I’ve been thinking a lot recently about talking about sex. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I end up doing it a lot, possibly because it’s one of my favorite things to do. In every friendship I’ve had, I’ve gotten the sense that I only really become friends with someone after we talk about our love and/or sex lives (or, alternately, our childhoods. I’m sure it’s classically Freudian.)
Still, on a very practical level, I don’t see talking about sex as a hugely radical social act, nor do I see it as the most important subject matter for discussion. The reason why I feel comfortable talking about sex is because I honestly don’t think that talking about sex itself is that big of a deal. Talking about physical processes is actually not that complicated. It requires a knowledge of your own body, and the body of your partner(s), as well as the willingness to say what’s on your mind–beyond that, it’s fairly straightforward. As a good friend of mine often says, most basic sex issues can be solved with lube and communication.
What I think is a lot more scary than talking about sex is talking about those deepest human fears which often arise in romantic and sexual relationships, among them:
- The fear that other people don’t want what we want, won’t understand what we want, won’t be able to give us what we want, will think we’re weird for wanting it, won’t want us.
- The fear that we won’t be made happy, that we can’t make other people happy, that we don’t understand happiness or pleasure, that it will forever elude us, or that we will lose it and never have it again.
- The fear that we are alone, that we cannot really connect with another person, that we are unknown, misunderstood, or misinterpreted, that we do not have a place in the world.
I think a lot of the fear of talking about sex is actually fear of being emotionally honest. It’s easy to conflate the two, and sometimes-t the two overlap. Sex and emotion (whatever emotion that may be, from love to lust to curiosity) have been and continue to be so linked, though the linkages are multifaceted. We assume that talking about our sexual selves is talking about our ‘real’ selves, the selves that no one sees because they are resigned to the realm of taboo or the hidden; the ‘privacy’ of the bedroom mirrors the ‘interior’ of the self. We, as a society, continue to divide our sexual/intellectual/emotional/moral selves, rather than admit that these selves are part of a discordant, contradictory, yet nonetheless whole personage. The private/public dichotomy applies almost unilaterally, even as it is transgressed (e.g., with the airing of political sex scandals, examinations of celebrities’ personal lives, etc.)
Emotional honesty, to me, is much more complex, and much more onerous, than simply talking about sex. If casually talking about sex would somehow rid us (read: me) of the fundamental fears I mentioned above, re-watching all of Sex and the City would single handedly have eased all our (read: my) neuroses and malaise. While talking about sex can be a good place to start, I think moving beyond that into the realm of more-complete emotional honesty requires speaking truth about a wide variety of needs, desires, and fears, not only sexual ones.