Tuesday, June 12, 2007

LESBIAN SEX CULTURES: Part Two – The Right to a Pleasurable and Fulfilling Sexuality

The second value of lesbian sex culture is that everyone has a right to experience a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality. Everyone. No exceptions.

This value has operated on two important axes in American culture in the past thirty-five to forty years. First, the right to a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality has led lesbians to work tireless to end rape and domestic violence because of how they fundamentally violate that principle. Ask anyone who has worked in the movement to end violence against women if they knew lesbians. They did, and they can tell you about their work. Lesbians’ work, like the work of their heterosexual counterparts, was both to empower women to live a life without violence, but also to live a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. Ultimately, it is not just the absence of violence that movement to end violence against women is seeking – it is the presence of a full and fulfilling life, and that includes the healthy expression of human sexuality. The movement to end violence against women is another contribution of lesbian sex culture.

The other area where lesbians’ work has been central, and where that work is based on the belief in the right to a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality, is AIDS prevention and education. From the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, lesbians have worked to educate about HIV transmission and ways to prevent it. This work has been done, by and large, from an impulse that was and continues to be sex positive and life affirming. The work both to end violence against women and to address AIDS is another public manifestation of lesbian sex culture. It is work that we do because of our own experiences with our sexualities and because of our desire to express those experiences in public ways. We make our sexuality visible and in doing so contribute to the lives of others—lives that include a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality.

I don’t want to suggest that lesbians, monolithically, have a sex culture that is only positive. That isn’t true. Even in the examples I have given there are times when individual lesbians and lesbians as a community have been at odds with one another in ways that are not positive and affirmative. There are times when lesbians have been at odds with one another in ways that are painful but productive.

There are many examples of times when individual lesbians and factions of the community as a whole have been prudish and sex negative. Struggle—inside and outside of the lesbian community—is something with which we are very familiar. It may be this struggle that cause some to believe that lesbians’ sex cultures are less developed than gay men’s sex cultures or than heterosexual sex cultures. Such a perception, however, is false. Even in the times when lesbians desire to repress or suppress sexuality, there has been a public sex culture in the lesbian community that is highly developed and that seeks to strengthen and affirm a broader sense of sexuality than that expressed between and among lesbians in the community alone. Lesbian sex culture always seeks to make broad cultural, social, and political connections and contributions in the world.

Lesbian sex culture is both analytical and experiential. Lesbian sex culture is verbal and physical; it is emotional and spiritual; it is pragmatic and fanciful. Lesbian sex culture is a sex culture that engages the mind and the body, the heart and the soul. Lesbian sex culture is here for good times and bad; it is a sex culture that is expressed within the community and that reaches out beyond the community. Lesbian sex culture expresses the hope and the vision that sexuality is something that we can all experience to bring more joy and meaning to our lives.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #4 dated June 12, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 632

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