1: I am in fifth grade. Mom and I are driving home from church. I debate whether now is the time to ask a question that’s been on my mind. My palms sweaty and I have a lump in my throat because I know that the question I want to ask is considered inappropriate. I do not know how or why I know this, but I do. *deep breath* “Mom- what’s a boner?”
2: I am in middle school. Mom made me wait until I was “older” to read her Danielle Steele novels and the time has finally come. As I devour the book, I feel an unfamiliar sensation. I know that I cannot tell anyone and try to hide my reaction for fear that someone else will know what I’m feeling just by looking at me.
3: I am a senior in college and just finished my first yoga class. I leave class sore but completely blissed out. I realize that only one other experience makes me feel quite that good. I go home smiling.
4: I am in my mid-20s. I just attended my first sex positive conference. Once home, I write more in two days than I have in months. I am turned on in so many ways: creatively, sexually, and spiritually. I realize that sexual energy is just one manifestation of the vitality inside each of us. The realization humbles and inspires me. “Freedom in pleasure” takes on a much bigger meaning.
These stories are just four on my journey from sexual shame to #freedominpleasure. Some I’ve thought about frequently, others didn’t surface as memories until I began answering the question, “Why sex?” Why choose to focus on such a taboo topic? Why put myself out there in honor of something that society is terrified of? The answer felt too big, too heavy until I turned inward and realized the it laid in my own narrative.
Like many sex educators I practically stumbled into the profession. I was always the person my friends turned to for information and advice about sex. Perhaps this was due to my mother’s openness about the topic or my avid reading of every teen magazine under the sun. Regardless, I was the go-to gal. When I started selling sex toys, no one was particularly shocked.
Despite all of this, I had absorbed many of the stories about sex that society tells us, stories rooted in shame, secrecy, and fear. I don’t fully understand where these came from, but they were there. As I began working with women from all walks of lives and background, I saw this shame and fear reflected back at me. My clients worried what their partners would think if they bought a toy. The cancer patients I worked with were so relieved to finally have this topic addressed that they told me their entire sexual history. Friends and family came forward with their stories of sexual violence and healing.
Truth be told, even in its simplest form-when sex is 100% physical-it can be tough. Sometimes you just want to get laid but your brain won’t shut off. Sometimes someone’s bloated or dry or can’t get it up. Sometimes you’re just bored and need some tips for making it more pleasurable. <–link-a-palooza!
At the same time, sex is often about much more than a simple, physical act. In those cases, it’s way more enjoyable when we break free of the BS scripts telling us that we aren’t p
retty fit worthy good enough, that sex is only about orgasm and not about the experience of pleasure, and that we should never talk about it for fear of being labeled dirty or slutty or a number of other words that have gained a negative meaning but so often really mean “someone who took charge of their pleasure.”
Similarly in the many fields I worked — healthcare, sexual violence prevention and response, and college health — I saw deep discomfort with talking about sex. Sex still is seen as something “other” rather than an integral part of our health. How can we talk about sexual violence if we don’t ever talk about sex? How can we talk about the importance of quality of life issues while ignoring intimacy? How can we talk about supporting our students when we don’t create supportive and safe spaces for them to share their sexual experiences, concerns, and stories?
Ultimately, and at some point, sex intersects with everything. It is the most beautiful expression of nature versus nurture out there, our bodies primed to experience pleasure and our knowledge primed to hide and shame that experience.
So, why sex?
Because by talking about it we take away its power to cause shame, secrecy, and fear. Because sex is about so much more than two bodies (or more!) coming together. And because everyone deserves to experience all the (consensual, safe, and legal) sex and pleasure they desire.