Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
I am an example, a consequence, or a blessing—depending on whom you ask—of being raised in an accepting and nonjudgmental environment surrounding human sexuality. More than once, I have been asked why the subject of sexuality matters so much to me? I still feel compelled to answer that question, to defend the importance of sexual self-discovery, but I stop myself instead to propose a new question: Why aren’t you more concerned about sexuality? As the mission of CarnalNation states, “[Sex] is a vital human need and that sexuality is an important component of who we are as individuals, how we relate to each other, and who we want to become.” My parents might not have said those words to me, but they conveyed, through their actions and lifestyle, that they accepted sexual diversity and freedom.
I am the product of a new-age hippy upbringing. I grew up in Northern California with a hot tub on the back deck under the redwoods and a massage table in the guest bedroom. My folks were concerned about things like nitrates, pesticides, MSG, and violence on television. They believed in things like social justice, human rights, and civil liberties, expressing your feelings in counseling and always telling the truth. Appropriate nudity around their children was considered natural, so going in the hot tub without a swimsuit wasn’t uncommon, even as I grew older. My parents planned regular romantic dinners for themselves, and they’d drop us kids off at our grandparents’ house so they could escape to the hot springs. They had a lock on their bedroom door and, for added measure, a sign with the words “Go Away” painted over the image of a happy summer day. This was my parent’s way of letting us know that they were doing “it.” In general, they thought sexuality was healthy and good, and that message was clearly conveyed to me in both subtle and direct ways.
Some people tell me that my parent’s openness with sexuality is unique. I frequently encounter surprise or even shock when I explain that my parents constantly modeled sex-positive behavior around me when I was growing up. I do not mean to portray my childhood as a model of perfection. Of course, we had our moments of chaos like most families do, and often that drama required so much focus that very little time was left for heart-to-heart chats about, for example, the intimate details of my sexual development. Direct “sex talks” from my parents were very rare, but I was not necessarily disappointed by this. On the contrary, I had tons of access to information about sex. I was the youngest child and had seen plenty in the comics, novels, and movies with “dirty bits” left lying around the house by my older brothers and sisters. Sometimes I fiddled with the cable box on our TV trying to get the Playboy channel to come in semi-clear. It was rare to actually see anything, but the sounds alone were super-exciting to me. I do remember being told by my parents that particular movies or novels weren’t appropriate for my age, but I never remember hearing that it was bad or wrong—only that I had to wait until I was older.
Conversations about sexuality are usually awkward for both parents and children. Even with my parent’s open and liberal attitudes, they still struggled with this aspect of raising children. The summer I turned eighteen marked one of those uncomfortable moments when parents are confronted by their child’s seemingly sudden transition into adulthood. After spending a fantastic summer day with the first nice guy I had dated, I was driven home and escorted to the front doorstep of my parent’s house. I invited the young man into our home and into my bedroom for a private goodnight kiss. My father, not knowing how to handle his discomfort at watching his daughter disappear behind closed doors with a boy, burst into my bedroom, without so much as a knock, and demanded to know if I was going to spend the night alone. Needless to say, that particular date never came back to my house, and I gave my father the silent treatment for a couple days before he sheepishly approached me with an apology for embarrassing me.
Stumbling through these awkward moments of life with my parents is a major part of what helped teach me that, however uncomfortable, talking about sexuality is very important. I will always be grateful to my parents for being positive role models of sexually aware beings, and for showing me that setting time aside to practice love and intimate communication needs to be a priority. I often wonder nowadays if they’re happy with my dedication not just to the theory of healthy sexuality but also its practice. This is one of those cases in which perception dictates the reception: dedication to the practice of sexuality makes one either an expert or a slut. I am comfortable with both labels. I encourage you to be as well.