What is the real power of sexuality in our lives?
Spending a week in Greenwich Village in New York City three years ago was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I was on Christopher Street, the literal birthplace of the gay rights movement. While some of you may wonder why this so deeply touched a married (at the time) heterosexual mother of two, others of you understand the importance of this to me with no question.
Sexuality is one of the cornerstones of my life. Many people have commented to me that I am sexually inappropriate, as if they are the first person to tell me this. It is not something you need to tell me. I am fully aware that I tend to be obsessed with sex, and that I can make even the most innocuous statement into a horribly dirty joke.
I have poor boundaries about sex. I want to know about your sex life, not to judge or belittle, but to salivate and celebrate. Also, I am just plain nosy.
So to all of those people who think that I need to “grow up” and “shut up” here is my charge to you. Instead of telling me that I am sexually inappropriate, do as some of my other friends have done – tell me it makes you uncomfortable. Own your feelings. Think about what it is that I am saying that makes you nervous, and if you still don’t want to hear things from me, GROW UP and tell me. Do not pathologize my interest in sex, when to me your disinterest is just as odd.
Many people consider sexuality a private, intimate topic to be shared only within the bounds of marriage. Or, they consider sex a compartmentalized piece of their life, something that is great and all, but nothing to get so worked up about. I am not either of those people.
Without sharing too much of stories that are not mine, I grew up knowing the realities of sexual abuse. Although I was never the victim, I can’t remember a time in my life when I was not aware of the dark side of sexuality. Rape and sexual abuse are powerful, destructive forces, and can destroy even the strongest person. It can become not just an assault on the body, but an assault on the mind as well (I would say soul, but we all know I don’t believe in souls :)
I have always been the person that my friends came to to discuss sex with, including their sexual assaults. I have had more people disclose abuse to me than I can count, and once an interviewer even disclosed to me as I was interviewing for a job with her. She had never told anyone and was deeply ashamed.
In 1995, I began my career at a domestic violence/rape crisis center. For the past seventeen years, I have been exposed daily to the worst stories imaginable. Stories that I will not repeat, but can’t forget. Stories that have made me cry at the vulnerability of children, and seethe at the power of men in our society. I have seen women abused within an inch of their life choose to go back to their husband and abandon the child he also assaulted. I have seen boys who were abused as children grow up to become the very monster they feared. I have seen women who were sexually abused in childhood be aghast and surprised when the same abuser hurts their own children. I may not believe in god, but I have certainly seen the devil.
And how do you defeat the devil? With joy, love, and pleasure.
In my line of work, it is pretty easy to become jaded and bitter, and to blame sex, society, and/or men. I have chosen instead to fight from a position of love for humanity by seeking out the joy in sexuality. For every bit as destructive as sexual assault can be, sexual fulfillment can be healing. I will NOT allow the abusers, naysayers, and prudes of the world to deny that power to me or anyone else. In fact, I try at every opportunity to flirt with, celebrate, and encourage the multitude of good, decent, and loving men and women as a direct affront to the pain and suffering my clients and family members have suffered over the years.
I was raised to believe that my body belonged to me, that my sexuality was mine to own, and that sexuality was about pleasure, pure and simple. Sex was not a bargaining chip to get something from others, nor was it a chore that must be endured to receive love. My sexual power was not to be given to someone to else, but rather something to be shared. I was taught to never do anything sexually that I was uncomfortable with, and I never have. I was also taught that with sexuality comes personal responsibility, not only in terms of taking care of my physical and emotional health, but also my experiences. Orgasms were my right as a sexual partner, and a woman, and not a nice “extra” on occasion.
If people are allowed to be obsessed with science, movies, religion, sports, literature, Live Action Role Playing, midgets, ghosts, and lake monsters, why is it such a problem that I choose to focus on one of the most life affirming activities on the planet? There is nothing that screams “fuck you” to the pain and the hurt in the world than screaming “fuck me” to the person in your bed.
I have always loved the quote “The solution to bad art is not censorship, it's better art.” Well for me, the solution to bad sex and the pain it brings is not abstinence, it's better sex. And better sex will only come about when we admit, deal with, and respect the power that sexuality has in our lives.
Oh, and I am still really nosy.