Being honest about sex

I know I’m not alone in finding that speaking openly and honestly about sex gets some weird and unhelpful responses. For me, this was most relevant during my time as an erotica author, and I’ve seen it happen for other erotica authors too. It happens for activists whose area of activism has a sexual aspect. It happens for people who are honest about being kinsters, fetishists and so forth.

What happens, simply, is that a significant number of people assume that because of the above, you are promiscuous. You will shag anything. You want to be sent photos of them, and their girlfriends, you want to hear what they have in mind to do with you. For a minority, your sexual honesty will lead to verbal abuse, based on their assumptions and accusing you of whatever it is they imagine you do. Sometimes it’s all about projection.

However, a lot of this hangs of some basic assumptions about human sexuality. The habit of dividing women into angels and whores, the prudish and the promiscuous is at least a few hundred years old. Apparently that idea can be rolled out to embrace anyone else who dares to be open. If you are pro-sex, if you are keen, if you make visible your enthusiasm, then you can only be an object for use. In truth, the most enthusiastically promiscuous of us have standards and boundaries. Wanting a lot of sex, even a lot of sex with a lot of people still doesn’t mean being up for anything with anyone. We all have boundaries, but ignoring those boundaries makes it much easier to use and abuse.

I find this odd, in terms of the logic. Quantity and quality are two very different issues. To be pro sex is generally to be looking for high quality sex, and for that you need people you can communicate with. Ideally people who know and understand you. Unless your kink is sex with strangers, then most kink is better served by established connections. Not necessarily a traditionally shaped romantic relationship, but something with duration. Random pick-ups are not (despite what books and films alike try to tell us) good for kinky sex.

One of the side effects of spending many years as an erotica author, was the number of unsolicited stories I heard about what people like to do, and want to do. Most people, I think, are far more sexual and far more sexually keen than they present in public. Nothing wrong with that – it’s a very private, personal thing after all, no one should feel obliged to wear their hearts, or their genitals on their sleeve. A percentage of humans are not sexual, but a larger percentage likes to shag, kinky or otherwise.

So, why this collective response to the people who are a bit more honest about it? Is it just a habit of thinking passed down from previous generations? Is it a matter of collective shame, a feeling that we should be ashamed of our sexual appetites, so anyone who isn’t must be… well, whatever you want them to be? Is it all about projection, of putting onto the person who is open all the things the person being weird about it would do if only they felt brave enough? Is it a lack of education that leads some people to feel that anyone honestly sexually active must be other things as well?

We have a lot of taboos around sex, and one of the most problematic ones has to do with communication. We don’t talk about it enough, and when we do, it’s seldom in useful ways. We’ll objectify each other’s bodies and project onto them, but we don’t hear each other. People who can speak honestly to each other about what they want and do not want are in a much better position when following through on that. People who can hear what other people want, people who can both give and withhold consent, and who can work with the consent or refusal of others have happier, healthier, safer lives. Shaming people who talk about sex by treating them as though they have no boundaries, is a way of silencing them. Silence creates misunderstandings, facilitates abusers,and reduces creativity and expression. We need to talk more.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

32 responses to “Being honest about sex

  • Jade Hall

    As you said, the act of talking sex places the speaker as an object of projection. It follows that this will be positive projection (arousal, have a dick pic) or negative (disgust, silence or abuse) in absence of projection there is utter disinterest. Hence why sex blogers need to throw in filthy stories among their discussion of consent and boundries and conversation in order to gain any readership (or notoriety) forcing objectification as a condition of being heard.

    That of course relates only to society talking about sex, but society needs to talk about sex to teach individuals to talk (and listen) a not sex between eachother.

    It makes it hard to see a way that the kind of discourse you are writing about can take place without a preceding culture shift.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I once summed up many men’s view of sex this way.

    What goes where?
    How can I get some?
    Am I getting enough?
    How long can I keep doing this?
    Ah the memories.

  • bone&silver

    Such a good post, thank you. I think it’s taken me decades to rid myself of social conditioning & shame around sex and sexuality; I fear for the young folk now, blasted as they are with porn & perfectionism. *sighs

    • Nimue Brown

      I worry about younger folk too, it is a strange world they are growing up in.

    • turning20web

      Yes… The young generation… Have fallen prey to the porn stuff… I think that boys do it alot.. After all… Real sex is different from that stuff… That choreography… Real is clumsy.. Young generation needs to have a control on them..

