In fact, when we first got together, a bunch of our friends broke up because they could tell (we weren’t saying anything, they could just tell) that we were having better sex than they were ever going to have together.
But then Matthew got sick.
Really, really sick.
And what had been a source of strength in our relationship became a real problem.
A real problem in a big monster pile of really-real problems.
It took years. And a devastating amount of vulnerability, maturity and compassion, but we figured out how to put our sexual selves back in the centre of our marriage.
Your Own Personal Sexual Revolution
Chronic illness can provide motivation to get your sexual self sorted.
Whether the illness happens to you or your partner, it requires that you start getting intentional about the things you really want in your life.
It took about 57 agonizing steps for us to create a new sexual relationship. The process was convoluted because we were that deep in chaos. And because there is very little useful information available to help people in our situation.
Along the way we each had to do a tremendous amount of personal work. In fact, most of the work was individual. Getting ourselves sorted so we could find our way back together.
But looking back, we agree that the process boils down to just three steps.
Four, if you count keeping a sense of humour~.
- Get Sex Positive;
- Conduct a Needs Assessment; and
Whether you are dealing with a chronic health issue or are perfectly healthy, the same three steps apply.
Step 1: Get Sex-positive
Getting sex positive involves getting to know your sexual self and learning to feel good about it.
Sounds simple. But getting past all the discomfort and weirdness that accompanies sexuality in our culture is a complex undertaking.
Sex: Still Taboo
There are almost 7.4 billion people on earth, almost all of whom are the outcome of sex. I’ve heard that humans engage in about 1,000 episodes of sex per baby. My guess is that’s conservative. But if we let the math be fast & loose, that’s still 7,400,000,000,000 sexual encounters, based on the current population.
Yet, much of the time, we still act like sex doesn’t exist.
The taboo around sexuality is evident in the almost total lack of reference to sex by most health care providers, even though sex and health are interconnected and impacting each other all the time.
Especially for people with medical conditions.
But, weirdly, sex is hardly mentioned in healing protocol circles, either.
Discomfort and Ambivalence
Research suggests that up to three-quarters of people with autoimmune arthritis experience sexual problems, but only 12% of rheumatologists discuss sexuality with their patients. Rheumatologists cite time constraints, discomfort and ambivalence as reasons for not addressing sexuality.
Another study shows that people with autoimmune arthritis usually don’t approach health professionals about sex, either.
Clearly, we’re still repressed! And getting sex positive after a lifetime of subtle and overt conditioning isn’t easy.
If you have history of sexual trauma, you will want to take extra good care of yourself through this process.
In addition to working with Matthew’s health issues during the past seven years, we were also negotiating a history of childhood sexual abuse that he hadn’t previously acknowledged.
We talked about it a lot. He got counselling. He did his work.
Our progress was determined by the pace of his healing.
How 2: Be Sex Positive
Being sex positive is all about consent.
Sex-positivity doesn’t endorse oppression. Just acceptance of human sexual expression between people who are capable of consent who consent.
If your mission is to become sex positive, your main task is to exorcise any shame that’s lurking in your psyche. And the most effective way to do that is through healthy exposure.
Here are some ideas:
- You read blogs, right? You’re reading one right now. So, check out Kinkly’s sex blogger directory or this list of 20 sex-positive blogs.
- Read a book. One we found helpful is The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers. It contains excellent exercises for individuals and couples.
- Watch a show. Masters of Sex, the story of William Masters’ & Virginia Johnson’s research into human sexuality starting in the late 1950s, inspires scientific curiosity about sex.
- Watch comedy. Louie is Louis CK’s wonderfully raunchy autobiographical TV series. His stand-up routines (available on You Tube) are also very sex positive. Louis CK is brilliant and not for the easily offended.
Becoming sex positive is about giving yourself permission to like what you like. And be curious about what you’re curious about.
If you still feel like you need an excuse to be interested in sex, think of your exploration as an anthropological study. Once you no longer need to justify your interest (or disinterest) in sex: congratulations! That’s sex positive.
Part 2: up soon
In part 2 I’ll explore the next steps for hacking your sexuality:
- Conducting a Needs Assessment;
- Experimenting; and
- The all-important #4 bonus step: keeping your sense of humour.