Sexcetera: Open discussion makes sex more satisfying
Freshman year, I never talked about sex. Convinced it was inappropriate and awkward, I kept it to myself, only on very rare occasions sharing my thoughts with my neighbor across the hall. As a whole, I tried hard not to be “that sex guy.”
Needless to say, I got better.
As I’ve learned, talking about sex is crucial because it makes us think. Here at Whitman, we’re supposedly all about critically examining the world, but when it comes to sex, most of us let that slide. However, the less we talk about sex, the fewer opportunities we have to think about it—and there’s a hell of a lot to think about.
For instance, take our sex-negative culture, which keeps us afraid to talk and learn about sex in the first place. Our culture stigmatizes expressions of sexuality, treating sexual desire as crude and shameful. We don’t talk about sex because it’s “inappropriate,” but our taboo on the topic leaves us ill-equipped to discuss, let alone ask questions about, our personal experiences with sexuality, even when doing so would help us.
What’s more, that shame is very easily internalized. In a culture that won’t discuss sex, people concerned that their sexuality is “abnormal” have few opportunities to learn otherwise, leading them to believe there’s something intrinsically wrong with themselves. The more we talk about sex, the more we can erase its cultural stigma, helping people embrace and enjoy their sexualities.
And it’s hardly only vanilla heterosexual sex that’s stigmatized. There’s a world of sexual diversity that is completely sidelined. If talking about two straight cisgender (as opposed to transgender) people having sex is hard, talking about the relationships of transgender, queer, polyamorous or asexual people, to name a few, is damn near impossible. We need to open the discussion on sex, and do so in a way that recognizes the broad diversity of sexuality.
We also need to talk about sex because sex is powerful, and as such, potentially dangerous. Sharing your body with someone else is an act of trust and vulnerability; done right, it can lead to affirmation and mutual satisfaction, but done wrong, it can be anything from frustrating and unfulfilling to physically and emotionally damaging. Good sex can be empowering; bad sex can be dehumanizing. If we want to fundamentally respect the people with whom we interact sexually—including ourselves—we can’t hide these important conversations behind the veil of propriety.
Finally, when it comes to sex, no discussion is more important than that of preventing sexual assault, but we can’t have those conversations if we keep sex a taboo topic. By talking about sex openly and frankly, we can better discuss subjects like consent and hook-up culture. We can challenge our assumptions and expectations about who’s entitled to what during sex. And taking the shame out of sex helps us communicate, making us better at expressing our wants and hearing our partners’. It’s hard to do any of this when sex is still in the closet.
I’ve changed since freshman year. I want to be “that sex guy.” I want to answer your questions and give you advice. I want us to talk, and hopefully challenge our assumptions. More than anything, I want to get this discussion started, so please send me your questions by going to http://is.gd/sexcetera. Don’t worry, it’s entirely anonymous.
Let’s talk about sex.