Attraction, addiction, assault, even appetite – can we address the sexual elephant in the room?
Mature written content warning.
If you take a look at the news over the last few months, some of the biggest headlines are revolving around sexuality in some way, shape or form. I guess that’s true of any point in human history – sex is one of the most central things across any culture, gender, or time period. In Australia at the moment, two of the big issues being thrown around parliamentary discussions and political commentators are the issues of same-sex marriage and also around the curriculum of the Safe Schools program, having a look at whether or not certain sexual material and content is appropriate for minors to be exposed to or discuss. In August last year, the New York Times published a very well known piece on the ISIS theology of rape, renewing focus on the abhorrent treatment of women in certain parts of the world. Further discussion around this has extended to the refugee crisis in Syria, with various outlets discussing whether or not an influx of immigrants has been responsible for increased numbers of assaults in host countries. We also have Cardinal Pell in hot water around his reaction to allegations of child abuse.
It’s clear that sexuality is a multi-faceted topic that never has a small impact on our world.
But in all the commentary, the conjecture, the personal opinion (I guess which I’m about to contribute to myself), I can’t help but feel there are some topics that are being either left out intentionally, or not being acknowledged in the conversations. And sure, we say that we’re ready to have a mature conversation about it. But I think if you’re really ready, then we should be willing to address the sexual elephant in the room.
Can we go there?
Can we have an honest look at what is feeding, sourcing, directing and driving our sexual appetite?
I feel like the topic of experimentation is never really brought up in “serious” conversations about sex, nor is its impact really acknowledged when it comes to conversation about sexual appetite, preference, fetishes, assault – any of the high impact issues around the place.
Where did you get your sexual identity from? What framed what is and isn’t taboo for you in that area?
We try to point to genealogy. We’ll point to thought patterns being wrong. We’ll point to twisted ideologies and a poor value system when it comes to men and women.
But maybe instead I think we should point to the pubescent and college years. Maybe we should talk about that night at the party where they got everyone to try something a little different. That day when your friend thought something would be cool to give a go. Trying out that embarrassing position your boyfriend thought might be a bit of fun. Adding an extra person because someone said it would be interesting.
Doing a bit of reading along these lines with this in mind, it was amazing to find how many different outlets encourage people to find their sexual identity (the links just to name a few). The research-oriented articles around this behaviour are usually more focused on the line between sexual experimentation and sexual abuse. I’m sure you can find plenty more, and I’m sure you’re like me in that you’ve had multiple people throughout your life make suggestions or encourage exploratory behaviour in discovering your sexuality.
I think the thing that’s being ignored here is that you’re probably actually framing your sexual identity by doing this, rather than discovering it. Fast forward a few years your wife has to compete with this crazy thing you tried out in high school with an ex that makes her feel degraded or like she can’t make you happy. Or he needs an extra person in the room to help you get off. Or you’ve developed habits and expectations that you’re not willing to acknowledge where they came from. And the unfortunate extremes of these cases are people who can’t get a fix without using a child or habitually taking what they want without the other person’s consent. It all started somewhere.
If we’re going to be honest about it, it really all starts with the first time. And once you get a taste for it, you continue to feed yourself.
Speaking of taste…
I was talking with a few friends a while ago and one of them was joking about some sexual encounter, where she started exclaiming “Draw me like one of your French girls”. I said that I didn’t know she was French, to which she replied, “No, it’s from Titanic, where he draws her naked”. I haven’t actually seen Titanic, but isn’t it interesting that what we see and listen to really does feed our sexual expectations and appetites. If she hadn’t have seen that movie, would she have known that’s even a thing?
Drawing someone naked is a relatively tame example in the context of sexuality, granted, but what about the other shows or material that you’re watching that’s feeding your sexual appetite in more sinister ways? Why was your wife surprised at the new trick you showed off in the bedroom last night? Probably because she doesn’t realize where you got it from. It wasn’t with her, was it? Your boyfriend doesn’t understand why you want him to stroke you like that, but you know it’s because it looked really pleasurable on that TV show.
Where they have multiple takes. Where the scene is designed around you getting off. Where you have your hands down your pants touching yourself while you absorb these images of people and situations, releasing oxytocin into your body, solidifying neural pathways around enjoyment and these scenarios. Where you won’t accept a man or a woman unless they meet the sexual criteria you stole from a magazine or the last HBO special.
You don’t even have to look too far to see the correlation between consumption and action. Look at our old friend 50 Shades of Grey (which I wrote about here). Upon its release, it had all sorts of social impacts. It’s kinda funny hearing about the increased number of people stuck in handcuffs until the fire department came, but this only serves to solidify what all of us know to be true – we are framed by what we watch and do.
Hey, this even just screws us up at a level even before sexuality. Even in forming relationships with the opposite sex, or during dating, or when it comes to applying our expectations to others. How can a real man, or a real woman, hope to expect to compete with the images that fuel your sexual fantasy? “Oh it’s important to be sexually attracted to the person”. Yeah, but what are you sexually attracted to? And why? It’s like saying that someone who eats KFC every day can’t help themselves because they can only eat KFC. But that’s because all they feed themselves in KFC.
I hope you see what I’m trying to get at here.
I think the sexual elephant in the room is the source of our sexual expectations, fantasies and desires. The actions and orgasms that have framed what a beautiful woman or an attractive man really is. The patterns that have framed sexuality that we have naively said have “helped us discover it”.
The truth is that we are what we meditate on. The images and thought patterns we repeat become who we are and what frames what we perceive we need.
Scripture highlights to us that whoever uses sex incorrectly damages their own body. Our actions are tainting what can be beautiful and healthy. The marriage bed isn’t a pure place when it has to compete with what happened in college or that movie you watched.
What’s feeding your sexual appetite?
In these major sexual crises that face our world today, I wonder what it was that fed the sexual appetite of the people involved? Ted Bundy, notorious rapist, famously blamed pornography for the initial spark in his horrible and destructive actions. I wonder if our progressive society is brave enough to take a similar stand – to face the sexual elephant in the room, and actually talk about where the desires first started.
How about you? What are your thoughts on sexual appetite? Do you think experimentation and experience play a part? Or not at all?