[adv] Shedding your skin: How to be less sex negative.

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Post by Guest on Sat Feb 14, 2015 11:20 pm

How do you fit into a culture of sex and sexuality when you've largely been expected to be....sexless(?)?

Say you've grown up in a place where discussions of sex and an acceptance of sexuality was largely non-existent.

And now you find yourself in a culture that espouses a very different set of beliefs and attitudes towards sex, and even encourages an aggressive/forward/proactive expression of sexual interest as the expected performance from men. Self awareness would indicate that you're ill-equipped to function (sexually) in this culture.

People fuck all the time. Especially outside committed relationships. While I can tell myself this intellectually and be comfortable with that knowledge to a degree, there are times when I get uncomfortable reading(and hearing, by extension) about one night stands, hookup culture, 'no-strings'/'casual' sex etc. And it can be gendered too.

Maybe it's because I feel like I don't fit into this culture of sex. Reading/hearing about what is popularly considered to be 'attractive' doesn't seem to make things easier. It definitely comes from conservative and sexist attitudes about people and sexuality. Maybe I haven't completely internalized the idea that sex is natural and 'normal'/'healthy'.

So how do I get more comfortable with the idea of sex? Does it just take time? Do I make an effort to challenge sexist and sex-negative beliefs in myself and keep away from people who seem sex negative?

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:12 am

HermitTheToad wrote:How do you fit into a culture of sex and sexuality when you've largely been expected to be....sexless(?)?
So how do I get more comfortable with the idea of sex? Does it just take time? Do I make an effort to challenge sexist and sex-negative beliefs in myself and keep away from people who seem sex negative?

Oh god this was me for so long--I grew up in a very liberal, open culture, but somehow ended up oddly shameful about sex and my personal desires. I internalized things like people who had casual flings were shallow and/or taking advantage of others, sex work is evil and awful, enjoying sex and making it a major part of your life means you're self-absorbed and incapable of being a good person because you're too absorbed in your own pleasure. Also my personal kinks were horrible and wrong and let's not think about them at all...

I was enlightened enough to not preach this, and not say anything when I came across people who engaged in any of those behaviors, but in my mind I would sneer and judge them. Plus I would never, ever allow myself to think about what turned me on or masturbate or anything like that.

And I guarantee to you, if I had kept on that way and never tried to change my thinking I would have died a virgin. I'm positive of it. Because I wouldn't just be shy and introverted and socially awkward, making it hard to find a romantic partner, I would also have been super uncomfortable with sex, and me wanting it, and them wanting it, and not want to talk about and totally shut down and make them feel judged and like it was a waste of their time. (That's what happened a couple of times when it seemed like I had a chance when I was younger.)

Its something you have to combat, and for me that came from reading Dan Savage. It wasn't intentional that I started doing so--rather, I'd heard him on This American Life (not talking about sex) a couple times, and I found I loved his sense of humor. I then read his book "The Kid" about the process of adopting his son, and I once again found him hilarious and very warm and welcoming in a strange, abrasive way. I was deeply depressed at the time and his writing was one of the few things that could make me laugh. But eventually I ran out of stuff by him that didn't talk about sex, and, well... I forced myself to start reading his Savage Love column, initially in a "gasp and clutch your pearls" way, but more and more in a relaxed way, and I began to take in what I was reading and see how I could learn from it and apply it to my life and unpack some of my toxic beliefs.

I'm 21 now and in my first relationship, sexual or otherwise. And I know I wouldn't have been able to get here without those first steps in forcing myself to face my messed up attitudes around sex and opening my mind. That isn't to say I'm not awkward when it comes to sex, things with my boyfriend in bed can often be quite awkward and sometimes not that amazing, but we can talk about that awkwardness and laugh about it (because frankly the number of blowjobs I've given is likely in the single digits still, and nobody is born amazing at anything, so for now at least I sound like a bullfrog slowly and painfully suffocating) and talk about how we can work to make it better. We can freely talk about our kinks and what we fantasize about, and what we might like to try someday. We send each other naughty photos and videos when we can't see each other, and share porn clips that we enjoy and talk about what in them turns us on. So as awkward as our sex life is, it also feels very natural and free and like we're working together towards something positive.

And I think no matter how open-minded a person you are, that's something you have to teach yourself, to a certain extend. Because our culture gives us a lot of shitty messages, many of which get embedded without us even realizing it. And for some it can be hard to shake, but let me tell you, it is so worth it.

Two resources off the top of head for sex positivity shock therapy:
Savage Love
Oh Joy Sex Toy

I'll let you know if I can think of any other positive resources. Good luck!
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Post by The Wisp on Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:25 am

Prajnaparamita wrote:Oh god this was me for so long--I grew up in a very liberal, open culture, but somehow ended up oddly shameful about sex and my personal desires. I internalized things like people who had casual flings were shallow and/or taking advantage of others, sex work is evil and awful, enjoying sex and making it a major part of your life means you're self-absorbed and incapable of being a good person because you're too absorbed in your own pleasure.

I can relate to internalizing negative messages about sex like this despite growing up in a liberal place, though it sounds like I did less than you and started getting over it at an earlier age (which doesn't make me better, it's probably due to differences in gender, temperament, luck, and whatever myriad of factors beyond our control). Liberal places, in the US at least, claim to be sex positive but there's a lot of subtle sex negativity just underneath the surface.

