Let’s Talk About Sex
I see the heat rising to their faces, a little pink in their cheeks. They look around to see who else hears, and sure enough, I have piqued the attention of others. I act as though nothing is abnormal, because I firmly believe that it shouldn’t be. Why does it make people so uncomfortable to hear about sex?
No one does a double take at a “that’s what she said joke”. Since we were children we have become used to penis jokes. Yet, when we step away from the innuendos and light-hearted humor, it becomes private. We don’t talk about our experiences in the bedroom openly. If we do, it’s after a relationship has been developed with someone and we consider it an act of confiding in them. We are taught that it is not proper to approach this in another way. If you do and are a woman, you may be deemed as “easy”, “asking for it”, “slutty”, or whatever other word you want to throw out there. If you are a male, you may feel the need to macho up the talk. If you speak sincerely about making love, you may get mocked or seen as less of a man.
Here’s the thing: If we can’t openly talk about consensual sex, how will we ever talk about unconsensual sex?
You have probably heard of the book “Everybody Poops”, used largely to explain to children this bodily function and not to be ashamed of it. Well readers, I propose to you the mindset of “Everybody Fucks” (okay, apologies to the abstinent out here, but you get the point).
Sex is as much a part of nature as eating, breathing, and sleeping. We are all here because of this act. We all know that there are issues around it. Diseases can be transmitted, unwanted pregnancies can occur, and sex can happen without the consent of all parties. But what happens when we don’t talk about consent? What the forms of rape are?
In 2014, a study was done to look at rape without using the “R-word”. In this survey, 32% of men said that in a consequence-free situation, they would force a woman to have sex. 17% said they would rape a woman. This is not an isolated incident, but is also shown in a previous study where described behaviors (i.e., “Have you ever coerced somebody into intercourse by holding them down?”) shows more men admitting to rape in the past and more women reporting being a victim of the act. Is this because we don’t have a solid understanding of what constitutes rape? Or is it because we associate that word with a very specific situation?
Many of us have an image of what rape is in our head and may not realize how messy consent can be. This gets further confusing considering that 70% of rapes are done by someone we know, not some stranger jumping out of a bush. Maybe there are feelings involved for this person that make you a mess of emotions, or a defensiveness over the person you thought they were. One out of every ten rape victims is male, who may not feel represented in this issue and thus have trouble communicating this trauma to others. And don’t forget rape by coercion, where you say no and the person continues to push it on you when you are disinterested.
Then what happens when it’s grey? When they said no but now yes? Yes and then no? If they are your partner? If you two were flirting? If they seemed into it and then no longer so?
Here is my favorite way to think about this:
Then, what happens when it is forced on you? We know this is an obscenely underreported crime. This comes with a multitude of factors (victim blaming, court process, the intimacy of it, etc), but there is another aspect to this at all. We are not a society that is open about sex. We will allow it when sex is sexy, like in the movies. We will when it’s light, like in a joke. Basically, we allow it when it is depersonalized, allowing it to lose some of its intimacy and connection. What we need to do is talk about sex in relation to ourselves. In the way we talk about food or sleep or any other normal, healthy activity.
Because if we can’t talk about it when it’s healthy, how can we do so when it’s not?
Also published on Medium.