(Written by guest blogger Wendy Harlowe.)
Dr. Rayne has kindly let me weigh in as a guest blogger for the few days while she is at the SXSW Interactive conference; she knows one of my favorite topics in life is sex! I think this blog is playing a crucial role in the needed discussion of adolescent sexuality in the repressive context of our “abstinence-only” government propoganda. I’ll be posting today, Monday and Tuesday. Today, I’ll let you know a little bit about me and my perspective on sexuality in general. Monday I’ll write a bit about human sexuality from a biological evolutionary perspective, not something I’ve seen much about. Tuesday, I’ll write about substance abuse as relates to sexuality. Of course, I’d love to hear from you, and look forward to this continuing conversation. You may e-mail me privately at WendyHarlowe@gmail.com, or of course, simply comment here on the blog.
So, first off, Wendy Harlowe is a pseudonym. I can be much freer in discussing sexuality this way. I’m an “outlier” in this arena. You know what an outlier is? Statistically speaking, its someone outside the norm, someone on the charts far outside where most people fall. My history and experience are unusual, and my perspective is unusual in many ways. Does one follow the other? Perhaps, but not necessarily.
As regards adolescent sexuality, I had a lot of sex while an adolescent. I’ve had a lot of sex and sexual experiences as an adult as well. Briefly, here is some of what I’ve experienced: snatched by a pedophile at 9 yrs of age; burst out into sex, drugs and rock’n’roll at age 13; was gang raped by the bikers I was hanging around with at age 17; had lots of sex with lots of people in my teens, 20s and 30s, started slowing down in my 40s; worked in the sex trade in my teens — strip joints, porn theaters, prostitution; lived as a lesbian for about 7 years, late teens and early 20s; really enjoyed a lot of computer sex in my 30s; am now happily married (third time’s the charm for me); am bisexual, but fairly invisible in that regard since I now live a middle class married life with children; contracted gonorrhea as a teenager (with the diagnoses of infertility as a result — although after 22 years of using no birth control, I did become pregnant at the age of 38!); contracted herpes in my early 20s, still live with it; sobered up as a member of AA when I was 21 yrs old, so I only hit the alcohol and drugs heavily for 8 years.
This I believe regards sexuality: that so much of what is taken for truth isn’t; that monogamy and marriage originated as tools to promote patriarchy — to ensure that men know their progeny, can “own” and control their families; that there exists an unfair double standard that heaps blame and shame and negative social repercussions upon girls and women who are free with their sexuality; that religion and religious beliefs far too often reinforce the institutions of marriage and monogamy; that it is entirely OKAY to tryst with another person simply for the pleasure of the shared sexuality; that sex can be enjoyed in its fullness without expectations, without promises, without a future between the consenting participants; that honesty is the way to go; that there is an exquisite balance between selfishness and giving to the other in sexual encounters, and that this balance cannot be achieved at all times; that girls and women too often forgo their own sexual pleasure out of fear and timidity and the unexamined belief that they need to be nice; that sex isn’t talked about near enough; that one can deeply love more than one person at a time; that if one is in a long-term committed relationship, “extracurricular sexual activity” is not necessarily a betrayal of one’s partner; that the sexual drive is primal and exquisite and should be explored and enjoyed, not repressed and denied.; that our ideas about sexual morality are intertwined with our dysfunctional social strictures; that if we lived in a more child-friendly world, one wouldn’t necessarily need the monogamous/marriage institution in order to see our children raised well.
One of my favorite quotes: “… have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” — Ranier Maria Rilke
A question for you: what do you think about having multiple sexual partners? If we could get rid of the romantic notions that saturate our culture, that yearning for “the one” … the one who will make our life complete … could we enjoy our sexuality outside of a “long-term committed relationship”?
I couldn’t, no. So much of sex for me is tied up in my commitment to the one person who makes my life complete. But I don’t make claims for what other people can enjoy.
Understandable, totally. I completely understand the sexual connection with someone you deeply love. With my partner of 14 years, I have had sex only with him for the past 6 years, and it has deepened in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. Doesn’t change my basic beliefs, though. I think it also has to do with literally aging; sexuality simply isn’t the drive it once was. (more on that Monday, the biology of it all)
What a delightful surprise. I expected the guest blogger to be on the conservative end of the spectrum. Thanks for sharing your personal experience so honestly. It’s interesting to hear your views.
I believe theoretically in having multiple sexual partners…in fact at one point about 10 years ago, I was thinking seriously about having a threesome of live-together partners (because I loved two people and didn’t want to choose). What the intervening years has taught me is that having one, healthy and mutually satisfying relationship is complicated enough for me; so complicated that I don’t have one. Nor am I particularly interested in sex without relationship. But, I think if we were raised to see sex as a natural and enjoyable aspect of our humanness, and if the majority of people thought so, sexual dynamics would change dramatically. This has already started with the changes in the 60’s, but I’d guess we have another 100 years or so to go. A lot of that will depend on what young women choose to do going forward. I think women need to be empowered to control their sexual lives. First we need to acknowledge that girls and women are sexual beings equal to men, as you suggest in your writing.
One of my favorite books is “The Fifth Sacred Thing” by Starhawk. A group of young characters in her book grew up together and were free to experiment with sex together (they had fairly enlightened parents). She describes a scene where they are seeing each other as young adults after a long separation and have sex as a group; it was beautifully written as a sacred act of reconnecting. I think there was even a special room at the house for the purpose. Beautiful. I believe lots of things are possible, especially among aware, trustworthy and loving people.
I have a friend from high school who’s poly, and other pals who are simply cheating on their spouses (one of whom claims to be poly, but I don’t think that’s what it’s called when the wife doesn’t know). I had a lot of sex with multiple partners in my teens and twenties, and I have to say I enjoyed it. But I got tired in the end of how much of my sense of self-worth was bound up in the successful expression of my sexuality (read: attracting partners), and I got religion, and I got pregnant, and I got married. I agree that we need to acknowledge sexuality as a core element of ourselves and talk about it way more – especially with kids! – but to my way of thinking that means treating it with a certain respect and not using it to sell crap or avoid addressing problems or as a substitute for other forms of self-realization. The fact that many people embrace limitations on their freedom doesn’t mean they’ve been brainwashed by the prevailing culture (though Lord knows I’ll cop to being patriarchy’s handmaiden despite my advanced feminist reading and adoration of Twisty Faster and Susie Bright). Sexuality is as integral to us as hunger for food, but some people would really rather just have the same things to eat over and over again.
Being sexually involved with more than one person seems like one those grand ideas like pure communalism. Great in theory, but once human frailties and egos and fears all get involved things get sticky (no pun intended).
For me the multiple partner thing wouldn’t work. Setting aside the issue of me being in a monogamous partnership I just think it’s not in my nature (or I’ve just internalized the dominant paradigm on this issue) – but it’s the same net effect.
In “Queer as Folk” terms I’m more Justin than Brian.
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