As a Sociology undergraduate student at OSU I was required to obtain an internship for the summer. I stumbled upon an amazing opportunity to work with Suzanne Roberts. She is a Somatic therapist who offers women’s leadership classes and workshops. In Suzanne’s classes we discuss a number of different topics and with each 2 hour session we learn how to support each other as women while establishing power within ourselves. One of the most eye opening experiences of my young life came while I attended her “Consent” workshop.
Before we began we went around the circle and discussed what consent means to us. Suzanne looked around at all of us. Somewhat stunned at our responses she replied with “Well no one mentioned safe sex?” Another young intern raised her hand, “Um you mean like condoms? Yeah we discuss that in health class.” Suzanne was flustered and threw her hands in the air, “No! safe sex – emotional safety with your partner.” Wow, the thought that sex should be emotionally safe as well as physically had never even crossed my mind and by the look of it I was not alone.
So why is it that feeling safe with your partner was not discussed in sex education or even a part of the birds and the bees talk? The standard parent-child talk usually begins with, “Sex is between two people who love each other very much…” Unfortunately love and safety don’t always go hand in hand. You can love someone who you don’t feel safe with and you can have sex with someone you don’t love. I’ve had sex with people I didn’t love and may again in the future, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is having sex with someone who repeatedly accuses you of being a W.O.P. only to find out later that the tattoo on his back was not a Celtic cross but a white supremacy symbol. Not safe. Pairing emotional safety with sex is not instinctual. If the topic isn’t brought up how are we supposed to learn what’s right?
I once had sex on an Ikea table that collapsed with me still on it. I landed on my feet with my head facing the ground which made a perfect slide for the circa ’95 computer monitor that was sitting behind me. It rolled right off my back and hit the ground with a loud thud. He who shall remain nameless was more concerned with the well being of his damn near obsolete computer than my spine. I stood there bent over hands to the ground and let out a deep pained moan. I was terrified to move, thinking I had broken my back and would never walk again. He just stood in front of me saying, “Shh…shh…Liz you’re going to wake up my roommates! You’re fine, just walk it off.” I’m aware that my sheer choice in men may be to blame for my own bitterness but at 18 there was very little to pick from. What I learned from that and many other of my sexperiences is that if you can’t trust your partner to see if you’re okay rather than just shushing you, you probably shouldn’t have sex with him.
all hilarity aside safe sex needs to be addressed on a much deeper level. With out trust and emotional safety one runs the risk of being seriously mistreated in sexual situations. This can then establish negative patterns or cycles of distrust, exploitation, coercion and even rape. Every woman and man, gay or straight has the undeniable right to trust and sexual safety. Regardless of being in a monogamous relationship or not.