I know my bpd (blogs per day) ratio is currently above one, but I couldn’t help but slip in this blog post which I wrote for TINO. And speaking of slipping things in…
Warning. This blog post deals with some confrontational issues and requires a fair bit of maturity to process. If you giggle or flinch at words like masturbation or anus, you probably won’t enjoy this article.
Sex. It’s everywhere, and with good reason. Human beings are inherently sexual, from the moment we’re born til the moment we die. That’s not to say we’re always ready, willing and able to have sex- our sexuality develops just as we do, and every person is different. Some men rarely experience sexual arousal until their fifties, while some young girls can’t stop thinking about sex, and every combination imaginable. Some people are asexual entirely, without any libido whatsoever. We’re all different, and we all grow.
This week [was] Sexual Health Awareness week, and I wanted to write an article about sex, because let’s face it, most people think about it from time to time, some more than others. It’s highly likely you’ve come across information about sex before- how to do it, what feels good for you and your partner/s, what type of contraception exists, STI’s and the horrific pictures that follow… But something I’ve noticed among young people my age is that there’s not a lot of information about how to have enjoyable sex that isn’t oppressive or disrespectful. Essentially what I’d like to write about are the interconnected issues of respect and consent. But before you say “I’ve heard it all before- Australia says no etc. etc.”, these are actually fairly complex issues and it’s important to re-examine them in new light. I urge you to take five minutes to read this article- it might seriously improve your sex life forever.
Sex is generally considered to be awesome. But what is sex? Is it strictly limited to vaginal intercourse? What about anal sex? Oral sex? Manual sex? What about dry sex (with at least some clothes on)? What about fondling? French kissing? Heavy petting? Sexting? I’d argue that any exchange of a sexual nature (that is, inciting sexual arousal) is a form of sex, some more intimate than others.
I’d also like to throw a crazy idea out there: all sex is great, as long as everyone consents to it. I’ll explain the second half of that statement in a moment, but let’s think about this first. Gay sex is great. Sadomasochism is great. Role playing is great. Anal sex, water sports, bondage and domination, transvesticism, fetishes, they’re all really, really great. As long as there’s consent. I’m not comfortable with a lot of things. For example, I’m not comfortable masturbating onto someone’s feet. But if someone in the world really enjoys having someone masturbate onto his/her feet, then that’s absolutely fine. There are people in the world doing all sorts of sex-based activities right now, some of which horrify me, but if the people involved are fully committed and enjoying themselves, I have no right in the world to stop them. This is exactly the nature of consent.
Consent is agreeing to something whilst being fully aware of what that something involves. To give a common example, if a man wants to have vaginal intercourse with a woman, she must be fully aware of what it means to have a penis inside her vagina and agree to it in order to provide consent. Someone who is drunk and not in full control of their faculties cannot, by definition, give consent. Someone who is unconscious, who is underage or mentally underdeveloped, who is tied up with a gag in their mouth, who is mentally ill, who (God forbid) is dead, who is a stranger who is witnessing (or worse, experiencing) a sexual act without being asked first if they wanted to see/experience it… All of them are unable to give consent, and it is never okay to force, coerce or trick them into having any kind of sexual contact, not even a little bit. Not even if they were enjoying it ten seconds ago and suddenly changed their mind. Not even if you think that their actions are speaking louder than their words. If they so “No”, “Stop”, “Wait!”, or anything along the lines of “I don’t want to do that with you”, then you shouldn’t do it. Forcing sex of any kind is illegal, and perhaps worse, it hurts people in the most intimate of ways.
But consent isn’t just about following the law. There’s a damn good reason why it’s so important: respect. Respect is something that isn’t always understood or valued, but it is the foundation for any kind of meaningful connection. And if you’re not meaningfully connected during sex, you have some real issues that you need to look at. There is no more important time to be respectful than when you are in the very most intimate of places you can be with a person. But how does respect help you have better sex?
I cannot think of anything less sexy than hurting someone I care about. I would never find it arousing to hurt, shame or bully my girlfriend into doing something for my benefit. I would, on the other hand, find it ridiculously arousing if I asked her to do something for me and she did it willingly because she wanted me to enjoy it. I don’t particularly care who you are or what you’re into- that’s your business. But it’s also the business of your partner/s. If you want your boyfriend to role play as a secret agent then ask him. If you want your girlfriend to wear her sexy underwear around the house then ask her. If you want your partner to try anal sex then ask them. And most importantly of all, respect their decision to say no!
Once you get to the stage where you respect your partner enough to ask them, and your partner respects you enough to consider what you’re asking, everything changes. When you start talking about sex, what you enjoy, what you fantasise about, what you’d really like your partner to do some day if they didn’t mind trying it, sex becomes limitless. You don’t have to feel guilty about what you like. You can start experimenting, if you and your partner want to, in whatever way you both enjoy. Good sex (however you like it) becomes a gift rather than something you have to steal or take or fantasise about secretly. You’re free to experience PLEASURE. And God, isn’t that what it’s all about? Why should anyone have to feel guilty about enjoying themselves as long as everyone’s okay with it? (I’m careful not to say “as long as no one gets hurt”, because some people like a good spanking among other things, and that’s cool too.)
So I guess what I’m really what I’m trying to say is that sex is really great, but it becomes so much better when you know that your partner is either enjoying it too, or doing it freely because they care about you enough to give you pleasure. In my books, the key to really amazing sex comes not from any activity in particular, but a value-based attitude: respect. Now go out there and get some.
PS: Just as a matter of interest, there are a number of Declarations of Sexual Rights, but this one is probably my favourite.
- The right to sexual freedom. Sexual freedom encompasses the possibility for individuals to express their full sexual potential. However, this excludes all forms of sexual coercion, exploitation and abuse at any time and situations in life.
- The right to sexual autonomy, sexual integrity, and safety of the sexual body. This right involves the ability to make autonomous decisions about one’s sexual life within a context of one’s own personal and social ethics. It also encompasses control and enjoyment of our own bodies free from torture, mutilation and violence of any sort.
- The right to sexual privacy. This involves the right for individual decisions and behaviors about intimacy as long as they do not intrude on the sexual rights of others.
- The right to sexual equity. This refers to freedom from all forms of discrimination regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, social class, religion, or physical and emotional disability.
- The right to sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, including autoeroticism, is a source of physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual well being.
- The right to emotional sexual expression. Sexual expression is more than erotic pleasure or sexual acts. Individuals have a right to express their sexuality through communication, touch, emotional expression and love.
- The right to sexually associate freely. This means the possibility to marry or not, to divorce, and to establish other types of responsible sexual associations.
- The right to make free and responsible reproductive choices. This encompasses the right to decide whether or not to have children, the number and spacing of children, and the right to full access to the means of fertility regulation.
- The right to sexual information based upon scientific inquiry. This right implies that sexual information should be generated through the process of unencumbered and yet scientifically ethical inquiry, and disseminated in appropriate ways at all societal levels.
- The right to comprehensive sexuality education. This is a lifelong process from birth throughout the life cycle and should involve all social institutions.
- The right to sexual health care. Sexual health care should be available for prevention and treatment of all sexual concerns, problems and disorders.
Sexual Rights are Fundamental and Universal Human Rights
Adopted in Hong Kong at the 14th World Congress of Sexology, August 26, 1999