Creating the Webbd Wheel: Sex
In which we speak frankly ...
The Webbd Wheel series is about holistic connection and community. Holistic means a concern with a complete system rather than separate parts. I’ve written extensively about holistic management and how it works in my blog, Harvesting Stones.
We are social beings, and we form family and kin groups as well as tribes, cultures, and communities.
I cannot write about connection and community without including sexuality.
For many, sex is the Great Unmentionable. I don’t need to list the innumerable ways in which religion, trauma, and capitalism have damaged our relationships to our bodies and sexuality. Most of us have direct experience of such influences, which is tragic.
Sex is at once one of the most simple and primal drives and the most complicated, confusing, dangerous form of connection we make with others. Biologically, our sexuality compels us during out reproductive years in ways we can’t control and don’t understand well. If we incur trauma to our sexuality, and most of us do in some way at some time, it can become twisted and distorted, a hidden, shameful unhealed wound in our psyche.
Our cultural distrust around our sexuality is destructive. A biological imperative we were shaped to obey, like all the rest of life, has become a matter of shame, a dangerous and violent arena for power struggles, and an ideological backdrop for things like women’s and children’s rights and sexual orientation.
It’s a hairball, and it’s a difficult thing to take on as a writer because it’s such an inflammatory topic. But the reason it’s inflammatory is that so many of us avoid talking about it. We avoid admitting we are sexual beings. Some of us avoid any kind of sexual contact at all.
However, the commercial success of pornography in all its forms clearly shows we think about sex and sexual pleasure. We fantasize. We seek arousal and sexual release. We may never admit it. We may be extremely sexually active or celibate, but sexuality is part of our human experience, one way or the other. We can’t deny it any more than we can deny the need to urinate.
Definitions are important. A widely accepted distinction between pornography and erotica is that pornography is a tool solely for sexual arousal and release. Erotica is not an exclusive appeal to our desire; rather it’s an aesthetic exploration of sexuality and/or sensuality in many nuances and forms.
That being said, I’m not sure making a distinction matters, because the whole subject is so subjective. My erotica may be your porn. Some people are so uncomfortable with sexuality they find any kind of sexual contact, real or imagined, inappropriate and pornographic. Splitting hairs over terminology is not that useful.
At the end of all these weeks of thinking about this particular segment of The Hanged Man and this particular essay, I’ve decided to be direct, keep it simple, and tell you what I’m up to with my treatment of sex in the Webbd Wheel series.
I believe sexual connection can be healthy or unhealthy (and that’s putting it mildly!). Healthy sexuality requires true consent and reciprocity. Children and animals are not capable of providing consent; nor is someone with impaired cognition. I view healthy sexuality and sensuality as a communication, a revelation of authentic self, a celebration of our beautiful bodies, a procreative act, and at times a sacred ritual or rite honoring the cycles and seasons of life.
Most of the sex I’ve had is not like that, I’m sad to report! That’s why I write fiction.
I’m acutely aware of how uncomfortable many people are with any discussion of sex. Before I began serializing my work on Substack, I contacted the management team and made sure my sexual content was not against community guidelines. On my “About” page I’ve written that I chose Substack because the platform empowers both readers and writers. I don’t have to deal with someone else’s idea of “appropriate” or marketable content and you choose what you want to read.
I’ve defined appropriate content for this story, and written it. Now it’s your turn to choose to read it or not.
(This essay was published with post #8 of The Hanged Man.)