Let's Talk (More) About Sex

[Content Note: Discussion of consent and boundaries.]

One of the things that came up during the discussion of talking about sex during sex is the idea that some people don't feel okay talking about sex because they've been entrained to be ashamed of sex. That's something I addressed a little bit in my tweets on the subject, but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more.

We've discussed in this space how, despite our being grown-ass adults who don't actually need anyone's permission to live our lives how we want, or to dress how we want, or to make other personal choices, it's sometimes helpful, empowering, freeing, to have someone else just say: You have permission to do this thing.

So, in that spirit, here are a few things that we all have permission to do:

1. We are allowed to want to have sex. We are also allowed to not want to have sex. We are allowed to have the urge for sexual interaction with another person(s). We are allowed to not have any sexual urges.

2. We are allowed to enjoy sex.

3. We are allowed to ask someone if they are interested in engaging in sexual activity. We do not have to wait to be asked. We do not have to abide ancient rules established by the Sexuality Police about who should ask whom, how long we have to know someone before asking, how many dates we have to go on. We don't have to only ask people who look one way or another. We don't have to be married to have sex. We can ask whom we want, when we want, provided that there is no possibility for coercion (i.e. a student-teacher relationship), that the other person is capable of consent, and that we are willing to respect their answer, even and especially if that answer is no.

4. We are allowed to say no, if someone asks us.

5. We are allowed (and obliged) to talk frankly about taking precautions to have safer sex, to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and/or unintended pregnancy.

6. We are allowed to set ground rules and boundaries for sexual activity. What we like to do; what we don't want to do. We are allowed to establish safewords.

7. We are allowed to talk about relevant sexual history and/or abuse history that informs our sexuality and/or our feelings of safety.

8. We are allowed to ask a potential partner, straightforwardly, if they are willing to respect the concept of ongoing consent and make sure they understand that either partner is allowed to withdraw consent and stop sexual activity at any time by request.

9. We are allowed to talk to a potential partner about our expectations and our desires. We are allowed to say what we want.

10. We are allowed to not engage with sexual activity with anyone unless and until we feel safe. (And so do they.)

11. We are allowed to talk during sex, about what is happening. We are allowed to ask: "Will you do this thing to me?" We are allowed to ask: "Do you want me to do this thing to you?" We are allowed to want to be able to say, and to hear, "Yes." Over and over.

12. We are allowed, provided our partner is into it, to talk dirty during sex. Nasty, naughty, filthy talk, without shame.

13. We are allowed to get very, very good at weaving these two things together—consent talk and dirty talk. We are allowed to be turned the fuck on by giving and receiving enthusiastic, breathless, urgent consent.

14. We are allowed to tell our partner(s) during sex what feels good and what doesn't.

15. We are allowed to have whatever consensual kinks we want, without shame.

16. We are allowed to define "having sex" in a way that makes the most sense for us, depending on our partner(s) and our preferences. "Having sex" does not just have to mean PIV intercourse between a cis man and a cis woman.

17. We are allowed to make our sex lives look like whatever we want them to look like, without shame. And without any feelings of being "abnormal," if our sex lives don't look always or ever like some traditional "foreplay-intercourse-cuddling" routine. Maybe your whole sex life is what someone else calls "foreplay." That's okay. Maybe you want your entire sex life to consist of kissing, and nothing more. That's okay. Maybe your sex life centers around activities or role-playing or fetishes or toys that don't get talked about very much, or get called "deviant" when they do. That's okay. It's fine. It's cool. We're allowed. Find someone who wants to do your thing with you, and do it. Without shame.

18. We are allowed to want to do different things with different partners. What works with one partner might not work with the next.

19. We are allowed to have multiple partners. Successively, or concurrently. We are allowed to negotiate that in a way that keeps everyone safe.

20. We are allowed to talk about sex after having sex, to say what we liked (or what we didn't like).

21. We are allowed our sexual agency. We are allowed our own individual seuxality. We are allowed to own it without shame.

This is, obviously, not a comprehensive list. I could easily write all day, covering everything from masturbation to scheduling sex romps between long-term partners with mismatched libidos. But it's a start.

We are all allowed these things. (Though we are not entitled to them.) A lot of us are socialized in various subcultures that tell us in explicit and implicit ways that we are not allowed these things, and that we should be deeply ashamed if we want some or all of them.

And some of these things, some of us may not even want them for ourselves. That's okay, too.

The point is simply this: You are allowed to talk frankly about sex, to make sure that your sex life is safe and fulfilling.

* * *

I'm happy to field questions in comments, if anyone is starting out on a talking-about-sex sort of journey, or doesn't even know how to begin to start a consent-centered approach with a long-term partner, or any related issues. We are allowed to not be ashamed if we don't know how to do this on our own! There are not, after all, not a hell of a lot of good models for building this sort of sexual framework.

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