Most of the time when people ask if being a sex educator means I have a better sex life, I reply, “Knowledge is power.” Being well-informed about sex makes me more relaxed, more creative, and more confident about sex.
But there’s an exception.
When I spend a lot of time doing sexual assault stuff – prevention work, survivor support, policy, etc etc – it absolutely drags down my own sexual health. Absolutely.
I’m gloriously partnered with someone who totally Gets It about consent and respect and pleasure and joy in sexual experiences. But it’s like with smoking: an insidious thing about trying to quit tobacco is that even thinking about how glad you are not to be smoking any more, can trigger a craving. Even my gratitude and appreciation of my partner’s respect triggers awareness of what it’s like for people who don’t have such respectful partners, who don’t feel as comfortable with consent and non-consent, and for people who comfortably and unthinkingly assert their own sexual will, not recognizing or not caring that they are imposing their will on someone consented only because they felt coerced, or hasn’t said yes, or who said no and didn’t get heard.
I mean, I can’t even hear the song, “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid” without thinking, “Ugh, rape culture.” So yeah, doing sexual assault work annihilates my sexual interest, dragging it into the swamp of rape culture and drowning it like a sack of kittens. Kittens that would otherwise have enjoyed some tumbling playtime with friends, followed by a nap and a leisurely bath.
Solutions? Non-sexual touching and intimacy. Time to mourn, to move through the emotional tunnel and come out the other side. Paying attention to pleasure, all kinds of pleasure, all sources of joy. Mindfulness and lovingkindness meditations for myself and the survivors and the co-survivors and the perpetrators. And sometimes, day-long binges of “Pride and Prejudice.” And when it gets really serious, a couple days at Ocean House, having massages and pedicures and things.
Anyway. What brought on this sudden “Ugh” moment? Why, something actually pretty interesting! This video is from Emory University’s Project Respect, out of their Office of Health Promotion (trigger warning, inevitably):