Odds are that if you are reading this, you grew up in a virulently sex-negative culture. By sex-negative, I mean a set of beliefs that believes sexuality should be never be discussed openly and honestly. It is the same thing that makes people of any sexual persuasion feel as if they should be ashamed of whatever it is that they might be doing with themselves or others. This is the culture that seeks to demonize anyone who would take control of their sexuality. Slut. Whore. Skank. Cheater. Creep. Freak. Pervert. The list could be endless but they all basically amount to one word: Deviant.
There was a time in my life when I took part in an immature, selfish, and destructive lifestyle. It cost me in friends, it cost me in youth, and it cost me dearly in prostate health. The memories are as vivid as they are desperate: brightly-lit Friday evenings spent alone with German homework and hot chocolate. Marathon coffeehouse reading sessions passed with eyes that never strayed off book pages. Hard drives full of illegally downloaded 30 Rock episodes instead of illegally downloaded porn. The half-frustrated, half-pitying expressions of dozens of beautiful young men who, after hours of gin-drenched dance-floor loin-grinding, never got their hands around anything firmer than a tangible sense of inadequacy. Only now can I say that it was a dark time.
Sitting on the bottom of a 7-foot tall bookshelf in my living room is a work entitled Opening Up, by sex author/feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino. As its title implies, it’s a guide for those who are or would like to be in some kind of open relationship. My boyfriend and I have never made a secret of our non-monogamy in our social group. We have especially not hidden this fact from the guys we sleep with. What should we be apologizing for? It’s a choice, and people make choices every day.
Yet this book always gives me a light shiver of worry when I remember where it is. What if my boyfriend’s parents happen to spy it on one of their frequent visits to our house? What if his 6 year-old nephew opens its pages and asks what a “group BDSM” is? I can picture the horrified looks on the faces of our guests as they gather their things and run to their cars, genuflecting and spewing vomit like they’re in a three-minute version of “The Exorcist. “