I was at a Halloween party on Saturday, sitting between two men whose entire bodies (including their heads) were covered in green spandex, when I reached this conclusion: all of us, in the company of our friends, families, lovers and co-workers, ought to spend much more time talking about sex.
I propose that talking about sex will help us to feel less shame, have better sex, and even weaken the influence of politics (and worse, politicians) on our personal lives.
Here’s how it works.
Waste less of your life feeling ashamed.
We feel ashamed when we think that we are doing or feeling something uniquely awful. You can’t feel ashamed of doing something that everybody you know and love is also doing. At least, in theory you can’t, but in practice you do: everyone you know and love picks their nose, poops, does not look like an airbrushed supermodel when naked, and has all kinds of dirty, dark, and deviant sexual desires. Just. Like. You.
Keeping the shameful stuff to ourselves keeps us isolated from each other. We are so afraid of each other’s judgment that we clam up, and forfeit the possibility of connection. The irony is that connection is the only thing that can alleviate our shame - when we realize that we are not uniquely dirty-minded, just plain old run-of-the-mill dirty-minded, the shame begins to evaporate. Of course, it may not be the case that your best friend shares your fantasy about being tied up. But guess what: there is only one way to find out.
Personally, I am sick of shame. I’ve spent enough time with it to recognize the depth of its uselessness. If you could also do with a little less shame, follow these simple instructions:
- Invite some friends over.
- Make a pot of tea.
- Pose this question: "What turns you on?"
Have better sex.
One thing I’ve often found perplexing is why competent, intelligent, fully-grown members of society so often turn into simpering weenies when things get sexual. They lose the ability to ask for things they want, and to say NO to things they don’t want. As anyone who has ever hung out with a toddler knows, these are not advanced skills – every one of us mastered them completely by the age of 2.
So what gives? It seems to me that our vast reserves of shame cloud our judgment and thicken our tongues. Whatever the reason, the fact is that most of us suck at communication when we’re turned on. Luckily there’s a really easy and reliable way to get better at things: practice.
Start talking about sex before you get into bed with somebody. Like, WAY before. At the party, on the date, in mixed company. Right after “what do you do?” and “where are you from?”, ask “what turns you on?”
If you’re honest with yourself and the ones you covet, here’s what I predict: you may have fewer sex partners (having filtered out the incompatible and easily-offended ones right off the bat), but you’ll have much better sex. Your sex partners will know what you like before they have the chance to try all the things you don’t like. You’ll know what they like, too, so you can spend less time worrying about your performance. Even better: the more you practice talking about sex, the better you'll be at it; so when your desires inevitably change and develop, you’ll be more likely to get those satisfied, too.
And here’s the revolutionary part: when you talk about sex, the people around you will also have better sex. Talking about sex is contagious (that’s why I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my Christian homeschooler friends after I was about 13). It jumps from host to host, devouring their shame, connecting them to each other, and making their sex lives hotter. It’s a miracle drug. If I could make it into a pill I’d be a billionaire.
Kick politicians out of your sex life
(unless you're having sex with one).
Part of the reason politicians and voters support stupid, counterproductive, dangerous legislation about sex is because they are under the influence of sexual shame. Remember how being open about sex and sexuality brings people closer together? It also weakens people’s opposition to no-brainer civil rights issues like marriage equality. In short: shame makes us stupid.
Sexual shame gives politicians and voters the selective-blindness required to support policies that are bad for them and their families. Shame allows closeted gay politicians to endorse anti-gay legislation. Shame allows parents of gay kids to keep mum about their support for marriage equality. Shame allows otherwise rational people to suggest that abstinence-only education is a good idea. Shame allows people with uteri (or daughters) to support a Presidential candidate who wants to de-fund planned parenthood and overturn Roe v. Wade - a lethal combination for women, regardless of your religious or moral position on those issues (HELLO SCIENCE: making abortion illegal does not mean that fewer women get abortions, it means that more of them die in the process.)
All of this is not to mention that oral sex is currently illegal in eighteen states.
In short, sexual shame is what a lot of people are smoking when they vote against there own interests. And what have we learned is the sobering antidote to sexual shame, friends? Or at least the morning-after, hangover-easing french toast and OJ? Talking about sex.
So turn to your neighbor, open your mouth, and say something sexy. For the good of humanity.