A few weeks back, I was doing what I normally do on a Friday night—drinking wine and hanging out with friends. The conversation turned to pubic grooming habits at one point, and as we were sharing thoughts, one of my friends made a comment that ended with, “Well, I don’t know, it’s not like I watch porn.” Another friend nodded and continued the conversation while my eyes nearly popped out of my head. It’s very unlikely that this friend has never seen porn (according to a 2015 survey, 31 percent of American women watch porn a week), so then, why did she feel the need to deny it in front of two of her closest friends?
The next night I was out to dinner with my other friend Ellie, who told me that she had just found out that one of her closest friends, Jessica, was into nipple clamps—but she only knew because the asshole Jessica was hooking up with had sent photos of the clamps to his friends, one of which was forwarded to Ellie. Jessica had never talked about this sexual preference with Ellie, so it was a complete surprise.
It all begged the question—how much do we really share with our friends about our sex lives? Sure, we talk about sex, but what gets shared tends to be the safe stuff that we can discuss over brunch (favorite positions, how long a romp lasted, any particularly steamy moments)—and not the aspects of our sex lives that might make us feel vulnerable (kinks, preferences, anything not vanilla).
Now, it’s totally fair to keep your sexual proclivities to yourself if you’d like. But if we’re not giving our friends the full picture when it comes to any non-vanilla preferences, it seems like the only people who will know about a BFF’s S&M kink is their partner. And hopefully that partner is super supportive and the two of them are having an amazing time going at it as you read this—but what about those people like Jessica’s partner who would use someone’s kink to try and shame them? After all, we live in an age of hook-ups and people starting their first serious relationships later in life, which means that casual partners could be the only ones who know about our sexual preferences, and the only ones with whom we share the more vulnerable parts of our sexuality.
As a result, we’re susceptible to letting random people shape the way we think of our own sexuality based on their reaction to our proclivities, and one negative reaction could make us feel self-conscious about our sexual expression. Think about it: What if you had never told anyone besides your sex buddies about your enthusiasm for anal plugs, and one time a partner reacts by recoiling? Because there’s no larger frame of reference for how people respond to your kink, that reaction could be pretty hurtful.
And that’s kind of BS, right? Wouldn’t it be better if we all knew that there was a group of people out there who totally accepted us and our sexuality, so that if a casual partner—or any partner—tries to make us feel inferior about it, it won’t be taken to heart? And that’s exactly why everyone should have a sex positive community.
If your friends seem to be more open and sex positive, it might be worth trying to make that community out of the people who are already supporting you. After all, why wouldn’t we share these private things with our closest friends, AKA the people who are supposed to love us no matter what? You can start by having a conversation about why it’s important to you to let them into this part of your life.
That said, some people aren’t lucky enough to have friends that they feel comfortable talking about their sexuality with, but there are other ways to find a sex positive support group. A virtual group can be a great place to ask questions and revel in the knowledge that other like-minded, sexually explorative people exist. There are podcasts like the Savage Lovecast, which has a strong community of dedicated listeners who address each other’s questions on air, and you can also get a weekly dose of sex positivity with the Sex with Emily podcast. It’s worth poking around on the iTunes store to see what kind of show you’d most connect with.
There are also many large, private Facebook groups of sex positive people that exist for members to share their experiences, ask questions, and give opinions. I’m personally a part of one called “VagTalk,” and I love the candor and support that members bring to the group. Many of these groups are request-to-join, so do some digging to find the one that would be best for you.
All in all, when we don’t have honest conversations about sexuality, it keeps sex taboo and robs us of fruitful connections that we could be making with other like-minded people. So not only is joining a sex-positive support system a good way to empower yourself, but the people you have these conversations with will also probably have some great suggestions to amp up your sex life. Now that’s truly a win-win!
Alanna Greco is a writer and editor living in New York.