Wait….what? Did I just read what I just read? An “article” in my Facebook feed that was titled “What our Orgasm Type says About our Personality”? I mean, despite the horrendous capitalization, was this “article” for real?
Unfortunately, it was – or at least, it thought it was. And, I assume, so did at least the majority of the close to 300,000 views it had garnered so far. I’m sure the powers that be on the site posting it knew it would be a guaranteed attention-grabber/hit-getter. (Gotta admit, it works.)
Full disclosure, I didn’t read the article, just skimmed it to get the gist of its gravity. I simply could not take it seriously. The disclaimer at the start didn’t help: “Although there is scientific content in this article, the information presented here has been gathered primarily via personal experience as counselors.” Two. Two counselors. Two married counselors with only one dubious professional credential (and little grammatical acumen) between them. Alleged professional credential, that is; no citation was given in the article or on their website.
At least there was a disclaimer. Gotta hand ’em that.
What really set me off was not the blatant sensationalism of this “article”, nor the questionable credibility of it, or the fact that some of the comments took the “article” to task for appearing to shame women who did not have appropriate sexual responses (who wants one of those personalities, amirite?). What set me off was that it appeared in my public Facebook feed in the first place. Oh, c’mon, not because I was offended by it – I’m a grown woman, after all – but because it was one more example of the platitude, “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.”
Okay, I get it. Sexuality is not something that should be secret or taboo. It’s a healthy part of who we are, a natural part, a normal part. But there’s a different between being secret and being private.
I feel that part of our dysfunction as a society is that we are – and should be allowed to be – private individuals, yet increasingly, little about our lives is expected to be private. It’s not just that everything we do on the internet can be captured and utilized. It’s not even that we are constantly being surveilled. It’s that we’re invariably being pressed to immediately and exhaustively self-identify who we “are”, as determined by our physiology and ideology: are we liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, a minority or of the majority, inner city or suburban or rural, prochoice or prolife, married or single or divorced or it’s complicated, Christian or Jewish or Muslim or atheist or agnostic or heathen, monogamous or poly-amorous or asexual, introvert or extrovert, Vikings fan or Green Bay Packer backer, dysfunctional or well adjusted, employed or unemployed or a student, rich or poor or middle class, politically correct or proudly offensive or indifferent, hetero or gay or bisexual or asexual, male or female or agender or gender binary or genderfluid or genderqueer or transgendered or polygendered or gender neutral….
It’s not that we are or are not these things. It’s not that unfair value judgments are attributed to some of these things in some venues. That’s a valuable discussion but not what I’m going for here.
It’s that the concept of privacy in our lives has become aberrant as a given. That we must be open and “honest” with what was once considered private. That intimacy can be and is explored just as publically as whether veal or pork is best for pappardelle bolognese.
Nowadays, our lives have become increasingly public, yes. Merchandizing provokes it, “security” demands it, we even court it in the sense that we can reach out to others across a broad spectrum unparalleled in human existence. And yes, we should be open and honest in our dealings with others. But like any aspect of the human condition, there are degrees in which we are known to or should come to know someone else. It’s not all-or-nothing right out of the gate. Just because the possibility is there to share anything with anybody at any given time, doesn’t mean that everything should be shared with everybody all the time, without constraint.
Or it’s like when someone introduces themselves to me, and says, “Hi, I’m Chris. I’m gay.” Okay, Chris, I wasn’t thinking about sleeping with you, but thanks for the head’s up. Listen, I understand why Chris may feel like ze has to declare their sexuality like a handshake, but it makes no difference to me. That’s private. If ours is a casual relationship, I don’t really need to know. I’ll get to know it over time, like I would come to know if ze was a Trump supporter or liked baseball or thought fall was the most beautiful season or that Mass Effect: Andromeda rules. Eventually, over time, given what I learn about favorite seasons and favorite video games and political views, we might become closer. In private, we may share more. This might lead to intimacy.
Hopefully, by that point, I’ll already have an idea of what my personality is like. And so will Chris. And I’m pretty sure we’d keep it private.
~ Sharon Browning