The other day one of my favorite sex positive, polyamorous, feminist, smart, and feisty Medium authors, Elle Beau linked me to a comment thread. It was a primarily political article, but the comments had taken quite an interesting turn. She linked to my profile and suggested to the original poster that he read some of my writings about being in happy healthy polyamorous relationships. Relationships that are about more than just sex; relationships that involve heart and soul as well. I hope he reads a few and maybe gets a better fuller view about what polyamory can mean to people. (Check out my writings on Medium Here.)
But as I was reading through the comments (there are a lot and they are long and well thought out on both sides) I happened to read a statement that really struck a chord with me.
I think there is a great correlation between what I view as the promotion of the sexualisation of popular culture, i.e. “sexual liberation” as perhaps reflected in what one of the stars of Bohemian Rhapsody described as “sexual freedom” and such a bad attitude to women. If our culture is encouraging us to view one another as sexual objects and our sexuality as a fluid commodity and “our choice”, yet we still view this behaviour as “wrong”, it seems we have a terminal case of moral schizophrenia.
I am not as good as some of my fellow sex- positive, feminist writer friends (such as Elle Beau) at breaking these comments down, but what I do know enough to write about is my own experience. What struck me most about this comment was the equating of Sexual Liberation to “our culture … encouraging us to view one another as sexual objects and our sexuality as a fluid commodity…”
As I read that my stomach felt a bit off. It hurt my newly liberated sexual person to recognize (again) how other people still view women’s freedoms. While I do agree there is a total dichotomy in how some SAY they want to view women and their sexuality and how they actually do view it, I also think the focus of this comment is all wrong.
I believe sexual liberation has been and should be about and for the individual only. The need for sexual liberation or as his tone seems to imply insult by calling it “sexual freedom” is not so we may view each another as sexual objects, but rather that someone can find themselves within their own sexuality.
For me, sexual liberation has been an opportunity for me to seek myself and find a place of comfort with who I really am and how I want to connect to others, not simply to accept outdated standards that have been arbitrarily applied to my life by other people.
I believe sexual liberation has been and should be about and for the individual only.
I don’t want to be sexually liberated so ‘you’ can look at me as a sexual object. I assume you already do. I need to be liberated from values that don’t suit me, values that even actively hurt me because they assume I am bad, wrong, even sick, for being who I am. I believe my sexuality is my choice, but I don’t believe that means if I choose it, that it becomes a commodity to be traded. Traded for what? That assumes there is some marketable gain, something I can trade this liberation for.
Being sexually liberated helps me personally, but it does not necessarily help me in our culture. I could lose my job or if I had children, custody of them, because I a polyamorous and have more than one committed romantic relationship. I could be thrown out of social clubs or close friend groups if they knew I also enjoy a swinging lifestyle. What if they knew one of my favorite play partners is actually a couple? How would “my culture” treat me then?
What am I trading this ‘freedom’ for? I had sex before I was ‘liberated.’ As a matter of fact, I had quite a bit of it. What’s the difference between now and then? Though, now that I think of it, I suppose I did trade something for my liberation. I traded guilt. I traded insecurity. I traded dissatisfaction. I traded fear of being discovered. But I gained too. I gained confidence. I gained choice and options. I gained security. I gained self-esteem. I gained acceptance of myself, and the blessing and comfort of being accepted by others when I became free enough to be seen.
Sexual liberation freed me from my past. It helped me heal from sexual abuse, religious abuse, mental abuse, and physical abuse. I am so comfortable in my skin now, I have so much security in my own agency, that I have learned how to remove people and influences in my life that seek to harm me. I only allow people close to me who can see me for me (sexuality and all) and are willing to love me, grow with me, come along side me and allow us to support one another.
Once I accepted who I am and how I want to express myself sexually, I could show myself to other people and be truly seen for the first time. I cannot tell you how amazing it felt, the first time I told my partner Benjamin about the kinky things I wanted to try and how I wanted to express my sexuality in our relationship. He not only accepted me, and all of those ideas, he loves me even knowing about them.
