What is “Natural sexuality” anyway?

08/14/2009 at 7:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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I’ve been struggling with an idea I’ve run into a couple of times. Usually I see it mentioned online, but sometimes I’ll hear about it in the media or during a face to face encounter with a close friend… The idea is that of “Natural sexuality.”

It sounds like something that should be intuitive. It’s two very simple words, put together. Something that comes from nature, and nature is good. Something about sex, and sex is good. I feel like should automatically know what natural sexuality is.

But I really don’t know.

I’ve seen natural sexuality mentioned a few times before. I’ve seen well-meaning messages of encouragement online that say we are all naturally sexual creatures. (What if you’re asexual?) A few months ago on another blog, there was an analysis about an e-zine that questions whether kink & BDSM activities are natural or whether they are a symptom internalized oppression & abuse. More recently a comment on Renegade Evolution’s blog addressed a tangent about natural sexuality. I’m struggling with the idea independently, although it turns out that Dr. Teifer, whom for the most part I don’t like and don’t trust, may have beaten me to the question by writing a whole book about it.

And I still don’t get it.

Natural sexuality, what does that even mean?

Is it heterosexual intercourse for procreation? Is it something that forms in a vacuum, and is only tainted by outside influence? Does being naturally sexual mean being driven by instinct? Is it something you just know how to do? Is it eros, a latent drive to act as a sexual creature? If it is a drive, then what do you do when you feel it? What is the natural way of expressing sexual desire? I didn’t automatically know how to express my sexuality. I’m sure much of it has been shaped by the media and teen girl magazines.

Like, I really need someone to sit down and explain to me exactly what natural sexuality looks like. It sounds like it should be so easy, but for me, I struggle with the idea. Am I over complicating things? Am I, still, somehow, doin’ it wrong? Who is to say what I’m doing wrong?

Because so far very few things I have done sexually have come naturally.

I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m still exploring & testing my limits. I’m not sure exactly what I’m “Supposed” to be doing,  since I’m getting mixed messages from different sources. Depending on who I’m listening to, certain activities like BDSM mentioned above are either acceptable as healthy sexual outlets to explore, or a sign of major psychological distress & dangerous interpersonal power imbalances and I need to stop what I’m doing and examine my desires and it goes on.

I’m whie, cis, heterosexual, and monogamous. If I was anything but, I’d also have to deal with additional questions, pressure & leers from a big chunk of my surrounding culture.

In my own heart & mind, I have an idea of what I want to do sexually & what direction I’m headed in. The path I’m on is still relatively unexplored, but I think I can carve it out. And maybe enjoy the sights & sensations along the way.

But is what I’m doing “Natural?” Expressing my sexuality sure didn’t come easily, that’s for sure. And what with the pelvic problems, I’ve got some physical limitations built in, preventing me from fully exploring & expressing my sexuality.

When I started doing what I *thought* I was supposed to be able to do by default – enjoy PIV sex – it didn’t work out so well. Like, wow, this is really awkward & painful. I think I may be having a serious problem here. Why does it look so simple on TV & sound so simple when other people talk about it?

I felt pain when inserting anything into my vagina – fingers, tampon, dildo, speculum, or my partner’s penis. It has been my understanding that those activities aren’t supposed to hurt.

The natural remedies alone didn’t make a satisfactory improvement in the pain levels, so I wound up turning to modern medicine for assistance. I even took the drastic step of vulvovaginal surgery to make sex (among other things) more comfortable. Well now there’s something you don’t see happen in nature. No, turning to big pharma, undergoing vulvar surgery – these are paths I’m more used to seeing condemned over and over again. Sometimes I even see the people who go down those paths be worthy of pestering and condemnation. (We’re not really, of course, but I rarely see authors of anti-medicine, anti-surgery writings to treat those who’ve tried such treatments as thoughtful, respectable persons.)

Even now, I use a lot of man-made, artificial tools – dilators, vibrators, condoms, lubricant. (I suppose we could make an argument that I can purchase Green sex toys, which would technically be closer to nature… yet still, someone has to put these things together.)

I have to think about what I want to do sexually. I have to learn about it. I have to read about it, be inspired, come up with ideas, then get instructions on how-to execute sex. I have to construct it out of my surroundings. I have to spend time and some money on it.
I mean, hell, I have to train my pelvic floor muscles to relax – left to their own devices, my pelvic floor muscles’ “Natural” state is one of tension.

In seeking out assistance, and cobbling together my own ways of expressing sexuality, am I moving too far away from what should come naturally? Am I corrupting myself by wanting – and taking – more? Is my growing interest in kink and sensuality unnatural and therefore bad, sine I cultivated that interest only after running into sexual pain? (Does that make me a poseur?) Have I lost part of my humanity & become some kind of cyborg by having my body physically altered under the knife?

If natural sexuality is something with surprisingly rigid rules and strict guidelines , then it is something I will inevitably fail at. There are certain things I can’t do, and other odd things I’d be really good at.

I don’t know where this leaves me with regards to sex being a natural part of life.

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  1. Great post! You piqued my curiosity and I set out on my own search for the answer to your question. I found an interesting article on the “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.”

    Here’s a link: http://www.iep.utm.edu/sexualit/

    The author tackles the idea of “natural sexuality” in sections 8-12.

    He mentions the (Christian) philosophy of Thomas Aquinas that implies that heterosexual intercourse that is strictly for the purpose of procreation is the only form of sexuality that can be considered natural because it upholds “God’s plan”.

