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Cory Silverberg

Sex in a Disaster

By November 4, 2012

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I'm currently living in the north east, splitting my time between a city that wasn't at all affected by Sandy and a city that was.  My apartment was not damaged by the recent storm but many of my neighbors, some only five blocks away, have lost their homes and all of their possessions.  There are many still without power and without water. There are folks who are running out of medication, out of patience, out of nerves.

I had planned on using the free time I have over the next two days doing volunteer work related to Tuesday's US elections.  But instead I spent some time yesterday and today helping pack up food and clothing deliveries and making one short car run (trying not to run out of gas) to a grocery store to then deliver supplies to a nearby town which is much worse off than where I am.  Of course I don't feel like I'm doing enough.

When it comes time for me to sit down and work, most of what I have to write about this month seems somehow inappropriate or at least badly timed.  A woman wrote to me last month asking for some ideas on rekindling sexual passion between her and her husband now that her kids have left home.   I wrote something about sex in an empty house, only now the phrase empty house means something very different to me then it did last week.  I have a pile of sex toy reviews that need to be published.  I have to be honest and say that part of me feels like, who cares?  How does this help anyone, or matter?

When things are really terrible for other people I find it hard to talk about the goods parts of sex.  And then I remind myself that things are ALWAYS terrible for some people.  The more privileged you are, the easier it is to not see it.  To pretend, or actually believe, that the world is a just place where things are pretty much okay pretty much all the time.  To not see the ways that poverty and violence are part of our every day lives.  To forget that we live in a society that only considers some people worthy of love, freedom, basic rights, the ability to participate.  All of these things are part of our world and they make life really really hard for so many people.  Everywhere. Everyday.

And then there's a "natural disaster". Something so intense and acute that everyone stops and pays attention.  Something that, temporarily, puts us all at a disadvantage.  It's easy to see these events as aberrations, interruptions in a "normal" life.  But here again is the trouble with normal. Whose life is that exactly?  How is it possible to look carefully around the world, around our neighborhoods, their households and businesses and the streets between them, and not see disasters every day?

Not that looking into that darkness is possible, or desirable, all the time.  But ignoring it not only means not living a full life, it means ignoring a whole lot of people who are in it, right now.

 

If you think about it that way, we're always having sex during a disaster.  Either we're having sex during our own disasters or during someone else's.  Sometimes its the sex itself that is disastrous. And even though this is starting to sound like a major turn off (and I can't recommend this as a pre-sex conversation) I do think it's a good thing.  It's a reminder that we are, or at least can be, active participants in the world.  Even when things are at their worst, we don't need people's pity.  We need help and support, for sure.  But we can, and often do, manage to achieve wondrous acts of every day beauty and sex in the midst of terrible things.  We're capable of both, at the same time.

So for the next few days I'm going to take a break from writing about sex and try and help in other ways.  But then I'll be right back at it, writing about (and hopefully occasionally having) sex in a disaster.

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Comments
November 7, 2012 at 11:57 am
(1) Deb says:

I thought for a minute there I was going to have to unsubscribe. I am in the middle of my own disaster at the moment with my own crashing health issues, a chronically ill child and the resulting poverty level that not even my degreed education or creative mind could have prevented. And ive lost access to the food pantry because i dont have an electric bill (the only form of proof that i live in the right zip code to be helped) because i dont have a residence to electrify. A friend has kindly paid for our hotel. I was really angry when i first started reading. I thought,”if ANYONE were to proposition me for sex right now, they’d immediately lose an appendage,” if you know what I mean. But after thinking some more about it, i think you should write about how during an acute disaster, while basic needs are top priority, some folks dont have desire. While others may really need sexual contact and intimate reassurance during a crisis. Maybe the question is not how does one have sex during a disaster (though logistics may be an issue if all four walls of your bedroom have come down and your prophylactics and sex toys are scattered about the neighborhood) but how does one best communicate ones specific desires during disaster without losing an appendage or worse yet, losing the relationship all together because the two have different needs during crisis? Just having thought about this put me in anothers shoes. What if i really needed love and sex from a partner right now during a time when we have lost everything and i could clearly see that bringing up a quickie at ground zero might land me in the hospital or divorce court? These are good questions. And somehow, i feel blessed that i do not have a parnter to contend with right now while at the same time, i can see how a moment of intimacy might remind me that even at ground zero, my mojo is still workin and no one can take that from me.

November 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm
(2) Cory says:

Hi Deb, thanks for commenting, I really appreciate what you’re saying here and will think more about it and if it feels like something I can write about I will. I appreciate the way that you’re broadening out the issue of needs and desires. We have needs, and asking for what we need, particularly when others seem to have so much and we may have very little, becomes so hard. The system is set up to keep people with fewer resources and supports quiet. It’s one of the many things that is unjust about the way the world seems to work. So if there’s anything else you think I could help you with around connecting to more resources please feel free to email me directly at sexuality.guide@about.com. I definitely don’t have all the answers but I’m happy to help and support however I can. Thanks. Cory

November 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm
(3) L says:

Sometimes after a disaster, or even during one, when we are surrounded by loss, death, and destruction, sex can be a primal life affirming act that reconnects us to the fact that as long as we are still breathing, there is still hope…Hope that we will survive and hope for a better future. It can also be a much-needed moment of intimacy and reconnection with a loving partner which can help ground us in the midst of the surrounding chaos and facilitate the process of healing…

November 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm
(4) Ray says:

Kidooe’s to the wife in third paragraph. So many times couples end in Divorce because there is that empty feeling and one blames other.

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