Sexual liberation freed me from my past.
Once, my partner Roland won a DVD of lesbian porn. He turned to me and casually said, “I can watch it with you.” He knows I appreciate and enjoy sex with women. To him it is simply a fact of who I am, not a big deal, not something he needs to explore with me or something I use simply to titillate him; just part of who I am. In the past, my husband used to beg me to have a threesome with another woman. Even then I loved the idea of exploring with another woman sexually, but I would categorically refuse because it had nothing to do with me and my pleasure. The request was only to satisfy his fantasy. I also knew that if I seemed to enjoy the other woman too much, he would feel inadequate and hold it against me in the future.
But now I can choose to have threesomes or sex with other women as part of separate partner relationships AND explore group sex within my committed loving relationships if I want to, because I am comfortable with who I am. I attract people who are also comfortable in who they are. I choose people who are also sexually liberated with whom to share my life. This is a win-win for us all.
A few terms I looked up when writing this that I think are important to clarify:
Often, if I say something like, “I am changing how I feel about my sexuality,” the assumption is I am about to announce that I am a lesbian after being a lifelong lover of men. Sexuality is not the same as Sexual Orientation. We need to learn to separate the two. My sexuality may be a way that I express my sexual orientation, but it is not one in the same.
Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves sexually. This involves biological, erotic, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual feelings and behaviors. Because it is a broad term, which has varied over time, it lacks a precise definition.
Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender.
I also thought it might be helpful to see definitions of Freedom and Liberation.
freedom; noun: freedom from; plural noun: freedom froms; plural noun: freedoms 1 the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. 2 the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.
liberation; plural noun: liberations 1 the action of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; release. 2 freedom from limits on thought or behaviour.
I also looked up the word Commodity.
noun: commodity; plural noun: commodities 1. a useful or valuable thing. 2. a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.
In economics, a commodity is an economic good or service that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them.
If you see my sexuality, my sexual freedom, as a commodity, that is on you, not me. It seems to me to be a symptom of the larger cultural system. Women are often seen as interchangeable holes to be filled in satisfaction of the males of our culture. That just proves to me why I believe sexual freedom belongs solely to and for the individual woman. It is not for anyone but her or me.
And finally, when I typed into Google: ‘Sexual Freedom’ I found this very interesting article. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/02/thats-patriarchy-how-female-sexual-liberation-led-to-male-sexual-entitlement
I feel like the point I quote below, relates to the original comment I took umbrage with above, but brings it even more fully into a political, social context than a random internet comment on Medium can.
…sexual freedom has become another realm of women’s experience for patriarchy to conquer. As soon as older feminists had won sexual liberation, patriarchy reframed it as sexual availability for men. Writer David Quinn was actually having a pop at #MeToo feminism in The Times when he stumbled onto an eloquent truth: “The only sexual rule today is ‘consent’, and men have been taught that women are potentially always sexually available because that is what ‘liberation’ means.”
Where once the patriarchal structures of cultural production were censorious of women’s sexuality in film, art, literature, now the depiction of it is hypersexualised and explicit — but the structures of production remain just as patriarchal.
The flipside to the destigmatisation of sex for women has been a sense of patriarchal entitlement to sex with women, which is why the painful conversation about consent in our new era of “freedom” must be confronted. One in 10 women, as opposed to one in 70 men, report they’ve been coerced into sex, the vast majority by an intimate partner.
I am not sure I made my point very eloquently, if at all. But I do know this- Sexual Freedom is for me, myself, and I. It is for each individual woman who works to free herself of the constraints placed on her by her past, her culture, and the world around her. It is not for a man to view me even more sexually or to commoditize what I am “offering.”
The truth is, I am not offering you anything.
For more of my writings about Polyamory, Ethical Non-Monogamy and other things check out my Medium profile: https://medium.com/@ELByrne