Sex Sells

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Why is it that the things we are taught to be embarrassed about, hide away and never speak of end up being the most tantalising and tempting of escapades? This beautiful, yet somewhat annoying Catch 22 has worked its way throughout societies for centuries, especially into our prudish British one. Possibly, it stems from the Original Sin where humans were first made aware of our stark naked bodies, and consequently, all of the pleasures it can give us. Or maybe it is a type of conditioning that has pervaded throughout generations, each one feeling and continuing the guilt of the other. There are many individuals/movements who have apparently overcome this coyness — cast your memories back to the 1960s where freedom of absolutely everything was sought after; yet we are still fascinated with it in our present-day cultures. Sex, accompanied by particularly enticing branches such as youth & virginity, pornography, and more recently BDSM, with the explosion of kinky erotic literature, is constantly in the fore-fronts of our minds through its dissemination in our media. No wonder we feel a little bit fucked up…

Virginity takes on many masks in our modern communities. On the one hand, virginity is something to be lost as soon as possible (with an emphasis on the “ASAP” part). This has led to Britain facing some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy across Europe, where our youth are conscious of the mantra of their peers but quite clearly unaware of how to safely pursue this endeavour. On the other hand, virginity is something sacred and should be given to someone you truly love and trust. This viewpoint has led to some of the most ridiculous of events, such as a young girl trying to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. At this moment, her virginity has lost all sense of being hers, and has turned into a commodity. And it is this which is the crux of our societal dealings with sex. Sex is a commodity.

With this, all of us turn into potential products. The only veil that separates me from a porn star is the choice, the mental decision to start utilising my sexual prowess as a 21-year old female for my own personal, monetary gain. And being a university student, the decision is all too easy to make. Sugar Daddies and their precious Sugar Babies have gained traction in recent years with the targeting of young students. When you are in at least £30,000 worth of debt at the impressionable age of 21, the possibility of a rich, older man taking it all away becomes more and more attractive. Top this off with the “damsel in distress” syndrome many of us have from idolising the Disney princesses of our time (Cinderella, here I come), it can be a dangerous mix.

It has become considerably easier to exploit our bodies, but also to be exploited. The rise of smartphones, especially those high-def cameras they sport, has led to the circulation of a “novel” type of pornography, amateur porn. Previously, pornography could be thought of as an art form with the spread of erotic film genres, art and sculptures. Pornographic material even dates back to prehistoric times, showcasing how humanity’s fascination with our bodies has never really changed. Yet nowadays, it’s as simple as having a consensual afternoon delight with an extra friend, the camera. Then once all finished up, uploading said video/pictures to any of the thousands of active porn sites. Ta-da! You’re now a certified amateur porn star!

This accessibility has raised many questions over the past few years, especially with regards to sexual education. Schools are endeavouring to equip the children of today with the right knowledge and tools to circumvent society, and that means all of society. And this now includes their relationship with pornography. Some believe children should be taught about the dangers of porn — the vital difference of consent, how to respect a woman’s body, and more importantly, her mind. Others, like our dear old Prime Minister, would rather “ban” pornography, making it harder to access in order to meander past this issue and safely sail into ignorant bliss. I, personally, am an advocate for education. It has been proven that an early and extensive sexual education leads to lower rates of teenage pregnancy, lower rates of STIs, and a later age of sexual exploration. The Netherlands is a perfect case in the support of a broader sexual education within our British schooling system.

One of the more recent sexual shock waves to extend throughout our lives was the arrival of Fifty Shades to our bookstores, and homes. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey have touched many lives in their frankly terribly written saga. The initial storm was incredible, and completely unexpected. Who knew mature women were still sexual creatures?! The horror!

Alongside the hearty demographic of adult women, Fifty Shades also struck an impact with the younger girls — leading to possibly their first encounter with BDSM. This is an unfortunate thing, as Fifty Shades has been touted as an awful representation of a true BDSM relationship, and more likened to domestic abuse. It’s no wonder why when you reflect on the stalker-ish behaviour and general dismissal Grey has for Steele in nearly every page. Let’s not forget about his opinion of her virginity as well — a thing to be dealt with, not a gift to be given. Prevailing in my memory as the most prominent, shocking, sexual expressions of my short adult life, it saddens me to think that women’s rights are being thrown out the window in exchange for a sexy romp with some ropes and a naughty man.

The advent of our technologically-supported, sexualised societies gives us much to think about, and leaves many questions unanswered. Sex is something that is becoming increasingly more difficult to hide away and forget about. With the average age of children first encountering porn coming in as young as 11, these are strong issues which we as a community will have to deal with. As well as the external questions that we should be, and currently are, asking about whether portraying adverts, TV shows and songs in a sexual manner is healthy; there are also important, internal questions that we should be asking ourselves on how we wish to handle our own sexualities. It is important that we each have a clear idea and understanding of what it is we want from our sexual relations in order to promote healthy and consensual sex.

With thanks to Ana Bonitch and Sam Packer