Converting to Sex Positivity
January 31, 2012 § 4 Comments
It takes a lot of time and intense work to actually become sex positive, not just in theory as a political stance but practically in our own minds and bodies. Healing from even the everyday sort of sex trauma our society dishes out is a process. Souls are slow growth crops. But miraculously resilient.
I want to encourage folks to keep the faith. At thirteen I believed even thinking about sex was wrong. At nineteen, I could not feel any sexual energy or sensations without becoming almost unbearably sad. At twenty-six, I experience a ton of joy in sex and feel that sexual energy is an healing and sacred force in my life. I still have a very long way to grow, but I’m far enough along now that I only rarely crash into total despair. And I see a lot of people I’m close with progressing in their own journey, each of their lives adding to my hope for broader societal and global change.
I thought I would list a few things that have helped heal and grow for readers to consider trying. If anyone has something that has helped them they’d be willing to post, please do!
1) Re-parent and re-educate. Most of us learn about sex in vague, patchy, loaded awkward ways by people trying to control our choices. As adults, we are our own guardians and teachers, and we can choose to re-teach ourselves, to unlearn sex-negativity and shame by seeking out sex-positive environments. Put in some new messages from books, conversations, websites to defy the sex-negative messages of the past. I feel more is better, just tipping the scales of what’s in my brain on the topic of sex.
2) Talk about sex with safe people. Most of us only talk about sex, often in limited and uncomfortable ways, with partners whose feelings we’re preoccupied with. Most of us haven’t learned to talk about sex before we attempt to do so in high stakes situations that make it difficult. Talking about desire and consent, experiences and thoughts with close people we aren’t in sexual relationships can help in pushing past the taboo and shame and awkwardness of the learning process and give us the skill when we need it. It can also teach us about letting down boundaries, what is safe for us and what is not. And it can be a good context for working on consent skills as we navigate our own comfort levels and those of our friends.
3) Learn from solo sex. Most of us learn first to have sex with ourselves. And what we often learn is how to make as little noise as possible as we rush to relieve the stress of pent-up sexual tension before shame – external or internal – catches us. Naturally, when we get with a partner, we have sex the way we have learned how. We can begin to move away from shame and towards remaining embodied and to externalize our response in the safety of solitude in order to be better prepared to be with partners.
4) Learn to manage triggers. A lot of the same feelings come up in solo sex that come up in partner sex, and sometimes it can help to learn to manage them alone. Just identifying when we are triggered – when our response has to do with experiences in the past that are interfering with us responding in line with the present – is important. And there are lots of skills to manage our response. I always point to Staci Haines book Healing Sex as a masterpiece of creative and radical values put to work, and I wish there was an equivalent written those of us who do not identify as survivors of child sex abuse.
5) Write about it. Obviously, at some point I even decided to write this blog, but long before that, I started writing about sex in my journals. I wrote about past experiences many of which were still loaded with extreme and difficult feelings, wrote out questions of what I believe and what I wanted and wrote towards answers, wrote about numerous books and articles and new sexual experiences as I processed them. I got to know myself a lot better. Putting something into words can get it out of your head, away from haunting you, and out where you can really see it objectively and start to work with it. Even if you have to burn it immediately after, I suggest writing about sex in every form that occurs to you.
Lastly, what I did not list was to learn about rape culture and learn about consent. This blog is written for people post feminist awakening to the reality of sexism and rape culture and in the midst of a personal process of change. If you’re on here, you’re probably doing this work and know how great it is, but I thought I’d write it out.