Reconsidering Sexual Stereotypes
Despite claims to the contrary, sex remains the most controversial and taboo of subjects. Despite progress on other fronts, the constructs and prejudices of "heteronormativity" continue to pervade our private lives and complicate our relationships.
So here’s a suggestion for the community this year: to forge a path outside of culturally defined norms by embracing a more inclusive and fulfilling sexuality. I’d like to see us challenge some of the walls that inhibit healthy sexual expression and identity.
This is a four-step process:
This is 2013. In an age of proven medical treatment and safety precautions, HIV no longer validates sexual exclusion. In fact, those who do not know their status pose a much higher risk to partners than positive individuals who are being treated.
Studies show that one-fifth of people with HIV are unaware that they have it. This means that the chance of a sexually active adult completely avoiding contact with a person who has contracted HIV is slim to none.
Penalizing someone with HIV for being honest isn’t in your health’s best interest. Assuming we’re talking about someone on retroviral drugs, the virus has been essentially eradicated from bodily fluids. While you should take the normal precautions, your risk of contracting the virus is lower than it would be with the average person. So don’t deny yourself meaningful experiences based on outdated science.
We’ve all seen the profiles. Glancing through profiles on gay hook-up sites can be like a trip back in time: "Masculine only"; "No Blacks or Asians"; "No one over 30." Others may not express their prejudices so openly, but too many of us retain feelings - conscious or subconscious - received via social conditioning.
Rather than limiting encounters to those who meet a set of requirements, let natural sexual tension be your guide. If you feel sexually inclined toward someone whom you wouldn’t normally expect to find attractive, go with it. You may discover something about yourself.
Try to notice and understand your own biases - and to eventually overcome them. We all have been instilled with them; it’s unavoidable. But by acknowledging and addressing them, we can work to build a stronger community. So broaden your horizons and step outside your sexual comfort zone. It not only liberates you but also increases your chances for a date exponentially!
Reject Sexual Monogamy
I’m not suggesting that everyone is required to be promiscuous but that you shouldn’t let another person take ownership of your body. What you do with it should always remain your choice. "Gay rights" includes disregarding sexual connections based on nuclear family standards. We shouldn’t feel the need to make monogamy the standard. A quick glance at the news will quickly disprove how well that’s working out for heterosexual unions.
Studies show that open marriages last longer and are happier than traditional, closed marriages. Allowing a partner freedom (exercised safely, of course) conveys a deeper level of commitment. Open communication and trust are essential to building healthy relationships.
Further, traditional standards of monogamy historically have not provided a good fit for LGBT people. Straight couples often socialize with one another - a situation that doesn’t lend itself to sexual tension (although that’s not written in stone), while same-sex couples who enjoy socializing with others of the same gender can’t avoid sexual tension. Rather than attempting to squeeze into a poorly fitting mold, we need to continue creating standards that encourage health and happiness in our relationships.
Quit Categorizing Friends
Love interest, girlfriend, fuck buddy, trick. We put people into boxes because it makes life easier. But boxes can interfere with the natural flow of relationships. Consider the "friend zone": Restricting friendships to the nonsexual sphere ignores the ways in which we express closeness. Friendships are intimate, and denying friends those forms of expression because of puritanical or heteronormative rules might prevent you from realizing that real love is right in front of you. (Such situations have provided fodder for fiction, from Jane Austen’s Emma to movies like When Harry Met Sally and the aptly titled Clueless - itself based on Emma.) If a sexual link exists with a friend, make it an avenue rather than a point of disruption.
This "manifesto" is merely the starting point for rethinking an approach to sexuality that our culture has hindered and muzzled. There is no reason for us to continue the mistakes of the larger society. Use these suggestions to become aware of your own restraints and prejudices - and help end the self-censorship of love and intimacy that results from centuries of superstition and social pressure.
Be strong and love fiercely. Happy New Year!