The tyranny of ‘normal sex’

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An awful lot of people spend an awful lot of time worrying about sex. They worry about what kind of sex they are having (or not having). They even worry about what kind of sex other people are having (or not having). All this worrying sometimes leads to telling other people what kinds of sex they should have or shouldn’t have. Even more shocking, some people take advantage of our anxieties about sex to sell us things.

Sex Sells
Corporations absolutely love the fact that we are all so hung up about sex. They sell us images of ‘desirable’ people that most of us will never look like (even if we could airbrush ourselves). This encourages us to buy everything from soft drinks and magazines to cars and holidays. At the same time, it makes us so insecure about our own desirability that we spend even more money on things like clothes & cosmetics, self-help books & sex advice columns, diets & plastic surgery.

This vicious cycle means that corporations make more and more profits and we all feel more and more insecure.

“Instead of trying to fit sex into traditional morality, we can think about respect,consideration, communication and pleasure.”

Neat trick, eh? If we felt comfortable with sex and with our bodies, this wouldn’t work and profits would be lost. Capitalism depends upon profit – it depends on us being insecure and unsatisfied. Of course, we may like to feel desirable. But why should we all do it in the same ways, trying to conform to what advertisers decide is ‘sexy’? We can satisfy ourselves without profit. We only need to co-operate more: talking about our desires, creating the things we need to live and enjoy life, an sharing our experiences.

It’s a Sin
Words like sinful, immoral, abnormal and unnatural get thrown around a lot by people who are uncomfortable with sex. But who decides? The thing is, there is no truth about sex. Priests, politicians, psychiatrists and parents may like to think that they know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to sex. Maybe it makes them feel better about their own sexual anxieties. Unfortunately, this leads to other people feeling anxious as well. Instead of trying to fit sex into traditional morality, we can think about respect, consideration, communication and pleasure.

Like any other aspects of life, sexuality is incredibly complex. Sexual fantasies, relationships and behaviours vary dramatically across cultures and even among individuals in the same culture. Even in the same culture, different people can’t even agree on what counts as ‘sex’ and what doesn’t!
We don’t have to accept the ‘truth about sex’ that we get from magazines, religion or friends. What we can do is educate ourselves and talk to each other. We can develop the self-respect and confidence to ask for what we want and to say no to what we don’t want. We can learn how to communicate with sexual partners to make sure that everyone is happy with what they are doing. We can educate ourselves about our bodies and how to keep ourselves healthy.
We can also develop good relationships with other people. It is often helpful to talk to people we trust and listen to their thoughts. Talking to other people as equals and making our own choices makes us feel better about ourselves than if we feel like we have no choice. And if we feel better about ourselves, we take more pleasure in life.

Talking Sex
Because our society is so uncomfortable with sex, we spend a lot of time of thinking and talking about it. Unfortunately, most of this talk covers up our anxieties rather than dealing with them. We make jokes and act out roles – lad, sex expert, good girl, etc — to hide from our fears. This means an awful lot of talking and very little communicating. If we ever want to be comfortable with sex ourselves, and if we want to live in a society where sex is just a nice part of life instead of a big scary thing, we need to practise talking about sex in different ways.

Slags and Studs
Women who have sex with ‘a lot’ of people get called slag or slut. Men who have sex with ‘a lot’ of people get called stud or a good lad. And those who don’t seem interested in sex with other people are considered ‘abnormal’, too. Everyone should be able to have sex with as many or as few consenting partners as they choose.

Sexual Disorientation
Supposedly people can be put into three boxes, depending on whether they fancy women, men or  both. While this is a popular idea, it seems to cause an awful lot of suffering. People worry a lot about their image, trying very hard to make sure that others realise ‘what’ they are. At the same time, we worry about ‘what’ other people are — are they like me or are they different? (Aren’t we all different?)
Even worse, some people are so unhappy and anxious about these ‘differences’ that they attack others, either physically or verbally. Calling yourself straight is no protection from attack. Finally, people suffer when they desire others of the ‘wrong’ sex, or if they are worried that others will think they do. This idea of ‘sexual orientation’ leads to so much suffering over something that really should be very nice. Maybe we should get rid of it and just enjoy ourselves . . .

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