My Sexual Voice
Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first conference on sexuality since embarking on my blogging adventure. It was called Playground, hosted right at home in Toronto, a three-day learning and sharing experience based on themes surrounding sexuality as a whole, consent, alternative lifestyles like polyamory and kink, sex positivity, community – all things important to me.
The first part of the event I participated in was the opening keynote Friday night, given by sexpert and author Amy Jo Goddard. Her presentation was an abbreviated version of her latest book Woman On Fire, inviting the audience to do some introspective thinking about their sexualities.
During her presentation she asked the audience several questions and asked them to turn to their neighbors to answer them. The first one she asked was “how did you first come into your sexual voice”
Naturally, I had no fucking idea what that meant. I’m the sort of learner who prefers to sit and take notes, hear other people’s opinions, hear the entire presentation, and then take all that home and process it later. I’m the girl awake at 4am staring at the ceiling going “oh….OH! I get it!” These exercises were difficult for me, for that reason and also because I had no warning that I was going to be turning to the strangers around me and talking about my sex. I’m a fairly open person, I’m not at all shy around sex, but I generally prefer at least a little warning, if not the opportunity to talk about sex on my own time, in my own terms, and even sometimes control who my audience is. The questions asked provoked some vulnerability I wasn’t quite dialed in for in that moment.
I turned to my neighbor and, not understanding the question and feeling awkward, said that I don’t think I have a sexual voice. Seriously what the fuck is that? You mean like…the noise I make? My sex doesn’t talk, it doesn’t have a voice. This is weird.
Amy asked the audience to share their answers, and as those began to roll in I only just started having an understanding of what the question even was. People gave answers that pointed to times they felt powerful, validated, safe. People spoke of major life changes and actions of social norm defiance – divorce, going to college, quitting college, marriage, opening their relationships, starting new jobs, moving, coming out, breaking ties with family. My neighbor’s answer was the first time they posted a nude image on the Internet. I got the impression that these examples were people’s first times feeling proud, strong, in control, these were defining ah-ha! moments in their lives, and the steps they took to reach those moments, if those moments were not inherently sexual, were something they would carry into their sex lives to ultimately get the sort of things they want and need, to take charge and be happier. My (quite possibly incorrect) understanding of what your “sexual voice” is, is the place you draw your strength from.
I still can’t think of a specific defining moment for me where I did a thing that changed how my sexuality interacted with my life on a whole, I can’t recall my ah-ha moment, but I do have to imagine I’ve had one.
I believe that a lot of us operate in a way that separates us from our sexualities. We view our sexuality like some clothing accessory that we put on or take off, that we can pack away in a shoebox and store in the back of the closet for the rest of the season. When we talk about who we are – Daughter, sister, wife, friend. Blogger, baker, artist, model, photographer. Loves Pepsi, hedgehogs, rhinestones, crime tv. Hates peanut butter, ice cream, elevator jazz, bad drivers – we leave our sexualities out of the conversation completely, or we add it at the very end, like “oh…yeah…and I have a sexuality” rather than “I am sexual”. My ah-ha moment, my coming into my sexual voice, was whenever it was that I stopped seeing my sexuality like some character trait, and started seeing myself as sexual, started seeing myself as a sexual all-those-things-I-listed. My sexuality is not separate of my self, it is very much intertwined with who and what I am, and I won’t, can’t, treat it like some hat I can take off when I’m indoors. My sexual voice, my place of power, is being unapologetic that I am a sexual being, that my sexuality is tethered to the things I love, the things that make me me. My sexual voice is screaming that my sexuality is valid and important to me.
Now of course this doesn’t mean that when I say I’m a sexual human being who is also a sister, that my sexuality has anything at all to do with my sibling relationship, because it doesn’t, my sexuality is not wildly inappropriate. There are plenty of things in my life that my sexuality does not play a role in, but that doesn’t make me a non-sexual person in those aspects. I see it as more of a dimming of the lights, than a completey ripping the cord out of the wall and smashing the lamp action. I turn it down where appropriate without completely turning off. You know how battery-powered electronics tell you not to let the device run out of battery and sit for too long, or you ultimately kill the battery? They recommend you keep it charged, turn it on every couple of weeks or months even if you’re not going to use it, just to make sure that when you do want it again, it will work. Well, I sort of imagine the same thing with sexuality. If we keep it detached and packed up, away from our selves, we’re letting it’s strength dwindle and die. The sexuality you stored in the back of your sock drawer or up in the attic is starving to reconnect. And you can! If your batteries have died you can replace them, your device can be re-awakened, it can be refurbished, it does not need to be the end. But these things take time and work – things we do not usually have extra of just lying around – and they didn’t need to reach this point, it didn’t have to come to this.
I will not let my sexuality come to that. I will not bow to fear or shame, I will not constantly re-prioritize, constantly knocking my sexuality to the bottom of the importance list. I won’t say I’m sorry that it’s so important to me, my sexuality will not be a burden, a problem, a source of self-doubt or self-hatred. I also won’t be apathetic, when my sexuality is hurting I will nourish it. I won’t try to replace my sexuality with other things. My actual sex life, my sexual self-expression, my academic and social interests involved in sex, these are all things that make me happy, and yes I could do other things that make me happy but there’s nothing wrong with my likes and interests being sex, so I won’t change them for no good fucking reason. Sex is not trivial or frivolous, and neither is my sexuality.
I am a sexual person. My sexuality is important and valid. My sexual voice is constantly asserting these truths into my life and feeling positive about it. We live in a world that is always telling us it’s not the right time, it’s not the right place, there’s more important things to worry about – my sexual voice wants to challenge that.