have to work in a sex shop, like the one I own, to know that women are way more comfortable. We sell masturbation toys for guys — which are great, by the way — but guys are way more uptight about walking into a store and asking for a fake vagina, whereas women don’t have any hesitation saying they own a vibrator.

Digital Journal: Why is this?

Ince: It’s this whole ego thing that if you’re a real stud, you can get the real thing. And I’ve seen that male ego is heavily connected to male sexuality, which isn’t necessarily pleasure.

Here’s an example. Our most popular seminar at The Art of Loving is how to give your lover an hour-and-a-half erotic ceremony that is mind-blowing. We sell out spots to 20 or 30 women almost every month; we have enormous difficulty attracting more than five men. We ask people why that is the case and the common answer is that men are selfish. They want to receive pleasure, they don’t really want to give it.

More prominently, men don’t want to walk into a seminar and admit that they could improve their lovemaking technique. But if you talk to a lot of women, as I do in our business, you’ll find many of them are not that impressed with the lovemaking skills of men.

This article is part of Digital Journal's national magazine edition. Pick up your copy of Digital Journal in bookstores across Canada. Or subscribe to Digital Journal now, and receive 8 issues for $19.95 + GST ($39.95 USD).