Exceptions To “If You Can’t Talk About It, You Probably Shouldn’t Be Doing It”

In a previous post, I explored the idea of being able to verbalize what you are doing sexually, writing that if you cannot bring yourself to name the acts you’re doing or the body parts you’re doing them to, perhaps you should reconsider your readiness to do them. However, I’ve since thought more about the issue of being able to talk about what you’re doing sexually, and some exceptions came to mind.

For instance, it is a sad truth that in many parts of the world, being openly gay could attract the attention of homophobic individuals who might act punitively or violently, destroying jobs or families or lives. Many non-mainstream sexualities or gender roles are in danger from intolerant elements of the mainstream, including people who perform their gender roles differently (transpeople, drag queens, butches), and people who are not heterosexual, monogamous, vanilla, and so on. In some places, being a woman is enough to cause individuals to worry about their bodily safety and autonomy. It is utterly unfair that being perceived as sexually “different” apparently invites harm and ridicule. But those are cases in which safety might preclude openly discussing one’s sex life (and, tragically, even trying to blend in or stay closeted is not always enough to prevent discrimination and violence).

In addition to the outright bigots and jerks of the world, there are outdated laws and norms that make it unwise to discuss certain sexual acts and identities publicly. Sodomy is still illegal in some U.S. states, despite the fact that it is a form of sexual play explored by many, including heterosexual monogamous couples. Other consensual sex acts, such as bondage or domination scenarios, might be interpreted as perverted and sick, “wrong” enough to raise child custody issues. Non-monogamous folks sometimes fear that their children might be taken away from them, because mainstream society still does not understand that it is possible to be in healthy multiple relationships, and that it’s not necessarily a sign of pathology or wrongdoing.

The distinction I’m trying to make here is one of social acts as opposed to sexual acts. Sometimes pursuing the image of being socially acceptable and wholesome in your sexual choices can be beneficial for your career, health, and happiness. It shouldn’t be like that, but right now it is. In contrast, being able to talk honestly about your sexual needs and desires is vital, even if you are just talking to your partner, or having an introspective conversation with yourself. The first step in communication is always being honest with yourself, and from there, you can decide how much you can—and should—disclose to others.

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About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.