A Huge Part Of Sex That Makes A Lot Of People Feel Ashamed — But Why?

Sex is intimate, personal, and totally natural, so what’s with all the shame surrounding it? From what happens in *your* bedroom to what happens in your neighbor's bedroom to keeping secrets to being open and honest — what this woman has to say is important, and it affects all of us in one way or another. Nobody likes to feel ashamed.

A handy guide to this awesome talk:

1:28 — A blast from the past makes you wonder why we're so "hush hush" about sex today.

2:05 — What even is shame, really?

3:08 — Jaw-dropping stats on how shame hurts people. Zomg.

4:41 — Just how big is the sex industry? GIGANTIC. (This part could be good bar trivia, btw.)

6:21 — What can happen when you keep secrets about what you like sexually.

7:54 — The MOST IMPORTANT PART! Words to take with you and put in your pocket.

Transcript:
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So we've all spent a day listening to conversation 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 that 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. Right? That's not a bad way to end the day. And it's kind of the perfect time in our history to have that conversation, now that we've finally gotten 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 okay if the soldier fighting next to us is having gay sex, it's time to ask ourselves, if it's okay that the neighbor living next to us is getting tied up and spanked in a little girl dress every night. And the answer is, it is okay, 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. 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 this 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."

And that is 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 interests 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 of heterosexuals too much.

So, if you look at the statistics, youth between the ages of 21 and 25, are eight times more likely to commit suicide if they feel marginalized because of their sexuality. That's really mean.

In the sixteen 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 percent. Generalized anxiety went from 3 percent to 9 percent. And alcohol abuse went from 22 to 31 percent. This hurts people. Sexual shame hurts people.

But that's just gay people, so that's the good news for the rest of us. Except that it turns out that gay people, are, in fact, just people.

So if sexual shame hurts gay people, it probably hurts straight people also.

Turns out about 8 percent of the population is homosexual.

In a survey that was done in 2005, asking people about their sexual behavior, 20 percent 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 percent of the people were let out of the closet. 20 percent of the people, and I think that's low, are still living in shame in the closet which is probably where they keep all the toys, so maybe that's okay.

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 dollar industry to watch porn.

25 percent of every single search engine request, is looking for porn.

That's a lot. Think about that, right. 12 percent of the internet sites on 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 dollars worth of sex toys were purchased.

We are a kinky people. We are spending a lot of time and money looking for sex. 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.

And so my boyfriend and I this morning were 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 "Lust Lab," which is the strangers' online personal ad specifically for people who are looking for interesting sex. There are 90 different kinks, just on "Lust Lab" that you can register, looking for a partner for. And that's in Seattle.

Seattle has really got to be one of the most uptight cities in the country, so that's saying something, right?

Looking at "Lust Lab," everything went from asphyxiation to water sports. And water sports, in case you didn't know, is pee, not water. And everything in between: 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 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 to somebody who was getting his needs met? That lie didn't just hurt him. That hurt her, and his family. It's just not cool. Just not okay.

So, Milton Diamond, was hired a few years ago to do research on the impact of porn and kinky sex and sex crimes. Hopefully to prove that people who have kinky sex and watch porn are the ones committing the crimes.

Turned out, he found out actually an inverse correlation.

People who watch porn, and are sexually fulfilled, are less likely to commit crimes. And that statistic is bared out in the fact that there is less crime in the cities where there is more porn watched.

Guess what state has the most porn watched in the country? Utah. Yeah. it's not a coincidence.

So I was running around doing statistics and the politicians in airports are kind of funny. I ran across a statistic that really hit home for me.

Trans people - people who are transitioning from either being male or female, have three times the urinary tract infections than the general population.

Do you know why?

They're afraid to go in public bathrooms because people will ridicule them.

That's pretty direct.

So. Why do we do it?

I think it's really simple. Nobody actually knows why we shame people about their sexuality unless if you take the Church out, which I am trying to do.

I think that we shame people about their sexuality because we're afraid of our own sexuality, right? It lives very very deep inside of us, and it's intimate and real and scary and personal, and we want to, and we should protect our own sexuality.

So if we give "those" people the right to do those really scary weird things to each other, I think that we're afraid that we're giving them permission to do those things to us, as well. And that is kind of scary.

I've awesome news for you.

It actually works the opposite way.

When we give people back autonomous control over their sexuality, and say: "You are allowed to define your sexuality however you want. You go do it," we give ourselves that same right.

So we're allowed to say: "I want you to tie me up. But I don't want you to spank me."

We're allowed to draw our own boundaries, so not only do we get to have what we want, we don't have to have what we don't want.

The upside for that is, people, is that we create a really safe place for ourselves to be honest.

When we are honest and safe with out lovers, we might actually be able to push our own boundaries just a little bit farther and discover the whole spectrum for ourselves.

So here's the last thing. I'm hoping you all got your surveys. Please tell me there were surveys? Okay! Thank you.

This is kind of a game, so you have to play this one along with me.

I hope you all filled out your surveys. Nobody will ever know your answers. I promise.

So what I want you to do is, I want you to take your surveys and ball them up into a totally crumpled ball. And then I want you to throw it as far away from yourself, but into the audience, as you possibly can.

Oh my God! That's so awesome looking!

Okay, now, pick one up. Pick up one and throw it again.

I want you all to feel really comfortable that nobody will see your answers.

But mine are right there, in case you were wondering, those are my answers.

I got nothing to hide anymore.

Okay! Stop!

Pick up a survey. Open it. And read it.

It is my greatest hope that you will see something in there that resonates.

Okay, I would have tossed it to you. Okay.

We're not done yet. There's one more piece.

And I'm sure I've gone over time. I know I've gone over time.

So as I'm walking off the stage:

I ask as a favor to you, one, hand those surveys to the ushers on your way out, but more importantly, I want you to read the survey that you have, and I want you to look at somebody next to you. And I want you to look them in the eye and say: "I am afraid that you will find out that I'm into all of the above."

It's not because I want you to confess a secret, but I want all of us to get that muscle memory and build that language. It's okay for you to be honest with me. I will accept that.

And I want all of us to know what it feels like to hold somebody, the thing that's most important to them, and treasure it.

Because that's how we, as a community, are going to learn how to accept people for who they are, and end sexual shame and start having really really rocking good sex.

Thank you.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This TEDx talk comes from Alyssa Royse. Follow her on Twitter! Oh, and here are the results to the survey she talks about at the end. Thumbnail image via Thinkstock.

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Published:
Aug 27, 2014

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