Fifty Shades of May
That’s a mighty big elephant in the room.
If you recognize the riff of my title, you already have an idea of what this column is about. If you don’t, I can only assume you soon will. I hemmed and hawed about how to write my column this week in this sort of community forum. I’ve never been known as someone with a great ability for censorship, if I think it, I usually say it. So, if you are easily offended, this is an early warning to click away now. I make no apologies if you continue reading and then decide I am out of bounds.
Americans love lurid. It’s why we watch The Bachelor and Bachelorette and The Real World and all those horrible Real Wives shows (by the by — I don’t know ONE wife like that). It’s why we care about politicans and their tawdry affairs and why we want to see starlets enduring public clothing malfunctions. It’s why the Kardashians are famous. It’s why companies continue to photoshop already beautiful women into unrealistic buxom digital hybrids. Men want them and women want to be them.
We can’t keep our minds out of the bedroom. How else can we explain why North Carolina has joined 30 other states in outlawing gay marriage? It has nothing to do with the sanctity of marriage. If so, we wouldn’t be allowing marriages to end in divorce. Instead, it has everything to do with some people wanting to control behavior between consenting adults. In my humble opinion, it’s really no one’s business. Marriage is so much more complicated than what happens between the sheets.
You should not be shocked that sex is big business and I’m not only talking about the $10 to $14 billion dollars in annual sales of online porn, a statistic cited by New York Times Magazine. I’m talking about how, as a society, with our deep seeded Puritan roots, we have a hard time dealing with our interest in sex. We’re great at regulating how we teach, or refuse to teach, birth control and we’re quick to pass judgment on the lifestyles of others. It’s in movies and video games and on magazine covers. We like to see sexy people and we like to try and look sexy.
You know what we don’t do so well? Talk about it. Actual sex. With frank, honest conversation. Don’t worry I’m not going to do that here today with you. That would be pushing even my own level of comfort.
I think those conversations between husbands and wives, parents and children, girlfriends and boyfriends are what we do very poorly. Relationships are about trust and intimacy and love. Sex is an important part of that puzzle. Children won’t know unless we talk to them. Our partners won’t know unless we open up to them. Albeit, these conversations should be age appropriate.
I remember thinking in college....when I have kids....there would be nothing I would hide from them or lie to them about. Whether is was about their bodies or their feelings. I can’t say that putting that honesty with them into practice has been easy. I often find myself fumbling for just the right way to explain myself in answer to their question. I worry what is the right time to tell them what they need to hear. I worry that I’ve told them too much or too little. But above all else, I worry they will hear something from a stranger before they hear it from me.
Sex is not a dirty word. If we deny that we need it, we deny a part of ourselves. Life is not only about work and parenting and ticking off the events in life as they pass us by. The thing that makes us feel full is our connections with other human beings. And while not all of those connections are sexual in nature, those that are, are strengthened with our willingness to practice true intimacy. And that can’t start if we don’t talk honestly and listen openly to one another.
Being modest or embarrassed is natural. Worshipping false ideas and coddling insecurities benefits no one. Man or woman. Our obsession with sex coupled with our unwillingness to speak frankly opens the door to violence against women, abuse of young children, teen pregnancy and the inability to remain in committed and loving relationships. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise.