So I’m at a party and a stranger asks what I do.  When I tell them I’m a sex columnist, they laugh and joke that they should send me a letter.  “I’m not that sort of columnist,” I say.

Their brow creases.  “Well then, what do you write about?”

When I tell them sexual politics, they often look twice as confused.  “What’s that?” they ask, or else they shrug and say, “Isn’t that quite a limited topic?”

It isn’t their fault that they aren’t aware.  In most communities, sex is so taboo that people just don’t register the sexual side of political issues.  They know Michele Bachmann’s anti-gay stance is destructive, but they don’t particularly consider it a sexual topic.  Neither do they think that the Miss Universe contest, or Anders Beiring Breivik’s sexist manifesto, impinge on people’s sexual lives. That’s not to say they don’t care, because often they really do.  But the word “sex” doesn’t enter their minds.  Brothel closures, sex workers’ rights, condoms in porn, gay suicide…once I mention these topics, a light goes on and they’re with me.  But the fact that we’re not encouraged to view these issues as sexually political speaks to the effect that sexual silencing can have.  (In fact, in a recent column, I wrote about Michele Bachmann and the damaging power that her silence can wield).

The truth is, when we don’t talk about a powerful human issue, suddenly it’s everywhere — the elephant in the room.  That elephant can be so darn hard to ignore that we have to play psychological tricks with ourselves to keep it invisible.  Our unconscious gets used to automatically suppressing the sexual so that our conscious minds stop making the connection.  This could be viewed as an adaptive quality.  (You should see how often people glare at me because I even mention sex).  But I believe we need to start reversing this process, especially since so many are missing the lies we’re being told about sexuality.

Seeing as you are reading this post, I’m confident that your eyes are open to sexual issues.  So I thought you might be especially stirred by a list I created in order to answer the question, “What is Sexual Politics?”  I’ve entitled the list, “What Sexual Politics Is,” and it contains some (but by no means all) of the political issues that fire me up, right now:

Sexual Politics is:

When you work in a brothel where your clients dodge payment, until the brothel building is deemed structurally unsafe, and, much to the delight of the neighbors, is eventually closed down.  The fact that you were working in dangerous conditions isn’t mentioned by the local press. (And will you get arrested?  And Jesus, where will you sleep tonight?).

When five year-old children in Amsterdam ask their teacher “What is sex?” and he tells them it is a loving act, and none of the parents prosecute.

When your teenage son commits suicide because he was bullied for being gay, and then, after his death, the bullies continue to chant “We’re glad you’re dead,” when a grieving family member is near.

Sexual politics is a  vibrator that’s illegal, even when it’s shaped like a rubber duck.  It’s when queer sex and queer love are looked on as sinful.  It’s when you want to marry your lover, but aren’t allowed.

It’s when a porn movie, with consenting actors, is more shocking to many than the war scenes on the news.

It’s the boy who says no to condoms.  It’s the girl who says no to pleasure.  It’s the kid who feels neither female nor male, but is told that isn’t good enough, and wants hir life to end.  (If this is you, dear one, please look to Kate Bornstein who is amazing).

It’s the man who spends time with a sex worker and suddenly feels embraced and at peace, even though, technically, he’s just made himself a criminal.

It’s a world that doesn’t understand when a trans woman is having sex with a male partner and they identify as gay.  Or a world in which people who are attracted to both men and women are told that they aren’t real unless they choose.

It is a woman who has experienced deep trauma and decides to bravely enact a rape fantasy to deal with her pain.  Then, after this role-play with a trusted partner, she feels significantly healed, but is described by so-called “feminists” as as victimizing herself.

It’s a Facebook wall of rape jokes by men who, apparently, are making jovial confessions online, yet Facebook refuses to remove the conversation.

It’s when the word “cunt” is considered more offensive than “cock,” or when you’re in love with more than one person, yet society tells you you’re not.

(And that’s just the start of it).