    The author then offers the argument of secular philosopher, Thomas Nagel. Nagel proposes that sexual acts in which both partners recognize the arousal of themselves and the other person as essential to the act are expressions of “natural sexuality.”

    The article also examines the concept of female sexuality and natural law and explores the philosophy of Christine Gudorf. The following quote can be found in the article, “…Gudorf argues that if we take a careful look at the anatomy and physiology of the female sexual organs, and especially the clitoris, instead of focusing exclusively on the male’s penis (which is what Aquinas did), quite different conclusions about God’s plan and design emerge and hence Christian sexual ethics turns out to be less restrictive. In particular, Gudorf claims that the female’s clitoris is an organ whose only purpose is the production of sexual pleasure and, unlike the mixed or dual functionality of the penis, has no connection with procreation. Gudorf concludes that the existence of the clitoris in the female body suggests that God intended that the purpose of sexual activity was as much for sexual pleasure for its own sake as it was for procreation. Therefore, according to Gudorf, pleasurable sexual activity apart from procreation does not violate God’s design, is not unnatural, and hence is not necessarily morally wrong, as long as it occurs in the context of a monogamous marriage…”

    Based on this article, I would argue that the definition “natural sexuality” can vary based on the individual so long as the person engages in sexual acts that are in line with their particular religious beliefs while simultaneously providing pleasure to all parties involved. Based on this statement, to say specifically what is “normal” would almost be impossible as what is pleasurable varies greatly from one person to the next.

    As for sex coming naturally, I also struggle with this. I am in the process of reading and exploring what might feel natural and pleasurable to me (that will also be pleasurable to my husband). It can be frustrating at times, to feel so on the outside of what seems to come so easily to other people (based on my personal observations of movies, t.v., Cosmo articles, etc.) and I’ve been trying to keep, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” as my mantra in my search, and consider each fail attempt as something I no longer need to explore. I remain hopeful that there is something out there for everyone, and I just need to keep looking.

    Best of luck in your search!

    • That site is huge – very comprehensive. I see it’s got a lot of other quotes & philosophers included too, like Kant.

      Haha look at this one… Sex, says Kant, “makes of the loved person an Object of appetite. . . . Taken by itself it is a degradation of human nature”

      This, from the same guy who also said, “Canst thou also will that thy maxim should be a universal law?” Now it’s been awhile since I took Western Civilization class in college, but I seem to recall the professor going on about how what Kant meant was that, if you’re going to take an action or have a thought, you should only do so if you’d be comfortable having that same rules applied to you by others.

      Apparently sex is a degradation of human nature, according to Kant, and what with his Maxim business, he’d apply that to everyone else. Or something like that.

      The section on Sexual Perversion seems particularly relevant here, since it explicitly talks about natural & unnatural sex (Perversions.) It’s possible to separate moral issues from natural/unnatural sex acts, which to me sounds like you could say, “Yeah it’s unnatural but it doesn’t really matter.” But in real life, you don’t usually see that separation – what is natural is inherently good & what is unnatural is bad. The word itself, unnatural, perversion, is just so strong & so commonly used. In practice I don’t think you can separate them. Which doesn’t really help me since I’m feeling rather unnatural.

      I’m not fully comfortable with Gudorf’s conclusions though. This isn’t going to come up often, but, what immediately jumps to my mind is, “Well what about women who experience clitordynia (Pain in the clitoris,) or have undergone FGM?” Like, she says it’s for sexual pleasure, but where does that leave those who experience quite the opposite of pleasure from clitoral stimulation?

      This is a useful place to start, I’ll keep looking.

  2. My own personal take on “natural sexuality” is to read “natural” as being “of one’s nature”. That means that “natural sexuality” is not something that can be discussed in isolation, but it must have a specific referent. Thus what my natural sexuality is will be different from someone else’s.

    Natural sexuality is in my view therefore the sexuality that comes from, or is part of, one’s own nature. My natural sexuality is strongly related to Dominance and sadism in BDSM. But my partner’s natural sexuality would have to be the reciprocal of that (Submission and masochism). Other people’s natural sexuality might be vanilla het or gay or lesbian.

    I can’t work out for sure from the OP what might be the sexuality from your own nature, but to a certain extent I think that doesn’t matter.

    This is because “natural” is, in my mind anyway, often only a starting point from which one can innovate (which sounds like what you’ve been doing a lot of!) and explore (e.g. although it’s my nature to be Dom, I also enjoy subbing from time to time). Gastronomy, for example, is all about the pleasures of food that can be derived by taking it away from whatever was natural, and innovating and exploring the potentials of the palate. When people talk about “natural sexuality” as something good, to which we should seek to return, it is against this “gastronomy of the erotic” that they are railing. Very often because they attach moral significance to sex acts, and deviation from the norm is seen as indicative of a wider deviation from “good” behaviour. Of course, such people also don’t share my definition of “natural” when it comes to sex either!

  3. Great post. Really gets into the myriad of assumptions that someone generally makes when they thoughtlessly talk about “natural” sex. Categorizing something as “unnatural” is code for “things I am personally uncomfortable with”, and I mean, maybe people should just be honest about what they mean instead of using passive-aggressively judgmental words.

    I can relate — for years I tried really hard to enjoy “natural” sex, feeling constant guilt and like I had failed at something that seemed to come to everyone else so naturally… until I started to do what actually felt good (even if, oh noes, that requires some assistance from inanimate objects and might involve some masochism), guilt be damned.

  4. […] I have already raised questions about just how natural sex truly is, I decided to start with Sex Is Not a Natural Act & Other Essays, […]

  5. […] sexuality – you may be looking for this post or this series of […]


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