I have alluded to the fact that my sexual values as a person and as a therapist have changed over time. I thought that it might spark interest to have me identify which values I have cut over the years. This may be of value because it will show that I don’t hold these beliefs rigidly. As a therapist, I question myself a lot and do my best to recognize when my ideas don’t conform to the realities of my client’s lives. Without further ado, the list of values that didn’t make the cut.
When I first made my list of sexual values for a presentation to a class on Human Sexuality, I almost didn’t include this value in the first place. The history of making sexual diversity, sexual expression, and sexual practice illegal is ripe with more than enough examples to have made me cautious about this value from the beginning. I ended up including it but with an asterisk. I knew that many practices that I thought of as normal (like teenagers engaging in sexual activity other than penetrative penis-vagina sex) were illegal in some municipalities (California). I also knew that from municipality to municipality or state to state, the laws about sexuality are different about almost anything from the age of consent, the legality of consenting sex in front of other consenting people like at a sex club (and many, many more).
Because of those hesitations, I did end up including the value of legality in my early presentation but with an asterisk. I tried to explain during the presentation that what I meant by legality was the importance of navigating legal issues consciously. Now though, I just don’t believe that society has the right to irrationally, irresponsibly, and randomly require people to become conscientious objectors to engage in sexual behaviors that are common and pleasurable. Teenagers should be allowed to explore their sexuality with developmental peers (including making some mistakes) without fear of being labelled a sex offender. I also realized that the other values like consent and sustainability would still challenge many behaviors that might be out of control or exploitative. Therefore, I have taken the value of legality off the list.
Relational, emotional, & attaching
When I originally created this list, I included the value that sexuality allows for the person to relate to others, to have and express emotions, and to build attachments. I thought that this value could still honor asexual people by saying that even the absence of sexual behavior can still include friendships, romantic attractions, and community relationships. I also thought I could side-step a critique about this value from kink and poly-folk by the caveat that I’m not saying that the person someone has sex with must be the person they are relational, emotional, and attaching to.
I now think that I just don’t have any reason to include it. While I understand best and can best treat clients who are interested in relationships, emotional intimacy, and romantic attachment, I am in no position to judge someone who doesn’t desire those intimacies with people. The eventual removal of this value from my list began when I first encountered object-sexuals and I realized that I have no objective criteria with which to judge someone with that manifestation of sexuality. I found that instead, a quick question that I have used for many years caught me from applying that judgment. I asked myself, “Is the pain in this community caused by their behavior or by the intolerance of people outside of the community?” Since it seemed to me that the pain in the object-sexual community was caused more by the intolerance of others, I had to let this value go.
I used to try to maintain this value on the list despite being welcoming of kinky (or BDSM) behaviors by saying that I meant that the injuries were unintended and/or irreparable. As I came to understand more about kink though, I realized that this value simply couldn’t be maintained. Sometimes despite the best planning and preparation an accident can happen. Why would I label an injury problematic in one person when the source of the injury was a sexual behavior but label another person normal or even admirable if their injury comes from dedication to an intense sport? Furthermore, people make irreparable or difficult to repair choices about their sexuality (and many other aspects of their lives) all the time including piercings, sterilization, or child-bearing. Why would I chose to identify any of those behaviors as problematic when the value of sustainability identifies what could be challenging in the behavior and allows for the freedom to choose personal sexual expressions.
For the reasons described, my sexual values list has evolved over time. I find myself wondering which of the 4 values that I still retain will fall away next. This is one of the beauties of the field of sex therapy to me. Every time I am challenged by something new I have an opportunity to challenge my assumptions. Human sexuality is so diverse, each person’s eroticism is so unique, that I think studying it and being of service to people for their sexual issues will help me to continue to evolve long after I have retired.
Other posts in this series:
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