The Way We “Talk the Talk” Controls the Way We “Walk the Walk” Part 1

(También en español)

“Sexual freedom expands or contracts within political, social, economic, cultural, and psychological contexts–some of them contradictory, some of them mutually reinforcing.” Marty Klein, Ph.D.

This is where the narratives of sexuality come into play: a “narrative” is a coherent storyline that contains a set of assumptions that enables people to make meaning out of raw fact.

For example, take the fact that there are 1 million abortions in American every year. Now, some people will argue that this fact as evidence of moral weakness and sexual promiscuity, while others interpret this fact as reflecting poor contraception use and a culture that discourages sexual planning. So basically, the way we talk and tell stories about sexual facts influences our perceptions about sex and the meaning we give to facts.

Marty Klein, psychologist and author of “America’s War on Sex,” which is outlined in the State of Sexual Freedom Report, produced by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull). Klein states that there are six key narratives of sexuality that support the restriction of sexual rights and freedom by controlling the way we “walk the walk” when it comes to sex.

It is important to remember that the societal narratives and stories we tell about sexuality are not facts, but only meanings attached to the facts. It is our duty to decipher these negative narratives as to combat their control over sexual rights and freedoms.

First is the narrative “sex is dangerous.” When sex is discussed in American society, it is typically through negative topics such as unwanted pregnancy, sexual violence, sexual dysfunction, and STDs/HIV. This focus on the risks of sexual activity leaves little room for discussions about its benefits, advantages, or pleasures: a practice that is also pervasive in abstinence-only education.

However, when people only focus on the negatives of sex, they either become sex-phobic or are ill-prepared when they find themselves in a sexual situation.

A second  narrative is the “government should protect us from sexual danger,” including sexual violence, perceived sexual abnormality, and the evidence of others’ sexuality. This narrative puts demands on the government to criminalize various sexual behaviors, restrict sexual commerce, and control sexual expression in mass media. Building off of this is the third narrative, “certain people aren’t sexually normal, and certain kinds of sex aren’t normal; society needs to be protected from both.” Examples of both these narratives are evident in the debate about marriage equality, the fight for LGBTQ rights, and in the SlutWalk movement.

To read about three more narratives of sexuality and their impact on teen sexuality and sex education in America, please read Part 2.

If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual rights/freedom and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit in September.  Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will be presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”

“If there were only 11 people in the world”: Narratives of sexuality reveals that, even with the progressive movement for LGBTQ rights, Americans at large still see certain sexualities as “normal” (heterosexuality) while all others are “abnormal” (homosexuality).

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Creative Commons Image Edited by: Alifa Watkins
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Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins

Alifa Watkins is an honors student at American University (Washington, DC) majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her interests in sex education and youth sexual health motivates her research, blogging, and activism for comprehensive sex education, more progressive attitudes about adolescent sexuality, and the improvement of sexual health outcomes in America.
Alifa Watkins