Sexual Health Requires Sexual Freedom
Who knew wanting sexual health would require fighting for sexual freedom?
Sexual health is not freely given to us but is something that must be self-administered. It’s not mentioned explicitly, or at all, in the Constitution. There are current legal restrictions on sexual activities between consenting adults, so do we have no legal sexual freedom? Our choices reflect individual rights and we all deserve individual sexual rights. True sexual health is born from sexual freedom whether individual, erotic performances, or commercial substitutes for partnered sex. Sexual freedom will not be easily won in our society.
Think back to time spent in educational institutions. Sexual-relational rites of passage are ignored for those with alternative identities and orientations. This is institutional oppression that is often internalized and allows heteroarchal norms to flourish. Sexual health within education would include the presence and support of every possible sexual-relational configuration. Alternative community members are not celebrated in history class, supported at prom, depicted on television or discussed at the traditional family dinner table. What’s the message in this? That it’s not acceptable, normal or healthy. Much damage is done when we shame or thwart an individual’s natural impulse to be life-affirmingly sexual.
Language and vocal volume are both great social indicators of a lack of sexual freedom and health. Why such a huge taboo upon the public discussions of our sexuality and bodies? Why are tone and volume dropped to a "secret" level, affirming the concept that these sexual topics are not "okay?" When we do this are we not accommodating and perpetuating sexual policing and shame? If a sexual topic makes you anxious, your work is to discuss it so as to increase your sexual confidence and health.
Sexual freedom is the most powerful component of sexual health and most importantly involves being in full acceptance of ones total "arousal constellation" -- meaning all that turns us on sexually: People, places, objects, scenarios, attributes, sensations and senses. None of this is chosen or under our control; neither the "family" nor "educational systems" support sexual well-being, as anxiety about the "truth" gets in the way of actual education.
Pornography use is an integral part of most of our sexual lives. The positives of porn use greatly outweigh the negatives. Sadly, this is one of the few places where individuals can learn about, seek and have all parts of their arousal constellation normalized. People have oral sex, anal sex, have plural sex with all sorts of numerical configurations, pee on each other and put fists up their ass, while others pay for erotic massage and sex.
Imagine your parents or sex-ed teacher discussing this. These all happen daily, and are all a healthy part of an erotic life; this is all a reality and any avoidance of its discussion is an avoidance of reality. This is where sexual well-being breaks down. Sexual health is not about recognition of anxiety-driven models for sex, it’s about addressing sex as it truly is, with all of its pleasure-based facets and dark sides. Sex is not about "family" or "kids," it’s about pleasure.
Inhibition and censorship exemplifies society’s love of hating sex. It’s our attempt to cage what we deem "deviant," because reality and pleasure frightens us. This fear drives us to contain and annihilate all that make us uncomfortable. Sexual freedom is not about comfort; it’s not about being limited to sex of the kind that we feel safe or comfortable with. Sexual freedom is about human beings having the consensual sex that arouses them -- with who, when and how. Sex is a human’s strongest and most life-affirming drive and denial of sexual freedom is anti-human rights. It’s also the most vandalized and policed by institutions.
I challenge individuals, if they want to grow, to find a partner they feel safe and aroused with and engage in sex that makes them anxious. The intrapersonal and interpersonal growth is not achievable anywhere else. No weekend retreat, therapy, book or workshop can provide any comparable experience of shift and evolution. When feeling depressed, isolated or stuck, start with your erotic life and use it to reinvigorate your confidence within the social world. Sex is the component of our "health" that often needs attending, or can jump-start our return to life. Sexual health requires acceptance of all our sexual parts and the actualization of them.
Fascinatingly, research consistently highlights that same-sex coupled parents raise healthier kids, kink individuals score as healthy if not healthier on psych testing than the vanilla crowd and that the vast majority of keyword sexual searches online are for those topics that are "nontraditional." The majority of us are not erotophobes, yet we often act like it.
We all live in a sexually diverse world, have very alternative sexual interests, and yet our sexual freedoms do not reflect truth. Sexual health requires sexual freedom, which looks like the confidence with and encouragement of sexual gratification and not sexual inhibition. Sex is a tool of survival, affirmation of humanity and the exercise of human desire for pleasure.
Follow Dr. Chris Donaghue, PhD, LCSW, CST on Twitter: @chrisdonaghue