Social norms shouldn’t control how you have sex

It’s hard to argue that western culture isn’t completely obsessed with sex, even when references are normalized in children’s movies.

Sex is everywhere we look. It’s in nearly every Netflix show, mainstream music, social media trends and even some restaurant chains that capitalize off sexualized bodies. We can’t escape it, and many of us might be okay with the frequent exposure, as it is part of our daily lives and the baseline of our relationships.

That’s not to say that this fascination with sex is a bad thing; when combined with consent and healthy communication between involved parties, it can be empowering and aid in strengthening relationships. But my underlying question is: Do social norms attached to sex weaken relationships and sex lives?

For example, the concept of “hate sex”. To me, even the phrasing of these words makes me squirm and never want to endure during my relationships. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, it essentially requires two people who despise each other so much that they have this explosive and passionate sex fueled by their own hatred and annoyance of the other. This rubs me the wrong way because it puts the notion out that sex is better when you’re fighting with partners and mad at each other. It also leads to the conclusion that this anger-filled sex may somehow “fix” an unhealthy or broken relationship because the sex is that good. But sex is not the only component to a relationship and should not be the driving force keeping couples together.

On the other side of this spectrum, a lot of sex can be great for partners, who also work on emotional connection and other forms of intimacy within their relationship— but sex doesn’t always have to be a prevalent component. Media and society alike have put forth this constant ideal that modern-day relationships need to be filled with hot and steamy sex anywhere and everywhere, which can definitely be true for some people, but not all. The amount of sex within a relationship doesn’t constitute how much one loves or cares for their partner, as every connection and relationship needs different things.

Personally, I hold non-sexual intimacy pretty highly in my relationships, sometimes even more than sexual aspects. This can simply look like cuddling, holding hands or even just checking in on one another throughout the day.

Aside from what sex should look like, or doesn’t look like, in relationships, popular culture has played a large part in what sex is in general. To any of my fellow LGBTQ+ readers, have you ever been explicitly asked by a stranger or acquaintance “how” you have sex with your partners? Well from my speculation, this invasive and inappropriate question usually stems from the person’s heteronormative outlook on sex and how they can’t possibly fathom people who can have sex without exclusive vaginal penetration from male sex organs. Even in this increasingly sex progressive day and age, media sources are still filled with heterosexual relationships and even queer examples are usually portrayed as gay men, when millions of unique queer sexual relationships exist in the world.

Everything aside, sex inherently has predetermined standards attached to it. But remember, it is your sex life, and you ultimately decide how it’s going to look.

Rayanne Painter can be reached at [email protected] or @rayphenomenon on Twitter.