When sex makes headlines, it’s usually for all the ‘wrong’ reasons. Do a Google News search (see images below) for sex and you will see endless examples of sex gone bad; shame making articles, heinous violations, articles espousing bigger-better-faster-stronger, or a celebrity sex tape that begins to circulate and the accompanying moral outcry is proof of society’s demise. Rarely, if ever, is the complex nature of sexuality discussed, nor is it encouraged. Black and white assertions are made to serve as click bait- not as education. The trouble with this is while such fear and danger based stories dominate our public discussions about sex, we have little incentive nor examples to reimagine what healthy eroticism can look like. While such a delicate area of the human condition remains so heavily legislated and socially manipulated, it’s no wonder so many of us feel powerless and afraid to stand our ground to make meaningful sexuality a part of daily conversations. But by learning to engage with sex from a place within that extends beyond knee-jerk responses to social conditioning, we have the opportunity to create something genuinely meaningful and empowering – on our own terms.
Atrocious sexual violations need to be discussed in public and at length. These are cultural issues that intersect deeply with the core of my work. Much of the work that I do is repairing the damage caused not only by sexual violations, but also the way sex is dealt with culturally. The aforementioned Google search highlights how mainstream media focuses almost exclusively on negative depictions of sex that perpetuate fear, shame and stigma. What I would like to see in addition to these narratives (not instead of), are more examples that celebrate and empower people whose relationships with sexuality inform their identity, their wellbeing and their relationships. It’s rare for us to read stories of genuine sexual freedom and empowerment. It’s even rarer to read about sex that leads to greater understanding of the nature of sexuality. In the same way we celebrate fitness and cooking on TV – why don’t we also celebrate sex? What is it about sex that means it remains a vital component of wellbeing that must be silenced, shamed or less valuable than any of our other ‘achievements’?
Too often the moral and politically correct panic about sex derails important conversations about what sex can actually mean for us. The ways that sex can fulfil us as part of overall self-acceptance and give us the confidence to be more present in the world, to overcome our fears and to affect change in more areas than just the bedroom. The truth is, sex is fundamental to our wellbeing. Sure, we can ignore it and many of us do (just like fitness and cooking), but from my own experience and my work as a sexuality educator and therapist, I see day-in and day-out the overwhelmingly positive impact that engaging with sexuality thoughtfully and respectfully has on our self esteem, relationships and productivity in life.
The Inner Conflict Around Sexual Expression
The struggle for sexual acceptance is not only felt by women. Anyone who has experienced some kind of internal conflict around their sexual desires or lack of, versus the collective moral compass, has had a taste of what I am describing. The very same system that shames women for enjoying sex in any way at all, (although coquettish submission is usually OK), reduces men to neanderthal-like thugs with absolutely no self control and an inability to distinguish between their very own body parts. Add to this mix misinformation and stigma around unconventional gender expression, non-intercourse based sexual relations, or interest in kinky sex practices, and you have a society that sees ‘acceptable’ sexuality as about as interesting and alluring as boiled cabbage.
Even though the manifestations of sexual shame are different depending upon your gender, identity or preferred sexual sub-culture, what is consistent is the sense of unworthiness and trivialisation surrounding sex and pleasure. That wanting to experience meaningful sexuality is somehow perverted or deranged. None of us are immune to the Google News eye of scrutiny and social judgement.
Change The Conversation from Fear to Freedom
Sex is such a vital part of our existence. It’s the source of so much that is good in our lives. Along with food and shelter, Maslow declared it a fundamental human need! But unlike all of Maslow’s other needs, sex for many women is way down on the list, and for a lot of men is something they would like to connect with but genuinely have no idea how. The trans and gender diverse communities are currently defining and redefining what sex even is and how it extends beyond genitals and sex acts. No one is exempt from the challenge of finding the best fit for sex in our lives.
Making time to prioritise sex does not involve having to have a partner, having the perfect body or endless Tantra classes (although a bit of the latter will most definitely help IMHO). Prioritising sex doesn’t even have to involve another person. By just acknowledging within ourselves that sex is something we would like to know more about, we are on the way to making the fundamental changes that hold us back from being the abundant and erotically confident people we fantasise about being. By acknowledging this within ourselves we are also more able to understand and accept this in other people. The thing is, the process of self discovery in sexuality needn’t be a scary one. It’s exciting, inspiring and so worthwhile, leading you back to your own potent source. It’s like you’re finally coming home!
If you are one of the millions on the planet who feel that something is missing- you’re probably right. It is missing. I urge you to look within and heed the call. Any investment you make into erotic self-inquiry can only ever lead you closer to the freedom and peace of mind you crave ( not to mention more fulfilling sex). And I‘ll meet you there, in the heart of pleasure town. (I’ll be the one with a margarita in one hand and a vibrator in the other!) First round is on me!
Images from Google News search for Sex Dec 2nd. 2014