  • Sarah Snell-Pym (@Saffy)

    There is an interesting apparent connection with things like the rise of Prodestants and the curl tailing of female libido – ie to distinguish themselves from the Catholics but then you look at the medieval courtly love stuff where there was only a few days a year that you could have sex on etc. But prudishness etc comes in waves throughout our recorded history with one generation thinking it fine to visit opposite sex friends in their bedrooms with no one thinking they were having affairs to not even really being allowed to talk to men and so on – I wish I could remember more on the talk I went to about it!

    One of the reasons I actually stopped writing erotica was that a man found out what my pen name was and proceeded to decry me as a prostitute after he sent me dick pics and I refused to meet up with him. He did this on social media to his thousands and thousands of followers mainly in the US bible belt – it ended up with me off line for about 8 months and the police involved – it was not a good time.

    Thankyou for sharing.

  • Rob

    Great stuff, Nimue. Thanks for writing this and for being open and for sharing.

  • Robin

    yes most most interesting, what with the churches views about sex and sexuality embedded in our recent culture as an evil unfortunately necessary to produce more good church goers it has hindered us in actually finding out what sex really is beyond the tarnishing of it as bad for our souls.I mean it is a very complex thing since sex goes to the core of who we are and could be, to the creative striving of our soul to manifest itself. As with all art, sex comes from the same place of pure creation.

  • Complex PTSD and Attachment

    You are totally right that discussing about sex can be hard sometimes.

    It’s time to talk about sex from a place of safety, consent, kindness and pleasure.

  • dannygainzz

    I don’t think it’s hard talking about sex at all if that’s what your into. To me if your good or seasoned at sex then it’s easier to talk about. If you’re not as experienced then It’s a little harder to talk about.

    • Nimue Brown

      That is an inmportant point, thank you – I think also how your gender relates to your experience is a thing, guys are more likely to be shown respect (in my experience) than women for expressing knowledge, women can have good reasons to be nervous about it.

  • whynotdotcomcom

    You are right about for quality sex you need communication and connection. And for kink, i do believe it is possible to have a conversation with people and establish a connection. But not normal people you meet on your daily life. Rather people in places like fetlife. Where it is established that sex and kinks will be spoken about and in a more open way than in vanilla places where you meet and pretend to be interested in everything else but in your head sex is all you would like to talk about.

  • Rovi

    Hi! Thanks! I have been negative about it to someone I date lately but somehow I am slowly getting his idea of talking openly about it…

  • godtisx

    So much shame around something that is natural.

  • myhawaiisexlife

    What if it’s men talking about sex? Does that change anything?

    • Nimue Brown

      I’m very pro men talking about sex. I think we have a culture that supports men in objectifying women, and as seeing sex as something men do to women, and that maybe women aren’t into, and all of those are issues to be careful with. However, taking about it, we can learn from each other and find new ways.

  • greatsexpectations

    We definitely couldn’t agree more! Sex is a natural and normal thing and we need to start treating it as a normal thing. There is no need to be ashamed if you enjoy sex and society needs to stop seeing it in a negative light! If we don’t talk about sex with others or our partners, it’s harder for us to learn what we like, what we dislike and what our boundaries are. Being honest about what makes us feel good can benefit the relationship, not only on a physically but also emotionally and mentally. When we communicate with our partner about sex, it simultaneously links to consent. After all, communication is key to a healthy relationship!

    That’s where we come in! I’m running a campaign that aims to reduce the negative stigma and common discomfort when it comes to talking about sex. Great sexpectations is all about making discussions about sex normal and comfortable for everyone. Check out our page if you’d like to know more. – LT

  • askagimp

    I am kinkier than a pubic hair, but apparently that’s gross because I am a wheelchair user. People ask us on a regular basis how we had a baby. Same as you, buddy. If they find that scary I know they couldn’t handle the thought of ball gags and suspension.

  • Your Cousin Vinny

    I often wonder about what we should tell people and what we may be better off keeping to ourselves

    • Nimue Brown

      Interesting line of thought. I guess the answer depends in part on how much of your relationship with them you need to have based in absolute truth. And perhaps how much you are willing to deal with people who probably can’t deal with your truth.

  • turning20web

    So true.. I m in my 20s mam.. And live in India.. Talking here about sex is taboo… People need to get bold and open minded… We all have our own tastes.. We could taste and get sure what our body really likes.. For me.. Having sex is celebration of body.. But in safe way… By the way.. The article is good.. It was a good read..

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