I couldn’t have asked for anything much better: I pulled my feet up on the couch and settled in to watch one of my favorite episodes of Buffy. By now, I think it’s evident that I have an appreciation for the show and I promise that this will not be the last time that I talk about it in reference to sex. In any case, I have seen a number of installments in the series and I have to say that this particular episode, “Lie to Me,” was one of the most poignant. In many ways, the theme of the story arc is about growing up and realizing that things in life are rarely uncomplicated.
Throughout the episode, characters demonstrated a number of ways in which people lie. There are lies that we tell others in order to deceive or protect, lies that we tell ourselves so that we can sleep at night, lies that we believe in wholeheartedly when we don’t want to see the truth. We can tell ourselves lies to shield ourselves from things that we don’t want to see. We lie out of fear. There are overt lies and lies of omission. We use lies to create something out of nothing or mask what is already there.
For the next couple of days, I began to mull over the idea of lying; the concept stuck with me but I couldn’t pin down why it was so troublesome. There’s a moral objection, of course, that lying is not good but I’m fairly sure that everybody lies at some point in his or her life. Then, as the pressure of a looming deadline approached, it hit me: in my view, one of the scariest places where we lie to each other is when we talk about sex (this is a sexual education website after all so you know I had to get there eventually). Lying about (or during) sex is not only upsetting as there are very real consequences for deceiving a person but also because it seems as though lying shatters the very intimacy that the act would appear to foster.
In the realm of sex, we lie about our age, about having a disease or having been tested, about the number of partners we’ve had (and quite possibly who those partners were in the first place). We lie about our experiences (e,g., “I’ve never done this before”). There are the more insidious lies that lead to rape and the lies we tell to get laid. And while all of these are certainly potential pitfalls, it always seems as though the most dangerous deceptions are the ones that we force upon ourselves. We tell ourselves that we don’t need to go get tested because there’s no way that we could have a disease. We tell ourselves that it’ll be okay to have sex one time without a condom because nothing could ever happen. We tell ourselves that we’ll sleep with the next person who comes along because we’re lucky to have anyone show the tiniest bit of interest in us—we lie and say that we’re lucky to have him or her. We tell ourselves that we could never do any better.
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if, during all of this, part of our psyche actually wants to be lied to even though it knows that it’s being deceived. I certainly don’t want to advocate lying but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the temptation to lie or recognize why it happens in the first place. I get it; lies reduce anxiety for us and make the world simpler and although lies never solve a problem, they make things less complicated just for a second and sometimes that’s just what we need.