Friday, October 10, 2014

No Filter

My apologies if this is a bit rambly; I’m writing in a post-Nyquil haze.

I was out to birthday dinner with a good friend recently, and we were joking about how our friends call me “Sharing Jo” or “No Filter Constance” due to my eager enthusiasm to share the most intimate details of my sex life with my buddies (and / or strangers). 

Suddenly my friend’s laughter came down a notch to a wry smile as she said, “You know that sometimes we’re not kidding, right?  Like, you actually have no filter.”  “What?” I asked, alarmed.  “Yeah,” she continued.  “Like, sometimes, you actually make people really uncomfortable.  And when you’re talking about sex and we’re laughing, sometimes it’s uncomfortable laughter.”  This was news to me.  “Why didn’t anyone say anything before?!”  I asked.  “They didn’t really know what to say,” she said. 

My face grew very solemn, and I sincerely apologized -- so much so that she started backtracking and telling me that it wasn’t a big deal… but it is a big deal.  Talking about sex, especially in an explicit way, to people who aren’t comfortable hearing about it can be a form of sexual harassment, and I don’t want to be that person.  There have been a lot of conversations as of late on blogs and podcasts about consent, and perhaps I should ask for consent before dropping my sex stories on people. 

Then she said something else that made me see all of this in a different light.  A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bonfire with this friend and a mutual acquaintance of ours who lives a d/s lifestyle. The acquaintance and I were having a friendly discussion about service dommes, which to us was an everyday, banal conversation.  We were sitting away from most of the other people at the bonfire and it was a private conversation.  Fast forward to said birthday dinner; my friend says to me, “When you and [our mutual friend] were talking about kink at the bonfire, it was obviously making people uncomfortable because they’re not used to hearing about it.”  That’s when I realized that maybe we weren’t making those other people uncomfortable; perhaps my friend was uncomfortable with us talking about it in front of her friends whom she doesn’t talk about the kinky aspects of her life with. 

That’s fair.  She felt vulnerable and outed via association.  I don’t have the desire to out someone as kinky who’s not comfortable being outed.  I do, however, have the desire to demystify and normalize kink by talking about it as a regular part of my life.  Part of social change is discomfort; I think most of the people I talk about kink with are more curious than they are uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just my perception / bias as a kink-positive person.  That being said, this conversation made me reflect on whether or not I am saying too much at times. 

And the thing is -- I actually do have a filter.  When I’m teaching or at work, I don’t speak about my personal life to my students or the school administration.  I swear like a sailor in my personal life, but I worked with children for years without once dropping a curse word in their presence.  I never talk to my extended family about my sex life, and when I’m in a professional environment I act like a professional.  I have a filter. 

I choose to talk about sex as a way of helping to change our social landscape around issues of sexuality, relationships, and gender.  I want to give people a safe space to talk about their sex lives and relationships.  I want to contribute to normalizing sexual practices, feelings, and behaviors that people are curious about but afraid of talking about.  My sexual politics are radical in some ways, and I want to make my voice heard.  But maaaaybe I don’t need to talk about prostate milking over dinner.                       

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