Are we more terrified by our sexuality than ever before? It might sound like a stupid theory considering how omnipresent sex is in our lives but I have the feeling that such a presence just returns us to the old idiom that ‘everything is about sex, except sex itself. Sex is about power’. That power being the ferrule (or the handle) of the umbrella that folds out to represent love, money, trust, welfare, hate, jealousy, frustration, disappointment… oh lordy, so many things. Let’s just settle on the actual act of sex (be it oral, intercourse, anal… alright, this isn’t a sexual education class) being about power. We are smothered in it. Most kids are completely in tune with how sex works a long time in advance of actually experiencing it. School slang, internet sessions, familial relationships directly filling them with knowledge (that sounds incestual) or their ability to be like a sponge for new and exciting information. Most of us know this. If you don’t, your heads in the sand due to your fear of your kid growing up too fast, or you’re probably Amish. No offence to those Amish reading this article, I’m sure you are all very aware of the ins and outs of… well, the whole process of in and out.
The thing is, we’re at a stage where we know that our sexuality is about so much more than sex, and it terrifies many of us. From the mainstream theories that sex was all about partnership, marriage, children, new generations and nuclear families to this stage that we have hit where sexuality is now about taking a stance. Acceptance, denial, approval, morals, tolerance, aggression, violence, the circles we move in. Of course, these have always existed, but they’re now out of the taboo section of the supermarket and into the freezer. At least some of the mainstream has now accepted that we HAVE to talk about these things in order to become a more open and accepting society. To close off these conversations is to leave us looking like ignorant bigots. Some people don’t mind appearing like that as long as their own agendas are fulfilled, but most people are afraid or unwilling to be cast aside as someone who is backward and ignorant. I know I am particularly cynical when it comes to the influence of the Kardashians, but it’s pretty evident that Bruce Jenner’s transformation to that of Caitlyn has opened up a huge can of worms in regard to people’s views and treatment of the dismissed letter of T within the LBGT community. We’ve accelerated from sweeping gays and lesbians under the carpet to tentative resignation to reluctant acceptance to a welcome into open arms onto a completely new frontier. With the wonderful wave of social change comes the frothy aftermath of the vigorous debate on the slippery slope and the residual question of ‘where does it all end?’
It never ends. You don’t just stop at gay marriage and move onto climate change, or immigration or those damn freeloading politicians. Society is always moving. The mainstream media can give off that vibe of being obsessed with closure, and moving onto the next issue because that’s the cycle of a story. With this has developed this ridiculous argument from anyone who is against a particular decision or proposal to bob up and say ‘sure, it’s fine you want to talk about that, but what about the real issues, like the economy and the price of goods… and wine? Yeah, what about wine?’ Australia, the UK, China, Greece, Japan, South Africa, the US, Russia…. Do you think any of these countries are not able to talk about more than one issue at a time? We’re an intelligent race, but sometimes we really like to hide that behind this defensive stubbornness.
Sexuality is a rare issue that both transcends fickle generalisations and stereotypes and monopolises gossip, asides and insinuations. We dissect it as if it is everything while treating it like it is nothing on other occasions. And that is because it is just that. It is such an intricate topic that it consumes us, but in a way we cannot escape, and that in itself is why it is so terrifying for so many people. How can you not be terrified by something that is basically the be-all and end-all of our existence and something that we will never fully understand?
Just on the top of my head I have about 40 questions about sexuality. Are we attracted to a certain type? How straight am I? Is being completely straight a myth? Is it right that society has stunted our own perceived sexuality? Is monogamy healthy? How drastic are the changes of a male’s take on sexuality from the age of 17 to something like 25? Is experimenting the only way we will conquer our fears of the unknown? How come our perceptions of people who have larger numbers of sexual partners are so different to our views of people who seem to endlessly go from long-term partner to long-term partner? It goes on and on and on and on. And this really doesn’t even go near the things I truly don’t understand. The intricacies of the psyche of a person who associates with a particular gender despite being born a different sex, the effect consumerism has had on gender roles, gender stereotypes, gender manipulation, and the influence of domestic violence on the children living under that roof and once more, so on and so forth.
Recently I started to think about my upbringing, in particular my education – and my six years at a Melbourne Private School. Thinking back, my naivety with women and the little I knew, along with the discoveries about sex and women I made in interesting and potentially dangerous ways, is natural but quite startling. We weren’t taught anything substantial because our sex education classes generally broke down into boys trying to outdo each other in their adolescent immaturity, asking questions about *giggles* semen and threesomes and pubic hair and doggy style and all those fun things. Who was to blame with the lack of understanding? The dangerous lack of understanding of women, which has led to a society that ultimately doesn’t understand the intricacies and the minutiae when it comes to the innate differences between a man and a woman is a crucial point that I see in many young men, and it is a genuine problem. Yeah, we all know we have a penis, we have a vagina or we have both, but what else do we need to know? Why does A feel a curiousity to look at his friend, B, in the locker room showers? Is A a homosexual? Is A wrong? Should B be worried? What’s the deal with vaginas? Is pornography good for one’s development or is it doing irreparable harm? Growing up, what are the things we can expect to change? How the fuck am I supposed to deal with all this confusion, all these different answers, all this pressure, all this lust, all this lack of interest, all this discrimination, prejudice, isolation!?!?
