Myth –busting Monday: How to sex
When it comes to adult education – this is where you should invest your money….in learning “how to sex”.
(I love that phrase – “how to sex”)
Maybe…..? But, I would honestly lean toward no.
And here’s why. There is no right way to sex.
Many adult sex education classes are geared to the “how to sex” (ex. how to please your partner orally, how to introduce toys, how to use toys, how to peg, how to spank, how to talk dirty, etc etc etc) as that is what sells. And it also plays into the idea that we, all of us, are somehow lacking, which spins the wheel of capitalism through want and consumption. These classes might be entertaining and quick fixes to try “spicing up” an encounter, but they are often not the most helpful in the long term when trying to have more satisfying encounters (whatever “satisfying” might mean to the person questioned).
“There is a myth about sex: that good technique equals good sex. That there is some stroke or some body part that, if only you could find it, would open the gates of heaven. If only you could get it right, all would be fabulous, mystical, or smokin’ hot. This is not true. In fact, if you are relying on technique, you are missing the best part”1 (pg 50 from Betty Martin, The Art of Receiving and Giving)
To be clear, there is no such thing as a right ‘how’. Every Body (and person associated with that body) is literally different. Preferences and practices for one partner will have to be completely re-evaluated with another. Preferences will also change overtime for your partner. Preferences and pleasures are moving targets with no standard technique.
Focusing on the how also makes sex performative. We have now moved the focus from the people and how they are feeling and what they want to the act and the how. It discourages communication, thinking there is a “right” way to do a certain activity. The people participating may also feel disempowered – if an act “should” be done a certain way or “should” feel a certain way, but that doesn’t actually feel right or is wanted or enjoyed, those participating may feel deficient. (But they aren’t deficient; what is deficient is defining and limiting encounters by “should”s and “how to”s).
Further, by focusing on the ‘how to’ we risk losing sight of the ‘why’ and the ‘what’. Personally and professionally, these are the more meaningful questions. What do you like (do you even know or are you modeling what you think you should like)? What about sex important to you? What was modeled regarding sexuality for you? What were your earlier experiences like? And how do these models and experiences impact you now? In what ways does culture influence your sexuality (the “what”s being patriarchy, sexism, ableism, sizeism, ageism, racism, etc). These intersectional questions are more holistic, substantive, and growth-oriented, both personally and collectively, when we interrogate what it is we think we know. And, these intersections are also where elements of social justice can come in.
It is frustrating as a sexuality educator – I want to discuss the social justice implications of, and intersections with, sexuality – I want to challenge the social constructs on gender and orientation; I want empower marginalized individuals against the body terrorism and mythical normatives2; I want people to wake up to and experience mindful presence and embodiment and pleasure and joy and self-esteem, in ways that are salient to them (could you imagine a world where people were actually IN their bodies, and had an abundance and pleasure oriented mindset?, we would want less and love more and feel so unencumbered); I want people to fully understand consent and utilize those practices in the bedroom and out; I want people to get curious about and explore what they want, why, and be able to communicate and negotiate those desires (and also consider why they didn’t give themselves the opportunity to explore these issues before). This is sexuality education to me, heavily flavored by a social justice framework, and this version of sexuality education wasn’t and isn’t at all what was given to us by our educational systems. This version of sexuality also doesn’t often translate in to a “how to sex” workshop.
As a country, we undervalue adult education. Unless it will result in something that can be commodified and profited from, what’s the point?3 And this perspective permeates our approach to adult sexuality education as well. We assume we know all there is, or if you have to look up/read about/learn, you are in some way deficient. And although deficiency can feed the sense of lack and spin the wheels of capitalism, it can also create shame, which might be why adult sexuality education is a taboo or less than appreciated educational concern. This parallels and perhaps feeds the myth of there being a “right” what to have sex. “There is a right way and you should know it by now and if you don’t, what’s wrong with you???” Ugh. Talk about a shitty hamster wheel to be stuck on.
And all of this is NOT to discourage folks from attending how to workshops. By all means, follow your curiousity as much as your time and money and interest allows. But do consider the take aways from those workshops and the larger intent behind them. Do they help you broaden your beliefs and understanding of sexuality? Do they leave you in a positive mindset and help you connect better to your partner/s? Or do you feel like you are still missing out on “something else”? If that nagging sense of something else is your experience, perhaps it is as Martin states above – you are, in fact, missing out, and perhaps it is time to find deeper educational opportunities.
What has your sexuality education been like, as an adult? Have you participated in the how-to workshops? And what was your experience? Looking for something more or different than what you have done in the past? Please do check out my workshop and other educational offerings (see the events tab).
Thank you for reading and doing the myth-busting work, community. In deep gratitude.
- Martin, B. The Art of Receiving and Giving: The Wheel of Consent. Quote is from page 50. THIS BOOK IS SOOOOOO GOOD! I JUST CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO SING SUFFICIENT PRAISE. It is our book club selection for Nov 2021 (email me to sign up)
2. The idea of mythical norm comes from Audre Lorde – an inspiration and creative companion to me. “Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows “that is not me.” In america, this norm is usually defined as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, christian, and financially secure. It is with this mythical norm that the trappings of power reside within this society. Those of us who stand outside that power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, some of which we ourselves may be practicing.” (Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider)
- Please challenge this narrative for yourself. Get curious. Get creative. Do something for just your own joy, not your partner/s, not for social media follows, not for profit. We have a responsibility to awe and joy and curiousity. Find it and follow it. Life is so much better we allow this for ourselves.
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, wellness practitioner working to awaken and re-center joy and pleasure through Ignite Well-being. PT (DPT), CHEK practitioner, RYT500, sexuality counselor and educator; copyright protected, please cite accordingly.
The image is from Pexels.
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