Dear Sisters and Brothers of all sexuality and genders-
I am writing this and you are reading it during this very unusual and extraordinary time. Many of us are sheltering-in-place either alone or with members of our families, extended families or other friends and acquaintances. Ultimately, though this historical time is unusual and extraordinary, what I am about to discuss with you is something every human being considers no matter who they are and whether they are diagnosed with HIV or STIs or not. It is what happens when we think about sex.
The first thing is the gateway: will I have sex or not?
Though it seems simple, it really isn’t because whether or not we decide to have sex- directly impacts our quality of life. Even people who do not choose to have sex or identify as “asexual” (asexual does not necessarily mean no sex. It quite often means no sex with others), consider their overall quality of life in this decision. If a person chooses to have sex, the next moment is: sex alone or with whom? This opens the consideration of: what kind of sex? Or what do I do? This is when we consider our options.
At the core of our options- exploration are harm reduction and/or risk reduction. We certainly don’t want to do ourselves or others any harm AND we certainly want to reduce our risk of contracting or spreading HIV or STIs. At least, this is how I roll. It is certainly true that on the sea of possibilities ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! Sisters and Brothers, this is no small thing. It is true that anything is possible.
How then does one become aware of the possibilities in the expression of our sexuality? Well for sure, some reflective thinking helps. Today I read where someone wrote that he likes to think of masturbation as making love to himself. I immediately thought “suppose I just want to get off and that as fast as I can!” Well there you are, already two basic options and we haven’t even considered video, dildos, lube or live cams. See what I mean? Something as seemingly simple as masturbation isn’t merely a matter of self-stimulation to orgasm, after a bit of consideration it has dimensions that are wide and really varied time signatures.
Another thing that helps is talking about it. When I say talking about it, this can be part of the conversation that you have with a potential partner or even a casual conversation about sex that you have with friends. You can get a lot of ideas sharing sex experiences/stories with others. This certainly has everything to do with folks’ comfort level in having these kinds of conversations. At a certain part in my own life, I decided not only not to share bodily fluids during sexual activity, but also to eliminate every possible opportunity to come in contact with someone’s bodily fluids. This led me to decide to never engage in any kind of sexual activity without condoms. Well, I happened to meet a dude who absolutely hated condoms. I really wanted to have sex with him and he was adamant. He would not allow for condoms. Here is where my harm reduction and risk reduction came into play. I had as a personal value not to engage in ANY sex without a condom AND I really wanted to get it on with this dude. What would you have done?
In this example, because he wanted to get with me as much as I with him, we found stuff to do in which I would not bet in contact with is bodily fluids and he didn’t have to wear a condom. But what if he was adamant about anal? This is what I mean. Frankly, an option that I personally have had to employ was the word “no” or “sorry, but I just can’t.” There is nothing in my life hat says that I HAVE TO have sex with everyone that I want to or who wants me. For me, the bottom line is that I want to live as long as I can with the highest quality of life possible. Sisters and Brothers, it’s all about choices and my willingness and ability to make them.
I don’t necessarily want to go there but we also have to consider drugs and alcohol. It is true that the use/abuse of drugs and alcohol directly effects our ability not only to see our options, but also to choose them. I make no judgement, but it is a good idea to know and be aware of the effect that drugs and alcohol have in our life. This is as important and as meaningful as our consideration to have sex at all or not.
We here at the Prevention Advisory Board are not here to direct your life. That is not our deal. What we want is for you to live the best life that you can. We want that for ourselves too. Depending on your level of comfort, we would be glad to be with you as support as you explore this important aspect of your overall sexual health. It starts with you though. As Aretha Franklin famously sang, “You better think!”
STOP the madness. LEARN to love. START with yourself.
Sr. Freida Peoples, SPI
Sister Freida is a member of the Prevention Advisory Board and is in the world-wide LGBTQIA advocacy organization The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. Sister Freida lives in Des Moines.