Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, September 17, 2022 - Sex Positivity

We’ve recently binge-watched the new Netflix series How to Build a Sex Room. It was very eye-opening. But not for any reason I imagined.

It was several episodes in before I began to realize what made this show in particular so remarkable. I kept trying to use the term ‘unapologetic’ to describe its approach to sex. But it just wasn’t the right word. 

It definitely wasn’t apologizing either, of course. But that’s not necessarily the opposite of being unapologetic. There is a tone of defiance in being unapologetic about something. Rightfully or otherwise, being unapologetic is a stance one takes in opposition to those who think an apology is owed. The implication being that you have done something wrong.

There is nothing wrong here, however. And the creators of this show comfortably know that. That’s the nuance I am speaking of. 

Everyone on the show behaves as though sex is completely normal and that their own sexual interests require no justification. Primarily, of course, because they do not. But that has not been a given in television shows that discuss human sexuality. 

As a rule, contemporary documentaries and other programs that focus on sex are framed with an awareness of the shame about the issue that exists in society. Good. The unnecessary amount of shame that’s heaped upon human sexuality in our world needs to be called out and atoned for. But clearly, it’s not the only way to approach the desire for social progress in the area of sex and media. 

In Star Trek parlance, this show is the sex positivity equivalent of Nyota Uhura’s contribution to the social justice arc of the universe. I feel like I want to apologize for the potential hyperbole of that statement, but I can’t bring myself to do it because I’m not so certain it is. I think it’s kind of a big deal.

One of Star Trek’s social justice accomplishments was about what it didn’t do. Namely, that it didn’t acknowledge in any form that it was unusual in two ways for black woman to be an officer on a starship. Within the imagined world of Star Trek no distinction was made that she was anything other than a highly-qualified officer. Period. Demonstrated as if it were already the most normal thing that ever happened.

This visionary portrayal demonstrates a future time when racism is so far in the rearview mirror that it’s taken for granted we are all equal. Long before such a reality is achieved. It is modeling optimal behavior for us. 

In How to Build a Sex Room, I happen to think that its distinct lack of self-consciousness and the absence of a whispered tone to kinky things is a watershed moment of its own yet unrecognized.

It doesn’t need to be feted in the way that social justice rightfully honors Gene Roddenberry, however. There are over 8,000 scripted television shows at the moment. A far cry by orders of magnitude from the early 1960s. This is probably not the only show out there handling it in the same way. Which means that the tide of shame is showing signs of turning. Literally. 

There are days ahead of us when people forget that we were ever taught to feel shame about sex. Thank God for that. When so much of the sexual crime in the world is caused by the very repression and sexual assaults which always precede more, what might become of a world where sexuality is treated in a healthy and glorious way? What will happen when we let go of control of others’ private lives in favor of responsibly embracing the gift of joy and pleasure we’ve been given? 

Because when we are repressed or made to feel ashamed about sex, our natural human need will still find a way, even if that way is self injurious, or even dangerous. Shame begets harm, always. 

So, hats off to the creators of a little binge worthy show about sex room interior design. I look forward to the day when the rest of the world sees itself in the healthy way that they do. It’s just a matter of time now. 

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