How We Talk About Sex

If you haven’t already seen this 8-minute TED Talk about sex as pizza, we recommend you check it out. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. The tl;dr is this:

  • We currently use a lot of sports-based metaphors for sex (pitcher/catcher, third base, home run, score, etc.).
  • These metaphors leave out a lot of people and a lot of ways to have sex, and they also contribute to power dynamics that harm people.

So let’s use a different metaphor (pizza) and see how it compares.

  • Desire: When do we want pizza? When we’re hungry! We can decide when we want to eat, and when we don’t feel like eating, but our decision comes out of desire, not pressure or rigid rules.
  • Shame: Lots of people like pizza (and different kinds of pizza, and different amounts of pizza), and it’s absolutely acceptable to enjoy pizza. On the flip side, some people aren’t into pizza, and that’s perfectly fine, too!
  • Consent: We ask people whether they want to share pizza, and don’t make them feel like they have to have pizza. Everyone involved is excited about the pizza - otherwise, they don’t have to have pizza.
  • Communication: We ask about what kind of pizza our partners want, and even negotiate about toppings. We consider someone’s allergies (triggers or boundaries) and want to make sure they’re as into the pizza as we are.
  • Pleasure: The pizza model centers enjoyment, not competition.
  • Power: It’s collaborative, not competitive.
  • Number of partners: We can have amazing pizza all on our own. Or, we can have pizza with a number of people!

If we want to change how we think and feel about sex and sexuality as a culture, we need to change the way we talk about it to be more inclusive, sex-positive, and pleasure-positive, instead of shame-based, fear-based, and hetero- and cisnormative. This means thinking about the words and metaphors we use, and also challenging and questioning the words and metaphors that other people use.