Oh hey, looks like it’s time for another one of those vaguely feminist rants about human sexuality! (another FB note that led to a few people telling me I should really post to a blog or something, so here we are)
Lately I’ve witnessed or been part of a lot of conversations about sexuality. This in itself is not newsworthy, if history tells us nothing else, it’s that people love talking about that stuff all the time. However, I’ve become more aware of something that I had previously come across but not paid much attention to. The idea that only heterosexual intercourse is “real sex”. For your intimacy to count, there has to be a penis and a vagina, and they had better be touching each other or you’re not really doing it.
Seriously? By that standard, I know several gay or trans folks who have never had “legitimate” sex. According to Catholic church rules, there are a lot more virgins out there than one might imagine. Of course, this is not a surprising attitude among people who rant about sex being only for making babies (because there are only 7 fucking billion of us, and we can’t have people thinking it’s cool to get away with enjoying themselves or experiencing intimacy without paying for it in healthy white babies or we are doomed). It isn’t even surprising among people who are feeling insecure or uncertain about their sexuality and want to convince themselves that that time they hooked up with someone of the same gender doesn’t change their current sexual identity because it wasn’t real sex it was just, you know, fooling around. Or people who end up in bed with a friend and are afraid if everyone admits it was sex, it might change their relationship for the worse. There are a ton of ways to justify this mind set, and although I wouldn’t agree with them I can sort of see how it might be rationalized. It’s a joke even the liberal sorts of folks make without often assigning much meaning or seriousness. College experiments and drunken mistakes. It didn’t count, you know?
However, I think it cannot be expressed enough how harmful this kind of thinking can be to everyone. How many teenagers are out there having sex without being prepared for it emotionally because blow jobs don’t count? How many relationships are devalued or dismissed because of this narrow definition? To take it to a darker place, how many victims of sexual assault are told that what happened to them wasn’t really rape because it wasn’t “real sex”?
I was recently accused of reducing sex to a meaningless social exchange or a frivolous selfish act during a debate about abortion rights, ironically because I suggested that sex is essential to the human condition and something that consenting adults should be able to practice without fear or ridicule. This struck me as odd considering that the implication was that sex was nothing more than a necessary step one must endure when making a fetus. It isn’t like I don’t think casual non romantic sex is possible, or even that it’s bad or wrong in any way. It isn’t that I think sex needs to be treated as a grave and serious event (that would be pretty awful, wouldn’t it?). It’s that I think we need to expand our definitions of acceptable, valid, sexuality and not hide behind euphemisms to avoid calling it what it is. It’s important. It’s recreational. It’s intimate. It’s real. None of these things are mutually exclusive. Something to think about at least.