Vancouver
3 min

Sex without shame

Why do stories celebrating sex spark such outrage?

Sex is such a funny thing. Our society uses sex to sell everything from cars to razors but rarely simply embraces it for the joyous activity it is.

I’m no exception. I’m 35 years old and only just beginning to savour my sexual desires now without shame.

When I first joined Pink Triangle Press as Xtra West’s staff reporter in 2001, I was more than a little sexually repressed. Hard not to be growing up in a society that’s so conflicted about sex let alone gay sex.

Surrounded by such conflicting messages (Sex is hot! It sells! But we don’t have any ourselves) it can be tempting to downplay the sexual aspects of ourselves to try to blend in.

But with the Press’ help and encouragement to set lust free I’ve come to believe that downplaying our desires is not only unhealthy but unnecessary.

I’d rather live fully and honestly than squash the parts of myself that others might not like. Besides, squashing bits of myself takes an incredible amount of energy. It’s amazing how much more fun you can have when you’re not madly trying to keep your inner gophers stuffed in their holes. 

I like sex. I like playing hockey too, but it can’t really compete with a toe-curling full-bodied orgasm. Nor should it. There’s room in my life for both.

As there’s room in Xtra West for celebrating multiple aspects of our gay beings too, including our sexual selves.

Yet nothing generates more outraged letters than celebrating sex. Why is that?

“This behaviour is disgusting. And dangerous. And embarrassing to those of us who do not participate in it,” one outraged reader posted on xtra.ca under our recent ode to park sex.

“It is not fair that I, a 40-year-old gay man with the decency and common sense and self-esteem to have only a small number of sexual partners, am judged as a sexual pervert because some gay men don’t possess the self-control to refrain from public sex with total strangers,” he wrote.

“Your selfish, dangerous, disgusting behavior reflects on ALL gay people, whether you like it or not. So stop being so selfish. Stop thinking with your dicks. And keep your sexual activity in your own home where it belongs. Some of us gay people are trying to live down YOUR reputations, butt heads. Grow up. Stop embarrassing the gay community.”

“I hate that you fan the flames and give ammunition to the ‘straight community’ to use against us,” added another reader. “Fair or not they hold up stories like this to use against us to brand us with whatever labels they feel fits.”

Embarrassment permeates these letters and posts, not to mention disgust, pleas to keep our sexuality hidden and a fear of being branded a pervert or handing “ammunition” to those who would oppose us.

In other words, shame.

And that is beyond sad.

Trying to tone ourselves down — and worse yet tone each other down — to gain acceptance from a society that still thinks sex, and our sex in particular, is somehow wrong and should be hidden not enjoyed, is a recipe for an incomplete life of stifled happiness.

“There is such a conservative backlash currently to the sexual revolution — gay OR straight,” posted one reader in response. “In the ’70s, public sex was seen by the gay militants as a political act… today, anything that isn’t vanilla, monogamous and behind closed doors is considered ‘disgusting’ by some of the readers here.

“Those who actually think that ALL gays are ‘promiscuous perverts’ will continue to think so whether we all stay home or not,” he pointed out. “Their homophobia will always find SOME reason to put us down. So save your breath. Your ‘reputation’ will never be acceptable to these guys, anyway.”

“I don’t feel a need to apologize on behalf of my sexuality just because some guys decide that some hot sex is more important to them than convincing homophobic straight people that we are just like them,” added another reader.

Convincing homophobic straight people to accept me is not my goal in life either. I’d rather live fully, sexually, and without shame.