Feel Like Makin’ Love (on a Small Planet): An Eco-Sexual Manifesto
You drive a hybrid. Your home recycling system is state of the art. You buy nothing but organic produce. You’re oh-so-good at being green—at least that’s what you tell yourself as you carry home your “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” tote filled with nontoxic goodies. But here’s the dirty truth: If you haven’t thought about greening your sex life, you’re still a total environmental disaster. Your compost heap isn’t worth dirt if your bedroom is a toxic waste dump. Sex can be one of the lowest-impact forms of entertainment (and exercise) on the planet, but only if you do it right. Green sex doesn’t have to be clean, vanilla sex; it can be as kinky as you please. But if you want it to be good sex (in all senses of the word), then it’s time to make your love life truly sustainable.
What’s wrong our sex lives? Let’s start with condoms. Prophylactics often get tossed in the toilet after use, where they soon make their way into the sewers and then the water system or ocean. The same goes for excreted birth control pills, which affect marine life (not to mention wreaking havoc on your body’s own ecosystem). And what about those lovely long-stemmed red roses you give or receive on Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays? They were probably treated with cancer-causing pesticides that are banned in the United States, cultivated by underage field workers, and flown in from Ecuador or Colombia. That’s not very sexy, is it? Standard sex toys contain toxic, carcinogenic plastic. Used nonrechargeable batteries for vibrators end up in landfills. The majority of “personal lubricants” are petroleum based, and who wants to support Big Oil while trying to reach her own Big O?
One Hot Mess
One of the best reasons to become an eco-sexual is that, if you don’t, in a few decades you might not have time for sex—you’ll be too busy searching for food or escaping from coastal flooding, hurricanes, drought, and general blight. Yes, it is that dire. Global warming (increasingly referred to as climate change) is no joke, and peak oil paints a Mad Max–like scenario that would instantly kill anyone’s libido. Wanna stick around long enough to find new paths to pleasure? Then consider this: Climate change is now a certifiable threat to the national security of the United States. According to a mid-2009 article in the New York Times, “over the next twenty to thirty years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.”1 And the West is next. Are you still in the mood?
Speaking of Big Os, before it gets pumped into your car, oil must be searched for, drilled, pumped, refined, and transported to your local gas station. The carbon sins continue as this nonrenewable fossil fuel spews from your engine, clogging up the atmosphere. But that’s only part of the story—the entire infrastructure of modern society is based on petroleum products. Look around the room you’re in right now and notice how much of your daily life revolves around plastic, one of the ubiquitous products made from oil. Then think about how the food you eat is shipped to the supermarket—or what conventional condoms are made of. Sadly, we’re in a deeply abusive, codependent relationship with oil. We’ve created a world in which we can barely function without it, but it doesn’t love us back. It’s time to break the cycle and find a better energy boyfriend. (Solar and wind are fine-looking babes, by the way. Leave coal at the bar with his buddies; he’s not nearly as “clean” as his lobbyist friends say he is.)
Before you drag yourself to a nunnery, consider that eco-sex can be great sex, without any loss of pleasure. This book covers important bedroom basics like eco-friendly birth-control methods, organically grown cotton and bamboo bed linens, and vegan sex toys. But it goes much farther—into all the issues that we must explore in our search for good sex. We’ll look at all you do to attract a partner, from getting gussied up with organic makeup to finding vegan stilettos. You’ll also learn how to woo your intended with a home-cooked meal of local, sustainable aphrodisiac foods (courtesy of celebrity chefs who know a thing or two about what to do with a cucumber). If you’re in a long-term relationship that’s in need of some heat, there’s no need to stray or to reach for the little blue pill. Tantric sex is one of the most amazing natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals, and it’s more than just fun—it’s enlightening. And there are also plenty of stimulating herbs available that will make a huge, ahem, impact.
