Take your pleasure very seriously.

-Sherronda J. Brown

We live in a society that is sexually repressive and at the same time oversaturated with reminders of sex. They say that “sex sells”—or, rather, sexually objectifying women and feeding into misogynistic male fantasy about power, control, and sexual prowess sells—and yet, Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the House floor during a conversation about reproductive rights for saying “vagina.” Sex work is criminalized more and more, and porn stars are increasingly stigmatized, and yet Pornhub registered 28.5 billion visits last year—that’s more than 80 million each day.

The sexual imperialism and terrorism of white colonial invasions has played a significant role in this repression. Its violence has helped to sustain a reality in which white fetishism of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people exists alongside the demonization of sexualities which fall outside of the “superior morals” of a white Christian America.

RELATED: A Black feminist pleasure praxis acknowledges and affirms the possibility for Black women’s sexual pleasure

This colonial project continues with the steady push for abstinence-only sex education—programs which advocate for monogamous, heterosexual sex between married couples in adherence with cisnormative, heteropatriarchal demands as the only appropriate way to engage in sex. This effectively demonizing queerness, non-monogamy, and sexual exploration—even though it’s ineffective and ultimately more damaging to our sexualities than comprehensive sex education would be.  

Existing in this kind of sexual dissonance has had a significant impact on our sexual behavior and our understandings of sex. It leaves many of us tragically uneducated about sex and the things surrounding it, preventing many people from truly exploring their sexuality and learning about their own desires and the things that would help them achieve optimum sexual pleasure.

This is especially true for the women who are affected by the orgasm gap, in which cis straight women have significantly fewer orgasms than cis straight men and queer women because cis male pleasure is central to standard conceptions of heterosexuality, and because there is a general lack of knowledge about the clitoris. The solution to closing this gap, according to many feminist writers, would be a shift that brings the clitoris into better focus and de-centers the male orgasm.

I agree with this prescribed solution, but I also want us to push the conversation even further. It is not enough for us to work towards more orgasms for cis straight women. We need better sexual experiences as a whole, and that begins in the most simple place: talking openly about sex. That means communicating about and listening to the desires, expectations, needs, and boundaries of your partner(s)—whether romantic or (queer)platonic—and doing so intentionally and ethically.

As a society, we don’t have nearly enough discussions about sexual health and boundaries, neither publicly nor privately. This silence effectively takes serious conversations about the realities of sex completely off the table for most of us, and so we learn what we know about sex from pornography, mainstream entertainment, and old wives tales whispered to us by older kids who learned from the same methods, or by stumbling through our first sexual experiences with no preparation at all.

Not discussing sex makes it damn near impossible to effectively discuss what sexual violence looks like, with people of all ages, because most of us have never been permitted to engage in thoughtful conversations about what sexual health looks like in the first place.

It leaves us, cis straight women and bottoms especially, in situations where we endure unwanted discomfort and pain during sexual encounters because we have no recourse to talk openly about our desires and/or challenge our sex partners to thoughtfully consider theirs. I have too many friends who spent years going through the motions, grinning and bearing and faking, not only because of an inability to address their concerns, but also because of (misogynistic/misogynoirist and femmephobic) misconceptions about how sex is “supposed” to look.

But sex is supposed to look like freedom, like sincerity, exhilaration, and sufficiency. Like having gratifying experiences with partners who always make us feel comfortable and safe with them.

For those of us who choose to engage in sex and sex acts, it is something that can be an escape from our daily reality, if only for a few fleeting moments. It can be therapeutic in that way, but it can also ground us in the present, itself a constantly fleeting thing. It can be a means of connection and affirmation, a reminder that we are alive and we deserve to be here.

Loving ourselves enough to fuck to euphoric heights in a world that says we have no right to anything but pain is resistance and pleasure praxis.

Unmitigated, uninhibited sexual pleasure can and should be a part of our work towards liberation. That means open and honest conversations about sex. That means removing our sex from the shame that a white sexually repressive coloniality has tried for centuries to impart on us.

RELATED: Black youth need more than public health strategies that read sexuality as diseased and immoral

It is my hope that you are able to take your pleasure very seriously. That we can all arrive at ways to cultivate sexual partnerships and connections with people who will, enthusiastically and with great care, fuck us the way we absolutely deserve and desire to be fucked, and that we can reciprocate fairly.

We can commit to engaging in ethical sexual pleasures, free from shame, and this can and should be a sustained aspect of a collective concept of sexual health.