We’ve all inherited many misconceptions about the erotic, causing so much fear and guilt. Some are based on old taboos; others on unrealistic expectations. They are like demons hovering over us, heckling and harassing us. And they’re not as easy to get rid of as we’d like, especially when you’re not quite sure what they are.
Let me first begin with a caveat: If you recognize any of these “demons” I’m listing here, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not the only one who’s encountered them. And if your partner appears to be “possessed” by one, please don’t add to their misery. So, with that out of the way, here they are …
Sexual Demon # 1 – The Procreation Fixation. Yes, sex serves a function of bringing more people into the world. But the mistaken idea that this is all it’s good for has been used to shame people for centuries. Fortunately, it’s not universal, even in Christianity. Many theologians have taught that it is the mutual pleasure and expression of affection which is primary, and that children are an “added blessing.” That also fits in with our biology, because on average only one in five incidents of intercourse actually leads to conception and birth. If the Divine had thought that sex was only for procreation, you’d think we’d be given better odds!
Sexual Demon # 2 – Rationing Romance. Even the most liberal amongst us tend to view lifelong monogamy as an “ideal” state of affairs. Really!? In every other endeavor, we humans are expected to study, practice, learn from mistakes, and acquire more skills and knowledge with experience. Why should sex be any different? Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean that having more partners is better, just as having a thousand rotten music teachers isn’t preferable to having a dozen really good one. But isn’t it time to look past the numbers game, and think about the quality of our experiences? Even the bad ones, because we can still learn from those as well.
Sexual Demon # 3 – Insert Tab Into Slot. When we hear “sex” our minds often gravitate towards intercourse of the penis-in-vagina kind. Sex-negative conservatives often condemn queer sexuality because, in their limited imaginations, if the “right” tab isn’t going into the “right” slot, then it’s just icky. Well, isn’t that like saying that, because you have teeth, you must chew all your food a certain number of times? Laughable as that is, this nineteenth-century dietary fad was closely linked to ideas of sexual purity. The truth is that eroticism involves the whole person, from skin to soul, and limiting it to mere genital contact is depriving both yourself and your partner of endless opportunities for connection and ecstasy.
Sexual Demon #4 – Not Too Young, Not Too Old. We often have misconceptions of when someone is old enough to be sexually intimate with someone, in both directions. We often think that young people are “not ready” for sex (although we often don’t define what we mean by “sex”) and we have a hard time imagining that older people still desire erotic intimacy. Then there’s the whole bias against coupling with someone in a different age bracket, especially older women with younger men. But if we can recognize that some people learn and mature faster than others, and age differently than others, then it’s high time we applied that to our sex lives as well. No, I’m not saying octogenarians should be able to chase preteens, but I am saying that the ability to consent meaningfully and love deeply are more important than the number of years a person has lived.
Sexual Demon #5 – All Together Now? There’s a familiar saying: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Well, the same can hold true of pleasure, especially mutual erotic pleasure. We can all experience it, but demanding that orgasms and other ecstatic moments happen in synchronous harmony is ridiculous. Tell me, if you and your lover both enjoy chocolate cake, does that mean you put each forkful in your mouth simultaneously? Not only do things rarely sync up in real life, but some of the greatest sex can happen when one person generously gives and the other gratefully receives.
The common thread in all of this is that there’s no one-size-fits all model in the human sexual experience. As Brian of Nazareth said, “we’re all individuals, and we’ve got to think for ourselves”. So celebrate your blessed uniqueness, and that of all you with who you share your gifts of pleasure. And if you hear these demons speak to you again, laugh them off while you’re getting off.