Has the pandemic put an end to slut-shaming?
Is it just me, or has everyone been *really* thirsty lately? Searches for sex toys have increased by 72% since lockdown began, we all lost our absolute sh*t over Connell from Normal People and his chain, and people are getting VERY creative with virtual sex parties popping up all over the place.
This, in itself, isn't that surprising. We are all stuck at home, with oodles of time to explore our bodies. Orgasms are the cheapest and easiest self-care practice available. And with casual sex off the table, it's the classic wanting what you can't have. It's human nature to be horny. What is surprising is that the *way* we talk about sex is changing.
Consciously or not, people are embracing the sex-positive movement. But, before we go any further, what exactly is 'sex-positivity'? I like to think I've become a bit of an expert, leading workshops and events on the topic - so, this is what it means to me:
An understanding that sex is a healthy and natural part of life, that should be stigma-free.
That all sex is good sex, if consensual. This is a kink-shaming free space, please.
Sex is for pleasure, not just procreation.
Ruby Stevenson, a sex educator, agrees: "Humans are a horny bunch, I don't think that's changed recently. But I think the increased visibility of the sex-positive movement helps people feel less guilty about embracing their pleasure, and the lockdown gives us ample time to do a lot of embracing!"
Alix Fox, a writer and broadcaster who specialises in ‘decently indecent’ sex ed and the sex expert for Superdrug, thinks this might be down to the 'Apocalypso Effect': "when everything is breaking down and going crazy, they decide to use this as a justification or opportunity for hedonism – partying, silliness and yes, sex – with the reasoning “Well, if everything’s doomed anyway, I might as well go out with a (literal) bang. They essentially decide to go down swinging…perhaps via a virtual group sex party!”.
Every woman I know has been called a slut, whore, or slag: it doesn't matter if you're a virgin, a lover of casual sex, or somewhere in the middle. Women are slut-shamed. You're dammed if you do, and dammed if you don't. Why? Because a patriarchal society thrives on controlling women's agency and their bodies. Social media has made it even easier for women to be slut-shamed- incels, trolls, and sexist people can hide behind fake profiles, tearing down women for simply existing. Consequences have been removed. Those people are still around, of course. The pandemic hasn't wiped out sexism. But it's not as loud as before - it's been balanced out by sex-positive voices, which are growing and growing in numbers.
Alix agrees: "Events like mass sickness can also make some individuals more conscious of their own mortality. This heightened awareness that life is short can prompt them to become more urgent and less concerned about the possible shame of opening up regarding their sexual desires, because their priority becomes hurrying to tick everything they want to off their own personal 'F*ck Bucket List". If the sales of a 10-piece Beginners’ Bondage Set from Bondara, which have skyrocketed by 4541%, is anything to go by - Alix could be onto something here.
Talking about sex publicly can feel dangerous; as a woman, you have to weigh up whether it's worth the potential danger. In a recent GLAMOUR survey, we found that 53% of our readers won't even say the word masturbation. But, the less we talk, the greater the shame is. Shame around sex will continue to persist if it goes unchallenged. The onus is (unfairly) on women to change a society they didn't create, and don't benefit from. But, as we've learned time and time again - if not us, who? If not now, when?
I have friends who would never normally talk about sex openly, posting about how horny Normal People has made them. My Instagram stories are full of women posting photos of their new sex toy hauls. Hundreds of women have created new accounts on OnlyFans. The pandemic has broken down societal barriers: "We’re all having to operate and communicate differently during lockdown. In many ways life is less private - we’re suddenly having to show our bloody bosses our living rooms on Zoom, and there are a tonne more novel uncomfortable moments as we learn how to navigate the cringe-y oops-I-interrupted-you time lags of video calls, and deal with the challenges of being cooped up." says Alix.
Adding that "we are collectively going through things that make us feel vulnerable and awkward, but learning to talk about how these make us feel, and what we can do to feel better about them, is helping. It follows that many of us might begin to open up more about other previously private things that often feel vulnerable and awkward, and start chatting about them in a more constructive, radically honest way...like SEX. Sex is part of being human, and arguably we have never before been in touch with our shared humanity more than now."
There's a quiet sexual revolution happening, people. And it's sex-positive.
This article was originally published on GLAMOUR UK