Vacation Sex Should Happen At Home
In what might be one of the worst advice articles I’ve ever read, a recent LA Weekly blog suggested that “Vacation Sex” should stay on vacation. I can’t remember the last time that reading bad relationship advice actually made me panic, and I read the tips in Cosmo and Glamour routinely, for a laugh. But deep in the heart of the suggestion that the wild and carefree fuckery of vacation should not be repeated at home is the very fear and shame that is at the heart of our slut-shaming Madonna/Whore identity crisis. It is the kind of stuff that leads to depression and deception. It’s just harmful as hell. So I feel the need to come, armed with tales and toys, to tell you that kinky vacation fuckery can improve your life, every day. Even at home. Especially at home, after a long day, in which nothing went right and you don’t feel like anyone understands you.
The author snarks cheerfully that in vacation sex, “you went ahead and you met someone with whom to get freaky. You both presented the best versions of yourselves: the gentleman opened up, baring his soul and becoming vulnerable, and the lady wore a tie around her waist and nothing else, sauntering around and flaunting her perfect backside.” And than goes on to suggest that such things should be left in the past. Not sought out at home, because much is sure to be lost in translation.
Yup, go ahead and take that “best you,” the one you wish you were all the time, and that hot sex, that you wish you had more often, and forget about it. Take the author’s advice and “Instead of following through, you should put the phone down, eat another ice cream sandwich and do what’s best for everyone: leave the vacation sex on vacation, and maintain the happy memory.”
Or, take my advice, and learn from it. Really learn, and figure out how to bring that into your real life. While it is true that returning to the person who triggered this sexual epiphany may be a mistake, forgetting the sexual epiphany is a far worse mistake. Because that “best you,” that you brought out, that hot sex that you had? That was YOU. Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with the other person. It had everything to do with you finally releasing yourself from whatever fear or shame held you back, and being true to yourself. And you can be THAT you, any time you want.
And there are some very good reasons why that’s important.
1. Sexual fulfillment, in an authentic way, is a vital part of being whole and happy. We live in a world of complex messages – from media, peers, religion, family – about how we are “supposed” to behave sexually. While the common thread of “honestly,” and “with integrity” is both obvious and laudable, there are many forces that tell us we must be heterosexual, or monogamous, or sweet, or not have anal sex, or multiple partners, or that BDSM is violence or….. And this causes no end of trouble in the minds, souls and hearts of people who just can’t conform to this very restrictive concept of human sexuality. You can use fancy terms like “sexual identity,” and why it has to synthesize with “sense of self” in order to be whole. But you can also just look at your own life, I’m sure, and the times when you felt guilt and shame for wanting something that you didn’t think you were supposed to want. And think about how that made you feel. Did it inspire you to be a better you, or did it hurt and shut you down? In which of those states would you rather live?
The connection between sexual dissonance and mental health is well documented, at least in the LGBT community. In the LGBT population, sexual shame is connected to increased anxiety, depression and even suicide – one only has to turn on the TV to hear another story about a gay teen killing themselves, or the massive resonance of the It Gets Better Project to understand that feeling safe in one’s sexual identity is of paramount importance. The same is true for all of us. If you are “kinky” and afraid to let people know it for fear of losing something, that will impact your sense of self and your relationships. There will be a part of you that is seeking fulfillment, and those nagging voices are not only distracting, they’re destructive.
But you can’t embrace it if you don’t know what it is. You can’t really know what it is unless you explore it. And once you know what it is, you can’t ignore it. That proverbial closet that we were so proud to finally let the gay people out of? There are still a lot of “kinky” people in there, and if you’re one of them, you’re gonna need to find your way out.
2. “Acting out” your sexual fantasies on vacation can be a very safe way to explore them. (More on safety in a minute.) If you try something that you’ve always been curious about and it makes you happy, and you keep replaying that memory in your head in a wistful sort of way, you have to listen to that voice. A while back I wrote about how Vacation Sex actually showed me some important things about my sexuality. Things that I probably wouldn’t have tried in a context that had “higher stakes.” But, on vacation, I felt free to explore myself precisely because it was about ME, and the person I was with had no bearing on my life. How he felt about me or my proclivities was irrelevant, but what he showed me about myself probably saved me years of therapy later. I didn’t hang on to the relationship, but I hung on to the lessons.
