I recently read an article in Elite Daily, the self-proclaimed “Voice of Generation Y,” entitled, Why Sleeping Around Shouldn’t Be A Way To Find Yourself. I was jarred by many of the fallacies presented within, and even more disturbed by the overall tone, which seemed to suggest that the only true and moral way of “finding” oneself is to flit from one monogamous relationship to the next; that the only true way to self-actualization is by grasping onto and preaching about puritan values, like a pastor from his or her pulpit.
The article was confusing, to say the least. In it there are many unfinished and unrealized thoughts about a topic too serious in nature to be haphazardly written about and then published by a fledgling outlet with a throng of captive followers; especially one that promulgates to be the voice of the generation who’s currently busy rising in the ranks of education, politics, and business. Our generation can do better than moral platitudes and passive-aggressive statements thinly veiled as mere suggestion.
I don’t blame the author, though. She is simply misguided, and rightfully so.
Sexuality, especially when exhibited by women, gets a bad rap, and reputable news organizations, bloggers, and celebrities trolling for publicity further cement that negative image. What’s more is that it gets ratings, it sells magazines, and it reinforces a culture in which people are more satisfied with discussing who’s showing too much side-boob than one in which we discuss sexuality in an empowering and nonjudgmental manner.
Our society reduces sex, like the author did, to something that is shamefully discussed over brunch, presumably while nursing a hangover. Sex can be more than this, though. Sex is more than this. It’s what happens on your way to self-actualization, and it can be with many people or it can be with one person, and that’s okay. I’ll tell you why: Because it’s none of your damn business.
The time has come we stop slut-shaming. Indeed, we should completely remove the word “slut” from our vocabularies. Using it now only continues to strengthen already grossly unfair dichotomies: those who are good people and those who are bad people; those who are doing it right and those who are doing it wrong.
When we divide and separate, it prevents us from experiencing empathy, and it makes it easier for one to disregard another’s experience. It creates an unnecessary superiority, and it practically begs us to forget about our similarities, of which we have many. For example, the author’s unapologetic bent towards serial monogamy bears a striking resemblance to sleeping around. Some would say that she is merely mincing her words. Her serial monogamy, though, is none of my business.
What is my business is the effect shame can have on an individual or groups of individuals. It’s part of my responsibility, and everyone’s, to dismantle sexual-shame and temper the negative consequences that can arise from it. I’m not talking about revolution. That’s been done, and here we are. I’m simply suggesting stepping back a bit, taking it down a notch, and deciding not to feel so threatened by what others choose to do, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone else.
Society’s archaic attitudes regarding sex and sexuality, however, are hurting people. The consequences are, at times, catastrophic, not only physically but psychologically, too.
Shaming attitudes towards sex have been linked to higher teen pregnancy rates and STD rates. This is because adolescents have been conditioned, a good deal by abstinence-only education programs, to form a close association regarding shame and sex and sexuality. This makes them, according to many reputable studies, significantly less likely to purchase condoms and use them than individuals who have been instilled with sex-positive attitudes. This makes sense.
Similarly, gay males who are made to feel ashamed of their orientation are also more likely to have unprotected sex with their partners, thereby increasing transmission of HIV/AIDS, along with other STDs. People will have sex, regardless. Check out the statistics pertaining to abstinence-only education programs. The numbers tell a grim story, and they are linked to shame.
I would never ask the author to change her views, though, simply for the fact that I’m not in the business of telling self-sufficient humans how to live their lives. I can’t even be sure I’m living mine correctly, whatever that means. But that’s the point. There are myriad ways to live your life, and you might change the rules daily. That is the path to self-discovery: whatever works for you at any given moment.
To be trite: live your own life; don’t hurt other people. And when you do, because we all eventually do, admit your mistakes and fix them to the best of your ability. Keep your relationships intact, if you can; don’t burn your bridges behind you; don’t hurt yourself. And when you do, because we all eventually do, change your rules and try again.
I want to know why, though, I shouldn’t be able to find myself while sleeping around, if that’s what I choose to do, and, more importantly, why I can’t.
I’m almost positive that entertaining multiple partners won’t be the only thing I’m going to be doing on my path to self-discovery. I bet I’ll be reading, too, and learning, because I also want to better myself, for me. I want to be able to talk to my partners; maybe about current events, politics, or why I thought Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom didn’t deserve to be overlooked for the Pulitzer Prize.
I’m sure I’ll do some traveling. I might go abroad where I may meet a local who, between raucous lovemaking sessions, will teach me about his culture, and I’ll come back a better, more knowledgeable person. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll stay home alone on Sunday mornings drinking tea while reflecting on my experiences and how they’ve shaped me into the kind of person who seeks to listen and learn; the kind of person who seeks to build and not tear down; the kind of person who chooses to love. Honestly, though, I’ll probably be too busy regaling my table with stories at brunch.