Article Feature: Why Writing about Sex is Hard (…but making puns isn’t) by Hopeful Honeydew

One of the great things about our world is that each one of us has a different experience to share and a different voice with which to convey it. I am a huge fan of, if not embracing, then at least listening to these different opinions and having a chance to learn more about how people see the world and address the issues that we all face. 

It’s with this in mind that I have my crew of regular guest posters–Lemon Fresh and Curious Clementine–and now I’m very happy to add an additional voice to my blog: Hopeful Honeydew. 

Hopeful Honeydew is a dear friend of mine and an aspiring blogger. If she wishes then I will eventually share her blog details (a current WIP) but, for now, please enjoy her brilliant insights about why sex writing doesn’t come naturally to her.

Hi there! I’m the Hopeful Honeydew, and I’ve been asked by Emmeline to write an article here and there.

I must admit, when Emmeline first proposed this to me, my thoughts ran along the lines of ‘oh crap, oh no, what am I going to write…I can’t possibly write about that, but what about this…’ and on and on in a loop of panic. But that got me thinking, as writing isn’t an issue for me (i’m confident in expressing my view on topics from art to Arthurian legend) why couldn’t I write about sex?

The blank page is an unkind mistress.

I’ve been pondering this issue for a few days now, and I’ve come up with a few musings as to the root of my sexual silence, and, if you’re the same as I am, I hope my follies might offer some enjoyable and interesting insight.

Family Values

First of all, I think its key address the influence of family.

I don’t want to touch on this too much, but I feel it’s essential to my intrepid adventure of verbal enlightenment. To put it simply, sex, other than in jest, has never been talked about in my household. Now that’s not to say I couldn’t go  to my parents or sister if I had an emergency, (I have before; getting the emergency 24 hour pill is stressful as all hell) but sex in its nuances just isn’t at the forefront of family conversation. I can only think of one instance where my mother asked me a direct sexual question, when I was 19…in a busy Subway (the fast food chain) of all places.

We’d just been to see a movie, and as it had finished later than expected we’d just settled down in the corner of the crowded restaurant, and the conversation went as follows:

Mum (Loudly): Are you still a virgin, Honeydew?
Honeydew: Chokes on lettuce, is a coughing spluttering mess for several moments. Um…no. Why?
Mum (Oblivious): Okay, just wanted to know.

[End Scene]

And that was that, my sexual discussions with my family summed up in a small paragraph.

What can I glean from this musing? Well, it’s clear that sex or sexual conversation has not been normalized in a familial setting, for myself at least. As a result of this, I’ve not really spoken words, such as ‘sex’ or ‘penetration’ (a word which I still struggle with) so I’ve not had chance to become confident with them. I cannot use them with aplomb, thus haven’t verbally claimed ownership as it were.

The Language of Love(?)

Let me explain this further, in the previous sentence, I intentionally used the word ‘aplomb’. Now, this is a word I am not familiar with, (other than reading it once or twice), I have no idea how it might sound on my tongue, or if I am completely honest, whether I’ve used it perfectly in a sentence. This has caused me a little anxiety, as this article will be published, people more intelligent than I might see, and I may be laughed at or judged on my handling of the word.

The same comes with sexual terminology, as well as discussing the loaded topic of a sex as a whole. Unfamiliar words/discussions carry with them anxiety, particularly when spoken around someone who you hold in high esteem, or perceive to have greater experience in such matters. Not finding my own sexual voice I believe is my prevailing issue.

This issue is secondly emphasised due to the British love of the euphemism. Why say something as brash as ‘vagina’ when you can say vajayjay, cooch, privates, lady bits, fanny, and the list goes on. Or, heaven forbid saying ‘penis’ when you can say dick, cock, meat and two veg? Thinking of saying sex my friend? How uncouth! Try saying; whoopee, shenanigans, or, as I have discovered through research, my new favourite term – ‘Slide the accordion in its waltzing.’

Why on earth would you need to claim ownership or have confidence with base terms, when you can have such fun with euphemisms?

I very much subscribe to the Miranda approach to sexual terminology.

Sadly, I think this leads to something a little darker than some might intially consider: It makes terms to do with sex, and its components and facets seem dirty or secretive, something not to discuss in conversation or in wider society.

However, when you think about it, how utterly ridiculous is that! Why am I scared of the word vagina? Why does it intimidate me? I have one for heaven’s sake, it’s part of me and I’ve been acquainted with it numerous times! I think this proves, just how deeply, yet often unnoticed the world of euphemisms in conversation can impact. I have to admit, before making acquaintances with Emmeline, and so kindly being welcomed into her world, I was very much caught up in this trap, and some days I still avoid certain terms, and indulge in the safety of a euphemism. But have no fear, though at a whisper, I feel my voice is starting to take form.

(The Absence of) Sex Education

I think, from my own personal experiences, the final nail in the coffin of sexual verbalization was Sex Ed. It saddens me still that something that is supposed to open doors for young people, in terms of their sexual identities, understanding and confidence, can instead bolt the doors closed. I must emphasize however, that this is only from personal experience, you may have had the most fabulous Sex Ed teacher and if so I say bravo and happily cheer for you. But I and many others I know were sadly let down, and for some, like myself are still learning to this day what could have been taught in a classroom.

The first issue I had with Sex Ed, which I believe contributes to my sexual muteness was the tone of the class. Bar from one nurse that was present for one session (of many) the class had a somber serious vibe. It wordlessly informed you that; (and please, read this in the voice of a mustached posh old man) ‘sex is very serious matter! People have died you know! There’s all sorts of diseases and they’re out for you! Sex is safety, focus, and watching out for those danger signs!’

This satire is sadly truer to life than we would wish.

While of course, safety and disease awareness/prevention is an important part of sexual education, it most definitely isn’t the be all and end all in what a pubescent teenager needs to know. Creating an atmosphere of a court room of fear only intensifies muteness for those not sexually confident, and, as the mind is a pesky thing and remembers the bad over the good, can really impact on experiences later down the line.

I think is also where my aversion to the medical and honest terms of ‘vagina’, ‘penis’, ‘penetration’ et cetera comes from. Upon hearing those terms I am drawn back to that place of fear, envisioning being forced to put a condom on a banana whilst simultaneously not having recovered from the long lecture on killer diseases I’ve just had. I remember holding the condom in my hand and thinking ‘how can this flimsy thing protect me from all that!’ (Because the risk of sexual diseases was deemed as so prevalent that every boy had to have one…there was no inference to LGBTQ relationships, I’m pansexual, thanks for that school…) I think the fear of diseases still impacts me greatly to this day, even though I’m the reverse of sexually promiscuous – I mean you can’t get a disease from being single can you? …can you? Safe to say Sex Ed loaded me with more fears and sexual muteness than answered any questions I might have had.

Final Musings

There are many more reasons why I have such sexual anxiety, in all forms. However in this article I have tried to highlight the key culprits, which I think one or two of you may have in common with myself. If you do, if you’re screaming that the screen ‘that’s me! That’s me!’ Then I say to you, do not worry. You don’t need to feel embarrassed or down about it. You don’t have to change, euphemisms are a great thing, (I mean who doesn’t want to refer to their vagina as their ‘womanly secrets’) and if that’s where you’re happy I’m happy. But, if you feel the frustration of constant awkwardness like I do, maybe try to use the plain, naked words more often, become familiar with them, and claim not only ownership, but your loud, proud sexual voice.