Warning: This is going to be a long one. I have opinions.
Before we dive into this discussion, let's establish a crucial point: the focus here is on adult-only consensual acts. We all agree that children shouldn't be exposed to adult subject matter. Also, it is worth noting that I am writing this blog from the perspective of white woman living in the U.S. With that out of the way, let me step onto my soapbox...
Sex is still taboo in many ways in today’s society, and I think that is stupid. This truth lives in direct contradiction to the fact that we live in a society that is heavily steeped in sexual imagery. It is everywhere! Albeit often presented through a heteronormative, vanilla lens. If you own your sexuality or seek out pleasure, society might label you a deviant or lacking virtue. You can’t possibly exist as an openly sexual human being that pursues pleasure and still has ethics or intellect! (insert eye roll here) This is problematic for many reasons.
To be clear, I am not saying that a healthy expression of sexuality doesn’t have an appropriate time or place. It certainly does. What I am advocating for is its overall acceptance and acknowledgment.
I started SugarX because I deeply believe in a person’s right to pleasure. I believe that sexuality and the healthy pursuit of pleasure is an essential cornerstone of human existence. I know I’m not alone in this. So, what’s up with the continued portrayal of self-denial as virtue? Ugh, I can’t. Denying oneself doesn’t elevate us or make us better people. If anything, ignoring an entire and undeniable part of our humanity chips away at our wholeness, stifles genuine connections with ourselves as well as with others, and limits self-discovery. It’s unhealthy.
Sex is fascinating. It is far beyond a means of procreation. It is a way of communicating delicious and intricate emotions, a form of play, a means of escape, a tool for meeting needs and a means of connecting. This is true whether sex is shared or experienced solo. Even when sex is simple, it is complex and beautiful. Sex is undeniably powerful. This is why it warrants open and honest conversation.
Due to its power and complexities, sex needs to be discussed in broad daylight and not whispered about in the shadows. Just like anything that holds power, it can be used for good or it can be used for evil. Often, the darker side to sex usually takes the form of shame.
The veil of shame hides the potential for pleasure and empowerment. Shame limits the capacity to educate and advocate and encourages skewed power dynamics, contributes to personal discontentment and emotional distress, and sets the stage for abuse. Shame has no place in this world when it comes to sex or sexuality. We are human. We are sexual. An equivalent would be to say that it is shameful to want to eat food. We all eat food, we all crave food. There are competitive cooking shows on TV, recipe books, foodie culture, etc. But when it comes to sex and sexuality the conversation is limited. Just like food, there are so many different ways to experience sex and we need to talk about them.
Limiting discussions around sex and sexuality poses a number of risks. Let’s start with addressing expectations when it comes to your own sex life. What is realistic and what isn’t? Normalizing the conversation around sex exposes us to different sexual norms. Sex lives ebb and flow. People have varying ideas about what their ideal sex life looks like. This is natural. We can’t expect to get a realistic take on what a healthy sex life looks like from entertainment or from the current tainted conversations around sex. With the scarcity of honest discourse taking place in society, pretense takes center stage, and there is a fair amount of posturing going on. This is obnoxious and tedious and serves no one. Just as shame is used to limit the conversation around sex, shame is used to pressure us into being sexually performative, lying about the true nature of sex and our sex lives. For example, why did it take so long for us to start showing women getting pleasure from clitoral stimulation in movies (which still isn’t shown enough by the way)? Majority of women don’t orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. One reason for this: The reality of the uneven power dynamics between men and women have led to the prioritization of male pleasure, the devaluing of women’s pleasure and mired women’s pursuit of pleasure in shame. There is a ton of pressure for women to have sex performatively instead for their own pleasure. A lot of women still feel shame from not being able to orgasm from penetrative sex alone. However, if we remove the shame and performative pressure of sex present in current society, people would feel more inclined to be honest. I think we would be shocked to learn what people had to say. Some people don’t have a very active sex life and they like it that way. But, if they spoke about this aloud, they risk being labeled as frigid or risk being seen as deficient. Some people fuck like rabbits. But, if they were to mention this aloud they would be labeled a deviant (white males excluded). Some people prefer other forms of intimacy outside of standard penetrative sex. But, if they were to discuss this aloud, they risk being judged as weird. Not to mention the issues with typical gender roles within the bedroom and dealing with the reality of not being straight or on the binary. We need to open the conversation to include more varied experiences and normalize them. Yes, progress is underway, but it's far from sufficient.
