The concept of sexual liberation has sprouted an array of subtopics that are a culmination of my work as a sex(uality) educator. There is so much to write on the idea of sexual liberation that I’ve decided to create a series of these topics. The next several blog posts will be dedicated to “Sexual Liberation.” Below, I’ve begun with an overview of my thoughts on the broad subject. The posts to come, will feature subcategories of sexual liberation concepts such as safe space, race play, the politics of sex and fetish co-opting of marginalized cultures.
Thoughts on Sex Lib
I’ve created and facilitated several workshops focused on sexual liberation. Sexual liberation, much like other terms hold different meanings to different people. I’ve focused on liberation as an intentional path in one’s life. I do not frame it as one’s destination. It’s a journey we choose to take, stay on, fall off, re-route and so on. In my opinion, you never get to it–exhale and relax. You never look back and say to yourself, “I finally made it.” If we did, then we would forget how we got there. We would get a little too comfortable. We could no longer be active in the journey because there would be no place to go. My hope for sexual liberation, we’d always be mindful, alert and in motion. We’d be moving towards this place, that’s not a place, but a constant ever shifting realm that holds the entirety of our experiences. Does that make sense?
When I searched for sexual liberation on Google, I found that many results placed the focus on sex. It was about the act of it. It was about the shift of who was doing it, how they were doing it, with whom they were doing it and how much. I guess it makes sense to think squarely about SEX when digesting the idea of sexual liberation. Another search result was Wikipedia’s definition. Wikipedia positions sexual liberation within the experience of the sexual revolution:
The sexual revolution (also known as a time of “sexual liberation”) was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s. Sexual liberation included increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships (primarily marriage). Contraception and the pill, public nudity, the normalization of homosexuality and alternative forms of sexuality, and the legalization of abortion all followed.
What came first, the chicken or the egg; sexual liberation or the revolution? Whether it was the catapult or the product, sexual liberation IS about sex. It’s also about the history of the sexual revolution that helps keep us on the endless path. Sexual liberation is embedded in understanding systems of oppression, the role of power, communication and accountability. It incorporates and goes beyond the physical act of sex. It soars and helps us name our desires. Encourages us to bring it to the forefront, share it, do it and learn from it. Sexual liberation isn’t about careless, crazed, selfish sex addiction. In my minds eye, it’s about honesty, growth, agency and sexual health.
I fear some of us on the journey have claimed a false sense of “arrival.” Much like people who deem themselves anti-racists, “sexually liberated” people have stopped traveling, unpacked their bags and are relaxing in the bliss of so-called liberation. I think lots of us have done it. At one point in my own journey, I thought I had reached my final destination but I was dead wrong. A friend of mine held me accountable to my words and my actions. I was so grateful for that. It reminded me. He reminded me of my continued journey. I hope this will remind some of you.
For some of us, one act propelled us into a sexual freedom we’d only dreamed about. That act might have been, asking for what you want, going to a play party, saying no, touching yourself for the first time, looking at yourself naked, watching porn, having queer sex or coming out as polyamorous. We feel different, happy, invigorated and shall I say, sexually liberated. The sexual freedom and liberation we feel is subjective. It holds different meaning for everyone. Hopefully if we are intentional about being on this journey, we can function within a framework that is universal. This framework can help keep guiding us and remind us that we do not live in a vacuum. We are connected to the wider world. Whether we are speaking of sexual liberation or the revolution, these uprisings initially came about to level the playing fields between men and women. It was a fight to question/shift gender roles and sexual expectations. It was about women having more say over their own bodies. The revolution grew and continues to grow, therefore we must move and grow with it. When we end the journey, several things can occur: we take on false titles as being sexually liberated, we stop or forget about the work ahead of us, we sometimes segregate ourselves in bubbles of comfort and we position ourselves in a place of sexual privilege.
Bubbles of comfort
I absolutely love my bubble! My bubble of comfort consists of queer and trans kinky activists and or artists of color. These are my people. They get me. We understand each other. In my bubble, I don’t have to explain race/ racism or my pronoun. In my bubble, I feel at home. These bubble serve many purposes especially for oppressed and marginalized folks. For example, a bubble of Queer people with disabilities is very different from a bubble of White cis men. One bubble is out of necessity/survival and the other is something else completely. I see my bubble/bubbles of those whom are marginalized, as a very essential function for our mental health. In the same breath, we must be careful not to isolate ourselves. Existing exclusively in our bubbles can limit us. Flowing in and outside our bubbles gives us perspective, allows us to receive ally ship, forces us to challenge ourselves and others. It allows for accountability.
To name ourselves sexually enlightened or liberated gives us the false sense that we can do no wrong within our sexual lives. This is simply not true. I have been on my path for some time now, and I continue to make mistakes. It reminds me that I am human. It pushes me to dig deeper and allows me to go further. I will always have something to learn. Our ideas of sexual liberation could also work to make us seem holier-than-thou in comparison to other groups of people on different points on the path. We also run the risk of having our bubble of comfort, morph from necessity to an exclusionary click. It gives the notion that the supposed further you are on this path, the better, smarter, superior sex and ultimate understanding of sex(ulaity) you have. We then aid in creating yet another hierarchy. Sexual liberation should be spiral, linear or continuous. It should be ever flowing. We should be able to move side to side, up or down. This very idea supports gender transition, coming out as queer or poly, being a switch or the act of pegging. Once upon a time, there lived only one idea of sex/sexuality. Do we want to revert to the one idea or experience the complexities of this continuous revolution? Liberation is messy. It doesn’t fit into a nice simple package. That is the beauty of it.
To reiterate, when we stay exclusively in our bubbles or we claim a sort of sexual enlightenment that sets us apart from everyone else we get stuck. We limit ourselves from the continued growth and the idea of an endless path of knowledge. Staying open to our own sexual realities as well as those outside of it aids to inform us in a micro and macro way. Our paths are our own and simultaneously collective pieces of information we share. This sharing also allows in the minimizing of secluded paths. When we feel we are alone, we feel that no one feels as we do. We see our experience as isolated and thus not a part of the larger world. Understanding our connection to the larger world puts into perspective the idea of liberation as a political concept. For example, the fight for women’s rights, struggle against sodomy laws, abortion issues, the de-sexualization and sterilization of people with disabilities, transgender rights, gay liberation and the fight for comprehensive sex education in this country.
There have been many proposed suggestions for guiding principles in sexual liberation. Even within this framework, the unpacking of these terms are hugely subjective. Some guidelines may be communication, consent, boundary setting, safer sex, non-coerciveness, non-violence and self-love. Once we grasp these things for ourselves they can shift. Our lessons are not rigid. They are shift-able. We have the right to do what is fit for us. Our passage allows us to accept or reject where we stand in this path. We get to question, examine, discuss and hash out what communication is to us. We figure out how to set boundaries. We try to understand what self-love is. What does safer sex look like? How is my definition in comparison to the person/persons I want to engage with? Our work is to explore. No one has one true answer. There are many. Whether we intentionally name our journey sexual liberation or we just start walking, we are all on a path.
Sexual Liberation for all!!!