Growing up I was told that there are four things you never talk about – sex, money, religion, and politics.
It wasn’t polite. It could lead to conflict. These were private things; things we shouldn’t talk about in the public sphere.
In the year 2018, things have changed.
Just look at the headlines for 2017, your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Think about what has dominated your conversations for the past year, and I for one say, “Hallelujah!”
Don’t get me wrong; I am not happy about most of the headlines. I am deeply concerned about too many things to note. I am disappointed by the tone and means of most of the “dialogue,” but at least these topics are finding the light of day.
Recently, there has been a rash of headlines about the intersections of sex, money, politics, religion and power. Not the least of these has been all of the high-profile men accused of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct.
While the allegations aren’t all the same and equal in seriousness, what they have in common is the disturbing reality (which is not new at all) that men in power use sex and/or gender bias to inflict violence, abuse, intimidation, terror, coercion and discrimination against women, as well as gay and non-gender conforming people.
Equally disturbing is the response of many men in power that they are now feeling scared and vulnerable amidst what they see as a “witch hunt” and that as a result, now they have to “walk on eggshells.”
To that I sarcastically say: “Oh, poor babies!”
Maybe now they’ll have bit more empathy for what women and other non-conforming or minority people have dealt with their whole lives.
Is acting with a little more intentionality and self-awareness really such a bad thing? If you aren’t abusing your power and being stupid, then you’ve probably got nothing to worry about.
Sexuality is complicated and nuanced. To say there is one norm, preference or way of thinking about, talking about or practicing our sexuality is simply not true. Thus, I say “do your thing” with one universal exception that should guide everything – consent.
I don’t have the column space to go into all of what consent looks like and means. But if I did, I would stress the importance of clear and overt communication, recognizing power dynamics, never using sex as a bargaining chip or to manipulate, and being mindful that not everyone thinks about or is comfortable talking about sex.
The good news is we are talking about this stuff now, so you can buy me a beer and I can elaborate. I’m not an expert; in fact, there are certainly wiser and more intentional folks than me on this topic. But I’m willing, and maybe we can talk about religion, money and politics, too.
I’ve already had some of these conversations over the years. I’ve heard men say, “Oh man, this is such hard work. It all just seems so complicated. I feel like I have to give up my power. It makes me feel vulnerable.”
Consent is sexy. Giving away power actually shows strength. Being vulnerable is a turn on. Being deliberate about consent demonstrates the level of care and mutual respect that should exist in any sexual encounter regardless of how casual.
Yes, there will be disappointment, rejection and maybe even moments of shame. It isn’t going to add up to any less sex, and what it adds up to will be of higher quality. To risk failure or rejection pursuing what you desire with care and intention shows great courage on your part.
If you have to abuse power, use violence or exert coercion to get what you want sexually, then you are a coward, and I hope your abuses come to light and you get what you deserve.
Tad Monroe of Tacoma is a consultant, storyteller and creative entrepreneur. He is one of six reader columnists who wrote for this page in 2017. This is his last column. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org