“When we are judging everything, we are learning nothing.”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth and Being Free
I recently had an interesting discussion while teaching a group of seniors about experiencing sexual pleasure in an aging body. This particular segment of the class focused on sex toys and how all manner of sex aids/toys can enhance sexual enjoyment where sensation has diminished with age. Translation: a vibrator can be a godsend for a woman who needs lengthy and intense stimulation to experience orgasm.
I shared a handout that contained a variety of statements about sex toys and asked participants to decide which statements were myths. One of the statements: “Sex toys are kinky,” generated a discussion worth sharing after one participant declared, “Sex toys are kinky, especially butt plugs!” His insistence allowed me to ask clarifying questions and offer a more sex positive way of viewing sex toys, butt plugs and sex practices that are consensual but perhaps different from what he was accustomed to.
While the term kink refers to sexual practices considered to be unconventional, including BDSM, it can also be used in a derogatory manner to suggest that a sexual practice is deviant or twisted. In the first context, the use of the term kink is accurate; in the latter, it is hurtful, perpetuating the belief that consensual sexual practices are bad if outside the speaker’s comfort zone. In my view as a sex positive sex educator, any sexual behavior goes as long as it is: consensual, mutual, respectful, safe and sane. Emily Nagoski in “Come as You Are, The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life,” suggests that a good rule of thumb for sex educators is “Don’t yuck anybody’s yum.” I think “Don’t yuck anybody’s yum” is a good rule for all of us!
If you hear of a sexual practice that strikes you as unusual, instead of judging, shaming or ridiculing, consider curiosity instead. Ask questions. Find out why a particular practice appeals to a person. Take butt plugs for example. Many people find anal play and the use of butt plugs to be incredibly erotic. For men, butt plugs stimulate the prostate, which is highly pleasurable and can greatly intensify orgasms. Straight men who can get past the “I must be gay if I enjoy anal play” mythology can open a whole new pathway to pleasure if open to exploring.
It is perfectly alright to avoid sexual activities that turn you off—in fact, a healthy “no” is vital to sexual wellbeing. But keep in mind that your yuck may be someone else’s yum and vocalizing your yuck can result in shaming—and that simply isn’t useful or welcome. So, let’s dispense with our judgments, shaming and labels. Be curious—and don’t yuck anybody else’s yum.
[i] Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., “Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”