Hope you like my title.
My horse is dead and buried and I’m going to beat it anyways.
If you’ve read my writing by now you’ll know I’m a big proponent of script theory and deconstructing our beliefs and values around sex. These scripts are culturally prescribed, whether by country, time period, culture, religious faith tradition, media consumed, you name it. TL;dr: we are told how to have sex, and how not to have sex, and any deviation from that is a no-no. Here’s the script I was raised in around the “right” sex to be having, and it might look familiar to you too —
There’s two partners at a time, most often in private. They have to be relatively youthful, thin, and white. They express desire for one another and are in a committed relationship. They are a man and a woman of typical gender presentation. The man initiates the sexual encounter. He and the woman kiss, and then touch one another. Clothes come off. The kissing becomes more insistent. The man has no trouble getting or maintaining an erection, and his penis is of a certain size. Then there’s some oral. Goodness forbid it goes for “too long” because we don’t want it to be the main event, right? The partners move into having PIV sex. Probably missionary. Likely in dark or dim lighting. The sex ends when the man has an orgasm, and it isn’t “too short” but it also doesn’t last “too long” either. Then maybe there’s some cuddling. Right? Is this what yours looks like, too?
Scripts tell us how to live our lives — how to be a “good, moral person,” how to negotiate a restaurant to eat at with someone who is allergic to shellfish, how to not be an asshole on the road, how to receive a gift graciously, how to respond to a person whose family member just passed away. They’re meaningful, and helpful in having a quick and easy rolodex of stuff to pull up when a situation presents itself, so we aren’t just scrambling to relearn or improvise every time.
However, scripts have a dark side — they are, with particularly regard to sexual scripts, restrictive, and any small deviation immediately can equal failure, resulting in consequences. How can you put something as zany and creative and expressive as sex and sexual expression into a small scripted box in the same way you could “how to pay the bill when there are two or more of us out to eat,” I ask you??
The consequence of a sexual script not followed can be bad feelings, self-judgement, hurt, shame, guilt, doubt, fear, relationship problems, and a host of other unpleasant things. These can arise from off-script occurrences as seemingly simple as — lack of concurrent orgasm, amount of time spent having sex, genital appearances, sounds made, bodily appearance, STIs, and on and on. Even if we can say “oh, it happens to everyone,” or “oh it’s normal,” and pull up statistics on WebMD or whatever, it can still leave a lingering bad feeling to a non-seasoned script challenger. The last thing I want for you is more insecurities and hang ups. So let’s talk about how to expand our definition of sex beyond the restrictive cultural norms.
I’m here to talk about Queer Sex, though I actually more mean “Queering” sex, as in the process of breaking down strict cultural scripts and conditions and any binaries or “shoulds” within them. I’m going to use the phrase queer sex to refer to a spectrum of sexual activity that does not fit the norm script explained above, regardless of partners’ gender, number of partners, or sex acts within.
There’s a joke within circles I’m in that the most lewd sex acts to be had right now, that the most kinky, imaginative, risky act to be had is — you guessed it, hand holding. I find this to be hilarious but also can relate. The act of making a move, allowing oneself to be intimate and vulnerable with a partner, and doing something you want to do, despite it being scary, or risky, or cheesy and intimate. Sometimes that hand hold can be more intimate, with more feelings and closeness attached to it than the prescribed hookup culture thing of anonymously fucking some tinder person you met an hour ago. This is what I’m talking about with queering sex. Let’s talk about doing some fun sexy shit that matters to you.
Queer sex allows for more diversity in what folks do, incorporating differences whether from the above socially-established norm, or differences in what we do in sex acts from time to time — here meaning, that we may allow differences in encounters too — maybe one night you catch, maybe one night you pitch, I don’t know — that sort of thing. Queer sex also involves consent. There isn’t a question, enthusiastic consent is communicated and established. This kind of act involves parties checking in with one another and knowing that the other person really, really wants this. It feels good to be wanted.
Thus, queer sex also involves much communication. Maybe this is the queerest part of all: communicating about sex can be hard and scary for the novice coming off of a culture that demands straight sex. Why communicate when we both know what’s on the culturally-appropriate menu? In queer sex, we discuss what we like and what we don’t (or what we’d like to learn). We establish boundaries that are noticed and respected. We express our desires, our nervousness, our hopes. We negotiate a sexual experience that matters to us.
There’s a reason there’s this trope of folks running off into the night to be with their same-gender lovers — women swearing off men for good once getting a female partner, men braving all odds to consort with a gay lover behind the wife’s back — I’m using small-minded cliché here, so forgive that, but I believe these examples might prove a point other than they were gay all along and living a lie (sorry for the bi erasure here my fellow finger-gun-pointers) — queer sex is fun. It can be relaxing, uninhibited, certainly less scary and laden with judgement, woes, and fears like traditional straight sex can be. Queer sex begins at a place where there is no rulebook, and so the players can figure out what to do by negotiating with one another, thereby allowing their true selves and desires to dictate their sex lives. The thing is, queer sex, that is, sex where folks negotiate the terms and don’t follow social scripts, can be had by all, including straight couples. INCLUDING someone having sex with themselves! Seriously.