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was in the UK last week, a waiter in Betty’s Tea Rooms said their little iced cakes, which picture William and Kate, have been selling in vast quantities. Well who wouldn’t devour the fairy tale dream of a prince and princess who live happily ever after? But as many Brits pour an extra cup of Typhoo while cooing at the bridal gown, the rest of us are down the pub with a nudge and a wink. Because we know the wedding night is seldom as white as the dress and that happily-ever-after is a pretty big ask – especially if you’re a royal.

How negative I am!

But seriously, consider: It seems to me that, in many ways, the English wedding ceremony was created to permit hanky-panky, thereby encouraging the birth of kids who would soon be baptized. On the wedding day, the bride’s white dress was the color of virginity and her veil represented her sealed hymen. (In fact, the hymen is often misunderstood – there’s no layer of skin that seals a woman’s vagina like cling film, just a corona or fringe of tissue that can sometimes tear). Yup, when the groom tenderly lifts the veil from his new wife’s face, though he may not be thinking about screwing, he still symbolizes it. Indeed, at an Elizabethan ceremony, the wedding night was on everyone’s minds – for example, if a new husband didn’t wave his blood-stained sheets out of the window next morning as proof that his new wife was a virgin, the town grew suspicious. Back then your wife was your property. What if she wasn’t “fresh produce,” hmm? Irony aside, Elizabethan women were at it left right and centre – and besides, not everyone bleeds when they first have sex – so in true porn-flick fashion, the faking of fluids ensued and the sheets were indeed bloodied. Bravo.

Let’s face it weddings can be pretty extreme affairs, especially where sex and flirtation are concerned. Carl Jung was one of the first to teach us that whatever we try to repress will only appear more strongly. Deny sex enough and you’ll suddenly find it’s everywhere. Lust, it would seem, is hard to bin. At some weddings the purity myth is so intense that everyone’s at it like bunnies – after all, what’s more exciting than breaking the rules? Yet society continues to thirst for the Disney fairy tale in which prince and princess are starry-eyed perfection. Castles in the sky apparently lack bedrooms, and if you know Sleeping Beauty was a minx in the sack, chances are you’ve been reading the Anne Rice version.

But unrealistic as a fairy-tale wedding might seem, we should all own the right to have one. Sadly this isn’t the case. If you fall in love with a same-sex partner in America, the castle doors often slam shut, depending on which state you’re in. Even in Britain, where gay marriage is legal, I can only imagine the hubbub if Prince William had wanted to marry a guy. “Aw,” folks croon, “but the royal family’s so lovely!” And yet, if you’re coming out as a gay prince I doubt it’s a barrel of laughs. See, the problem is that fairy tale castles arise from Victorian tales that are entirely hetero-centric, and if you think that doesn’t impinge on the heterosexual reader, think again. A society where one kind of love or way of being is held above another is a dangerous place. Last month, a transgender woman named Chrissy Polis was beaten by her coworkers while an eyewitness recorded the brutal event and posted it on the internet. Why did they attack her? Because their erroneous notion of gender as a binary construct was shattering in front of their eyes. In 2010 we saw many queer teenagers taking their lives because they couldn’t see a way to be both living and happy. Did anyone ever tell them a gay fairy tale? I hope so, but somehow I doubt it.

Of course, such fairy tales do exist, often in the form of children’s books. And Tango Makes Three (by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell) for instance, is a gay fairy tale based on the true story of two gay, male penguins who cared for an orphaned egg and ended up raising their adopted chick together as fathers. Many homophobic parents flare up when kids have been taught such a tale in school – in fact, the book hit a record number of ban requests in 2006-7. But where there are stories, there’s hope. And hope is good.

What’s more, I’ll fight for it.

So when people say weddings have nothing to do with sex, I’ll continue to ask them why they think gay marriage is often forbidden, and when they tell me there’s no harm in traditional wedded bliss, I’ll agree, but only to a point. While the royal wedding certainly gives us a chance to feel proud, until marriage is an option for everyone – not just legally but socially too – such ceremonies will always be bittersweet, even when the couple seem as deeply in love as William and Kate. That’s why we must continue to harness the power of story by sharing tales of gay romances, weddings and lovemaking. Because happy endings shouldn’t be dependent on sexuality or gender. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m all about the love.

Photo on “Sex” main page – John Pannell