Updated: Dec 21, 2022
I was hoping to begin this article with various metaphors we have heard growing up to learn about sex and sexuality but as I began recalling I couldn't come up with anything. So I turned to our social media page to find some answers and turned out to not get many examples. And you know why? Because most of us never got any sex education.
If you look up the government curriculums on sex education all you find are topics revolving around reproductive health, STDs, birth control and abstinence and all other sorts of dos and don'ts. Regulations, not discussions. And in some cases these topics do not even get taught in our educational institutes despite them being made part of the curriculum.
But the reality is, as we all progress through life, go out to college and even higher studies or at our jobs, we find ourselves yearning to connect to another human being but nobody taught us how. Thoughts like, Do I want to have sex? Do I want to wait? Is it okay to have sex with this guy/girl? Is it okay to hookup? How do I go about it? Can I talk about it with someone? Is it normal to feel this way? What will the experience be like? Am I supposed to know it already? And when we turned to sources of information like movies, porn, pop culture and our none the more experienced friends we came out with many unrealistic and inappropriate ideas about sex, like we're supposed to know what we're doing, we have to do our best, we have to look a certain way to get the experience, do certain things, we have to pretend like we know what we're doing and feel sorry for the ones who don't. Sex is supposed to make us cool somehow.
In front of preconceived notions like these, all of us ended up viewing the sexual experience as some sort of conquest we have to overcome. It became about being the best at it, be it in terms of performance even if we had to fake it or just knowing about it. And this is the key difference between a healthy and unhealthy sexual experience. Imagine for yourselves, what happens when you can't share your true feelings about one of the most intimate experiences you share with another person, or what happens when you feel entitled enough that you don't even bother to ask this person you plan on sharing this experience with? What happens when your thoughts and feelings are unable to match up with how you would actually want to behave? It can make us feel disconnected from our most vulnerable self, from our innate desires, from our own mind and body's comfort. It can make us feel unsafe. It can make us feel self-conscious. Inauthentic even.
Well, fortunately for us there is still a way to navigate through some of this unhealthy noise around sex and sexuality in our lives. A healthy way to connect back with what our body and mind truly wants. And the answer lies with pizza. You say how? I'll tell you how. But for that we need to go back to our school days; scrap off everything we have heard or assumed about sexual activity and start afresh. And remember, pizza is going to guide us.
The first step is to ask yourself, when do I have pizza? And what's the answer you get? When you're hungry or maybe when you're in the mood for pizza. It's personal, its internally motivated. If you don't have the appetite for it or if someone has forced you to have it all you end up feeling like you don't want to be there, and also nauseous by the time you finish that pizza. The same goes for sex.
Now assuming, you have decided you're hungry for that pizza the next question becomes do you want to have it alone? Or you feel like going out with someone for pizza. And here again, it's your choice. You can have the pizza alone at home, by yourself or ask someone if they would like to come out for pizza with you. The same applies to sex.
Say you and your friend both were in the mood for pizza, you got together and decided to have pizza together what do you think the next thing you do is? You have a conversation about what kind of pizza you both would like to get. It's an inclusive exercise, both of you get to express yourself and decide what each of you like. And the same should go for sex, talk about what each of you is comfortable with when it comes to sex, what you like what your friend likes. Make it inclusive, not assumptive.
In this decision of making our pizza (sex) choices inclusive, we always think about what kind of pizza makes us happy, gives us joy or pleasure. Does having mushrooms on my pizza give me happiness? Does having peri peri chicken? Or am I more of a margherita pizza with extra cheese kind of person? The key to deciding this is what makes it most delicious or pleasurable for me. And again, the same applies to sex. What all in the sexual experience makes the experience pleasurable, comfortable and satisfying for you.
One of the best things about pizza is you can get it as many times as you want to (or not want to), as many toppings as you want (or don't want), how much pizza suits you, do you prefer your regular order of pizza or do you like to experiment with different toppings or kinds of pizzas and the only outcome you have to worry about; when making decisions regarding if pizza is your kind of thing or not, is to ask yourself, if you enjoyed it or not, was it pleasant or not. That's it. If you didn't have a good time you don't have to go again. No obligations towards the pizza.
So here's your checklist to navigate through your sexual experiences while accommodating not only your physical health, but especially your mental health. Look for an experience which is inclusive to needs of both partners involved, it is internally motivated and doesn't come out of some social pressure, it is expressive where you have the space to communicate your likes and dislikes without being judged, it is cooperative and not some conquest with one partner coming out as a winner and most importantly, it facilitates your own satisfaction and is not obligatory in nature.
This article is based on research done on sex education that especially caters to sexual experiences of adolescents and young adults, across all sexual orientations. Inspired by work of Al Vernacchio.
Psychotherapist in training
MSc Clinical Psychology