How The Image Of Sex In Our Heads Contributes To Exoticizing It
When you’re a 14-year-old, there’s a lot of mystery and confusion around the word, ‘sex’. Along with this, there is also a feeling that you know more about it than your peers - or at least you pretend like you do. Not many grown-ups talk about how it all goes down, so eventually your ‘knowledge’ about sex comes from your own friends.
Back when I was 14, my ‘information’ on sex and sexuality came from friends, pop-culture and the many books I read. With friends, the topic of sex and sexuality usually vacillated between “haww” and “wow”. None of us really knew what it actually entailed, but what we did know was that it was the reason we were born, and that it was supposed to feel really good. Also, you’re only supposed to do it after marriage.
The realisation that sex before marriage actually existed came to us at 16, when some of our peers were rumored to be having sex - at least whatever understanding of sex was popular back then. Yet in our young minds, having multiple partners was out of the question.
Books, movies and all other media fed into this idea by romanticising sex so much that we ended up believing that love was mandatory to have sex, and that it would lead to marriage.
Honestly, in my head, I never really believed that love was all that important to have sex, but I could never imagine myself saying that out loud back then.
A couple of years later, I actually became more informed about sex and the various components of Comprehensive Sexualty Education, which nobody at school or at home had taught me about. But even then, I wanted sex to be a certain way - kind of like what I had seen or read about.
When I actually did have sex, however, the reality was nothing like what I had made it up to be in my head.
I learned that sex is not a movie scene, and clothes don’t come off so easily. Neither is it super chill. Sex involves some degree of awkwardness. The level of awkwardness depends on how much you and your partner have talked about it. You also don’t instantly know what works for both of you.
What’s important to know, however, is that it’s totally okay for this to happen. Our real lives are not books or movies. There is more than one person involved, many body fluids and a lot of figuring out to do. No way is any of this easy.
In reality, it takes some practice to actually be able to enjoy sex the way it’s been built up in our heads. It involves exploring your own body and your partner’s body. It also involves a lot of talking. You and your partner will probably have to share several awkward moments before the sex starts to get any good. The main thing to remember is to not feel bad about yourself in case it doesn’t go as planned.
I believe that the huge gap that exists in the way we gather information about sex and sexuality is the primary reason why we have certain preconceived notions about sex, how it’s supposed to be and how it should make us feel. The fact that sex is such a taboo and is discussed in hushed voices exoticises the whole experience, putting it up on a pedestal, where it really doesn’t belong.
How can we fix this?
I'm not quite sure. But I think a good way to start is by having honest conversations and breaking the myths that surround sex. While each person has their own experiences with sex and sexuality, it is extremely necessary to not be ashamed of one's body based on one's sexual experiences. Another thing to remember is that sure, love is great when combined with sex, but, we need to start looking at sex as a human need rather than constantly connecting it with love. Great sex can be had even if you're not in love and that is something that society needs to start accepting. In my opinion, once we're able to accept this and stop looking at love and sex as a single entity, we will be able to stop looking at sex so exotically.
Arunima Gururani is a Program Associate at The YP Foundation, with a passion for writing about issues of social justice and mental health.