Last week, with my finger nails painted, I shot a condom across the room like a rubber band and played a game where I gave out finger cots for correct answers to sexual trivia questions. For an hour and a half I talked about sexual health and oppression, about women’s access to contraception and America’s history of putting all sexual decisions in the hands of men, ostensibly because it’s god’s will. My co-hosts and I took calls offering support, information and laughs while our audience asked for help navigating culture, shame, libido and all the ways they crash into one another. Like every week, I hosted a show for the Atheist Community of Austin about love and sex and god while sharing my own insights and experiences as a former theist, a sex therapist and a queer man. In short, I did a whole lotta shit my mom was not expecting when she named her baby Christian.
Growing up, sex was something that happened between man and wife and, as a man who definitely wanted to have sex, I went and found myself a wife. My highschool sweetheart and I dated for 6 years starting from before either of us could drive and married as conservative christian virgins, confidant that god had not only blessed our marriage, but demanded it. Years later, my mother admitted that she had always secretly hoped we would “get it over with and out of our system” so we could move on, knowing that the only thing driving us to a young and clearly ill-advised marriage was an unsatisfied sex drive, even as she maintained that if we did have sex, it would be in violation of a perfect god’s unerring will.
Similarly things like gender, orientation and monogamy we’re all assumed. Once a year we’d all wear skirts and cheer from the sidelines of the powder puff game, reveling in the absurdity of women playing football. The only gay kid we knew (that we knew) was universally ostracized and eventually expelled while guys like me got the side eye when changing in the locker room. And monogamy, well, once I started dating, all of my female friends understood that our friendships were done whether I wanted them to be or not.
Looking back the most damaging thing about all of this is that it was all right out in the open, but never talked about. As thoroughly as these rules were enforced everyone toed the party line without discussing it with any sincerity. It’s been pointed out that you never know that you’re actually in a cult, you only figure it out after you’ve gotten out. The semantics of whether or not mainstream American Evangelical culture constitutes a ‘cult’ notwithstanding, it’s only now that I’m able to realize how narrow my options were at a time when I was first discovering my sexuality. If I can borrow from the other side of the aisle, the greatest trick the patriarchy ever pulled was convincing us that it didn’t exist.
Now, studying and working as a sex therapist, I’m really happy to promote a broad and diverse sexuality. The occupational hazard they never mentioned in grad school was the number of people in my life who find subtle and not so subtle ways of asking if they are ‘normal.’ It’s an incredible pleasure to be the first person in my client’s life to assure them that there’s nothing wrong with them for noticing the attractive new officemate, even though they aren’t ‘the right’ gender. It is decidedly more interesting watching my friends low-key struggle through questions like ‘have you seen Westworld?...Is it weird that I kinda wanna fuck a robot?...how would someone go about finding porn like that?’ Let me put your fears aside- your Handmaid’s Tale fantasy is totally okay.
As a host on Secular Sexuality I get the chance to help people not only feel more comfortable but empowered by providing education on everything from condoms to pronouns. We get to be one of the few voices speaking about personal issues like opening up a relationship or embracing bisexual monogamy. We play games, follow sex in the news, and introduce all kinds of ways to be, to love and even to fuck. And yeah, we get to talk about porn, even the weird stuff (who knew Rick and Morty parodies would be so big this year?)
Most of all though, we get to have fun. We get to talk about sex- the sweet, loving love making kind, the hot dirty sexy-sex kind and even the awkward sweaty human meat slapping against human meat kind. We do our best to take on the tough questions, like what should I do, how can I cope and is this normal? And whether or not we have all the answers, I’m really excited to be part of a conversation where we can help people feel human in a world that tries to force them to be angels while accusing them of being demons.