‘Marriage hasn’t moved with the times’: Rachel Johnson on the brave new world of sex

Everything to do with sex has been destigmatized, so let’s explore – Andrew Crowley

Do you have any questions about sex or relationships? Ask Raquel about it. below

When I was about 10, I walked into my room (well, the room in Exmoor I shared with the bats) and a book appeared on my bedside table.

Girls and sex It was the title of the slim paperback my mother had bought me during summer vacation. My three brothers took turns with their own book, which was called, you guessed it, Boys and sex.

Shortly after, my father drove us back to the high school to start the fall semester. My older brother and I sat in our school uniforms (gray flannel shorts for him, navy pleated skirt for me) without seatbelts on the back bench as we drove through East Grinstead in the rain. “Now, kids,” he said, as the windshield wipers moved. “Has your mother already told you about…” and then he had a spasm of embarrassed throat-clearing. “Yeah!” we scream. “Don’t worry, Dad, it’s okay,” although she hadn’t talked to us about masturbation at all, we just knew that was the topic he was under orders to raise.

“Oh, okay,” he said, clearly relieved. “There’s nothing wrong with it, it just doesn’t…” and he broke off. And that was it, apart from my grandparents’ problems National Geographic in the bathroom, and my mother’s copy of Our bodies themselveswhich I surreptitiously examined when she was away, especially the somber obstetrics and gynecology chapter, which instructed women in the joys of examining their own cervix with a speculum, accompanied by black-and-white photographs of the results.

When I say “that was it,” I mean it was my sexual education. The most daring thing I witnessed on screen was Anna Friel’s lesbian kiss in stream and squirming when I made my father take us to see An officer and a gentleman starring Richard Gere. “Smoking grotto!” she kept mumbling during the (very tame) sex scenes. “Smoking grotto!”

That was then; This is now.

An officer and a gentlemanAn officer and a gentleman

An Officer and a Gentleman: ‘Steamy grot’ – The Kobal Collection

The Internet. Porn on smartphones. Sexting. PHSE classes in schools. Netflix. The younger generation literally has Sex education on tap and in widescreen.

Therefore, in the prime of my middle age, I feel that I (if not my entire cohort) need to educate myself again. Here’s why: I read a lot; I have three older children; I have been a journalist all my life; and every week I interview Difficult Women for my podcast. You’d think I would have managed to stay back. But I have learned that it is not enough to have read. venus delta as a teenager, got married in my 20s and had three babies in NHS teaching hospitals. We are in a whole new world in the 2020s.

Sex education season 1Sex education season 1

Now, the younger generation literally has sex education at their fingertips – Netflix/Television Stills

I know this for many reasons, and one of them is that I broadcast live on the radio. The other day I had to look at a list of offensive language for Ofcom. Reader, I didn’t know half of these words existed, much less was I tempted to say them on air! Bumberclaat. Choad. Garbage bag. Put this way, I would definitely challenge if someone put them on the Scrabble board. However, during Christmas, one of my millennial guests used all seven letters for “felching,” to applause from the other players.

It’s not just me: even the steadfast experts in the field are struggling to keep up.

“There are practices that are becoming widespread, normalized (and we could mention ‘bonding’ here) that many people have not heard of, much less practiced,” says Sophie Laybourne, a couples counselor specializing in sexual relationships.

But even the language is also changing. We no longer say or cannot say “erectile dysfunction” or “ED.” We say “unreliable erections” as if the male member is prone to spotty mobile signal. We don’t say “sex addiction”, now we talk about “sexual compulsivity”. Everything related to sex has been destigmatized. There is nothing deviant or perverted anymore…

As a friend my age who attended a turkey soup lunch over New Year’s said, “This is what I can’t understand. Why don’t we talk about good old-fashioned sex maniacs anymore?

The other radical change has occurred around relationships. Custom is changing as is practice.

A national newspaper editor in his 60s called me last week. “Forget about adultery, that was so old-fashioned, so ’90s. “You should write a novel about polyamory.” She was talking on the car phone, so she wasn’t sure she heard him correctly. “Polly Amory?” I asked. “Is she the daughter of Ed and Alice Amory?”

Johnson: 'We are in a whole new sexual world in the 2020s'Johnson: 'We are in a whole new sexual world in the 2020s'

Johnson: ‘We are in a whole new sexual world in the 2020s’ – Andrew Crowley

He laughed and said no, polyamory; apparently it’s all the rage in the US and it’s coming here too, just like CNM. (This isn’t a cable network, darlings. It’s “consensual non-monogamy.” I looked it up.)

Since I was single in my 20s, “couples” have also become a thing – and all of this leads me to this inescapable conclusion. The way we have sex may be polymorphously perverse, but marriage hasn’t evolved with the times and that’s causing some problems.

Marriage binds most of us to monogamy, the system that psychotherapist Esther Perel describes like this: “today we have to give a person what an entire village once gave: financial and emotional support, company, entertainment, friendship. , familiarity, mystery, love. , sex, everything works.”

No wonder many find “the chains of marriage so heavy that it takes two to bear them,” as Alexandre Dumas said. son he once reflected, “sometimes three.”

And it’s no surprise that apps offering alternatives are proliferating on smartphones. Consider Feeld, an app designed to cater to those who are open to experiencing people and relationships in new ways. As the darkly sexy website puts it: “Polyamory, consensual non-monogamy, homoflexibility and heteroflexibility, pansexuality, asexuality, aromanticism, voyeurism and kink are just some of the sexual identities and desires that make up the Feeld community.”

There are at least 20 other classification options on Feeld, including GrayA for asexuals and objectum sexual, for those who have sexual or romantic feelings towards inanimate objects. Before you laugh, didn’t Tracey Emin marry a rock?

The days of “born, combine and ship” are behind us and we have to adapt to the times. As Sophie Laybourne says: “It’s fine for a woman to create a penis and surgically attach it to her crotch, but the institution of marriage itself has not been re-evaluated: when will she wake up?”

Well, that’s the question. One of many that I hope we answer.

Welcome, then, to the new go-to column for all your sex and relationship queries. Let’s get, you and I, to the heart of this without judging. I am absolutely here for this.

As a dyed-in-the-wool expert and author of four novels (one of which won the Bad Sex award), I’ve been around and am on reasonably safe ground as a sounding board for most queries. My starting points are these: there are no stupid or embarrassing questions. If you want to ask something, chances are others will too. There are only embarrassing answers.

But for the most granular and detailed questions about sex, I’ll turn to Sophie, whose experience and wisdom know no bounds. With her holding our hand as the resident sexpert in this brave new world, this will always be a safe space. And, in my opinion, important, necessary and timely.

All questions answered. Do not be shy. After all, you can always say that you are asking for a friend.

Ask Raquel anything…

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