I’m going to be on the radio with Shanna Katz on Thursday. What do you want us to talk about?
I’m going to be on the radio with Shanna Katz on Thursday. What do you want us to talk about?
To the right is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you can’t clearly see it click here for the picture as it appears on Wikipedia. For those unfamiliar with this pyramid, the basic premise is that we as humans and social beings have certain needs, but those needs are determined by the needs that are already being filled or not being filled. In other words, if you cannot get your needs filled in one level, the needs in the level above it are not even on your radar, but all of the levels are necessary in order to achieve a rich full life. There are definitely some important criticisms of the pyramid like the fact that this is a very western way of viewing society, life, and happiness. However, I do think it still makes some important points. If your very basic needs are not being met (food, water, shelter, etc) how can you possibly be worried about the need for dignity and achievement?
But you know what strikes me most about this pyramid? We reliably teach our children everything on that pyramid except for sex and sexual intimacy which are at levels one and levels three respectively. Or at least we try to teach them all of those other things. As a kid I attended self confidence workshops, learned problem solving and critical thinking starting as young as 10, learned the importance of friendship in kindergarten, and was potty trained at some point before I even started forming memories.
With few exceptions, people seem to want to teach their kids everything to fill the hierarchy of needs. Why is it that we leave a huge blank spot on sex and sexual intimacy?
Now, I was lucky, don’t get me wrong. I was one of the exceptions because I grew up in a sex positive household … or I should say that I half grew up in a sex positive household. I am the child of divorced parents who had joint custody of me until I was 15. I went between the two houses every couple of weeks. The two houses that thought very differently about sex.
For two weeks at my mother’s house I could ask whatever questions I wanted. I knew where babies came from when I was 5. My mother yelled at me to go rub one off when I was 9 and in a particularly pissy mood. When I got older and had questions that were too uncomfortable to ask her, she started hiding sex ed books in the bookcase for me to find. I still own the first edition to the Guide to Getting it On. At 14 my mother started putting condoms in my bathroom just in case. I wasn’t having sex yet, but she wanted me to be prepared if I was. By the time I was 16 I was having both boys and girls sleep over and my mother knew I was bisexual and knew we were fooling around. The first time I heard my mother have sex I was 8. I continued to see evidence of her sex life the entire time that I lived with her and while it wasn’t always a comfortable thing to see, it was evidence that sex and sexuality was a normal part of life.
For two weeks at my father’s house, sex was not a topic of conversation. If I even brought it up it was usually brushed off rather quickly and I was told to wait to have sex until I was in college. He slept in a separate bed from his live-in-girlfriend on a different floor of the house. But at the same time my father ogled every sexy woman on TV and hid pornography in the house.
So I learned about sexuality in two different households that were very opposed, which was pretty much how it went for every rule and moral I ever learned. I was left to figure it out for myself, which sometimes led to a serious lack of morals in certain cases.
I also did have sex education in school. It wasn’t much although the clitoris was listed on the diagrams of female genitalia. They sort of taught about it and it wasn’t until I was out of high school that I realized how rare that was. I went to college late and got to hear all the horror stories of people who went through abstinence only education in the Bush years. Comparing girls who had sex with dirty tape, sucked on lollypops, roses with no more petals.
I was one of the lucky ones. It’s funny to say that considering the fact that I’ve been pregnant twice and have had 3 STIs. I learned all the technical stuff. I knew about condoms and birth control. I even learned how to negotiate such things from attending PRIDE youth groups starting at age 15. But what I didn’t learn was the emotional side of sex. I didn’t learn about intimacy. I didn’t learn about all of the other stuff that goes along with sex and how that could effect me. This is something I’m still working on to this day.
But you know what? It’s a lot like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I’m lucky, I learned about sex which is at the 1st level, the most crucial level. But I’m still trying to figure out sexual intimacy. Others are still at level one. In my line of work I meet a lot of people who experience sexual problems. I’ve met women who have never had orgasms. I met one woman who was 28 and didn’t know where her clitoris was. I’ve met women who think that they urinate out of their vaginas. I’ve met men who think that their penis is supposed to bring absolute pleasure and they are confused and depressed when it does not. A lot of these people are struggling with level one because they received even less of an education than I did. They learned all the names of the bones of the body, but no one bothered to teach them the proper names for the body parts that create pleasure.
Sex is one of the most important things we do in life. It is one of our biggest driving forces. The drive to procreate, the drive to feel close to someone, the drive to feel pleasure, the drive to feel accepted, the drive to feel secure, the drive to feel attractive, the drive to ignore all other things in life. Sex is a number one level need and yet we don’t talk about it. We don’t teach about it. Can you imagine if we did the same thing for any other level one need? If we didn’t teach about sleeping or breathing or eating?
That’s why we need comprehensive sex ed and that is why it is so important to have sites like Scarleteen. That is why it is so important for folks to donate to Scarleteen because it is one of the very few resources out there for youngins who are trying to navigate their sexuality. And it is so important to donate because Scarleteen will not survive without your donations.
Today is National Coming Out Day. I think that coming out is a concept that a lot of people really don’t seem to understand. Or at least people who don’t have anything to come out about don’t understand.
In general people who vary from the norm have to come out because everyone is assumed to be the norm unless otherwise specified. Heterosexuals, cis-gendered, and vanilla people rarely have to come out if ever. The exceptions being for those who may not fit perfectly into the gender that society expects them to have. Men who are “not masculine enough” or women who are “too masculine” sometimes have to come out as heterosexual, or at least spend time having to try to convince the rest of the world that they’re not queer.
