In my sex therapy practice I often wonder when I am specifically working with folks in couples therapy or relationship counselling: what stops folks from experimenting more? Getting sillier? Taking a chance on a weird request? And I started to wonder…
Whether or not being cool is ruining your sex life definitely depends on your own idea of what is cool, for sure! I am talking about the western-conventional sense of “cool” like:
None of which is true unless you are psychopathically detached from human empathy or lying. Not to mention, not caring about a partner during sex is a direct route to sexual assault. Other ideas of conventional cool include:
“I have to have designer clothing to look good”
“I have to be thin to be sexy”
“I have to have money to be attractive”
“I have to be clever and witty”
“I have to be elusive and sly”
“I need to never smell like my natural body odours”
“I should no body hair”
“I should have perfect skin”
…and other lies capitalism sold you! To literally sell you things or to maintain the idea of the chic and wealthy (or just not poor) in-group and the undeseriable and poor out-group.
In queer/trans spaces it can look like gatekeeping around who “gets to” identify as queer or trans: who looks or acts or talks the queerest— who knows the political lingo or the right music. In the late 80’s, some folks who identified as lesbians saw wanting to have penetrative sex as anti-feminist. The sex itself was deemed not queer enough.
The problem with thinking you need to be cool in order to have good sex is that you can tick all the above boxes and still have really unsatisfying, boring, or stressful sex. Why?
Because all GOOD sex takes a certain amount of vulnerability, which is the antithesis of cool. If you believe the above is what makes a person cool, you believe that people should be armoring against vulnerability at all costs.
Buying designer clothing, for example, is more often than not at the cost of human lives— people die in sweatshops. They die so people can look cool. Being cool in this way requires us to completely disregard our own and each other’s humanity because showing up with vulnerability is what it means to be in touch in with our humanity. Showing up with vulnerability requires us to be authentic, to be honest.
You don’t necessarily need to bear your soul during a one-night-stand in order to have good sex or wait until your in a committed relationship in order to be vulnerable. Vulnerability can look as simple as making that deep, gutteral moan. Or asking your sex partner to change the way they’re touching you. Sometimes authentic good sex is short and sweet and sometimes it’s hours of really letting loose with each or letting out every impulse by yourself.
When we are able to be vulnerable, honest, authentic, we can have sex with abandon! We can let go and give into the grandest sensations and be fully present in our bodies because we are not worrying about how we sound, smell, look, feel— we are just completely in it. They say the brain is the most powerful sex organ and paradoxically it is when our brain nearly shuts-off and we are completely engulfed in our physical bodies sex often feels the best.
Why do people care so much about being cool, then?
Social rejection, of course.
In fact, social rejection is so frightening we will sacrifice all sorts of feelings, resources, authentic human connection, and our own mental and physical health in order to avoid social rejection. And it’s a bad deal*. Being socially rejected feels bad, absolutely, but it’s actually significantly more work to pretend to be someone else or to push-down and avoid feelings then to just be you.
If you’re not used to being sexually authentic (or authentic at all) it can take a long time to practice being truely in touch with your own thoughts and feelings. It may even require that you untangle the messaging of capitalism thoughtfully and really interrogate some of the long-held beliefs you’ve been operating on. It takes effort and it can feel like a lot of work.
And then one day, not only does being authentic become effortless but life in general starts to feel a little more effortless. And sex now has the space and freedom to take you to new levels of discovery, estacy, and pleasure!
*NOTE: I am writing this from an anti-capitalist and an internalized individualistic cultural perspective with attempts to move toward more connective community values. I do not mean to communicate that deals with yourself around prioritizing collective cohesion or familial ties over individuality is pathological or lesser than! And I also don’t think concepts of cool necessarily play out in collectivist cultures in the same way, so please keep that in mind as I critique dominant cultural narratives within a fiercely individualistic/capitalist Canadian society