This past week I completed my 24th cycle around the sun, and with it, I feel myself truly upon the journey of my own becoming, of my own oneness with myself. This embodies many faces, many guises, and many angles: one of them being my sexuality.
I want to avoid projecting my personal insecurities about this topic (and the nude imagery of myself that is attached) by immediately going on the defensive. Even just the thought, “I’m twenty-four years old, I’m an adult, I can do whatever I want,” feels contrived, regardless of the truth of it. It sounds like the voice of an inner child who needs to be accepted, and needs to make excuses to rationalize her actions rather than just being. I no longer wish to embody that space. I can, however, acknowledge her fears and trepidations, and brush her hair from her face and tell her everything is going to be okay. Growth is inherently uncomfortable.
So, let’s talk about sex: specifically, the deliberate and forceful repression of the wholly natural and human engagement of sex. Where does this come from? Why do I worry that naked imagery of myself is going to instantaneously trigger people? Furthermore, why do I care?
I believe it is due to repression. This repression knows no gender: we are all sexually repressed in Western culture. Whether it’s through outright brainwashing through our religious or academic systems, or simply through cultural norms and folkways, we are told emphatically that our sexuality is something to be buried yet also sacrosanct through the maintaining of chastity.
In the lecture “Eros and the Eschaton” that Terence McKenna gave in 1994, he, rather succinctly, says of sexuality, “they’d make it illegal if they but could figure out how. It’s the one drug they can’t tear from our grip, so they lay a guilt trip about it.” We’re made to believe that we are ungodly if we masturbate, we are dirty if we have many lovers, and we are tainted if we don’t sign a contract with someone before allowing them to commune with us in the way that we have been (without such boundaries and stipulations) for hundreds of thousands of years.
Evolutionarily speaking, this repression makes zero sense. We create this illusion that everyone is innately virginal, but this is obviously a lie. Sex is a human need, not a want or a desire: a need. Of course people have sex, of course everyone has sex. It is imbedded in our DNA as a tool of socialization.
This repression has dangerous and unhealthy implications. There is ample research to suggest that a big proponent of rape culture is due to sexual repression, or simply the lack of education about sex. Rape culture deserves a whole blog post, so I won’t go into a ton of detail, but in my own personal experiences of sexual abuse and assault, it has come from men who otherwise are not necessarily predatory. There is something within them, be it a lack of understanding about sex and how to respect women, or an underlying trauma, that is influencing their behaviors toward women. This is something that can be resolved. Some of these men likely didn’t even realize how traumatic their actions were toward me, and maybe never will.
I don’t believe that enough men are taught how to be reciprocal and healthy lovers, and I don’t believe that women are taught to ask for more respect or demand reciprocity. Which is why I don’t want to indict us as individuals. We weren’t given the proper tools to be healthy lovers. I was never sat down to have a candid conversation about sex and what to expect when it came to sex. It’s an awkward conversation to have with a young person, but I could have been spared a lot of trauma had someone talked to me about it like an adult, and not a child who “shouldn’t be having sex at all.”
Teenagers have sex, and they need guidance from parents and other trusted adults: period. I learned all by myself, with men who were learning all by themselves, as well. We learn through porn, through movies, through media that is inaccurate and that transforms the narrative into that sex is something women give and men receive. Of course, both parties suffer from this illusory narrative. Men miss out on the emotional intimacy aspect of sex, and women miss out on the pleasure.
(I would like to throw in the caveat here that I am talking generally about heterosexual intimate relationships. As I lean more “straight” on the Kinsey scale, I find it apropos for me to only speak of sex through the lens in which I embody. It is not meant to be exclusive in any manner.)
Anyway, I learned through trial and error what was okay with me, and what respect I demanded. It took a long time for me to even demand good sex. My conditioning was entirely wired toward the pleasure of the man, and not the communion of sharing a pleasurable experience together. I was conditioned to be polite rather than direct, and I experienced an embarrassing amount of mediocre sex because of that. I didn’t question this conditioning for a very long time.
I also experienced a great deal of psychological trauma through my sexual development. Most of my post-pubescent existence surrounding sex has caused me to disproportionately value my sex-appeal. I sought sex as a means of defining my self-worth. I know I’m not alone in this. This is a sickly mindset wherein I could never win: my attractiveness and (not to be overly graphic) collection of holes was my only asset. My personality didn’t count, and I was burdensome without my service of sex.
Is this disturbing to you? Good, it should be! It is disturbing to think of sex in this manner, and to reiterate, I am not alone in this. Many women have developed a similar mindset. It is wrong, and it is a lie. I gave men credence and ownership of my body, because that was the only currency through which I could acquire love or validation. Whether the men who abused me did so intentionally or not, I allowed it to happen. I came from a place of ignorance and lack of understanding, but still, I stayed. I didn’t love myself enough to question the value of the experiences I was having, or to demand better treatment.
(This may come across as victim-blaming, but refuse to acknowledge myself as a victim. I am a person whom which unfortunate things have happened, but I am healing, learning, and growing, and I can accept my part in my experiences without denying my own agency. What I lacked was knowledge and experience and self-love, not agency.)
When I flash forward to today, however, I have transformed the narrative of my sexuality entirely. Hence, these artful nude photographs that I am sharing on the internet. My sexuality is something that belongs to me now, and I can do whatever I want with that. Whether these photos bother you, concern you, turn you on, or are simply artistic images of the female form, it doesn’t matter to me. Anyone’s reaction to this is not my responsibility. I am a sexual, sensual creature, and I’m not going to pretend to be otherwise.
The female form is beautiful and divine. Femininity in sex is an incredibly enigmatic thing. Why do so many ancient cultures revere the vagina, making art to immortalize its importance? And why do so many cultures aim to stifle it, destroy it, and violently disconnect it from pleasure? Because it is powerful.
As Terence McKenna affirms, sex is the one drug we have that no one can take away from us. Let’s embrace it as the powerful, emotional, spiritual, natural, human act that it is. Let’s not cheapen it by not educating our children about it. Be graphic: give detail. Don’t shy away from the conversation because it is uncomfortable. Discomfort offers the greatest lessons for everyone involved. It is not corrosive or irresponsible to engage in, given the proper tools and understanding. It is a beautiful thing. It creates life and incapsulates love.
We can unlearn the shame associated societally with sex. We can unlearn these cultural “regulations” that cause us so much misery and sexual maladaptation. We can unlearn the narrative of giver and receiver. We will all be better off for it.
My sexuality is a facet of my value, not the entirety, and I want to celebrate that. When I didn’t love myself and used my sexiness transactionally, I was filled with shame. I no longer feel that way. I feel beautiful and whole without the need to feel attractive to other people. I feel attractive to me.