Neurotica: Five Things I’ll Never Understand About Sexual Shaming.


At R’s place drinking tea, flicking through the straight-lady magazines of my misspent adolescence. I came across an article which heartily enraged me – and R. A flippant piece at the end of Glamour Magazine (the Glamour List) entitled ’18 Things We’ll Never Understand About Sex’.

Viv Groskop has cobbled together a series of quips which assume the (depressingly sexually short-sighted) norm and paints a range of healthy sexual expression as outlandish. This article is offensive across the straight/gay/male/female board.

In [dubious] honour of this passive aggressive shaming of sexual exploration I’ve picked my five favourite points from the article:

2. How nipple clamps even got invented, let alone sold and marketed. “So I’ve had this idea. Its a bit like a clothes peg…”

Sex toys – all sex toys – are created for one common reason; pleasure. Nipples are sensitive, receptive to pleasure and pain. Some people only like gentle touching or licking, others don’t see the point in anything other than a good, hard bite. Each to their own. We all fall somewhere in the spectrum – men and women. Nipple clamps keep your hands free so you’re not constantly pinching the lucky person wearing them. You can put those digits to a range of other uses. And yes, I said lucky. The person wearing nipple clamps wants to feel that sensation. If it gets them off, let them feel the pain. Don’t tell your readers a specific piece of kit should never have been created.

It has probably taken someone long enough to come to terms with exactly what pushes their buttons (however sweet or filthy they perceive it) let alone requesting it from a partner. Reading this casual remark in a widely distributed magazine is harmful. No human is sexually incorrect. We’re all just finding our place in the spectrum. Find it, know it and tell whomever you please “this is me, this is what I like, will you share this with me?” Never ever feel ashamed for anything that turns you on. Never listen to anyone or anything who tries to replace that pleasure with guilt.

10. How anyone broaches the subject of doing something ‘a bit different’ without their partner threatening to break up with them or call the police.

Suggesting something in bed works. And saying “no, that’s not for me” also works. I’ve suggested/had suggested to me a delightful range of kinks and quirks. Some things I’ve been thrilled to explore, others intrigued to try. Some things just weren’t my idea of a good time. I said so. You know what? The relationship continued. You would be surprised what an open dialogue about sex will do for the sex you have.

Talking about sex is hot. Talking about sex is the very essence of good sex. Talk about what you’ve done before, what you’d like to do – you never know, your current squeeze might be longing to try that thing you’ve had on your sexual bucket list for years. Be open and honest about what you like and don’t like – its the only way you’ll get what you want. Never be afraid of discussing sex with your partner. As a nation we are shockingly bad at discussing sex in any capacity. Publications which encourage [or fail to challenge] such regressive approaches to sex aren’t worth paying attention to. We are squeamish enough without their input.

(Aside: What constitutes ‘a bit different’? And why are the police getting involved?)

11. Massage butters, paint-yourself-with-chocolate kits and other ‘fun sex play’ items. As a wise woman once said, “Sex is quite good. Just have sex.”

‘Quite good’ never really did it for me – when was the last time you had a spring in your step from ‘quite good’? Sex shops continue to thrive on the peddling of these products – somebody must be buying them. Playing with extra apparatus might be something you enjoy – or something you wouldn’t consider. It does not make sex better, dirtier or worse. It might make your experience of sex more satisfying – that’s your opinion. The people who use them are not to be frowned upon, just as those who are satisfied without them are not to be pitied.

That ‘wise woman’ sounds a bit world weary to me.

14. Why anyone ever thinks threesomes are a good idea. Other than for annihilating the self-esteem of at least one participant – probably all three.

If you’re self-esteem (sexual or otherwise) is wrapped up in your sexual performance – or others’ perception of your sexual performance – don’t sleep with anyone. Do yourself a favour. If you’re seeking validation from sex, don’t do it. Don’t even take your clothes off. Put that fragile ego in a cab and go home.

Group sex can be fun if you want it. It won’t damage your sense of self any more than anything else in the world. Painting group sex as emotionally damaging isn’t fair. Sex between three, four or five people can be as exciting or horrifying as sex between two people – depending on who is having the sex.

By saying nobody has ever enjoyed group sex because it ‘annihilated’ their self esteem (annihilated, really?!) what are you telling anyone who has ever had a positive experience? Let me tell you, they exist. It’s not a difficult concept.

17. How someone who you’ve just revealed your most intimate self to can turn around and say, “Have you got any toys or anything?” What do you think this is, a department store?

This point sounds like being asked that question is insulting. The last time I checked, ‘toys’ didn’t mean Lego bricks or Beanie Babies. If someone asks you about toys, they’re not looking for an alternative to your ‘most intimate self’ (you mean vagina here, right?! Say vagina) they’re asking if there’s something you have which they could use to give you pleasure. Using toys isn’t a cop out or an insult. Your partner is asking if there is anything you own, which you have selected for yourself, because you enjoy how it makes you feel. It’s considerate. If anyone you climb into bed with asks you that, consider yourself lucky. They want to get you off the way you want. They want to make sex good for you. Same applies for asking how you want to be touched – it’s not lazy, they want to know how your body works.

Showing someone your body is not a gauntlet to run through, they want to see your bare skin. And when you do expose yourself to a deserving individual, if they ask to borrow your apparatus, do not feel like you have failed as a human. Someone asking to engage with your body on any level is hot, because they find you hot. Embrace that feeling and let them into your bedside drawers! Using toys is not a rejection or a sign of failure. Toys are for fun. They give pleasure – isn’t that the point of sex? Giving/receiving pleasure [however you chose to give/receive it] is not shameful. Ever.

Whatever you want to do in bed is acceptable, healthy and downright sexy. This article assumes the “we” and picks out examples of kinks it suggests that these are rare, wrong or incomprehensible. They’re not. If Ms Groskop had entitled the piece “18 Things I Will Never Understand About Sex”, I would not take offence. She is entitled to her personal opinion and she’s entitled to share that opinion with anyone she pleases. But by claiming a collective opinion she alienates anyone who might enjoy anything she (not we) can’t understand.

That is a big portion of readers.

Articles like this perpetuate the guilt of sexual exploration, the shame of owning your sexuality and fear of communicating that sexuality to others. Sexual suppression under any circumstances – especially from a magazine with such a large readership – is truly despicable.


2 thoughts on “Neurotica: Five Things I’ll Never Understand About Sexual Shaming.

  1. OMG yes! I actually ripped this page out of the back so I could talk about it/write about it but you’ve worded it is absolutely insane. And so so many homophobic comments without even probably realizing how ignorant they are being. Brilliant response. x

    • Thank you! It really struck a chord with me. It’s just so offensive to anyone across the sexual spectrum. It alienates so many people. And the truly staggering thing is it does it so casually. A magazine like Glamour has the ability to reach a huge audience – communicating this message is such a bad move.

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