Sex Ed in Bed
Our Sexual Cookie Jar
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

Do you notice how sex-negative our society is? Just about every curse word is a sexual term, while sexual slang usually has negative connotations. The entertainment world portrays sex predominantly in risky and violent situations. When sexuality is brought up informatively, like in the news or classroom, the subject is almost drowned out with words like, “disease,” “addiction,” “harassment,” “don’t ask,” and “don’t tell.”

Yet, does it strike you as odd that American Society also seems to be obsessed with sex? Despite perceived negativity, sex is used as a tool for advertising products with overwhelming successful. The smallest hint of a sexual scandal makes headlines and it can send the nation into hypocritical hysteria. How is it that we can be so negative and yet so ravenous about sex?

It seems the more sex is cast in an “evil” shade, the more intriguing it becomes. Could our negative views about sexuality only serve to make us obsessive about it? But of course! Is negativity and obsessiveness all that diametric? Not to me. While attending an “ex-gay” group to try and change from gay to straight (Surprise! Surprise! It didn’t work!), I clearly remember the day I decided to leave. I realized I was more consumed by homosexuality after I joined, than before. I resisted my natural attractions so ferociously, that all I could think about was gay sexuality! Is it any wonder that one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy is in Orange County — Ground Zero for “abstinence only” education?

This negatively obsessive phenomenon is what I’ve termed, “The Cookie Jar Syndrome.” Imagine if you will, sex as a fresh-baked, batch of cookies that, oh, let’s say, Mrs. Brady has placed in a cookie jar on top of the refrigerator. Looking down her wagging finger she says, “Don’t you have any of these cookies until after your dinner.” But how can we resist? We can’t escape the aroma. We’re hungry as it is. So against the “rules,” with deception and risk, we stuff our faces with stolen cookies. Of course, they taste even better because we got away with it, but we also have a growing awareness of something in the pit of our stomachs besides cookies — isolating guilt.

This metaphor reflects our approach to sexuality on many levels. To begin with, sex is established as a reward. Good straight people that marry get sex as a prize. It also reinforces our sexual naiveté. Mommy simplistically hands out sex for desert — there’s no learning involved, no growth, no responsibility — we’re “helpless victims” at our parent’s mercy... even if we’re adults. Furthermore, this is wonderfully capitalistic, as if sex is a finite commodity and we had better get some before it runs out. Finally, the metaphor enhances our paranoia. Since we’ve “cheated,” we won’t get any after dinner, so now is the time we had better get more... and more, and more! Therefore, mixing negativity with a pleasurable experience becomes a vicious cycle because we naturally want more pleasure, but we also get more negativity as well.

What surprises me is not how well this reflects our beliefs about sex, but how little it really has to do with authentic sexuality. Sex is not a reward, but a natural drive (like hunger or survival) that is both, in our genes, and developed over a lifespan. Furthermore, sex is not a bank account that allows you to buy, sell, save and go bankrupt. Sex is one of the most complex, yet wonderful ways of connecting with another person that can be a fun, learning experience. Most of all, sex does not have to be constantly associated with guilt, shame, or fear. Sex is the activity that brought every one of us into existence (I know… some of you can’t imagine you’re the result of straight sex), and since the vast majority of sex is not about procreation we can learn to bask in all its pleasures.

Patterns reinforce themselves, and unfortunately, it’s a heck of a lot of work to unlearn the bad ones. But unlearn them we must! Grrrl, it’s about time we toss our cookies and retread our shame-filled patterns with positive ones. To begin with, reflect on the Cookie Jar Syndrome and compare it to your own sex history. One of the most important steps to overcoming challenges is properly identifying shame and negativity. In future columns I’ll offer a variety of ideas and activities to “de-shame-ify” our sex lives.

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