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To date, I have written over 20,000 words this year about sex, love, and everything in between. I’ve googled my way to being a sexpert on the consequences of putting an egg in your vagina, banged while eating a burger in the name of research, and conquered Peak Overshare in an effort to kick slut-shaming to the curb. And sure, while outing myself as a rampant masturbator might have made things awkward for my flatmates for a week or so, it was worth it for the one reader who hit me up on Ask.fm to tell me she’d no longer think of herself as a slut. Because even though my friends are used to – and probably sick of – hearing about sex, there’s a whole lot of people out there who don’t have this freedom, not just to feel comfortable talking about their sexual desires, but to even have them in the first place.
Sex can be fantastic and incredible and uplifting and liberating, but it can also be terrible and traumatic and disheartening and oppressive, because, as a society, we place far too much stock in what is Normal, and do all we can to stamp out what is Not. Which is silly, really, because what we like to do with our bodies and have done to them has absolutely nothing to do with what society at large has decided we should. Why not put the focus on sex being safe and consensual, rather than getting all het up about details that are actually just a matter of personal preference? Rather than being shocked by what people like to put where, and with whom, be shocked that they didn’t use a condom.
Regardless of your gender, sexuality, how you like to do it, or whether you even like to do it at all, this is important for all of us, because it makes life better for all of us. It’s about being happy with what tickles your own fancy – whether it be sex all the time, or none at all – and accepting that others will want to have their fancies tickled in different ways. It’s the freedom to like missionary with the lights on, and not be considered ‘boring’; it’s the freedom to like being whipped while wearing nipple clamps, and not be considered ‘depraved’.
Living in Wellington, we’re pretty fortunate when it comes to people being open-minded about sex and sexuality. When I realised I might like girls as well as boys, the overwhelming reaction from people I have thus far mustered the courage to tell was: “Cool! So anyway, what else is new with you?” That’s fantastic, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful, but I want to live in a world where this is everyone’s experience, or better yet, a world where no one has to come out at all, because we don’t assume our sons and daughters will grow up to be heterosexual – or even men and women – but instead hope only that they will be happy and healthy people.
It’s too easy to get complacent and think that things are great because they’re great for us. If the number of people contacting an anonymous columnist for advice about their sex lives is anything to go by, there are still far too many people who don’t feel comfortable or safe asking these questions of their friends, or having these conversations with their sexual partners. Things are changing, but they’re going to change a whole lot faster if we keep having uncomfortable conversations, keep trying to educate others, and keep striving to make things better – for all of us.
We are each the authors of our own echo chambers, whether it be our social-media timelines or the people we choose to hang out with. And while it can be really nice to just mute the dude from the other side of the world who’s proudly tweeting about how much he’s got laid since coming out as a feminist, that doesn’t make him go away. That doesn’t change his attitude, or behaviours. That doesn’t help him to understand the harm his views might be causing, and it doesn’t help those around him who can’t just turn his voice off.
Congratulating ourselves for being progressive and liberal and open-minded and great while simultaneously writing off others for being small-minded and ignorant doesn’t actually change anything. Sure, there are some incorrigible shits out there, but a lot of the time, harmful views are borne of ignorance rather than malice. Taking the time to explain to someone the impact their words might have could make all the difference to the lives of those who don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so. If we’re going to change, it’s only going to happen through education. If we’re going to make things better, it has to be together.
Cupie is Salient’s resident love and sexetera columnist for 2014. She likes piña coladas, long walks on the beach, and big titties.