Dirty Mouth: The Politics of Sex Talk in Public Spaces
I am a dirty mouth who needs to be silenced.
This is what constitutes my parents’ most profound struggle when, before our family Sundays, they remind me every time to “watch it”, keep my mouth shut, and smile. It also must be what my college teachers think of me in the back of their heads when they shake it in reprobation, calling me twisted and other equally dismissive verdicts that always start with: “You need help”. Even among my lesbian friends, I’m always “too much”. Putting aside the fact that I might be too intense, I am a dirty mouth not because I curse a lot or lose myself in interminable gossip sessions – far from that. I am a dirty mouth because I am vocal about sex.
So how do people talk about sex? In medical terms, of course, where sex becomes a necessitous act leading to reproduction for the perpetuation of the species, therefore a post-marital worry. When not explicit, it is hidden and normalized under masks of broader manifests of sexuality, such as inappropriate compliments in the work place and pick-up lines in the streets, otherwise known as “toltish”. However, when the “dirty” side of sex is tackled – that type of sex which only belongs to sheer, “immoral pleasure”, sex talkers find innovative ways to express themselves in complex, poetic terms. The use of extensive metaphors in order to avoid a direct statement suddenly becomes a piece of cake: We did “it”. She wanted to “eat me” but I said no. She still made me “happy” with her “tools”.
A sort of religiosity accompanies “dirty” sex talk. Your date suddenly starts looking left and right frantically, as if on the verge of crossing a street of racing cars, then leans forward across the table, almost spilling the coffee, and adopts a tone shielded with covetousness and hoarse tension: “By the way… I’m gay too.” And after her being extremely shy, almost shedding tears upon making out, poor thing, she decides to surprise you in the bedroom by unleashing all the repressed sexual energy accumulated over the years with a statement like “I really really want to pee on you.” To each their own process. However, essentializing plain, explicit sex talks to whispers in the bedroom is the first layer of a silencing mechanism devoted to the control of various sexualities in terms of location, timing, partnership, and acts.
Except when I please myself in telling my mother the tales of my queer sexual sprees, to her great discontent, I don’t discuss the juicy details of my sexually active life in the broader public sphere, and releasing the latest scoop of a passionate night of steamy sex is not exactly what I have in mind when I enter a classroom or a café. However, due to the pronounced tendency of social categorization to compulsively psychoanalyze diverse aspects of sexuality, remaining silent is not an option. Gay is not synonym of abuse victim or pedophile; strap-ons are not a repressed envy for penis possession; promiscuity is not a call for attention; and cross-generational attractions don’t result from prominent Oedipus complexes. In other words, everything that falls outside the cocoon of the heteronormative – post-marital, reproductive, with slight variants of missionary position – is not necessarily a prototype for social deviance, and equalizing it with pathologies, perversions, and other stigmas is entirely unacceptable for the activist that I am. A voice could become the cutting edge which differentiates between consensual sexual practices, regardless of their nature, versus abuse, rape, harassment, and so on, and mine is one that contextualizes, analyzes, deconstructs and bothers. Apart from being an ambulant reminder for the respect of agency arising from consent, I face a constant process of coming out, not as a queer person, but as a sex positive “Middle Eastern” girl coming from a respectable family – a recipe for disaster. Once the first impression of my contained decent self is disillusioned, the “fraud” that I am has to stand for it all: the silent shock on the faces, the nervous giggles, the murmurs of disapprobation, and sometimes, the violent reactions, in the face or behind the back: slut, pervert, nympho, straight to hell.
As queer activists, not only do we embrace sex – or the lack of it – as a part of our lifestyle, but we also recognize it to be arising from a deep personal choice, rather than something imposed upon our frail selves as a result of centuries of selection, expulsion, normalization – repeat process. We are faced on a daily basis with a multitude of situations where sex is misrepresented, and we find ourselves marginalized for trying to point that out. We become the oh-so feared “them”, which gives us the invaluable property of surfacing the voices hidden in every “us” or “I”.
So let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about the institutionalization of sexual orientations, the non-heteronormative aspects of asexuality, and the hidden political agendas in relation to sex workers. Let’s talk about our fantasies, the image of shemales, and the BDSM lovers. Let’s make of our own voices – and of Bekhsoos this week – a dirty portal to the realms of our vocal, dangerously unrepressed sexualities.