By the Book: Sex Talk with Your Local Librarian, Chapter 1
Written by Emma Willig.
Let’s be honest. It’s 2019, and sex is still a scary thing to talk about.
I often find myself wondering if the stigma will ever go away. And truthfully, it probably won’t. In this column, I want to address the reasons sex is scary to talk about, why it doesn’t have to be, and how you can best educate yourself to feel good about your own sexual relationship.
Sex is taboo. It’s a conversation kept under lock and key. A great mystical coming-of-age secret, either ignored or hush-hushed by our elders. It’s not “polite” to talk about sex at a dinner party. It’s saved for the witching hour, or (sometimes very stressful) late night Googling. Sex is something that a lot of us feel we have to figure out on our own.
Do I think sex is something to start shouting about from the rooftops? No. I do like keeping the mystery alive in a lot of aspects. However, I think breaking the negative parts of the sex stigma starts with you. Yes! You. You, me, and sex education.
Sex Fact: What we know colloquially as the vagina – all the outside parts – is actually the vulva. The vagina is the tube that connects the vulva to the cervix.
I’ll start by saying, I’m no sexpert. I’m not a relationship guru or love doctor. I’m not a therapist. I’m a librarian. I know that the people in my field have a certain stigma, but let me remind you that all librarians love to research. (Cue Rihanna’s winky face gif.) On the real, I’m your average lady who grew up with a horrible formal sex education (thanks but no thanks, Catholic high school), and learned most everything sex-related from my friends and Seventeen magazine. In adulthood, I learned from friends, where the conversation typically started with me exclaiming, “You did what?!?!” only to later find out how normal that thing was… Cue more late night Googling. Sound familiar?
Being a librarian, I want to give you something that I have recently enjoyed reading related to sex and women’s health. I truly believe that sharing stories is the best way to educate ourselves and one another. We hold the key to great information and resources, simply by living.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest does not disappoint. This is one sexy read with a progressive (and historical) outlook on love, friendships, and straight up how to deal.
My personal array of affairs have spanned from noteworthy to not-so-noteworthy, but all started with Rule Number One: Consent. Somehow, we don’t talk about this enough. It’s either swept under the rug, thrown out the window, or lost in the shuffle with all of the other rules.
So, again: Rule Number One is Consent.
Not from one party, but from all parties involved. Since I was the age that I started to hang out with friends outside of my house and have sleepovers, I was taught that I never needed to be somewhere I didn’t want to be. It was reiterated to me again and again, every time I stepped out of the house. I knew that I could always call, I could always leave; essentially, I could always say “no.”
This stuck with me when I started having sexual relationships. Could I say “no” even when things were already hot and heavy? Of course! If at any point I wanted to leave, I knew I had the power to leave. In my mind, that word alone should be enough security for every person. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, but saying “no” is still your greatest power. Understanding what you want, understanding it’s okay if you and your partner don’t want the same thing, and understanding that your wants and needs can change in an instant is critical. All of those qualities should be appreciated and respected by both you and your partner. If they are not, that’s a big waving red flag.
Emma’s Two Cents: If you are nervous (butterflies nervous), that’s a good thing! Being vulnerable with a partner can be a great foundation for meaningful relationships.
When we all start with Rule Number One of sex education, it becomes fun. It becomes healthy, and it’s necessary. In high school, even if you had an amazing, insightful health teacher, the information didn’t always process because of the awkwardness of that age. As adults, processing sex-ed information and allowing ourselves to be open about the topic becomes much easier. Your sexual health is just as important as your physical and mental health. In fact, they are all tied very closely together. So go out there and start talking about sex, talking about health, talking about consent. Spread the word.
Now that we’re all on the same page with Rule Number One, we can move on to other interesting aspects of how to take the nervousness out of the scary, and make it fun. Stay tuned for my next column in September’s Community Mix!