I felt oddly liberated this weekend. I sat in a room of media personnel and advocates for minority communities such as LGBT people, sex workers and persons infected with HIV and AIDS. What struck me, in addition to the fact that these people were willing to put their faces out there on behalf of these communities, was the openness with which they were willing to discuss sex with relative strangers.
For you to understand why this was so amazing to me, you have to understand where I come from. I grew up in Jamaica, in the Caribbean, where sex is something to be whispered about, and anything other than sex in the missionary position can be looked on by society as being “strange.”
As social activist and former Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Verna St. Rose Greaves says here, there’s still a lot of “hush-hush” when it comes to talking about sex in the Caribbean, and these are conversations that we should be having.
In the last few years, I made the decision not only to be more open about my sexual past, but also to not be ashamed of it. What I have done in my past is in my past and while I might not be entirely proud of it, I refuse to continue to feel guilty and to let anyone else make me feel guilty.
As I read and researched, I realized that I wasn’t alone and that particular way of thinking is known as being sex positive. What is sex-positivity you ask? Here’re some definitions, but for me, it means that I shouldn’t and won’t criticize CONSENTING ADULTS for whatever decisions they make about their sex and sexuality. Now, before someone jumps down my throat, there are things I will still frown upon, specifically promiscuous unprotected sex and abuse (and maybe stuff I haven’t thought about yet).
I’ve found this difficult to do in real life though, because people tend to label you when you start to make certain statements. I’ve had arguments with at least one close friend about my attitude towards sex and how it differs from his and therefore in his eyes I was a lesser person. Other than that, I’ve only been able to have those types of conversations in relatively small, close groups of friends who all felt comfortable enough around each other to open up about these things.
That’s why this weekend was so eye-opening and liberating for me. These were people who I had never or barely met before, who were willing to admit that they had paid for sex, or were sex workers, or were lesbian/gay/bisexual, or had had abortions, or had HIV, to a room of comparative strangers, and be comfortable in the knowledge that nobody was going to judge them for it (or if they did, they’d keep it to themselves). They were also comfortable in themselves.
That’s the kind of mental strength that I wish to have when talking to others about sex and sexuality. Who knows, maybe if everyone had that kind of strength, maybe our society would be a little better off?