It’s no secret that the world is all kinds of fucked up and hypocritical about sexuality. Our sexual health gets unnecessarily complicated by the quagmire of dysfunction surrounding sex. Ultimately it’s just part of our physical health, fitness and wellbeing. You don’t hate yourself if you catch flu or get a chest infection. Why hate yourself for catching an STI? Infections in our bodies are part of living. Sexually active? get regularly tested and get anything treated. Simple right? Well it could be. So could our sexual needs be liberated from dysfunction if society encouraged more honesty about it. Much of the heartbreak caused by deception and betrayal can be prevented if we all had more realistic expectations of sex. If we felt free to be honest with ourselves and our partners about our sexual desires, when they match and when they don’t. Too often people lack compassion when their partner has different sexual needs.
So what If we consider sexual expression and intimacy as a necessity for our physical wellbeing just as we do the need to exercise. Can this help us be more rational and kinder to ourselves and each other about it?
It’s just a fact that we all need exercise to stay healthy. It’s also a fact that different bodies prefer different amounts and types of exercise. Imagine if it was largely accepted that preferences for sexual intimacy is like preferences for physical exercise. Vanilla monogamy is like picking one thing and only doing that, like only going to the gym or only running. Some people like the certainty of routine even though sometimes it is harder than others. They know what they’re doing and it works for them. Some people loose motivation to exercise if it’s routine and repetitive. They need variety and novelty to stay motivated. So they may run, go to the gym, try yoga, go to dance classes, perhaps rock climbing or kayaking, cycling, hiking too. The need for routine or for novelty have no moral implications in sex either, as long as you’re honest. It should be no surprise that without welcoming honesty around our sexual needs and desires, romantic relationships are going to be filled with resentment and deception.
Consider also a person who needs some group contest and/or aggression to stay motivated to exercise, like AFL or consensual violence like boxing or martial arts. Kinks are no weirder or more morally depraved than scrummage in rugby, smashing a competitor to the ground to prevent a ball getting into their hands in AFL, or spending time punching and kicking each other in a boxing ring or dojo.
It’s also no secret that most monogamous commitments do have infidelities. Monogamy is a very difficult sacrifice and without compassion and honesty between the two people involved there’s no support for each other during challenging times. What would monogamy look like if the people involved felt free to be more honest with each other about how damn hard it is? Monogamy without realistic expectations and honesty around sex lacks compassion, and in practice is often infantile, cruel and UNLOVING. What would monogamy look like if a need for routine and variety were something partners were able to openly and creatively figure out together without it implying anyone’s failure or a lack of love?
Open relating is not the magical answer to dysfunctional monogamy either. It’s just a different relationship structure and is as prone to human dysfunction and deception as monogamy is. There is no superior or inferior moral value whether you opt for monogamy, open relating or single casual sex. Nor is there any moral value if you engage in any form of kinky play with other adults as long as you’re honest and open with each other. People can only feel safe to be honest in an environment of compassion towards sexual needs. The religious legacy of shaming and punishing natural sexual desire has too often created sexual partnerships bereft of compassion thus incapable of honesty. Healthy ethical love and sex connections require compassion, honesty and transparency regardless of how kinky or vanilla the sex we’re having or what relationship structures we’ve opted for.