Sex And The Trouble With Normal

Normal_sized 2

In regards to sex there’s one question I get a LOT. The specifics may vary a great deal from one person to the next but the gist of the query is the same:

Am I normal?

My answer will be different depending on the situation but my general opinion regarding sex, normalcy and whether the description applies to is more or less standard:

Nope. You’re not normal.

As far I as can tell there is no “normal” when it comes to sex. I have yet to learn of a sexual desire, appetite, aversion or practice that is truly universal or truly unique. To put it another way, not everyone is into the same sexual stuff as you. But whatever it is you are (or aren’t) into sexually, you aren’t the only one. So, no I don’t think you’re normal. I don’t think that I’m normal. When it comes to sex, I don’t even know what “normal” means.

That having been said, I do think worry about being normal is pretty common. We tend to check out the people around us and compare their behaviour to our own as a way of gauging what’s acceptable.  We’re social, tribal kind of creatures. We influence one another. We seek each other’s approval and acceptance.  I’m not an anthropologist or behavioural scientist or any other kind of Why-Human-Beings-Do-Stuff expert. But I suspect our odds of surviving and thriving are probably higher if when we learn to interact successfully with folks around us.

So I also think it’s common to feel insecure when we don’t see others doing what we’re doing. For many of us, sexual acts happen privately and there are few opportunites to actually see how other people have sex. (Yes, there’s porn but what you see on camera isn’t necessarily representative of your in-real-life sexuality). Which isn’t to say that we’d all feel better about ourselves if everyone started doing it in public. But I do think there’s a lot more sexual diversity happening behind closed doors but because we don’t see it and we rarely talk about it, we aren’t aware of it.

What we do see is a lot mass-market, media-fueled, manufactured sexuality. It’s kind of too bad because it represents a pretty narrow subset of sexual expression. It’s like “Here are six kinds of people and six sexual acts.”  We see those kinds of people doing those types of things over and over again and it may seem like that is All of Sex. It may seem to some of us, that if we look, feel or act differently, we’re doing sex wrong or that there’s something wrong with us.

In our society, certain sexual acts, certain sexual desires and sex between certain types of people are normalized. But that doesn’t make them normal. It doesn’t mean that that’s the type of sex that everyone wants or the type of sex that everyone has. It  doesn’t mean that you should be having that type of sex. It doesn’t even mean that you should have or want to have sex at all.

I understand why people wonder “Am I normal?” I ask myself that question all the time. But ultimately I don’t think normalcy  matters as much as asking “Am I happy? Am I healthy? Do I feel safe? Am I taking care of my partner(s)? Am I taking care of myself?”

The breadth of human sexual experience and expression is too varied for standard practices. None of us is normal … which in a weird way means that we all are. So my answer to the question, “Am I normal?”  is that focusing on being normal is less important than honouring what’s right for you.

Image courtesy Sara. Nel via Compfight cc

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Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is also a burlesque performer, poet and playwright, living in Ottawa, Ontario – Canada’s national capital. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.

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5 Responses to “Sex And The Trouble With Normal”

  1. Mandy

    Thanks for this discussion. One thing that I think about when I wonder if I am normal or not is that I must be since there are any number of online resources / erotic material that I find stimulating. If so many other people are into what I am, regardless of what other people consider deviant, then there is a good chance I’m pretty normal. Different from you can still mean normal to someone else.

  2. LinB

    My worries about “am I normal” rarely deal with sex. It’s the rest of my life that doesn’t always mesh with the conventions of my community. That’s why it is so important to look beyond yourself, to “go out and seek the others,” to define normalcy for yourself. After that, if you choose to stay where you are, it’s up to you to learn how to cope — not up to your community to conform to your new “normal.”

  3. Monica H

    Our society has some strange paradoxes about sex, one being that it is very taboo and also everywhere at the same time. I think this is partly why the public view of sex is so narrow and controlled.

    Something else that I’ve witnessed give rise to this question is that two people in a relationship will inevitably have different desires and different aversions. Sometimes these differences are minor, sometimes they are profound. But we commonly hold the belief that we should be everything sexually to our partners,giving rise to a desire to have one person be ‘normal’ and the other ‘deviant,’ as a way of resolving this conflict and giving more legitimacy to one partner’s view. It requires much more flexibility, openness, and self awareness to recognize that both partners’ views are equally legitimate.

    In general, I would answer the question in the opposite way, but for many of the same reasons. Yep, you’re normal. You are just as weird as everyone else, so welcome to the club.

  4. Asher

    I am totally with you on this, and I find “natural” to be perhaps even more dangerous–and less defensible–than “normal.”