I tweeted today about how separating sex/sexuality/intimacy from shame has really helped alleviate some of the things that caused me great anxiety growing up. I am definitely way more sex positive than I was in my early twenties and this new found confidence and awareness means I am more responsible and fulfilled in my quest for intimate pleasure. Sex is no longer synonymous with shame.
I grew up in Accra and I’m almost certain I was slut shamed at some point growing up way before I knew what sex was. I can recall being called ‘ashawo’ for wearing pedal pushers but that’s another story for another Friday. Growing up in that time and in that culture meant sex was always dirty to me. My only true knowledge of sex outside of being told to draw a vagina was that sex was reserved for marriage and anything outside of heterosexual married sex was unnatural and you would bring shame to your family, get pregnant and then ultimately die if you engaged in it.
When I discovered sex at 18 (having pretty much engaged in everything but) my perception of sex was very movie-like, I even had candles for my first time (don’t ask). I had lost my virginity and that meant I was going to stay with dude forever and ever. Of course we all know how that story goes. Whilst I’m grateful that my first time was with someone I believe really cared deeply about me and made me feel wanted and loved, I didn’t have the tools to navigate a sex life thereafter.
After that I was either having sex with people I cared little about or purposely not having any sex at all because I was riddled with shame and had convinced myself that a journey of celibacy was the ‘cure’. This cycle continued and sex was never empowering, rarely pleasurable and just something I did in relationships, situationships and/or dating because ‘it was something to do’ on a Friday night after getting pissed with someone you fancied. Sex was not empowering. At the worst of times, sex had become my barter system. Give up the coochie in hopes that this time it lasts, or this time it’s ‘the one’. What would naturally ensue would be another failed situation that filled me with so much shame it clouded how I navigated the world in general.
Fast forward a few years after later and after meeting someone very sex positive, the tides began to turn. I was equipped with the practical tools as well as the theory of what positive sexual intimacy was through empowering literature I found on the internet. I was lucky to stumble into both meeting said sex positive person as well as a plethora of information which radically changed my perception of sex. What was once dirty, dangerous and shameful began to take on a new dimension. Sex was no longer something that ‘happened to me’. I could choose to not engage in it or engage in it as long as I was respectful and responsible to my body and my partner’s. The idea that somehow practising celibacy made me superior or in fact engaging in sex for pleasure made me a whore died a quick death. I started to feel great about sexual intimacy and sex became empowering. The physical act was not something that caused me anxiety although I must say I still had to learn to understand the ways I felt emotionally depending on who I was sharing sexual intimacy with.
After coming out of a long term relationship I wasn’t afraid to explore relationships with or without sexual intimacy and I owe a lot of that to persistent literature online mainly from feminists challenging women to be radical in self-love and radical in the pursuit in dismantling dangerous ideas concerning women’s sexuality and the idea of shame.
I see a lot of back-lash against women who speak about women being sex positive. The idea is that somehow educating women about sex and encouraging further empowerment is detrimental and that is far from the truth. Pleasure isn’t something that should be reserved for men only. You are not dirty or worthless for enjoying sex. Be empowered to take control of your sexual space, be careful, be responsible and treat yourself with compassion if like me years ago you’re in that cycle where you’ve made mistakes. You are worthy and important, there is no shame in your game. Namaste~