In order to save humanity, society must learn to discuss sex openly, according to prize-winning LGBT advocate Samuel R. Delany.
Temple University English professor Delany, a successful science fiction author and notable commentator on queer culture, gave a lecture Wednesday evening describing his theories on the significance of discourse on sex. Delany is this year’s winner of the James Robert Brudner ’83 Memorial Prize and Lecture, an honor bestowed by Yale’s Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies that awards winners $5,000 and the opportunity to give a lecture at Yale. Each year, the committee gives the award to an individual who has helped improve understanding and tolerance of the LGBT community.
Delany’s talk focused primarily on the value of publicly acknowledging and discussing sex, because he said ignoring the topic will have negative consequences on society.
“[Sex] is the least understood need,” he said. “Sex is a good thing.”
Delany said that written works in Western culture rarely provide detailed descriptions of sex, adding that his own writings contain a “great deal” of sex scenes. Authors’ unwillingness to write about sex is due to a misunderstanding of sex’s role in contemporary society, which should be more than a method of procreation, he said. Some people blame masturbation for causing insanity in teenagers and young adults, he added, though these views should be considered “inarticulate idiocy.” The need for sex is as natural as the need for food and water, and cannot be restricted to the practical use of procreation, he said.
Delany said the disparity between humans’ need for sex and its public perception creates a dangerous result for society.
“The nation most capable of dissociating sex and procreation will be the most successful,” he said.
Delany said countries that cannot speak openly about methods of birth control used for recreational sex will face “destruction” due to overpopulation. He said societies that strictly interpret the Biblical commandment to “go forth and multiply” are prohibited from discussing birth control and contraception, leading to unwanted pregnancies that cause an increase in the unskilled labor force and higher crime rates. When the number of abortions in low-income communities increases, the crime rate will lower within 15 years, he added.
Attendees interviewed said they were impressed with Delany’s ability to speak openly about sex.
“It’s refreshing to hear someone of his age speak about sex from a very radical, unconventional standpoint,” Deirdre Sargent, ART ’13 said.
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies professor Inderpal Grewal said it was “really fascinating” to hear the voice of an author whose books she has read extensively.
Delany will deliver the second part of his lecture tonight at the Midtown Executive Club in New York City.