Healthy Sexuality

A friend of mine posted this link to a Tumblr post by legalisedlies about how liberal “feminists” say “listen to sex workers” but then they will only listen to the most privileged women in the sex trade because they support sex-pozzitive ideology. (I will not call them “sex-positive” with correct spelling because these people do not support healthy sexuality.) Legalizedlies wrote a fantastic comment response which I want to talk about:

Nah, they don’t. The fact that they call our lived experience “victim porn” says enough. They don’t propose to “listen to sex workers” because they give a damn about us. They do so because their “sex positive” ideology needs some steamy hot propaganda. We can’t let it happen that the trauma of these girls gets in the way of their porn addiction, right?

If they’d fully grasp the trauma of being violated in the sex industry, they can’t fetishise our rapes anymore. We can’t have that, can we?But i do acknowledge that they are victims in this too. I’m getting more concerned by the game that is rigged than the fact that they come back time and time again to lose, so to speak. Can we really blame libfems for fetishising the brutalisation of women if nobody under 30 can even imagine what healthy sex looks like, let alone communicate about it? Like i said: the game is rigged; we live in such a pornified world that at this stage, sex and dominance, submission and violence are synonyms. I can name 0 examples in the real world outside of my imagination where i’ve seen healthy sexuality. And even if we all had seen a few examples, when sexual violence against women is so eroticised, it would strike most as un-erotic. This fetishisation is taught behavior. The only thing that i feel that could change this is an end to capitalism and a complete removal of the sexualisation of dominance, submission and sexual violence against women from society. Untill that happens all we have is each other. I will continue to try to be in solidarity with other women and do damage control. We sometimes get frustrated with libfems, but maybe, just maybe, our work can make their lives less risky too. And that’s what it’s all about.

This is a fantastic summary of porn culture: young people are constantly fed unhealthy sexuality through pornography and pop culture and sex-pozzie “feminism” and they’re not getting any examples of healthy sexuality. It’s worth having conversations about what healthy sexuality is and what we should be striving for as we attempt to cleanse our minds of porn culture. I’m thinking about how I can write more about this topic, but for now, here are a few points about healthy sex.

Sex is not work or a job. It’s a leisure activity done just for the joy of it. I will compare sex to hanging out and spending time with your loved ones. It wouldn’t make any sense to say that hanging out watching a movie and laughing with your friends on a Friday night is “work” or that you could pay someone for it. Same with sex. It’s something you do because you feel like it, because it gives you joy and pleasure. If it feels like work to you, that’s because you’re not enjoying it and are doing it for someone else’s sake. You do not have to engage in sex that you don’t enjoy.

Sex is not a performance, nor is it glamorous. Sex is something private and vulnerable and sometimes messy. It involves real human bodies. Real human bodies are not cookie-cutter perfect, they aren’t always gorgeous to look at, and they do embarrassing things sometimes, like burp at the wrong moment. Orgasms aren’t always loud and obvious, some of them are rather quiet like a sigh or a whisper. Pleasure can be expressed loudly or subtly depending on the person and the situation.

During sex you should feel joyful, happy, relaxed, and excited. You should not feel nervous, bored, scared, or frozen. It’s possible you may feel a bit nervous if it’s a new partner and you’re super excited and hoping it will go well. But that is a nervousness based on excitement and desire, not a nervousness based on fear of the situation or the person. You should absolutely not be in fear.

Your partner should care about you and your pleasure. He/she should listen to you and the directions you give and should be excited to learn what pleases you. You should feel comfortable saying what you want and don’t want. If you don’t know what you want, just take it slowly, you will gradually figure it out.

There should be no consequence for saying “no” to something. If you say no to something your partner should immediately stop without complaining or demanding an explanation and should switch to something else that you like better. Your partner should not continue to do something you don’t like or try to talk you into it. She/he should be happy to switch to something you like better.

During good sex, you will probably smile and/or laugh with delight. You should feel relaxed enough to laugh if something funny happens. Sometimes bodies are hilarious.

Sex should not hurt, and it certainly should not cause injuries that require treatment. If it doesn’t feel good, you are allowed to stop. There is a myth that goes around that your first time will hurt. Sorry about the TMI, but my first time did not hurt, it felt great. I think if your first time hurts it’s because you aren’t actually aware that you are not aroused. I will repeat again: if it hurts, you are allowed to stop.

You should not have an expectation that sex needs to include specific acts. Rather, you should just do things that both you and your partner enjoy, regardless of whether or not you think other people do things that way. It doesn’t matter what everybody else is doing.

You should not have to drink alcohol or take drugs before sex in order to feel brave enough to go through with it. If you do not feel brave enough to go through with it, then you probably don’t actually want it. If you want sex, you’ll be eager to do it even while sober.

Sex is not about seeing how much you can get away with or seeing how far you can push someone. Sex is affection and caring expressed with your body. If it feels like you are “making hate” rather than “making love” then consider that this may be abuse.

You don’t have to feel ready to have sex at a certain age. You don’t have to like sex at all. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. Just like you wouldn’t sign up for a photography class if you’re not interested in photography, if you’re not interested in sex you don’t have to sign up for it either. You don’t owe anyone sex for any reason, even if you’re in a relationship. No one owns your body but you.

