Why is it that even as adults we struggle so hard to talk about sex? For many people it can be a sensitive, challenging or awkward topic that can raise feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy or shame.
Sex is difficult to ignore in our lives because it's everywhere in our culture: it's reflected in magazine and media advertising, fashion, music, TV series and movies. You'd think we would all be open, relaxed and comfortable with it, but often the opposite is true.
So I was really disappointed to see how sex was discussed in the first episode of Channel 10's new show The Wrong Girl, which is set in present-day Melbourne. The main character Lily (Jessica Marais) is the producer of a cooking segment on a morning television show, who, after a boozy night, has had sex for the first time with her best friend Pete. After he reveals he's also having sex with his boss she becomes furious and they stop talking.
The next morning Lily tells her flatmate Simone what happened. The dialogue went like this.
Lily: "I did it with Pete last night".
Simone: "Did what'?
Lily says nothing but slides the index finger of one hand into a circle made by the other, moving it up and down! I haven't seen this ridiculous gesture since I was a teenager. Surely, nowadays, a thirty-something woman does not behave like this anymore?
The dialogue between Pete and his father was in a similar vein. When Pete told him he had "hooked up" with Lily, and his father didn't know what that meant, he said he "shagged her". Then there was Lily telling her mother "she was with" Pete last night and -– after mum not being quite sure what she meant -– changing it to "we were together".
I really enjoyed the show, but I don't understand why the writers came up with such silly dialogue when sex is involved. Both Lily and Pete could have just said –- "I had sex" -– what's wrong with that? It would be an excellent idea if the writers/producers of Australian TV shows could try to normalise sex more often, especially for the younger audience.
However, given all the negative messages that most of us received about sex when we were young, this shouldn't be a surprise. In our society sex is not always an acceptable topic for conversation. But to be silent about sex keeps us ignorant and it's vitally important that we talk openly about sex as a society, preferably starting at school level.
Sexual communication involves a degree of risk by talking about sex with our intimate partners; we can become vulnerable to judgment, criticism or sometimes rejection. Many of my clients tell me that they think that they are the only ones who find it difficult -– they believe most of their friends are having great sex lives.
We are led to believe that sex is something that comes naturally and we should be instinctively good at it, which isn't true. We are taught from a young age how to perform most basic human tasks and when older, we learn how to study and get a job. But we are just supposed to know how to have sex. In reality the key to becoming a good lover is to have good communication with your partner.
You may find that increased intimacy can result in a more passionate and connected relationship. Sex is important; it energises a relationship, restores intimacy and can make each person feel desirable.
Researching this subject I came across a TED talk presented by sex educator Debby Herbenick from the Kinsey Institute of Sex, titled Make Sex Normal. By "normal" she means making sex, bodies and gender ordinary parts of every conversation. She believes if people are more comfortable talking about sex, they will be more in touch with their own sexuality and be able to discuss their sexual likes, dislikes and boundaries with their romantic partners.
Herbenick says: "Too many of us don't know how to talk about sex and sexual health on a personal level, with partners, our children, physicians or friends. As a result, relationships and health can suffer and important information doesn't get to the people who need it.
"We need to make sure that people, especially young people, have access to good, accurate information, and we need to promote tolerant, inclusive attitudes towards everyone regardless of their sexual preferences or orientation."
She would like to encourage people to talk about sex like "it's not a big deal" and I can't agree more. Maybe The Wrong Girl could too.