Doin’ It and Doin’ It and Doin’ It Well
One of the must-have books on every eco-sexual’s bookshelf should be Bob Doppelt’s The Power of Sustainable Thinking. He really lays it on the line. As a systems analyst, he understands that the propensity for quick fixes and straight-line thinking endemic to our society cannot be merged with real sustainability. It’s just not that simple. He suggests that if we’re going to do something about the environment, we’ve got to immerse ourselves in more holistic thinking—the same kind of idea that informs much of the alternative medicine field. If you have a serious, recurring infection under your toenail, you need to look at your entire immune system if you want to heal. Rubbing some balm into the affected area is not going to be a long-term solution. Similarly, recycling is a good thing to do, but it’s a tiny suture to a planet-sized wound. The earth is an organism, like your body, and it needs tender, loving care at every level of its complex, intertwined system.
We’re automatically attracted to that which serves our needs first; it’s just the survival instinct embedded in our DNA. So we do the most convenient things, including having the most convenient sex. Doppelt calls this short-term thinking a “reactive form of cognition.” Eco-Sex is all about understanding, examining, and getting comfortable with your instincts and recognizing how to integrate them with life as it is in the here and now. Some retrograde bits of our evolution are best left to the dustbin of history. We must embrace a new survival instinct, one that’s just a bit more complicated. We’re far safer in the modern world than we were when defending ourselves from the random saber-toothed tiger. The evolved eco-sexual knows where her reptilian brain ends and her natural instincts begin.
Eco-Sex is divided into three sections. We start with seduction in part 1 (including courtship, sexy green underthings, adornment, organic aphrodisiacs, wine, and gift giving), move on to sex and sexual health in part 2 (including condoms, the birth control pill, alternatives to Viagra, and having a healthy, sexy body), and finally explore eco-sexual adventures in part 3 (including finding fellow eco-sexuals online, green sex toys, and the green parenting movement).
This Is How We Do It
There’s a lot to love about sex. It feels great, burns calories, and stirs up megaendorphins. It’s also free. Unfortunately, once you peel back the rumpled sheets of your love life, you’ll uncover a messy landscape littered with potential eco-hazards, needless waste, and planet-crushing pollution. As you probably already know, sex often requires material goods, most notably birth-control devices (barrier methods) and the pill. All of these affect Mother Earth. But the bigger impact comes when your birth-control method fails—after nine months.
A die-hard eco-sexual might have his or her tubes “tied” and commit to not having kids, in order to avoid adding messy, chemical-laden birth-control by-products to the ecosystem. But that’s not feasible for everyone. What everyone can do is think before they spawn. So let’s look at this more serious side of green sex, before we move on to the fun stuff (dating, love, and everything in between).
Sex Leads to Babies
It’s the essential fact of life. And, no matter how adorable they are, babies definitely have an impact on the planet: 18 billion diapers are sold each year, and over 90 percent of them end up in landfills. And your adorable, cooing genetic replica will start driving in just about sixteen years. Unless we’ve figured out teleportation by that time, the impact of your child, together with everyone else’s children, will be immense. Although Americans have long been the world’s largest per-capita emitters of carbon dioxide, former third-world countries (India and China) are quickly catching up to us. Next time you get busy without wrapping it up, multiply your unprotected tryst by 350,000 and you’ll get an idea of how many new souls are added to our planet on a daily basis.
Each year, nearly 129 million babies are born on planet Earth. That’s a lot of sex. It’s fantastic that so many people are having so much fun, but those who aren’t seriously planning to start a family are wise to consider melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels before taking the risk. According to the British medical journal the Lancet, 76 million unintended pregnancies occur per year, despite the fact that women want access to contraception (sadly, over 200 million women in developing nations don’t have it).
But don’t go blaming women in the third world for the ravages of climate change. It’s Westerners, especially Americans, who use most of the world’s resources. A recent study by statisticians at Oregon State University found that the carbon footprint of an extra child in the United States has an impact that is twenty times greater than that of environmental practices thought to make a real difference.4 In other words, you can spend the rest of your life replacing your incandescent lightbulbs, but your efforts will be a mere drop in the bucket next to the impact of any “extra” children you have.
