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Why is Sex a Private Matter?

Tight Lipped

One evening while returning home from a job interview, I telephoned Priyam my college friend. I wanted her personal stories on sex for my blog. Priyam and I know each other for 15 years and we were roommates once. Together we have shared many meals, leisure walks, late night conversations, and endured many heartaches. I was near sure to get a sexual narrative from her but I was left disappointed as she said –

‘Pallavi, I have no problem sharing my sexual stories but the challenge is it is not limited to me. It involves one more person that is my husband. And he might not be comfortable.’

I wonder, what is it about sex that makes it a secret, a private matter? I believe, as adults we all know what sex is. We all know what happens between a man and a woman inside a closed room. It is an absolutely normal behavior!

There’s one more downside of sex becoming a private matter. When something goes out of public purview and public debate, no code of conduct is applicable to it. In other words, there is no understanding or agreement on what constitutes a desirable sexual behavior.

And how detrimental this vagueness around sex is…

I have suffered from this lack of understanding first hand. In past, I have been with men who did not care about my orgasm and I have also been with a man who asked if I had my orgasm and if not he will continue. Throughout my adult sexual life, I was asked to give oral sex but I never had the courage or awareness that I can also claim pleasure. I was a passive participant in sex.

There’s a book named ‘The Story of a Marriage’ – by Dennis Covington, Vicki Covington. The book is an autobiographical tale of Covingtons, a married writer-couple. In it they describe their alcoholism, drug use, her abortion, and their numerous adulterous affairs. The book caused quite a stir, not because of their personal revelations, but because of their sexual revelations. In a certain chapter of his book, Dennis Covington talks about relationship between sex and privacy.

I want to discuss the relation between sex and privacy. But before getting started, I want to emphasize how puzzling our attitudes are, where sex is concerned. You may think we’re all very sophisticated, and we can talk about sex as much as we want without anybody being shocked or embarrassed. But that is true only if we keep the discussion abstract—only if we don’t make it personal.

Indeed, it is not that sex is being discussed for the first time. Umpteen articles, columns, theories, case studies, and recommendations have been shared on sex. But in most of these cases, the author or the sexologist is talking from a 3rd person position. We are hushed up about a matter that is so common and conventional.

In his book, Dennis Covington explains why sex is a private matter because of a ‘phony disguise’ problem.

“Each one of us have a public face and a private face. We have an inner life of thoughts and attitudes that it would be disastrous to make public. We don’t expose everything we are thinking in order to avoid chaos and disaster in our dealings with other people. So we construct a “public face” that we present to the world. But most of us, when sexually engaged, do not wish to be seen by anyone but our partners. Full sexual expression and release leave us entirely vulnerable and without a publicly presentable face. Sex transgresses these protective boundaries, breaks us open, and exposes the uncontrolled and unpresentable creature underneath; that is its essence.”

But is this fence around our sexual life leading us anywhere? I think, because of the sexual repression, we have become more obsessed with sex. We remain discreet, tight lipped, and in a state of denial about our sexual liking. And the outcome is, sex a source of bliss is relegated to a responsibility for procreation or a covert act to be carried out in closed doors at night or in daylight with curtains suspended.  


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