Those lessons matter, because you cannot build a lasting relationship on lies. You cannot enter a straight, monogamous relationship if you are gay or bi or poly at heart. It’s not fair to anyone. You can’t pretend that you don’t need BDSM, if you really do. Those lies that you tell yourself eventually become lies that you tell everyone else, and that’s not fair to anyone, least of all you. You owe it to everyone to find out who you are and what you’re into. Whatever it is, you’re not alone.
(Fun fact, for their awesome book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed the data from 55 million internet searches done looking for porn. One would assume that with 55 million searches, there would be incredible variety in the porn that people were looking for. Nope. Just 20 different kinks represented fully 80% of all the searches. Fewer than 2 dozen kinks is all it takes to meet the erotic entertainment needs of the vast majority of the population. In order to meet the needs of 90% of the internet-enabled population, there were only 35 categories. So, really, whatever it is that you think makes you weird, there are millions of other people who are “weird,” just like you. So, you’re not weird.)
3. But safety is important. The easiest way that I can explain it is that we take care of things we value. And to value something, you first have to acknowledge its existence. Safer sex requires the ability to claim your sexuality, talk about it, and yes, protect it. People who feel empowered in their sexuality are more likely to get tested for STIs, use barrier methods for both pregnancy and pathogen protection, communicate about their emotional boundaries and look after their physical safety in other ways. This is extra important if what you are into involves BDSM, multiple partners or may take you away from environments in which you have more control. While all of these choices are awesome, you need to know how to approach your sexuality in a way that is safest for you. You need to believe that you, and your fully sexual self, are deserving of protection – as opposed to deserving of shame and harm, which is what many more punitive perceptions might teach you.
Which brings me back to that story I told you about discovering that I like to be tied up, something I learned on vacation in Greece. What I really learned is that what I like is power-play, and I like to be dominated. For a while I thought that maybe I was a rope-bottom, or a BDSM sub, that’s how much I liked being “man-handled,” which was the term I used in my journals from that period in my life. So I learned a bit about that stuff. I tried a little. And, nope. I just like to be smacked around A LITTLE, spanked A LITTLE, forced A LITTLE…. but I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t explore it. However, I also learned that I can’t do without it. I tried that. And it doesn’t work for me. Every time I tried to deny my rough-n-tumble side, I would ache a little, and shut down a little. I need to be with a man who is quite assertive, who will not put his needs on hold for me, who can throw me around a bit. And in order to do that, safely, I need to really trust him. And he deserves to trust that I am being honest about my sexual needs, so that we are building a relationship on honesty. Which means I need to use that knowledge I have of my own sexuality in order to discuss boundaries, expectations, desires and deal-breakers. And that I have a right to expect that of him.
When I read that piece on why vacation sex should stay on vacation, it set off all of my alarm bells. All I heard was “deny who you are, forget you ever wanted that.” And I implore you to do the opposite. Find out who you really are, and celebrate it.
Vacation sex is a great way to find it out. Obviously, even then, I feel the need to issue forth a few safety caveats:
a. Vacation sex can be risky because you don’t know the players and environment as well. Always use condoms, no matter what.
b. Text someone, anyone, who you are with and where you are and tell them if they haven’t heard from you by X time, to call.
c. Don’t be wasted. Seriously. If you are entering into new territory, you want to be cogent enough to not only protect yourself, but to be fully present and learning from it.
d. You don’t need to impress anyone but you.
e. Don’t give your partner the credit. They may have shown you what you like, but the rest of it is all you, run with it. If they showed you something that you like, it goes on your list of things to look for in future relationships. If they showed you something you don’t like, it goes on your list of things to avoid in future relationships.
Whether it was vacation sex, a scene in a movie or some horribly written novel, if you have discovered some awesome sexual fantasy version of yourself, make it real.
And, by the way, when you’ve had a really shitty day, great sex can feel like a vacation. I’m just saying. We could all use a little more vacation time.
Photo by Flickr user Drew Coffman