Anyway, I second Prajnaparamita in recommending friendly, sex-positive spaces to get used to the idea of thinking of sex in a non-negative way. I would also recommend the site Scarleteen, which is basically sex positive sex education for teens and twenty-somethings. I think it might help along with the links Prajna gave in demistifying sex and making positive talk about it seem less comfortable.

Also, it might take time to get over these feelings. And if, in the end, you still feel embarrassed to talk about sex in person or don't want to participate in hook-up culture or whatever, that is totally okay. Just don't judge others, and tell them you're not comfortable talking about sex if they bring it up. There's nothing sex-negative about having boundaries like that.

ETA: Fixed spelling of Prajna's name (the spelling was right there in the quote code, d'oh!)
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Sun Feb 15, 2015 12:46 am

The Wisp wrote:
Also, it might take time to get over these feelings. And if, in the end, you still feel embarrassed to talk about sex in person or don't want to participate in hook-up culture or whatever, that is totally okay. Just don't judge others, and tell them you're not comfortable talking about sex if they bring it up. There's nothing sex-negative about having boundaries like that.

Yes. This too. This is a very important distinction to make as well. There are some things I know I'll just never do, like casual hookups and friends with benefits arrangements, not because I think there's anything wrong with them but because after some deliberate thought I decided they just wouldn't work for me and wouldn't be something I'd enjoy. Not personally wanting to be in a poly relationship doesn't mean I'm sex negative, it means I know myself and what I want. And don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Saying "monogamy is unnatural, if you aren't swinging from partner to partner you're doing it wrong!" is pretty much just as bad as saying "sex outside of marriage is wrong, if you aren't totally chaste you're doing it wrong!"
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Post by waxingjaney on Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:05 am

HermitTheToad wrote:How do you fit into a culture of sex and sexuality when you've largely been expected to be....sexless(?)?

You could treat it as some random weird shit that other people do, like spraying shaving cream on the Christmas tree, or putting mayonnaise on your pancakes.
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Post by Guest on Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:47 am

Thanks for the replies. I actually don't feel like expressions of sexual interest from myself would be very welcome, but that's another post.

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Post by Prajnaparamita on Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:25 pm

HermitTheToad wrote:Thanks for the replies. I actually don't feel like expressions of sexual interest from myself would be very welcome, but that's another post.

Yeah, I'd be interested if you'd be willing to say more about that. Reading over what you wrote again I get more of a sense of "how do I come to terms with my own sexuality" (and please tell me if I'm misreading things here and that's not actually what you're asking) which I didn't respond to because that's a problem that's a lot more specific to you and I'd like to hear more about your personal thoughts and feelings before I weigh in on what might help.

That being said, for the moment my advice is still the same--check out some of those suggested links. I found for me that reading about some of the strange to me, unfamiliar, maybe even really hot things that other people were into made me feel like I wasn't such a freak for liking what I like. (Then again I'm somewhat kinky so getting over "what does it mean that I'm into this?!" might have been a bigger deal in growing comfortable with my sexuality.) I don't know how much it would help to be reassured how normal your feelings are, because I'm not exactly sure what it is about sexual interest coming from you leaves you feeling uncomfortable. But if you'd be willing to elaborate I'll do what I can to help.
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Post by Guest on Tue Feb 17, 2015 9:43 pm

The Wisp wrote:
Prajnaparamita wrote:Oh god this was me for so long--I grew up in a very liberal, open culture, but somehow ended up oddly shameful about sex and my personal desires. I internalized things like people who had casual flings were shallow and/or taking advantage of others, sex work is evil and awful, enjoying sex and making it a major part of your life means you're self-absorbed and incapable of being a good person because you're too absorbed in your own pleasure.

I can relate to internalizing negative messages about sex like this despite growing up in a liberal place, though it sounds like I did less than you and started getting over it at an earlier age (which doesn't make me better, it's probably due to differences in gender, temperament, luck, and whatever myriad of factors beyond our control). Liberal places, in the US at least, claim to be sex positive but there's a lot of subtle sex negativity just underneath the surface.

I can put my hand up for this as well. Our household is filled with art of naked people because my sister created it all, but there was a lot of 'but guys actually being attracted to women is bad' messages floating around. Mostly perpetuated by my mother, frustratingly enough. Now that I'm older, I can see what effect they had on me and it's not good. I have the whole 'my sexuality is a problem to others, so keep it locked up' thing going on.

Prajnaparamita wrote:That being said, for the moment my advice is still the same--check out some of those suggested links. I found for me that reading about some of the strange to me, unfamiliar, maybe even really hot things that other people were into made me feel like I wasn't such a freak for liking what I like. (Then again I'm somewhat kinky so getting over "what does it mean that I'm into this?!" might have been a bigger deal in growing comfortable with my sexuality.) I don't know how much it would help to be reassured how normal your feelings are, because I'm not exactly sure what it is about sexual interest coming from you leaves you feeling uncomfortable. But if you'd be willing to elaborate I'll do what I can to help.

Seconding the idea to check out some stuff you find a little out there or unfamiliar to see what it does for you. It helps me quite a bit, even if there's still guilt to eliminate and work to be done.

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