I was sorting my email and came upon this letter, which I received soon after starting the Sex+++ documentary film series.
Posted with permission:
Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network (GLN) forwarded your email about the sex-positive film series at Hull-House and the discussions afterward. I am a member of GLN and, although not gay, have lots of kinky needs (e.g. infantilism, BDSM, crossdressing) that I have largely kept closeted for most of my life.
I am sixty-three years old, have written pornography on the latter themes in my retirement, and have determined in the last years of my life to see what I can do about affirming these sexual aspects that have been almost exclusively a source of shame and self-loathing for so long. The film series and especially the opportunity for discussion afterward seem an ideal venue to explore this possibility. I am intrigued by this project, especially the sex-positive nature of it given my history of shame.
I try to imagine what it would have been like to go through sixty years suppressing my most driving sexual needs. More than twice my lifespan spent forcing myself not to explore my “darker” desires; forcing myself to believe that I’m a shameful pervert just for having such thoughts. Electing to run from my sexuality rather than seeking to adjust to it, own it, love it.
It’s not that I don’t think people can have fulfilling lives without exploring sexuality in detail. People are different; people have different desires, needs, priorities; and those desires change over time. And our options are limited by our environment — the places we live, the people we meet, etc. There have been and there will be times in my life where I don’t spend as much time on exploring sexuality as I do right now, and of course I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Sex comprises only a few threads in the tapestry of an awesome life.
But it still hurts to know just how many people are out there who can’t even begin to acknowledge their sexuality. Indeed, it hurts every time I find another instance of shame about my own sexuality (and of course I struggle with sexual shame; we all do; no one’s so enlightened as to be completely free; all we can do is our best). The sex drive, which can be so many things — from simple pleasure to dark catharsis to deep expression of intimacy — I wish everyone could have complete access to it. That’s not possible, I guess, but at least … even (perhaps especially) with sexual approaches that don’t include what society traditionally thinks of as “sex” — if it’s masturbation, if it’s fantasy, even if it’s not having sex at all — I want everyone to feel comfortable getting in touch with their sexual needs.
It’s not that people can’t have fulfilling lives without having sex — or even without thinking about sex. But it hurts to think that anyone would believe they have to.
It hurts to think about someone, at age sixty-three, feeling like they spent most of their life “closeted”.
Still, at the same time, it makes me feel so much better to know that I’m helping create the space to venture out.