I grew up in a buttoned-up New England family, where sex was not only not talked about, it was not acknowledged as a fact of life. I learned everything I needed to know about birds, bees and menstruation from a handful of knowledgeable friends and Judy Blume. It's taken some time, but as an adult, I've become more and more comfortable with discussing sex with both my friends and my partner, since my confidence and shamelessness seem to grow in tandem.
Being open about sex is such a relief, not just because I grew up in a puritanical household, but because my body and relationship to sex are changing as I age, and I have to talk about it. I have to talk about it with my friends because we are all on the cusp of menopause and struggling with the same kinds of physical changes that we can mutually sympathize with and trade tips and advice about. I need to talk about it with my husband because what we need and want from one another has evolved over time, and at some point I realized that life is too short to just lie there and wait for him to figure out what gets me off. Also, it takes me a little bit longer these days, and I don't want him to think it's because he's doing something wrong!
While I'm proud of this well-earned openness, I've mostly assumed it's a function of my age and increased comfort with myself. I just read in Glamour*, though, about a new website under development that's devoted to educating women about their own sexuality, and it suggests that a large and pretty recent cultural shift has made us all more willing to talk about sex. For instance, it points out that 50 Shades of Gray probably would not have happened, as a large-scale phenomenon, even 10 years ago. It made me think about how shocking Sex and the City seemed when it came out, while now the idea of a bunch of 30-something friends talking about their sex lives is hardly something to write home about.
This is all great news, of course. Bringing sex out into the open makes is safer, more satisfying, and easier to talk to our kids about, which is so important in this age of smart phones, social media and internet porn. I don't have high hopes my mother will finally be inspired to teach me about the birds and the bees, but you never know.