Here I’m using the term “queer” rather than another you may have heard, such as “kinky sex.” I feel that there are some implications in that word that I’m not getting at — namely, that having sex outside the norm of society doesn’t necessarily mean involving kink or the umbrella of acts, situations, scenes, or persons included within. Rather, the act of queering sex, here, refers to our ability to deviate from what society tells us should be “normal” — though this may involve having more kinky sex, it really just involves NOT having scripted, rigid, prescribed sex. There’s some overlap between the circles of this venn diagram, but not an eclipse.
Having queer sex doesn’t necessarily mean, also, having sex with a member of the LGBT community, though that’s all well and good (a bonus, really). A straight couple can totally queer up their sex life — whether that involves breaking down gendered roles and performances, allowing oneself to try things not ordinarily permitted by strict social and sexual norms, communicating about sex and having brave conversations, and/or allowing oneself to let loose in ways that felt uncomfy before. The sky’s the limit.
Thus, being a porn aficionado or an LGBT+ member does not afford that one is good at queer sex, or having queer sex. Being like, “I choke girls on the first date” isn’t your ticket to queer pound town. Having a gold star doesn’t mean you are having queer sex in the definition I’m using here (and maybe it would be nice to drop the pressure-gatekeeping surrounding gold star status, no?). Getting yourself to self-pound-town with a BLÅHAJ, Bambisleep video, and some cat ears does not a queer-sex-haver make. Rather, understanding oneself and allowing the space to negotiate a sexual experience with a partner (or with oneself) that is consensual and expands on one’s compassion, knowledge, and skills is the ticket I’m describing here. I’m not saying to go into sex or masturbation with a clipboard, pocket protector, crystals set, and mood tracker; just that, the openness that accompanies an honest sexual experience is a bonus both to the orgasm and to one’s self-development. We’re stopping the proverbial, prescribed straight sex and turning on our metaphorical lights and stopping doing just missionary for procreation and really looking at ourselves and one another. Metaphorically speaking, that is.
What are the kind of sexual experiences we could be having if we welcome more queer sex into our lives?
- Welcoming conversations with partners prior to sex about safety, sexual wellness, and boundaries.
- Allowing myself to look at porn I like and challenging feelings of guilt and shame.
- Engaging with my established partner that we may have some times where one or neither of us might orgasm and that is ok because that isn’t the only finish line.
- Allowing myself to try anal stuff and noticing and challenging feelings about stereotypes of “gayness” that may include.
- Taking time to understand and accept my sexual orientation and any related fears or worries about it. Maybe accepting that a label might not even fit or matter in the grand scheme and that does not have to be a reflection on me.
- Allowing myself to try doing a thing that I want to try but felt uncomfortable with before because I fear being “bad at it.”
- Sitting with myself after a great masturbation sesh and allowing myself to laugh and enjoy what my body accomplished rather than immediately closing the screen in shame.
- Challenging myself to allow sex to last different amounts of time — maybe mindfully practicing something longer than I would have allowed myself before, or not pushing myself to finish ASAP if that felt necessary before.
- Decentering sex from orgasm and allowing the two to be separate experiences.
- Noticing when I feel like I am under a spotlight and recentering myself in that experience.
- If having sex with a partner(s), trying to focus on doing something for their pleasure rather than my own.
- Likewise, allowing myself to receive sexual pleasure and not rushing myself to have to have an orgasm or having to “perform” sexual pleasure for a partner.
- Allowing myself to make the noises I want to make during sex rather than forcing myself to be quiet or have to do over-the-top moaning.
- Communicating during sex when something feels good or when something feels painful, frictiony, or uncomfy.
- Giving myself some grace that my body might look weird during sex, noticing it, and moving forward from that. Bodies have stretch marks, dark spots, hairs, fat rolls, etc.etc.etc.
- Allowing myself to turn down or reschedule sex when I’m really not feeling it.
- Permitting myself to have sex with a body that might not be perfectly just-showered and shaved.
- Having discussions about pregnancy, sexual wellness, and STIs and giving myself grace with the deviations from the norm I might be having and not apologizing for it profusely, whether that’s being on a period, having a dick size you don’t like, managing gender dysphoria in combination with sex, having an STI, being a squirter, not orgasming, wanting to use barrier methods of protection, etc.
- Asking questions about a partner to ensure their comfort level and really allowing yourself to listen and understand their desires, boundaries, and consent.