Permission To Treat Sex Like It’s Normal

Rewriting, or at least bending, old rules

Issue #38

By Vivienne Arkell

“For the most part, we are all so scared about what other people think when it comes to sexuality, we hardly ever talk openly and honestly about it,” states Erin Chen, sexual wellness expert, in her TED talk “The Secret Ingredient to Sexual Intelligence.” “Society makes a big deal about sex and we react,” she adds.

As a woman, do you believe you should hide a healthy libido? Perhaps you were taught to be passive or to be the sexual gatekeeper. Women are often warned to hold back sexual boldness, that craving sex is only for men, or that something dangerous could happen. Movies and books tell princesses they must wait for their knights to give permission to leave the tower and say yes to sensual desire. Many cultural restrictions were created primarily to squelch women’s sexual freedom and appetite.

Chen persuasively challenges us all to be as open with sexual preferences as we are with food choices, saying, “Biologically, the way we want, consume and learn from our food experiences is actually very similar to the way we desire, initiate and complete our sexual experiences.”

In a great analogy, Chen asks the audience to raise their hands in support of favorite foods. No one is shy or on the fence about likes and dislikes in food. Yet she doesn’t expect them be so forward when she asks about favorite sex positions or styles. We don’t judge people on the food they eat, or if they are vegetarians. Why are people so quick to pass judgement when it comes to sex? Imagine being able to discuss and explore sexual pleasures and desires, like we marvel about food, without the fear of being judged.

“With food, we give ourselves permission to be curious, to inquire, and to treat it as a normal part of life” says Chen. Be bold she implores us, be deliberate. Express yourself and your desires just as you would choose your appetizer and savor the main course. Women aren’t supposed to be the initiators? Who’s watching? Were you told that women shouldn’t help themselves to a meal or satisfaction before men? Both in the kitchen and the bedroom, forget those outmoded ideas.

There is no need to focus on rules or what’s normal. Your beliefs and preferences are your own; so there’s no need to be scared about what others think. Being open with sexuality, comfortable and confident speaking about your own preferences will turn the focus onto yourself. Pleasing yourself is primary to knowing what could be pleasurable for the two of you to share.

Chen reminds, “When we give ourselves permission, and those around us permission, we free up space for pleasure.” Say yes to being curious, open to change, and making your own choices as to a new normal. Help in rewriting the rules, or at least bending them. You have total permission to eat, pray, and make love often.

Illustration inspired by Saul Bass. 


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