4 Reasons Why Sex Isn't Talked About

I have an antique wooden jewelry box that was passed down to me from my dead grandmother. It sits underneath my bedside table and it contains easily over five various sex toys, shibari rope, toy cleaner, and chargers. Probably not what my grandmother, a big proponent of vanity, would want her expensive shit being used for. But hey, it works. Why am I telling you this highly detailed and intimate personal anecdote? Because I truly don’t care if you know.

Ok, it’s less that I don’t care because I’m flippant and apathetic, but more that I don’t care because I’m not ashamed of of my weird converted antique jewelry box. I’m not abashed of my sex life, whether it be with myself or with a partner, because I don’t believe that sex is inherently taboo. In fact, unless you don’t have sex because you are asexual or choose to abstain, sex is pretty common. A lot of people masturbate, and a lot of people have sex. I am not going to provide statistics on this, because it’s kind of common sense. What I’m getting at here is that sex is normal, so why do we make such a big deal of avoiding the subject. There’s few things I hate more than talking about one night stands hushed-ly with college friends as if I was in a book club with wine moms who are pretending to read an Oprah recommendation in order to escape their families. Sex isn’t a secret. And I don’t think I’m special or Not Like Other Girls for saying this. I just think it’s a universal truth that only gets talked about in frilly Cosmo articles.


Why Do We Not Talk About It?

If you want my unsolicited opinion, I think most non-men don’t talk openly about masturbation/sex because we’re socialized to feel shameful about it. Sex and shame are intertwined when it comes to being raised with aspects of womanhood. From an early age we learn that anything related to sex is bad and something to hide. I can remember being a child and having my mom tell me to cross my legs in the car on the way home from soccer practice. I was sent to the Dean’s office my freshmen year of high school for wearing a skirt that made my male teacher feel uncomfortable (a woman teacher alerted me of this because my male teacher didn't want to directly address it with me). In sex education my teacher placed a Hershey kiss on each of our desks and asked us to wait until the end of the class to eat it, because things taste better when we wait. From the get go it’s instilled in us that anything that even implies a sexual nature is a behavior to be corrected. We are taught that our bodies, and what we do with them, are intrinsically sexual, and therefore something to hide. We must constantly fumble with the baggage of a sexist culture that idealizes a twisted sense of “purity”.


Whores and Saints

I recently attended a protest that battles rape culture and supports people taking power in their sexuality. A fellow protester was topless except for writing on their chest that read “ni puta ni santa,” which roughly translates to “neither whore nor saint.” This struck me as the perfect wording of the dichotomy non-men are forced into- often referred to as the Madonna Whore Complex. Those of us who enjoy sex are demonized. Just look at TV and movies to notice that non-men who like sex are fetishized yet seen as bad influences and antagonists. But people who don’t actively engage in sex are unwillingly placed upon a pedestal of goodness while simultaneously being shunned for prudishness. Colonialist, patriarchal society creates a binary that is not at all encompassing of the wide range of attitudes non-men have towards sex and perpetuates the idea that non-men are not multi-faceted people who have characteristics other than “bad for enjoying sex but hot” and “good for not enjoying sex but boring”.  


Sex Sells

Whether you watch softcore porn AKA have access to HBO, or have an internet connection, or saw a "50 Shades of Grey" advertisement, then you know that sexual consumption surrounds us. Keyword “consumption.” If you’ve ever heard the phrase “sex sells,” then you know what I mean. But the thing is, sex itself doesn’t sell. If it did then acts that hint at the possibility of sex wouldn’t be frowned upon (think breastfeeding in public). Things sell, objectification sells. Ask yourself why porn is never from the woman’s perspective, why you never take selfies facing fully frontwards, why you get nervous during sex because you worry about whether or not you look good while doing it. Because non-men are always being watched by third party viewers in a system that makes us expendable if not profitable.


Taking Back What’s Yours

There’s good news, you can reclaim your sexuality and take back your sex life (or non sex life) from patriarchal and heteronormative rules. We can move on from our beginnings of shame fraught notions. Debilitating phrases that we hear from adolescence like “they were asking for it” make us feel less than human. Pervasive messages that enforce the idea of “that’s-what-happens-to-non-men-who-are-sexual” order us to internalize notions of sexuality being something that overpowers people. Rape culture tells us that sexual urges must be contained otherwise men will do terrible things to us. But our very beings don’t have time for pithy insecurities and doubts that have hovered over us our entire lives. We are free to indulge in visceral actions. Start by exploring the ways that shame is imposed on us by our culture. Whether it’s damaging statements about non-men’s responsibility, about how we should protect ourselves from not being sexually assaulted or harassed, reminders that we should dress correctly (not slutty) and act appropriately (not partying), or being told what a proper number of past sexual partners to have had is, we are constantly have our agency policed. This is also not strictly a “women’s issue.” I purposely use “non-men” as terminology because people who aren’t cishet men and otherwise don’t fit into sanctioned roles of gender also carry the burden of shame. We, unfortunately, may not be able to change others’ sex-negative behaviors and judgements, but we can try to acknowledge someone’s gross notions of how we should approach sex without internalizing it.


The solution to sexual shame is not solely personal, it’s political as well. The sexist assumptions that non-men deserve sexual harm or don’t deserve sexual pleasure need to be eradicated. We need to find the root of our sexual oppression and dismantle the system that keeps it in place. Sex negativity is not merely a bad seed that grew, it was an idea planted in toxic soil. But as we work to pull sexual negativity from its root, I’d like to remind you that you are worthy of autonomy and deserve to enjoy your body and its needs.