A note about dominance and submission. One of the main things we learn from porn culture is that dominance and submission are sexy. Sex seems to get sexier according to how much power one person has over the other, and how far they can push the other to submit. This is not healthy. Neither you nor your partner should have power over the other, you should be equals who come together out of your own free will, because you like being together. If you find dominance and submission sexy, I’m not surprised, because most of us do. I do, too—it was taught to me by my culture. There’s nothing unique or special about a person who is acting out exactly what they’ve been taught. It’s pretty predictable, actually. Wanting to act out the sexual abuse we are saturated in is not a sexual orientation—it’s a response and a reaction to what we’ve been trained in. I believe this can be unlearned, although it’s not easy.

In a perfect world, sex is a fun and joyful experience between two equal partners who care about each other’s pleasure. It’s not an obligation or a source of pain. That’s what we’re striving for.

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13 thoughts on “Healthy Sexuality

  1. I’m finally commenting here, because this post is too good not to. I was practically cheering at this paragraph:

    Sex is not work or a job. It’s a leisure activity done just for the joy of it. I will compare sex to hanging out and spending time with your loved ones. It wouldn’t make any sense to say that hanging out watching a movie and laughing with your friends on a Friday night is “work” or that you could pay someone for it. Same with sex. It’s something you do because you feel like it, because it gives you joy and pleasure. If it feels like work to you, that’s because you’re not enjoying it and are doing it for someone else’s sake. You do not have to engage in sex that you don’t enjoy.

    Mr D says what he and I do together is making love – whether it’s talking or drawing or going for a bike ride or being encatted or telling the dogs to stop digging up his roses or whatever, it’s all making love. Sometimes it’s making love sexually. That’s what this paragraph puts me in mind of.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. When I was in college, I used to see drug addicted women working the streets all the time. The neighborhood where they lived and worked was only a few blocks south of campus. There is nothing glamorous, empowering, or “sex-pozzitive” about any of it. Some of those women literally could not stand on their own two feet– they had to lean against stop signs or buildings to keep themselves from keeling over. They had mascara running down their cheeks and pockmarks on their skin.

    When I walked past the ones who weren’t completely strung out, they’d check me out to make sure I wasn’t pushing in on their corner. Once they saw my backpack, they realized I was a student and then they’d say hello. I always returned their greeting in a friendly manner. I feel guilty for not doing something to help them, but what could I have done? The women were not scary, but I had enough street smarts to know there’s always a pimp lurking about, even if you can’t see him. I didn’t want to have anything to do with pimps.

    As for the customers, if a car pulled over and the man started talking to me, I just kept walking in the opposite direction. I would not speak to them or make eye contact with them. Thank God they left me alone once they realized I wasn’t “working.”

    Liked by 4 people

  3. So true, sadly.

    Though this bit: “I can name 0 examples in the real world outside of my imagination where i’ve seen healthy sexuality.” does not really prove anything. I mean, healthy sexuality is something consenting adults do in their bedrooms. You do not usually see it.

    Unless it was meant to be more about literature and stuff?

    In that case, I have to agree. In fact, I can even confirm it is true – I have met teenagers online who wrote fanfics with glorified rape in them, and, when told that they should maybe warn people about the rape, they said “What? I wrote there would be sex in it!” So, basically, they think rape is somehow to be expected with written erotica. Some won’t even acknowledge that it is rape, they just think it is normal sex.

    On the other hand, the fanfiction community is one of my greatest hopes for change. On AO3 you do find stories tagged with the label “consent”, so, at least you can find something nice to read, if you look for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you. True in every detail, and beautifully put.

    You wrote to me once that radical feminists and conservative Christians seem come to many of the same conclusions, but for different reasons.

    It’s essays such as this that persuade me that we (and our premises) are not so different.

    He created us in His image – with free will and the capacity for reason. A Christian ethic must start with respect for His image in others, for their moral autonomy. Per Kant, respect for moral autonomy requires that we treat every individual as an end and not a means. That implies every single thing that you say here. I’d write a point-by-point agreement, but you’ve already said it better than I could.

    When I was young (but old enough both to know better and not to consent), I let men use me. But I was as morally culpable; in my own stupid and confused way, I was using them, too. After years of celibacy, I’ve fallen in love with a (very Christian, formerly very atheist) woman who could have written this. Sex is a wild, crazy joy, full of laughter and delight.

    Consent certainly is necessary. For the law, perhaps it should be sufficient. But consent is not sufficient for morality. As you say, sex should be joy, freely given and received.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, the point where we differ is that I don’t think religion promotes healthy sexuality, nor do we need to make reference to an imaginary overlord when discussing how best to live our lives. But I’d day we have the exact same definition of healthy sexuality. I’m sorry to hear you used to let men use you. So did I. We are lucky to have put that behind us and found something better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those aren’t points on which we differ. My religion promotes what I think is healthy sexuality, but it’s certainly not true of all religion.

        I don’t think one needs God to live a good life, either. In fact, that’s directly contrary to fundamental Calvinist doctrine, which stresses that one is not saved or damned by one’s own works.

        I don’t think we differ on the underlying point, either: Our views on sexuality proceed from a profound respect for others’ moral autonomy.

        Liked by 1 person

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