Sexuality. It’s a topic many are embarrassed or hesitant to talk about. But why? We all experience similar wants and desires yet for so many years women were taught to suppress these feelings. In some religions, women were even encouraged to remain abstinent until marriage. From what I have learned and experienced, I would suppose that most shy from this conversation in general simply because they don’t know to have it or how to have it.
Consider this: until recently, anything outside of heterosexuality was not viewed as socially acceptable. Those a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) community were scrutinized for their passions and sexual interests. For example, in the early 2000’s, the word “gay” was constantly used as a derogatory term. People would respond to things they negatively associated with by saying “that’s so gay”. It took years for this to even be considered a problem enough to be spoken about. Eventually, this social norm finally began to disappear, but it’s impact had already been made. Why would people want to talk about their sexual orientation or identify with this term after it had been so frequently used as an insult? So we didn’t. Even today, in a society increasingly accepting of others, people still struggle with judgment of their sexual character. It would make sense that we are apprehensive to converse about even the most surface level aspects of sexuality.
Aside from sexual orientation, there is hesitation in speaking about and acknowledging many aspects of sex in general. It’s just not a something we openly or frequently talk about. Yes, some of our experiences should and will be kept private. Others, however, like abuse or erotics, can be spoken about!! Audre Lorde recognizes in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” that, previously, women were to suppress the erotic as it was a sign of inferiority. Instead of viewing it as something subordinating, it can be seen as a source power and strength! Women should be encouraged to explore it in order to better understand themselves!
On another note, by speaking about sexually abusive situations we can learn from each other’s experiences. While discussion on this topic is limited due to fear, discomfort, and a number of other reasons, the messages shared are extremely valuable. We can determine how to respond if put into an uncomfortable situation or how to be proactive in situations where suspicion is detected. Listening to the stories of others and talking about them helps us to understand where to draw the line in what is and is not okay and when to be cautious. The lessons others can teach us seems to be infinite, but to talk about these unpleasant and traumatizing experiences proves to be incredibly difficult.
Conversations concerning sexuality are worth having. They help us to, at the very least, understand and accept each other. I believe we need to be educated from a young age on all of the sexual orientations, and that to identify with any one of them is okay. Many aspects of one’s identity are obvious to the eye, but sexuality can easily be hidden if felt necessary. Your wants and desires should not have to be something you are embarrassed about or something to even consider hiding. The thought shouldn’t have to cross anyone’s mind. To be more accepting of one another, especially when regarding sexuality, is a change taking place in today’s society that needs to be passed on. As Audre Lorde points out in “Age, Race, Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, if we don’t pass on the lessons we have learned from the mistakes we have made, the same mistakes will be made again. Let us be the ones who recognize our differences, and to, as Lorde puts it, “deal effectively with the distortions which have resulted from the ignoring and misnaming of those differences”.