These are huge expectations to place on the shoulders of educators, I know, but surely open and honest conversations about how to tackle them are paramount considering the shocking figures of domestic violence, the worrying statistics of youth suicide, particularly in the GLBT community and the complexities of growing up in a community where there is still a lot of shaming, sharing of misinformation and the damaging idea that sees people stick their head in the sand and avoiding confrontation, the politics of indignation, rather than taking a stance that will benefit generations of kids for the time they have to raise a child or children of their own.
‘Am I worth it? Did I put enough work in?’ – Kendrick Lamar, ‘Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst’
The density of human sexuality can lead conversations to the points we all know about, the questions that have a parallel to Harry Potter and Voldemort’s relationship I suppose. ‘Neither can live while the other survives.’ In this case, I am talking about something equally as morbid. Some of us are more aware than others, but we all have dark places within our psyche that scare us. What are we capable of? Why do I have these urges? I don’t want to harbour the point because I am not claiming to be an esteemed academic on this topic, but I think it has to be understood that sexual deviants, paedophiles, rapists, molesters are not monsters. They are human beings, with deeply troubling habits and desires. Are some people predisposed to be attracted to children? These thoughts are hugely challenging and saddening, but once again, our greatest fears are something we have to explore as liberally and as honestly as our greatest desires and wants. To understand our sexuality, we have to peer into the convoluted nature of depravity. I’m already looking to avoid delving into the topic and I haven’t even brushed the surface. The depth of humanity’s depraved nature is something we like to stick away from, or prod around, and for good reason. It is highly disturbing, highly volatile and yes, terrifying. And what direction do we go from here? The forces battle with each other; our attitudes toward women, toward pornography, toward the sexualisation of our children. But is there anyway to halt the progress of technology? Will we lose touch with the original sin? Or was it always just a grand façade that our socialisation taught us to believe in?
How will we ever know if love really exists? Are they real? Or are we just slinking around in the hope that we will find happiness in the arms of another and do the walk of life with a fulfilled smile on our face? True love is a beautiful idea, but I don’t think I’ve ever really been in love. I’ve fallen into lust, been tangled in infatuation, drawn to a malignant desire, seen myself dying from thirst, but love? I don’t know. I want to say I have. But I haven’t. I’ve seen people so comfortable in each other’s company that I’d suggest they are in love, or are they just so well connected that has become just a lovely partnership? I don’t know. I’d go as far as saying that love isn’t about sex. Love is about… intimacy. And a deep connection. But then, can we be in love with more than one person? I love a lot of my friends, but it’s not the same type of intimacy, is it? Well, you never know after a couple of Gin and Tonics and a bit of top tailing. Alright, alright, come on, come on. Moving forward, is loving more than one person or being intimately connected to more than one person still an illustration of love or something different? All I can go on is the feeling of emptiness that society has left me with when I am not cradled by a sense of intimacy that only the company of a woman I desire to be with can fulfil. I’m scared I’m creating my own tragicomedy where it all goes around in circles, as my fear of exploring the depths of the iceberg becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. To enter into this intimate state I realise I have to give up my power to disconnect, just like others have to sacrifice their innocence, their flippancy, their insecurities, their anger, their misconceptions, their ideals, their morals, themselves.
So why is that we see sex and love as something that requires great sacrifice? I’d argue that it has been drummed into us to remain clean, true to our human nature that inevitably ends in a profound love with one other individual – of the opposite sex. And although those walls have been beaten down and removed, there are remnants that remain, perhaps breaking down little by little with each generation that comes and goes. I think our sexuality is a breathtaking aspect of our humanity; one that can genuinely defines us. But we’ve allowed it to be manipulated, squeezed and tortured to the point where we hold grand fears in expressing it. This has created a whole host of widespread issues, that include and certainly are not limited to, body shaming, repression, objectification, desperate unhappiness and loneliness, sham marriages, denial of our own true selves, misogyny, inequality between the sexes, societal pressure to be stereotypically manly, or feminine and a genuine fear of the unknown. All because we are denying ourselves the opportunity to explore the depths of our being. And society is more constricted and regulated by that.
Sex is about so much more than just the physical act. But we’ve come to treat in a way that does it absolutely no justice. We’re guilty and shamed by our actions, and it’s because we’ve been brought up to feel like there is an obligation to treat it as something sacred, and deeply private. I’m not denying that it isn’t both of these things, but also certainly isn’t something that we should feel strong guilt about. I understand that there are monstrous things that men (and women) are capable when it comes to expressing one’s sexuality, but essentially, it is a positive and enriching thing to explore and our society will be much richer for opening our points of communication and our openness to the matter. That doesn’t mean we all have to strip down into our briefs and make music with our bodies. It’s about so much more than that. It’s about embracing our humanity for all it is worth and not being so terrified of the great unknown. There may be some things we love and other things that we just can’t handle. Nonetheless, we will be richer for the journey.