Sex and shame

In the 1970s, a theory called ‘sexual script’ entered the field of sociology.

Coined and theorized by sociologists John Gagnon and William Simon, sexual script is the concept that our sexual expressions and impulses are dictated by three levels of influence: cultural/historical, social/interactive, and personal/intra-psychic. Basically, the idea is that sexual feelings do not just happen within us, but require an external influence of meanings and symbols to direct them. These scripts are seen as guidelines for sexual behavior. Or, as Wikipedia puts it, “appropriate sexual behavior.”

I believe my sexual and social scripts are liberal and open-minded, but therein lies the problem. I believe I’m all-accepting, so I don’t notice when I’m not.

I was raised by two radical feminist lesbians who spent every moment of their waking lives making sure that I was untouched by the traditional, effusing pedagogy of patriarchy and any other social systems they perceived as threatening. In my mothers’ household, heteronormativity was not a thing. They loved each other, the man next door loved his wife, my dad loved his boyfriend, and it was just that simple.

The thing is, even though my mothers worked so hard to make sure I chose my own gender, chose my own interests, was free of prejudice, et cetera, they still sent me to school, where social preclusions like normative sexual script were very much a thing.

People who have never recognized the effects of social scripts in their own lives systematically underestimate the roles they play, and the power they wield. When I was young I gave in to everyone else’s systems and attempted to bury mine. I ascribed to other kids because it was easier to do than be bullied. So at home I learned how to be, and at school I learned how to be straight and afraid of sexuality. Normativity affects all of us, and we need to realize how deeply and often invisibly it pervades our beliefs, even for those of us who would consider ourselves actively equitable.

On that note, I would like to apologize to all the readers who took my last column as a statement or commentary about sex clubs and sexual practices outside of mainstream sexual scripts. I did not in any way intend to insinuate that I thought sex clubs, the people in them, or people’s sexual preferences were disgusting, weird, or somehow lacking. I will honestly admit that I did expect a situation that would make me uncomfortable (hence the drinking), and I am disgusted and ashamed looking back on the article that my attempted translation came across in the calloused way that it did.

To clarify, “Sex and solitude vs. solidaity” (Health & Education, October 25, page 10) was meant as a narrative of an evening that, for me, was the culmination of a year of pretending to myself that I liked casual sex with strangers. I only realized this was not the case after going to a sex club and having an earnest conversation with these men regarding what they felt about casual (and other) sexual encounters, and their habits, reasons, and experiences. The fact that this personally profound realization was overshadowed by my seemingly blasé approach to the piece does nothing but highlight personal character flaws and shitty writing ability.

We can all try hard to be “open-minded,” but this episode has made it blatantly apparent that sometimes that is not enough. To further the favourite themes of the Daily this past week, we need ‘light-giving’ social systems to remind us that we all have work to do, and to show us where to start. Whether one is dressing up in blackface or in never-been-to-a-sex-club-and-has-some-unwarranted-preconceptions-face, we need to take responsibility and actively participate in our own personal growth and understanding of our positions within our individual and community spheres.

Opportunely, social commentary exists so that fellow readers can rip you apart and then display all the nasty little pieces you didn’t know you had.