While the primary focus of this letter is people with penises, other people may find some of these ideas interesting or helpful.
To all of the people who have a penis (a bio-cock) and who enjoy using it with other people:
Greetings! I’m writing to you because I’d like to tell you about some of the things that I’ve been thinking about with respect to sex and penises. These aren’t things that are said very often in mainstream US culture.
Most importantly: You are not your penis.
That is, your worth as a person is in no way related to the size, shape, or performance of your penis. I want to tell you this explicitly because in my culture, people with penises receive a lot of messages that attach their worth to the things their penis can do. This is complete bullshit.
You have a mind, you have emotions, and you have ideas. The things that you do — the things that you create, the relationships that you build, the ways you use your time — those are what make you an interesting individual. It does not hinge on getting your genitals to do tricks.
I will even go so far as to say that you don’t have to define yourself as a lover, or as a sexual being, by the performance of your penis. It’s pretty common in our culture for people with penises to define their sexual ability in terms of the size of their penis, how hard it is, or how long it can stay hard when they use it. This is a choice. You don’t have to be so focused on your penis! There are other ways to think about your sexuality and pleasure.
Mainstream culture tends to focus on penis-in-vagina intercourse as the gold standard for what “sex” is.1 You can tell because generally when people say “sex,” most people assume they mean penis-in-vagina — if they mean something else, they have to start adding other adjectives, like “oral” or “anal.”2 Mainstream pornography, in particular, idealizes the image of the long, hard penis, and vaginal intercourse that lasts for a really long time.3
That whole paradigm is just one way to think about sex. You can choose to buy into that…or you can throw it out.
Me? I’ve thrown it out. I agree with Dr. Marty Klein, who defines sex as “the exchange of erotic energy.”4
This is a fantastic way to think about sex, and you’ll notice that his definition is missing a few things that people associate with sex. There’s no emphasis on genitals or genital performance. There’s no emphasis on orgasms. These things can be a part of sex, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all. When two (or more) consenting adults decide what kind of activities generate erotic energy for them, and they start having fun doing those activities: that is a recipe for awesome sex.
This means that you can have fun, delicious sex in a lot more ways than just penis-in-vagina (or even penis-in-anus) intercourse. All that stuff that most people lump in as “foreplay”— like it doesn’t really count as sex? Like it’s just “the stuff you do before sex”? You can savor those activities, you can focus on them, and you can enjoy them as sexual experiences. And that’s just the beginning! You can use toys on your partner. Your partner can use toys on you. You can masturbate while your partner tells you a sexy story. You can role-play in a chat room. And on and on.
Maybe sometimes you don’t orgasm. Maybe sometimes your partner doesn’t orgasm. The number of orgasms you have is less important overall because you’re enjoying yourselves together.
Of course you can use your penis and have fun with it! But when you’re focused on erotic energy and not specific acts, it doesn’t matter so much how hard your penis is and for how long. You and your partner (or partners) can find many different ways of building up erotic energy and playing together. You can let go, relax, and experience pleasure.
But…What if the only kind of sex you really want involves putting your penis inside someone else? What if your idea of the perfect sexual encounter involves ejaculating inside your partner’s vagina (or anus)?
You have the right to define your own wants and needs. I’m not going to tell you that what you want is wrong or that you should want something else instead.
All I can do is try to show you that there are many ways to think about what sex is. That there are many ways to be a good lover. I know you’re probably not going to be convinced by a few paragraphs, but I hope that you will take some time to think about what sex is to you and what you want to get out of it.
You are not your penis. “Sex” does not have to mean one activity or even a few activities. You can choose to transform sex into a vast world to explore!
Update, 5/24: Rephrased the introduction based on ShaxAjax’s comment on http://www.reddit.com/r/SexPositive/comments/1ex2e5/an_open_letter_to_people_with_penises/ .
- This definition is actually pretty harmful, as described in this essay. ↩
- This relates to the power of the “unmarked marker,” an unspoken norm. ↩
- For more myths of pornography, check out Make Love Not Porn. ↩
- I highly recommend his book, Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want From Sex, and How to Get It. ↩