Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Pickpik.com
I hesitate to write this post. It’s extremely close to me, and to my partner, obviously (I asked his consent before publishing this). It’s a sensitivite subject in general, we all hold very strong feelings on these matters.
So why write about sex at all, if it’s so tough? Because I feel that we need to change the tone in this conversation.
It’s not that we don’t talk about sex. We talk about it, we see it, we are bombarded with messages about sex. But very few of those messages have anything to do with love.
And yes, sex and love are two different things. But if you never talk about them in the same conversation, they start to lead two very separate lives was well. And that’s where the mix-up happens. Because for most of us, sex is part of your love life, and even if it isn’t right now, there is often a desire for a loving relationship with this level of intimacy included in it.
My history with sex is actually quite straightforward, though not a joyful one. As a young girl I’d already learned that the female body is a source of pleasure, mostly for men. Being attractive meant being physically appealing, no matter what you thought or felt. As a young girl, you know by the time you’re 10 what it takes to make yourself look sexy in the eyes of men. No young girl, in my opinion, should know this before she is ready to explore her own body. And even then, it shouldn’t ever be a concern at all.
I also learned at a young age that there is a lot of power in this sexuality. You can use it to manipulate, to influence, to be seen in some way.
As a woman, your body is both a source of pleasure and a source of danger. We know that men are physically stronger, and we’ve learned that our body may give cause to violence. The teasing and flirting I engaged in, was a way to seek out control in this difficult terrain. All of this already happened automatically before I ever realised I was doing it. It took a few therapy sessions to figure those patterns out and see what’s behind them.
I learned these messages and attitudes about sex through the general culture, my peers, mainstream media, and it was also confirmed by the adults in my life, subconsciously I’m sure. There would be remarks by adult men when we were teenagers, or we’d overhear conversations between men talking about women as if they had a right to judge their appearance. Women learn to do this too, of course. We sometimes talk about men in this way as well, though it is definitely not as prevalent. Our images of the ‘perfect man’ have less to do with body and more with attitude, though there are difficulties on that front as well.
So by the time I felt ready for love, sex had already become something on its own that had little to nothing to do with intimacy or love. It was just about pleasure, his more than mine, and my emotions were always very conflicted about it. I hardly knew it could be different, save from the Hollywood highlights of romance which were always fake anyways, right?
Fast forward to today, where I’m again at the (re)start of a relationship and we’ve decided to do this differently this time, slowly and very consciously.
I have the opportunity to re-learn what intimacy means, what touch can do, to explore myself and my partner in a very deliberate and open way, and I am so grateful for this second chance.
We were given an introduction about the Wheel of ConsentTM which has been a really exciting road to explore. If you want to learn more, there is a free set of video’s by Betty Martin on www.bettymartin.org.
Our conversations about sex, love and intimacy need to change. Not only for our sake, but for the sake of the children we’re raising. We want them to be able to express themselves openly, vulnerably and safely. We want them to enjoy all the wonders of love without losing themselves or hurting someone else. I hope I have enough power and wisdom to nuance what my children will pick up online or on the street, so they can enjoy all parts of intimacy when they are ready for it.