Photo: Maylyne Togafau
A friend of mine was reading my last blog and he said that I should elaborate on the concept that I was speaking on when I mentioned "I used to think that I would never be able to have sex without a condom. Imagine going through your adolescent years thinking that if you had intercourse with someone or received oral sex without protection that you would pass the virus." I spoke about never really being able to experience sexual freedom, and about not being able to love without fear.
I have always thought that most people who grew up negative probably didn’t worry about not being able to be sexually free as much as I did. I imagined that most people knew what it was like to have sex without a condom, and didn’t worry about it as much as I did. And that especially with straight guys, if they were concerned about wearing condoms it was more so because they didn’t want to get a girl pregnant, as opposed to catching an STI. But hey, I might be wrong.
My friend advised me that growing up identifying as a gay Hispanic male, he could relate to what I was speaking about but in the reverse. He stated that he has always felt the sense that he could never have sex without a condom as well, because he was too afraid to become another statistic. It was interesting to hear his perspective, and I could totally understand for him how he would be afraid to be SEXUALLY FREE because the HIV pandemic hit the gay, men who have sex with men (MSM) community hard.
So let me explain what I mean by SEXUALLY FREE.
Sexual freedom is the idea of sexual expression being free from arbitrary shackles prescribed by tradition – and sometimes even by law. Sexual expression that is often shunned and ruled against includes celibacy, non-marital sex, LGBTQ sex, and open discussion about safe sex or how to go about having sex in a world where there are people living with STI’s.
Sexual freedom is the license to lawfully live with and love whom you want, when you want, and how you want without social, political, medical or cultural persecution. Sexual freedom flows from the belief that human sexuality cannot be prescribed or legislated, and is a natural, fundamental and precious aspect of life. Too often suppressed under the weight of societal norms, sexual freedom deserves attention and validation. When we embrace sexual freedom, we embrace human rights as a whole. Only then can we truly acknowledge, protect, and celebrate the unique individuality of every being.
With that being said, not everyone is able to experience sexual freedom, and that usually (in my opinion) leads to people rebelling against societal norms in regards to sexual expression and acting out in ways that may not be particularly safe.
Hetero Sexual Women, if they were extremely sheltered as kids, sometimes you may hear of them experiencing this sort of whiplash effect. As soon as they graduate/are out of their parent’s home and they experience a taste of freedom, they may go through this sort of wild experimenting stage. Which if naïve, or without the proper health education, can lead to the woman being put in vulnerable situations where they don’t have control over their sexual health.
A lot of the time with LGBTQ individuals growing up they receive messages that who they are, and who they love is not right/not accepted. This leads to them suppressing their true feelings and having to hide who they are. Often times LGBTQ individuals run away or experience being kicked out of their homes once they are outed or once they come out. This can also lead to that sort of wild experimenting stage that I was speaking of, and can lead to them being put in vulnerable situations where they lose control of their sexual health because of their need to survive.
And these are just a few examples, not mentioning the role that trauma or mental health issues play on our ability to make informed decisions about our sexual well-being. And if we add drugs and alcohol to these scenarios this takes things to a completely different level.
The point I am trying to make is that in my opinion the restrictions that society puts on sexual expression is where the problem lies. Starting from the very old school idea of adultery, which states that sex should not be performed before marriage. Who made that crazy rule, and why? Historically, or should I say traditionally, sex has been prescribed to us (in the home, in school, through the media, through public health messages, and etc.) in a very negative way. Sex negativity is the idea that sex is sinful, bad, dangerous, dirty, and shameful. That sex can only be redeemed by procreation, marriage, and/or love. It’s very judgmental and has negative effects on sexual health. It makes us question our normality. It fosters secrecy, shame, and silence. It hinders exploration. It creates a barrier in client/provider communication, because people are afraid to be honest about their sexual behaviors.
Sex Positivity is the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous, and seeks to repress and control libido. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.
The sex-positive movement does not, in general, make moral or ethical distinctions between heterosexual or homosexual sex, and masturbation, regarding these choices as matters of personal preference. Other sex-positive positions include acceptance of BDSM and polyamory, as well as asexuality. The sex-positive movement is also concerned with the teaching of comprehensive and accurate sex education in schools.
Several definitions of sex-positivity have been offered by sexologist Carol Queen:
"Sex-positive, a term that's coming into cultural awareness – it's a simple yet radical affirmation that we each grow our own passions on a different medium, that instead of having two or three or even half a dozen sexual orientations, we should be thinking in terms of millions. Sex-positive respects each of our unique sexual profiles, even as we acknowledge that some of us have been damaged by a culture that tries to eradicate sexual difference and possibility."
Interestingly enough, my very UNIQUE experience has created this sort of healthy balance. And I believe that if everyone had to go about dating and having sex in the manner that I have been forced to growing up that the transmission of HIV and other STIs would dramatically decline.
Although I have definitely experienced an extreme case of sexual restriction and FEAR to love, the fact that I was connected to healthcare at a young age helped me to be more aware of how to take care of my SEXUAL HEALTH. Even as I went through my little rebellious and experimenting adolescent stage the fact that I was conditioned to having to go get tested on an every six month basis, and had to encourage all my partners to go get tested, as well, forced me to be much more aware of the status of all my partners. The fact that I was exposed to a variety of information about treatment for HIV and STIs early in life, and that I knew how treatment for HIV and other STIs worked gave me a greater understanding on how to navigate hooking up and having sex in our society where STIs are very prevalent.
The fact that I have had to be very careful not to put myself in situations where sexual acts could occur before I was ready to or able to disclose has made me realize how difficult that can be when taking into consideration different circumstances. I have definitely not been perfect with this situation, and I can imagine how hard it could be for others as well. So I understand that unless I physically go get tested with anybody I want to hook up with beforehand, then I don’t really know for a fact what their status is. And I understand that they possibly may not know their status as well, or considering the circumstances may not be in the right mind to or ready to disclose. So I cannot be upset or blame anyone else but myself for foregoing that initial step, and taking that risk anyways. I know better. It has made me realize that we live in a hook up society, most of the time hooking up comes first, and getting to know one another comes second. And last but not least the fact that I have had to deal with people who were afraid to have sex with me without using protection has prompted me to be creative and explore my kinkier side in order to still make sex pleasurable, fun, and safe ;)
Photo: Maylyne Togafau