The Words We Use is an exercise I frequently do with high school students in my work as a Rape Prevention Educator. I ask the students to name 10 or more words used for women and girls who have sex or are sexually active, men and boys who have sex or are sexually active and then words used to describe having sex or being sexually active.
The results are consistent: the words used to describe women are generally negative, the words for men are complimentary and the words for "sex" are usually violent. It seems that "nailing," "drilling," "pounding," "banging" & "fucking" casually roll off the tongues of youth but the words "making love" leave them rosy-cheeked and embarrassed.
The cultural definition of "making love" usually refers to two people who are in love sharing their bodies in a sexual way (a blush-worthy definition for any high school student, to be sure). But I'd like to explore a more literal definition. I am wondering what produces love? Is it parenthood? Friendship? Romance? This is a bigger question than can be adequately addressed in this blog entry. Clearly. But for the sake of exploration, roll with me.
Parenthood, friendship and romance all have connection in common. I can argue that connecting & being fully present with others can produce joy and, depending on your definition, love.
My next question is -- what do we enter the bedroom to do, exactly? Is it simply to get off? If that is all, the other person is a mere accessory. You can "fuck," "nail" or "bang" your partner and you may reach your goal of orgasm in happy conjunction with them but you also run the risk of doing it at the expense of their well-being.
Countless songs, poems & visual works of art have been inspired by sex. Yet certainly many 'sexually active' folks have wondered "what is all the fuss about?" I don't claim to have all the answers, but I am pretty sure all the "fuss" did not stem from merely getting-off at the hands of another person [pardon the pun]. It was inspired by something more.
Instead of concerning ourselves solely with attaining orgasm or pleasuring our partner, I argue a more enjoyable experience will be had if we enter an encounter with the goal of connecting or being with another person. That connection can take many forms. It may be tender or rough, vanilla or kinky, it may be shared between lifelong partners or total strangers or anything in-between. But when partners connect with one another, when they check-in and make sure that their actions and behaviors are in-line with their partner's wants and desires, everyone leaves the experience feeling joyful and loving. In essence, you have produced, created, or in other words, made love.
The person who just had a fulfilling sexual experience is probably not the person cutting in line at the grocery store or flipping you off on the highway. They're more likely the person letting you cut in line because you have fewer items or leaving room for you to merge into their lane. In these seemingly small ways (and at the risk of sounding too "hippy-dippy") they are literally spreading kindness, joy, and yes -- love.
So okay, admittedly my definition of "producing love" is no less blush-worthy to an average high schooler than the standard definition of "making love." But I wonder what could be gained if, as a culture, we understood sex as a means of producing love and joy rather than a sinful and often destructive act that ruins young women and promotes young men to a false god-like status.
People have sex. Teens have sex. We can't change that. But we can change our cultural definition of what having sex is and should be. It should produce joy. It should produce love. If it does not, it's possible what we're doing isn't sex at all.