How many New Year's resolution lists include something about sex? It's hard to say since publicly we don't talk about it much. That might be because sex is seen as less important than other things we make resolutions about, like our health (as if sex and heath were separate!). Or maybe we think of our sex lives as things that aren't possible to change without also changing our relationships (getting a partner, dropping a spouse, finding a new one, etc…). Maybe it's because we don't know where to begin.
Whatever the reason, if you're making resolutions for yourself and haven't thought about sex yet, I want to offer a grab bag of sexual resolutions flexible enough to fit anyone. Maybe you'll add one to your list, or maybe one of these will inspire you to come up with one of your own. Either way, spending a little time now and throughout the year attending to your sexuality is an act I can promise will you give back far more than a gym membership (not that there's anything wrong with the gym).
Sexual Resolution #1: Integrate Your Sexual Self
A lot of us think about our lives and our sex lives as being separate but related. One happens in the context of the other. Like Matryoshka dolls. Sex is something for the bedroom. It's something that you get to have and enjoy somewhere between our 20s and 40s but magically disappears before and after. That's certainly the image of sex we see reflected back at us from the media and in whatever sex education we might receive.
But our sex lives are our lives. As Anna Freud once wrote, "Sex is something you do, sexuality is something you are." We can no more separate out our sexual selves than we could our spiritual selves or intellectual selves. Although many of us try our best to do just that.
This first resolution doesn't require action, only attention and intention. Try to pay attention to the place of sexuality in your daily life. Whether that's how a fleeting sexual thought appears in response to something you might not expect, or how having or not having sex influences how you feel the rest of the day, or week, or month. The intention, not to sound too flakey, is to welcome your sexual self - your thoughts, feelings, desires, you body, and your sexual activities - into your whole life and awareness. More about integrating your sexual self.
Sexual Resolution #2: Speak Your Sexual Mind
This resolution is not a call for you to become a sexual bull in the proverbial china store. Given most communities multiple taboos about speaking in public about certain kinds of sexuality it isn't always safe or respectful to speak precisely what's on your sexual mind at the moment it comes to you.
But most of us are raised with some level of shame about sex, and most of us stay silent when it comes to speaking honestly and directly about our sexual thoughts or more broadly about sexual justice. Sometimes this is a survival mechanism. But for any of us who have at least one person in our lives we can trust, there will be some opportunities to share more of our sexual minds.
Whether it's telling a partner you love to be spanked, or telling a spouse about a painful time in our sexual past; whether it's telling a parent or a colleague that we don't plan on getting married because we like having multiple partners, or telling a best friend that you've always wanted them in a less than platonic way, in the new year, consider the ways you might be able to give voice to the thousands of sexual thoughts you have each day, and experience some of the awesome and empowering results of speaking your sexual mind. More ideas on talking about sex.
Sexual Resolution #3: Share a Few of Your Sexual Secrets
One of the drawbacks of not speaking your mind (see resolution #2) is that most of us carry around any number of sexual secrets. Some of these we hold dear and enjoy the thrill of the secrecy, other secrets are ones that feel too painful to share, but that we might benefit greatly from speaking out loud. It might not be to a friend, a partner, or a family member. It might be in a support group, or a counseling or therapy session. Consider taking stock of your current inventory of sexual secrets, and sharing a few this new year with people who are worthy of them.
If you don't know who to trust, or nervousness, guilt, anxiety, or shame are holding you back, but you want to take a first step, there are lots of ways to share anonymously these days. One old school option is the website PostSecret, where you can anonymously submit secrets through the mail that will then be shared with the world. It may be one of the few places the NSA can't trace your communication back to its source.
Sexual Resolution #4: Think About Your Sexual Rights
In her moving and incisive essay, "It's Time to Politicize Our Sexual Oppression" the late Barbara Waxman Fiducia suggested that one of the reasons we don't stand up for our own sexual rights is that we may believe it's our fault we aren't having the kind of sex we want to have, or aren't living the kind of sexual life we want to live. While some people question whether or not thinking about sex as a right is, well, the right way to think about sex, it's certainly one way, and it can be a useful place to begin to reimagine your own sex life. Many of us may be unaware of our sexual rights, as defined by international health organizations, either because they are summarily dismissed by the mainstream, or because we look and act mainstream enough that the ways we are actually different are swept under the rug.
This year take time to consider your sexual rights, and more importantly, think about the ways they are ignored, stomped on, and taken away, by others and also by your own actions and inactions.
Sexual Resolution #5: Support Someone Else's Sexual Rights
Standing up for our own sexual rights would be much easier if we felt like we weren't the only ones struggling to do so. Even as social media has exponentially multiplied our access to other people's thoughts and stories, honest discussion of sexuality remains rare. In the silence we can all feel as if we are the only ones struggling to find a way to be ourselves in the world, to feel good about our bodies, and to express and explore our desires and identities, which are always complicated and usually messy.
So in addition to the important act of fighting for your own rights this new year, consider supporting the rights of others to be sexual on their own terms. I find it's best to do this when the person you're supporting isn't even around. You avoid the moral quandary of whether you're only doing it for gratitude, plus you'll aggravate bigots who can't figure out why you care so much, when you aren't even (bi/gay/lesbian/polyamorous/queer/kinky or fill in any number of other things people like to put down).
Social networks like Facebook and platforms like Twitter have become popular places to show support. Doing so in real life public spaces is just as important. It can feel a whole lot riskier, but the kind of learning that can happen in person is something that will never be replaced by a thousand or a hundred thousand "likes" or re-tweets.
Sexual Resolution #6: Try Something New For You
What's a new year's sexual resolution list without something salacious? After you've worked on your inner self, make sure to spend plenty of time satisfying, and encouraging, your sexual curiosity.
Buy a vibrator, read a how-to book, take a sex workshop, write some smutty love letters, stretch yourself in whatever ways you are resisting. You may find some, or even all of the new things you try are boring and unsatisfying, but what's important is the journey, not the final destination. This isn't about following the latest trend, or keeping up with the Joneses, the key is to find what's new for you, and to experiment with things that you're interested in but are shy of trying. I'm constantly amazed at how many people feel as if their sex lives are what they are, and can't be changed. If this is you, make a new year's resolution to do something about it.