I recently had an article published in Sex+ zine. Here's an extract and a link...
I would like to invite you to explore the garden of your sexuality. Over the years, seeds will have been planted in your mind – ideas about sex. They may have been planted by friends, family, teachers, magazine articles, adverts, fictional characters… the list is endless. As you have grown, these seeds have also grown, into plants, so that now, your internal sexual landscape is a verdant garden.
Some of the plants in my garden are: the ‘Only Boys Masturbate’ Shrub, the ‘You Are A Sex Object’ Flower, and the ‘Sexual Desire In Women Is Dirty’ Tree. I don’t like any of those plants very much. They don’t make me feel good. They feel restrictive. To me, they are weeds. I don’t agree with any of those statements. That’s why it took me a long time to realise that these received ideas were shaping my internal landscape, and affecting my relationship with sex.
I came across the garden metaphor in the brilliant book Come As You Are by scientist and sex educator Emily Nagoski. One of the things Emily does in her book is help the reader to unpick the root causes of any shame they may be carrying around in relation to sex. I found the analogy of the garden incredibly useful, as it gave me a way of engaging with the ideas about sex that I had internalised without even realising. I read the book as part of my research for a play I was writing; Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself, in which I wanted to celebrate female sexuality. If you had asked my opinions on sex at that time, I would have confidently given you feminist, sex positive answers. If you’d asked me if I thought of myself as a sex object, I probably would’ve responded with a tirade about how damaging it is that women are presented in this way in the media, how dangerous it is for men to routinely dehumanise women in this way, how I was a complex human, and an active subject in my life, not an object of any kind. And that is all true. However, when I started digging around my garden, I unearthed the ‘You Are A Sex Object’ Flower. It had been planted by men wolf-whistling and catcalling me on the street since I was 11 years old. It had been watered by adverts, films, topless women on page 3 of a newspaper, and a million other little things. I didn’t believe it to be true, but that didn’t change the fact that it was there. Inside me.