We will all be living in the dark shadows until we can talk about sex openly and authentically –here’s why…
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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
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Want to know how to mess people up big time? It’s easy. Just constantly remind them of their second most powerful innate drive and then make it socially unacceptable to even discuss it. This cultural neurosis breeds a dangerous repression that leads to sexual violence, exploitation, self-destructive behavior and laughable heights of hypocrisy. We can give most of the religions of the world a collective “Thank you!” for this state of affairs. However, things are changing. Just as we are witnessing an unprecedented global push-back on the political status quo of elites dictating what is best for us, there is another revolution taking hold as well. And this one is about bringing human sexuality into the light of day as a perfectly normal and healthy topic of discussion. One that every single person on this planet needs to be part of…
“He’s Actually Going to Talk About THAT?!”
My career, actually more of a mission, is about helping adults deeply understand, appreciate and enjoy the beautiful, transformative power of human sexuality and intimacy. Cancer survivors and their partners are my favorite groups I speak to. These folks in particular often struggle with cancer’s impact to their intimacy. I know this directly having two ongoing forms of cancer and being clinically impotent as a result of my treatments. Yet despite those challenges my partner and I consistently experience levels of sexual fulfillment and intimacy that most couples can barely even imagine.
A few weeks ago my partner and I spoke at the Desert Cities Gilda’s Club (a non-profit cancer support organization formed in honor of Gilda Radner who died of ovarian cancer). The title of our talk was: “Return to Intimacy for Cancer Survivors and Their Partners”. Sounds innocent and appropriate enough, doesn’t it? Yet, the organizer shared how one woman saw their flyer announcing our talk and her only comment was: “He’s actually going to talk about that?”. This same organizer also happens to be a licensed marriage and family counselor. She told me how even couples in their early 30’s have great difficulty discussing sex with each other. That burst my bubble thinking only people in my generation were uptight talking about sex.
After our presentation, one of the attendees shared how she and her husband were in another group of 250 cancer survivors and partners where the big elephant in the room was, well… sex. She said everyone one wanted to know about it in light of their cancer but they were afraid to bring it up.
I am currently booked to give this same talk to various Cancer Support Communities and Gilda’s Clubs all around the country. However, we have learned the hard way that more people will show up if we change the title to: “Turning Tragedy Into Triumph”. Everyone loves to hear an inspirational story of how to turn challenges into something positive. Well, they do hear that. However, it is still about transforming the challenges of cancer and its treatment into an opportunity to experience extraordinary intimacy. In other words, it’s the same talk, just a different wrapper. The irony is that *everyone* wants to hear about improving their intimacy, they just feel terribly uncomfortable about expressing that desire in public. How sad and so unnecessary.
Something is not right with this picture.
The porn industry is one of the most lucrative and certainly resilient industries that is designed to make anything sexually related easy to hide one’s interest. God forbid (at least in a few states) that we have authentic conversations about it in educational institutions, within our family, or with our partner –why is that?
Beyond Sex Ed
I’m seeing signs everywhere that this is changing and with growing momentum. Just from my personal experience I have noticed that Millennials seem to be much more at ease talking about sex and intimacy. I was recently interviewed by Lessa Lamb, a 20-something sex and communications coach who is dedicated to spreading wisdom about human sexuality to all who will listen. And, one who admits to having frank discussions about sex with her parents and “Knows about everything they do in their bedroom.” That certainly is a big shift from when I was her age.
It is even showing up in technology. Recently a company called OMGYes launched their website which is dedicated to unraveling the mystery and beauty of female sexual anatomy and pleasure. This is a Silicon Valley venture started by engineers (I *know* what you are thinking…) and business people for the purpose of removing the stigma and ignorance surrounding female sexuality.
Perhaps the main problem surrounding any conversation around sex, sexuality and intimacy is separating the notions of overt sexual gratification verses understanding and exploring sex and intimacy as gateways to self-actualization and transcendence. The former still has connotations of sleaze which often unfortunately spills over onto the latter. I also believe the sleaze factor is still prevalent primarily because we don’t have a culture where frank and honest conversation about sex and intimacy is common place. The more something is suppressed, the more likely it is to pop up in ways that are distorted and reviled.
The Second Revolution
Think back just 12 months ago –who would have thought that we would ever have the revolution of political thought we are experiencing today? Things are changing quickly. This includes our tolerance and even insistence of being open and authentic about one of the most important aspects of being human. And just like the emergence of our political revolution, this one must happen at the grass-roots level as well.
As more individuals of all walks of life have the courage to be open to real discussion about sex and intimacy, the more the repressive cultural forces against doing so will become impotent. And that is a revolution we should all be part of –for our sake and that of future generations.