Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learning to Embrace Your Sexuality - or - How I finally stopped listening to judgmental jerks and you should, too!

(I filled in this month for KaeLyn on the Vagina Dialogues column.. and I decided to share it here so the rest of y'all can check it out.)

I’m sure many of you are reading that title and thinking “Yeah, alright… I got there five years ago,” but I know there HAVE to be more of you (no matter what age) out there like me who just haven’t quite been able to do your own thing without letting the disapproving looks of your friends and peers burn a hole in your face.

By “do your own thing,” I assume you know I mean “have sex.” Freely. Making your own individual choices. I am talking about sex that is consensual, sex that is safe, sex that happens because you want it to, and sex that makes you feel good.

I want to make something very clear: nothing you are doing is wrong. “Wrong” is a social construction. Your sexual choices may not work for everyone, but if they make you happy and don’t threaten the safety of yourself or others, then gosh darnit please keep doing what you’re doing.

The problem is sex is still hard to talk about for many people. I grew up in a loving and accepting family, but we never talked about sex. Ever. I couldn’t say “sex” to my mom until I was 17. And don’t get me started on the lack of comprehensive sexual health education in schools, or worse, the lack of sex-positive sexual education in general.

If we can’t talk about sex then how will we ever figure it out? And if sex continues to be characterized as bad, as scary, as wrong… then where does that leave us? Stuck in a world where a group of people who think sex is the end of Western civilization try to control the dialogue. And that’s just not fair. It means that for the 95% of Americans who are having sex before marriage, there is a lack of comfort, resources, and openness for talking about sex.

So, how did I finally accept my own sexual identity and expression? I realized that I wasn’t wrong, that I make my choices for me and not the people judging me, and that thinking about and talking about sex help make sense of it. Really, it’s true. The first step was to be honest and frank with myself.

The bottom line: you’re sexuality is YOURS. Not your neighbor’s, not your brother’s, not the person sitting across from you at lunch. I may not know a whole lot in this world but I can tell you that life is far more rewarding and fulfilling when you find your own path and follow it.

So, what steps should we take when embracing our sexuality, however and with whomever we choose to experience it with?

1. Remember that the choices you make are yours. They need not apply to your best friend, your neighbor, or your parents. You have power over your individual choices.

2. Always, always, always make sure you are well stocked with safe sex materials: condoms, dental dams, finger cots, whatever. Besides that, keep some fun stuff around, too: lube, toys, whatever. And please make sure you and your partner(s) aren’t allergic to things like latex, certain lubricants, et cetera.

3. Communicate your needs and expectations, and be certain that your partner(s) is/are, also. And while you’re communicating, you might as well talk about your fantasies, too!

4. You can have erotic experiences without even having sex. And they don’t even have to be with people – they can be with the sky, the way the air smells, the way your cotton sheets feel. Get in tune with your erotic, sensual self.

5. Masturbate! Please. That way you know what you like and you will feel far more comfortable with talking about and having sex. Sex with yourself is just as legitimate and fulfilling as sex with other people.

6. Support age-appropriate, medically-accurate sex education that gives young people all the resources they need to make informed and safe decisions about sex and sexuality. You can learn more about how to support real sex ed at www.plannedparenthoodaction.org.

Get out there and enjoy your sexuality, no matter how you express it. But always remember, it’s about making choices that you feel good about.

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