But see here’s the thing that a lot of people really don’t understand. Coming out isn’t something you do just once or twice. Coming out is something you do for your entire life. Every time you meet someone you have to decide whether or not that person should know that you are who you are. It’s often a weighing of pros and cons. What kind of reaction do I think this person will have? Does my taxi driver need to know I’m queer? Does my dentist need to know? Does the woman sitting next to me on the airplane need to know that I work in the adult industry? If I don’t tell people am I hiding or am I just avoiding a possibly awkward situation with someone that I don’t know or care about? Or maybe today I’m just too worn out from explaining my identity and my life to everyone. Today I just don’t feel like having to be the one who explains what queer means, why I call my partner my wife even though we’re not legally married, or how important my job is to me and how I feel like I’m changing the world even if you think what I do is reprehensible. Sometimes I’m just not up for it. It drains you.
It’s a process. At this point I’m pretty open with everyone in my life about my relationship and my sexuality. However, I often let strangers assume whatever they want to unless I feel like they won’t give me shit or I feel like talking a whole lot that day. And, I’m not too open about what I do for work. I’m getting better now that I’m on the west coast. More people seem to be okay with it. But it’s just another thing I do that people frown upon and don’t understand.
So, while it is important for people to come out because it sucks to constantly lie about who you are and it’s important for others to know someone who is LGBTQIA or a sex worker, it’s also important to take care of yourself. It’s important to protect yourself in times of danger and to live your life instead of having to explain it all the time to everyone.
I look forward to a day when nothing is assumed and either everyone comes out or no one does. We just live our lives without having to explain.
I often say that I’m easily star struck, but that’s not entirely true. It’s not about whether or not someone is a star. It’s more about whether or not I want the person to like me. This extends to people who are stars as well as those who aren’t. I get really nervous around my wife’s parents for example because it would be truly unfortunate if they did not like me.
The problem is that I get really shy and have a difficult time forming thoughts and words. As my wife pointed out, I can talk to a room full of strangers about giving blowjobs, but I become a blushing mess when confronted with porn stars that most people don’t even know.
I’m currently feeling ridiculously anxious. I’m feeling about as nervous as I did in high school when I looked up to and so desperately wanted to be friends with this beautiful group of girls (and a couple guys) who were ravers, punks, and general outcasts. I’ve grown up now and San Francisco has become my high school and the cool outcast girls have turned into the sex educators and sex workers that I so admire.
I chat with them little bits at a time and hope that they remember my face, my name, my website, something. But I have to wonder if they draw any connections between the times that they interact with me. Is that time we chatted on twitter connected to the time you featured me in a post or the time I interviewed you or the time you thanked me for something I said or did? Or am I just another one of the thousands of people who fawn over you all the time? Am I noticed?
A sex educator friend of mine recently assured me that I am; that I even have somewhat of a reputation. And I should listen to that especially when people I meet connect the dots and realize that I’m *that* Garnet Joyce – are there others?
I could talk about these topics ad nauseam, but instead I will focus on one major point. That is I believe that one of the fundamental human rights to sexual freedom includes quality comprehensive sex education.
We have a right to learn accurate, useful information about our bodies, our sexuality, the sexualities of others, how to protect ourselves, and how to give and receive pleasure. So many people do not even have the basic tools to navigate their own sexuality let alone someone else’s.
I’ve met women who don’t know where their clits are or who think they pee out of their vagina. There are so many women who have not yet achieved orgasm and so many men who feel it is their sole responsibility to give women orgasms with their dicks. And way too many people who think that the only way sex can happen is if a penis enters a vagina or maybe an ass.
I want to see abstinence only education stop being funded. It is a heterosexist, slut-shaming, untruthful “education.” It is time that the US recognized the fact that people are sexual beings and that sexuality can be a very healthy thing if treated as such. Repressing people and teaching them lies does not keep teens or adults from having sex; it makes them unprepared for when they start.
What does sexual freedom mean to you?
Want to support the Woodhull Freedom Foundation? Buy a calendar.
Wow, so apparently I’ve been neglecting my blog. That’s sad. I try hard and do so well for awhile, posting regularly – usually several times per week. But life ebbs and flows and so does blog writing.
I find it especially difficult to keep up with the blog when there are lots of new things going on in my life. It takes awhile to recapture the balance of it all. Working for MyPleasure, writing for MySexProfessor and PopMyCherryReview, moving and settling into my new home in the Bay Area, and soon writing even more. It can be difficult to constantly come up with original content especially when you never intended to be a writer. Life is kind of funny like that. Speaking of writing, did you see that one of my posts from MySexProfessor was featured on Jezebel? That was pretty exciting.
There’s lots of fun things coming up and I have yet to decide whether or not I will write about them – I guess we shall see after they happen. First, I will be attending two days of IXFF: I will be at Lesbo Retro on the 22nd and the Competition and after party (and maybe pre-party) on the 23rd. If you see me say hi. I’m especially excited about this because Coyote Days, producer at Good Releasing, will be there and she said she’s excited to meet me. The goal of having awesome sex positive friends in the community is coming together. Did I mention that I met Madison Young at her gallery recently? Unfortunately, I’m really easily start struck and tend to just be shy and a bit nerdy when in the presence of awesomeness.
Then on the 26th there’s Folsom Street Fair which the wife and I will be attending. I’ve never been to anything like it since I’m from the midwest and all. I’m sure I will be shocked, surprised, turned on, and totally smitten.
On October 1st I will be at the NYC Sex Bloggers Calendar release party representing MyPleasure. This will be the first time a company I work for is sending me somewhere. It’s pretty cool and I hope to meet lots of fun people. And of course if you see me, please say hi. I tend to be a bit shy.
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