Shakti perspectives: Natasha
There is so much shame associated with sex in our communities and there are so many ways it has an impact on our mental health. The biggest is this sense of guilt for wanting to experience pleasure and the isolation or loneliness that comes with feeling like you’re weird for wanting to enjoy anything sexual or sensual without shame. The shame associated with sex is what holds people back from talking to a therapist/sexologist about any problems they are facing!
The biggest misconception is that you need to be having lots of sex to be sex-positive, but sex positivity has very little to do with the frequency in which you engage in sexual activities and instead has everything to do with how much healthy curiosity and openness you have towards new experiences or understanding new things. You can choose to be abstinent and still be sex positive. Sex-positivity is not judging or shaming your partner/friends when they share with you something that brings them pleasure (a kink/fetish even) that you don’t particularly enjoy. Sex positivity is about embracing the diversity and variation in what “normal” is. I constantly get asked “Lama, is this normal? Natasha, I do this xxx, am I normal?” and you are!
Sex positivity is also about agency and choice! There’s another huge misconception that talking about sex or young people receiving sex education will make them have sex at a younger age - a myth that has been debunked and studies have shown that people who receive comprehensive sex-ed delay their sexual debut. For me this metric doesn’t really matter, sex-positivity is important because with knowledge comes power, yeah? So, when people understand how their bodies work; when they feel no shame about asking questions or exploring then they get to make the right choices for themselves and don’t succumb to peer pressure or feeling like they “should” be doing something, and they are also being safer in their sexual experiences! They understand how to practice consent and people understand what safer sex practices look like.
Tug Of War would be how I describe my relationship with mental health, it’s a tug of war between knowing that it is important to get support and be OKAY with receiving health versus unlearning the idea that I’m weak if I do. I think it’s changing because I’ve made it a priority to learn about my boundaries and be comfortable in enforcing them this year. I’ve also been practising listening to my body when it’s telling me I need to rest, to not feel guilty for wanting to rest and recharge.
Our mental health has a huge impact on our sexual desire for a lot of us - when I’m stressed, tired, burnt out, frustrated, the last thing on my mind is being sexual and connecting with my eroticism. Choosing to prioritise my pleasure, my rest is a form of self-care for me. It is my way of taking care of my mental health so that I can show up in other parts of my life!
Self-care for me is part of taking back control over my sexuality.
We need to start slowly not shying away from discussions around sex. Going to get regular STI screenings and talking to your doctor about your sexual health openly. Within your friend circles, perhaps reflect on various ways you may be unconsciously being sex-negative = judging someone for how many people they have or have not had sex with? Judging someone’s morality based on whether they have or have had an STI? Coercing your partner into having sex with you because you feel it’s their obligation to you? Dismissing your partners what discuss barrier methods because it’s not that big of a deal to you?
The South Asian community is HUGE and spread out across the world, so I feel depending on where we are, the standard of our healthcare varies. As someone who is Malaysian born and raised and then moved to Melbourne, it was comforting to get access to sexual health services where I wasn’t being asked unnecessary prying questions and for the most part was not being judged for my choices.