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When I was growing up, sex was not talked about in my house. I discovered how sex worked by accident. My parents had bought a how-your-body-works kind of book that depicted various aspects of bodily functioning as machines. What they didn't realize was that there was a sex page, with a mommy machine and a daddy machine. Probably unsurprisingly, my reaction was ewww, gross!
This was before the days of the internet, but luckily I had a good sex ed teacher in school (it was actually called "family life" at the time), so I got a decent education about sex.
These days I'm pretty comfortable talking about sex. It helps that I'm a nurse, and I've got a good understanding of what goes on down there in both healthy and unhealthy ways. I certainly didn't get that from my family, though.
Even though we live in a hyper-sexualized culture, we still don't talk about the realities of sex very often. Sex as portrayed in movies, and particularly in pornography, often bears limited resemblance to the actual thing, which often has a healthy dose of awkwardness mixed in with pleasure.
We don't talk enough about how it's okay to have a diverse range of fantasies. Just because we fantasize about something doesn't mean that we want to do it in practice. I'm guessing that even the straightest of straight people have the odd same-sex fantasy that they would never admit to anyone. And that's okay–both the fantasizing and the not admitting if that's what works best for them.
Sexuality doesn't come in rigidly defined boxes. It's more of a spectrum, and we all have to find where we feel comfortable. Some people are off the same-sex to opposite-sex continuum entirely, and identify as asexual. Every flavour under the sun amongst consenting adults is valid.
We don't talk enough about the culture of sexual abuse that exists in certain institutions. More has come to light recently in terms of what's happening, such as the abuse in the Catholic church, but none of this is new. This abuse has been swept under the rug time and time again. Those who have been molested by a same-sex abuser face the added worry coming forward that others will assume that they are homosexual, because that's the kind of ignorant attitude that exists in parts of our society.
We don't talk enough about consent. The notion that consent is implied unless someone is screaming no at the top of their lungs is a complete load of crap. Frozen silence does not imply consent. Unconsciousness does not imply consent. That our justice systems seem to have difficulty understanding this is a travesty. We need to have these conversations openly and we need to have them early to get everyone on the same page that no one should ever be expected to prove that they did not give consent. We should never be hearing judges ask a victim why she didn't keep her legs together. We should never be hearing judges give a slap on the wrist to rapists because they don't want to destroy their oh-so-bright future.
We don't talk enough about sexual dysfunction. Sure, everyone knows about Viagra, but how often are people actually talking about their sexual problems? This is particularly a problem for females, who often have a difficult time convincing health care providers that their sexual dysfunction is actually a genuine health issue.
So what do we need to do? We need to stop talking about sex as if it only exists in perfectly choreographed form as seen in movies and porn. We need to not only accept but welcome the range of unique sexual identities people construct for themselves. We need to be willing to talk about how sex gets awkward, and people fart and elbow each other in the face. We need to understand that some people have sexual health problems that make it difficult for them to have the sex life that they desire.
Most importantly, we just need to talk.