I’m not telling you to trash your recycling bin or give up your solar panels—just realize that your kiddies can take away your gold star for being the most eco-conscious person on the block. Think about your potential kid, and then his or her potential kid, and so on, and so on. This is about generations and generations of oxygen-swilling, carbon-emitting people. You already have a carbon legacy, and each child you produce adds 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to our already hot and bothered planet.6 At first, people might think of reducing procreation as a radical idea and worry about intrusive government and loss of personal freedom. But researchers make it clear that they’re not advocating governmental controls around population issues—they’re just trying to shed some light on a very real problem. So listen to them before you shed your skivvies and hop in the sack.
Swearing off children isn’t the right choice for everyone and plenty of people will raise eco-conscious families that make the world a better place to live in. If you’re not ready to commit to the snip, there are tons of ways to add some serious sustainability to your family life. (We’ll cover this in chapter 11.)
The premise of this book is that it’s not enough to do a bit of this here, a bit of that there. If you desire entry into the eco-sexual VIP room, you must change your thinking at the root level.
Big, Fat Caveat: Health and Sustainability Are Inextricably Linked
Because the environment is so deeply intertwined with health issues, certain sections of the book will have a heavy emphasis on well-being in general. Almost everything that’s bad for Mama Earth is also bad for you, and vice versa. Every suggestion made in this book is intended to wean you off of products and habits that contaminate your personal ecosystem and the ecosystem at large. Whenever we aim to reduce our consumption of industrially produced chemicals, be they in pharmaceuticals, food, clothes, sex toys, or personal care items, we’re automatically making earth a safer place to live. Who will the chemical industry make phthalates for if no one is buying them anymore? Face it: you’re not exploring eco-sexuality just because you want to save whales or trees—you’re doing it to save yourself. And why wouldn’t you?
The Human Toxome Project, spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group, conducted six studies of the human body burden and found 456 industrial pollutants, pesticides, and other chemicals in the blood, urine, and breast milk of 115 people, from newborns to teens and adults.7 So it’s going to take some major work to turn the beat around.
One fast way to deflate your libido is to consider the life cycle assessment (LCA), an industrial engineering buzzword. This includes everything that goes into the production of the condom that you’re about to slip on or the glass of wine you’re seductively pouring for someone you’re hoping to lure into bed tonight. An LCA includes a lot more than raw materials, however. Think of what happened before the product got into your hot little hands: the workers in the factory where your product breathed its first breath, the energy used to power the equipment in the building, and, of course, the fuel used to ship it to the store where you purchased it. And we’re not done yet: consider what happens after you toss the used product in the trash. An LCA is basically the life story of your product from cradle to grave. Every commercial product has an LCA, so an eco-sexual’s first aim should be to buy items that have the least impact on the world. Your best bet, of course, is to grow your own food in your own pesticide-free soil; recycle, compost, and reuse everything you can; and tap the latex from your own personal backyard rubber tree. This is so time-consuming, however, that you may not have any energy left over for sex when you’re done. If you were living on a commune and trading in the currency of free love, perhaps you could live this kind of impact-free lifestyle. But most of us live in cities or suburbs, and we simply can’t weave our own bamboo sheets from scratch or carve a sustainable-hardwood dildo on our porch as we while away the hours. And here we get to the crux of the issue: why are you buying so much stuff in the first place? True eco-sexuals understand that we are human beings before we are consumers. The endless commodification of every facet of our lives is the real root of the ecological crisis we find ourselves in. That’s why so many old-school environmentalists hate the “green” movement. They see it less as a way for people to transform the planet, and more as an opportunity for corporations to cash in on a trend. Think of it as the pleasure principle versus the profit principal. The more you tune in and turn onto eco-sexuality, the more you’ll realize that your love is not for sale. Keep this less-is-more philosophy in mind as Eco-Sex shows you how to minimize your impact without moving to a commune (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
From the Trade Paperback edition.