Or, what will it take for us all to be free and happy sexually?
First, there must be an end to shame. Any sexual experience that is not harmful to yourself, others or animals is no longer to be considered shameful. The shame around sexuality arises largely from a need or desire to control another’s sexuality, most likely by those who are afraid of their own or afraid of that of the persons they seek to control.
Saint Paul wrote of the “thorn in my side,” which some theologians believe means that he was gay. He openly expressed love in his letters to Timothy. He urged people to be celibate, but that if they still burned with lust they couldn’t control, they should marry and be monogamous. It seems he tried to control other’s sexuality because he struggled to control his own.
Other religions seek to control women’s sexuality as a way of controlling the family and the culture. It is a form of ownership, and perhaps also a mirror into men’s fears of the fragile reins they hold on their own desires and lusts. Zara Zareen writes well on this topic.
It would be easy here to say that men are afraid of women’s sexuality and therefore pass laws and write religious passages to control it. And that is true on one level. Women bleed every month without dying. They produce babies. They are seemingly magical, and therefore might be more powerful than men. Anthropologically speaking, this has contributed to the subjugation of women and the spread of shame around sex.
But how to explain the shame men have about sex? Some have been sexually abused, and wonder what they did to bring that on (They did nothing. Abuse is always about the power of the abuser, and less about sex. It is also always the abuser’s fault). Others have been ridiculed for masturbation, or for their spontaneous erections in public settings. Like women, men have been brought up in Western culture to feel damned if they don’t have sex and damned if they do. Fuck boys and male virgins are equally reviled.
How do we end the shame cycle? Demand better sex education in schools. Teach our own children about sex with no embarrassment, and with genuine information. Direct them to Planned Parenthood’s new teen chat with a chatbot.
For ourselves, commit to experiencing our own bodies. Explore, play, masturbate to determine what brings us pleasure. Share that information with our chosen partner, or partners, so that consensual sex becomes fun, interesting, exciting.
Without shame, we can approach one another with both respect and confidence. It’s actually a form of shame that causes some men to approach women and other men in creepy ways. Yes, the shame is buried under entitlement and power, but it is there in the sleaziness. Why would you make it sleazy if you believed in yourself and valued and respected the other person? Forced kissing, groping of asses and random pussy grabbing might not exist in the absence of shame.
And after shame is banished, what? Genuine interaction between adults who can express their sexual desires in confident, respectful ways in new relationships, and in playful, comfortable and yet exciting ways in established ones.