This is the full transcript of sex-educator Alyssa Royse’s TEDx Talk titled “Your Sexuality: Ask & Tell” at TEDxRainier Conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Your Sexuality- Ask & Tell by Alyssa Royse at TEDxRainier
So we’ve all spent a day listening to these conversations about people who are going to revolutionize things, and they’ve got revolutionary technology, and revolutionary ways to build cars and educate people. And I have like the least revolutionary idea you’re going to hear all day, that is that you, and you and you and you, are allowed to have sex exactly the way you want to, as often as you want to, and it’s up to the rest of us to make sure that you know that. So, right? That’s not a bad way to end the day. And it’s kind of a perfect time in our history to have that conversation, now that we finally got rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Right?
So, I had to think about what the opposite of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is. It’s “ask and tell”! So now that we understand that it’s OK if the soldier fighting next to us is having gay sex, it’s time to ask ourselves if it’s OK that the neighbor living next door to us is getting tied up and spanked in a little girl dress every night. And the answer is it is OK because it has no impact on you, whatsoever, because what they’re doing is a consensual act between adults. And unless you’re doing it with them, it does not matter to you.
But we have to get back to a very simple question: What is sex? Sex is a consensual act between adults. And that’s all that it is. If you look at this picture right here, that’s a temple like a thousand years ago in India and that is not monogamous, and it’s probably not heterosexual. As long as people have been having sex they’ve been doing it in wild and creative ways and they often even call it art. Sex is a consensual act between adults, it is intimate, it is personal and it is totally natural.
So why do we have all the shame around it? I think the first question really is to understand what shame is, and we need to go ahead and separate that from guilt. Guilt is an internal voice inside your body that pops up when you know you have done something wrong to someone. I told a lie, I feel guilty about that, I did something bad.
Shame is an external force that other people put on you; it tells you that you are something bad. So not I told a lie and did something bad; it is I’m gay, I am bad. That’s a really, really debilitating idea. That takes away your autonomous control over your sexuality and anybody who wants to take control over your sexuality does not have your best interest at heart. Whether it’s your preacher, your teacher, your lover or anyone else, that’s not natural.
But what does shame do to people, why does this even matter? I think you can turn on the news and you can see about gay kids jumping off of bridges, because they’re ashamed to be gay and know that this matters. In fact, there’s actually a lot of research about the impact of sexual shame on gay and lesbian people. Unfortunately it’s all about gay and lesbian people because people don’t research shame with heterosexuals too much.
So if you look at the statistics, youth between the ages of 21 and 25 are 8 times more likely to commit suicide if they feel marginalized because of their sexuality. That’s really mean. In the 16 states in 2005 that instituted constitutional amendments saying that gay marriage is wrong and banned, the statistics are kind of shocking. Depression in the gay and lesbian population in those states went from 23% to 31%; generalized anxiety went from 3% to 9%, and alcohol abuse went from 22% to 31%. This hurts people. Sexual shame hurts people.
But that’s just gay people, so that’s good news for the rest of us. Except that it turns out gay people are in fact just people. So if sexual shame hurts gay people, it probably hurts straight people also. Turns out about 8% of the population is homosexual. In a survey that was done in 2005 asking people about their sexual behavior, 20% of respondents identified themselves as kinky. Meaning that they had multiple partners at the same time, they used toys, bondage, spanking, watched porn together. 8% of people were let out their closet, 20% of people, and I think that’s low, are still living in shame in the closet, which is probably where they keep all the toys and so maybe that’s OK.
The problem is this is a huge thing for all of us. Sex is a huge industry. Even in the depression it’s a $13 billion industry to watch porn. 25% of every single search engine request is looking for porn. That’s a lot. Think about that, right. 12% of the sites in the Internet are porn. And if you thought that was big, 13 billion on porn, last year, the world’s worst economy, remember, since the depression, $15 billion worth of sex toys were purchased. We are a kinky people, we are spending a lot of time and money looking for sex, or looking for more fun sex anyway.
So what exactly is normal sex, now that we’ve established that we don’t want people to feel shame. Normal sex is anything that is a consensual act between adults. You can spank each other, you can wear costumes, you can do anything you want and it is normal. So my boyfriend and I this morning we’re trying to come up with a way to illustrate the depth and breadth of human sexuality without scaring you with photos which are scary even to me.
So we went to the Lustlab, which is the strangers’ online personal ads specifically for people who are looking for interesting sex. There are 90 different kinks just on Lustlab that you could register looking for a partner for, and that’s in Seattle. Seattle is really got to be one of the most uptight cities in the country, so that’s saying something, right?
Looking at Lustlab everything went from asphyxiation to water sports, and water sports in case you didn’t know is pee not water, and everything in between like bondage, knife play, group sex, you name it, it’s all normal.
Why does it matter that we’re shaming each other, as if jumping off bridges wasn’t bad enough, as if being depressed wasn’t bad enough? The truth is people are destroying marriages, careers, lives and communities by keeping secrets about what they’re into sexually. All those, let’s say politicians, who are suddenly looking for a little boys in airport bathrooms. It’s bad enough that his own career was destroyed. What about the woman he married who believed that she was in a happy consensual marriage with somebody who’s getting his needs met. That lie didn’t just hurt him, that hurt her, and his family. It’s just not cool. Just not OK.