Another consequence that is presented by repressing the conversation around sex is the impact on physical health. Many hesitate to broach concerns about their sex life to medical professionals in fear of being shamed or dismissed. Our bodies will experience challenges over the course of our lifetimes due to various reasons (ex. childbearing, illness, aging). But, our bodies were made to feel pleasure and if the capacity to feel pleasure is suddenly limited or removed completely, our quality of life will suffer. The change in quality of life isn’t trivial and it infuriates me to no end that the concern around this issue is often downplayed, especially with women. Pleasure isn’t a trivial pursuit. It is an inherit right and is integral to our quality of life. Pleasure matters. Your pleasure matters.
More about pleasure (one of my favorite topics). Like I mentioned earlier, society is progressing positively in some ways regarding the conversation around sex. Although, it seems that the conversation can only center around sexual challenges. The idea of talking about sex leading to pleasure is still very much taboo. Case in point: you can advertise sexual health products on popular social media sites as long as the focus is on health, not pleasure. How are they not intertwined? Isn’t a healthy sex life pleasurable? You are able to advertise for erectile dysfunction medication, contraception, infertility solutions, STD’s testing, etc. However, you are unable to advertise products that directly assist in sexual pleasure. This glaring contradiction underscores our society’s overarching struggle to discuss sex holistically. That is fucking problematic.
Depending on the household, religion and/or rhetoric you were raised around, sex might have been portrayed as scary, negative and daunting. Many of us grow up with these messages of negativity and repression with little mention to no mention of the reality of the benefits of sex and the pleasure it can lead to leaving us with no roadmap for what a healthy, happy sex life can look like. Don’t even get me started on the discussions around sexual orientation and virginity! I can’t see one good reason for removing pleasure from the conversation other than disempowerment. When you remove the idea of pleasure from the discussion of sex you increase the room for shame. Shame is a great form of control.
Another pet peeve of mine is the censorship of sex in art, movies and literature. If the idea of art is to hold a mirror up to nature, then we have to include sexuality in that discussion. Humans are sexual creatures and so many of our motivations and emotions are colored by sex. We can’t tell complete stories if we are leaving out such a massive element of the human experience. And for the crowd shouting “What about the children?”. Not all art and entertainment is meant to be consumed by children. There exist entire industries that cater to children. Entertainment, art, and literature intended for adults doesn’t need to be diluted for a younger audience it was never intended for. I would say there is far more shame in attempting to sanitize art than there is in allowing art to portray human sexuality.
Now, I would like to speak to the darker aspects of human nature that sex can bring out. As sex is powerful, it can and will be used by some maliciously. This has always been true and will always be true. We can help this situation by fostering a shameless, well-rounded, honest conversation around sex. By doing this we shine a light into the shadows making it easier for victims to speak up and for predators to be identified. By disallowing conversations of what healthy, pleasurable, happy sex practices look like in their various forms, we leave room for individuals with ill-intentions to control the narrative. This is unacceptable. The argument that those who want to promote the conversation around sex and sexuality are without ethics or morals is an inherently counterintuitive one. Those that would suppress knowledge and conversation are the ones with questionable ethics. That suppression undermines our collective empowerment and silences victims, leaving people vulnerable. By hushing honest, educated conversation, they are empowering those who would prey on the uninformed and leaving room for shame to suppress the voices of those who have been victims. I find that to be unethical.
Shame regarding sex is also used to undervalue and dehumanize members of our society. Stripers, cam girls and sex workers have legitimate jobs. Shame around sex allows people to turn an eye when their fellow human is mistreated because of their chosen line of work. Sex work is work. Period. Sex workers are people and deserve to be treated no differently than anyone else.
Can we all agree that we are done living in the dark? That there is no virtue in ignorance or self-denial? That good people can and should pursue pleasure? That we need to question and push back against those that would repress education, discovery, and honest conversation. As a society, we need to move past the repression to heal. Let’s embolden each other to live our truth. Celebrate varied sexual orientations, relationship dynamics and sexual expressions. Embrace curiosity over condemnation. Let’s educate, discuss, empower and grow.
Wherever you stand on your journey, whatever your truth may be, know that I stand by you. It's time we cast aside the darkness and embrace the light (and stop being stupid).