One of the things sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists need to learn is how not to be shocked. No matter what someone says about their sex life, staying neutral and unsurprised is the only way to maintain that person’s trust.
Example: If you tell me you enjoy masturbating with your childhood teddy bear and I react with a grimace of disgust, you’ll feel bad, right? Judged. Guilty. Shamed. When really, so what? If it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anybody, why not? So I don’t grimace. I smile gently and ask, “And how does that work out for you?”
We’re exposed to everything, we sex educators – every fluid (and I do mean EVERY fluid), every practice, every prop, every power dynamic, and every costume you can imagine, and probably many more. And we learn that all of it falls within the realm of mutually consenting adult sex.
I’ve had people try to shock me – they’ll deliberately invent the most outlandish sexual practices they can imagine to see if they can make me wince or look away or show anything but neutral acceptance. I’m well trained. Easily grossed out in every other domain – food, small animals, smells, that kind of thing – I just can’t be shocked.
Only when things fall outside mutually consenting sex does the neutrality drop away. (That’s not precisely true: there is ONE thing I’ve never managed to be neutral about, but it’s so gross it actually grosses other people out for me to talk about it, so I won’t.) I can not learn to be not grossed out by non-consent; moral disgust is as trainable as fluid- or animal-related disgust, but I simply refuse to be desensitized to assault, abuse, rape, or child-adult sexual contact.
It comes in handy, my moral outrage. When I was an undergrad, I was having lunch with a couple of male undergrads, and one told a story about his brother having sex with a girl who was passed out cold, drunk, at a party and then inviting his friend to do the same. His BROTHER and he told me at LUNCH! I stared at him in shock and horror, hardly realizing what I was doing until he looked at the ground and said, “Yeah, that was bad.”
Um, no, it wasn’t just bad, it was rape. And you’re talking about it socially, like it was just a practical joke. What. The. Fuck.
There are professionals who are, who have to be, neutral about these things. People who work with sex offenders can’t do their jobs if they express moral outrage to their clients.
That is not my job. My sense of moral disgust, of indignation, of outrage is untamed and I’m uninterested in taming it. I LIKE that I hate people who hurt others. I like that I’m filled with rage and horror at the thought of cruelty.
I also like that you can tell me absolutely anything about the mutually consensual things that happen in your bed (or out of your bed, for that matter) and I’ll smile supportively and say, “And how does that work out for you?” Had a fling with your first cousin? Arritey! How’s that workin’ out for you? Like being tied up, caged, or pinned down? Okay! How’s that workin’ out?
I think the world needs more people like me: people who are unable to stomach things that are truly evil, yet are completely comfortable with happy sex in all its forms, however unique.