In this post, I think it was pretty clearly established that rape culture exists. Really. It’s a thing.
And the thing is HUGE. It encompasses so many different aspects of our perceptions, our sexuality, our conditioning, our discourse, our education, and our values, as well as, I’m sure, about a bajillion things I haven’t even yet considered. It’s pretty overwhelming. Over and over again, I see people asking how we combat something so pervasive, so surreptitiously intertwined with so much of our lives. I have addressed this in kink-specific ways, before, and will do so in more depth, sometime in the near future, but let’s look, first, at the bigger picture.
American sexuality, as a whole, is some pretty crazy-making stuff. There are contradictions and extremes and uninformed ideas abounding.
I think that we start by changing the way we think about sex, and the way we discuss it with one another and our children. The way we educate ourselves and others.
Sexual educator Al Vernacchio has some eye-opening thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to share them with you.
Heather Corrina, at Scarleteen, has some very interesting thoughts on this, too. It’s a long, somewhat trudging read, but well worth the effort. If you’re not willing to slog through it, though, I’ll try to hit some of the high points with my own thoughts here.
Our cultural ideas around sex and sex education are not only heteronormative and sexist, they’re also pretty confusing. Men are seen as the pursuers, and women the gatekeepers, of sexual interaction. Sex is seen as competitive, instead of cooperative. It is focused on the result, rather than the motives and desires and pleasure involved in the process.
Our attitudes about sex are simultaneously absurdly puritanical, and highly influenced by pornography.
Society tells heterosexual girls that they have to remain ‘pure’ until they marry, or find some ephemeral “true love.”
It tells heterosexual boys that it’s their job to “score,” to pursue as much sex as possible, and be experienced enough to show their partners a good time.
And if you don’t fall into binary gender roles, or narrowly defined acceptable sexual orientations? Mostly, society tells you that you’re just wrong.
Society tells us that orgasm is the only valuable goal of sex.
Talking about sex is embarrassing. Sex is the most awe-inspiring thing in the whole wide world… yet it’s also too shameful to discuss openly.
Verrnacchio and Carrina offer some really simple alternatives.
Let’s start talking about sex the way it actually is. As a cooperative endeavor towards mutual pleasure, rather than a competition or a commodity or a tally sheet or a dirty little secret.
I know, if you’ve lived with shushiness around sex for most of your life, thatsounds really difficult, but it isn’t.
I had a talk with my daughter about this, just last night. We’ve already talked about safer sex practices and risk awareness and birth control and sexual development, several times. Until I saw that TED talk, though, I think I’d missed the most important part.
So, last night, I told her we were going to talk about sex. I told her that, when she’s making the decision about whether or not she is ready to engage in any kind of sexual activity, there was one single consideration that should be the first and most important, not just the first time, but every time. A question she should ask herself.
“Do you, without considering any other factor, really want to have sex?
Are you really into it? Would you want it without being pressured in any way?
Not because someone has ‘earned it’ from you. Not because you owe it to them. Not because they want it, and you want to make them happy. Not because you don’t want to be alone. Not because you’re married, or in some other kind of committed relationship. Not because you’ve already gone to “third base.” Not because you’ve done it before. Not because you haven’t done it before, and think you should. Not because you’re sad. Not because you’re feeling unattractive. Not because someone else is telling you that you should want it. Not because you’re ‘giving it up.’ Not because of how anyone will see you, after, or how they see you, now.
Because you’re hungry for it. Because you are excited and ready and your body and mind are both screaming “YES!!!”
That’s why you should have sex. It’s the only reason anyone should have sex.
And in order to do that, you need to be able to talk about it. Not just about the things you don’t want, although that’s essential ground to cover, but about the things you do want. About the things you think you might want, but aren’t so sure. About what you know you like, and know you don’t like. About your experiences and your fantasies, your turn-ons, and your turn-offs.
About when you want to order the pizza, what you want on it, and how you want to eat it.
Al Vernacchio, you’re fucking brilliant when it comes to fucking.