October 11, 2011
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).