The Leather Veil: Transparency in Sexual Communication
I’ve heard the term transparency in communication bandied about quite a bit lately. So much so that even a woman of my ilk, (an all out brutally honest communicator), is beginning to feel a little suspect on its varied meanings. I mean really, what does it mean to be fully “transparent” with another and when is it simply TMI too soon? I am an all out teller of all truths. Ask any of my close friends. As a guest in a friend’s place I’ll announce to a room of women that I used the washcloth on the tub to clean my naughty bits, but did not find the hamper, so don’t use it until it’s been washed again without blinking an eye. Why? Because I would want to know that information. To me transparency is about saving EVERYONE disappointment, surprise, and in some cases, (STIs?), health issues. So I “man up” and tell people all the dangers of me in the hopes of being better understood.
Guess what? It often backfires. Apparently, people often prefer to live ignorantly blissful – especially when it comes to sex, sexual preferences, and sexually transmitted infections/diseases. Or people start treating you differently because of your “condition”- and I don’t mean they simply want to use safer sex practices, please. So how does one balance a happy and healthy sex life with the nasty dirty truth(s) of you? I say commitment, courage, and compassion.
Before one can even begin the dredge up the courage it takes to face the “ugly” truth in all relationships, one must be committed to a life of honesty in all relationships. Being honest does not always have to be so “brutal”. In fact, Non Violent Communication, invented by Marshall Rosenberg and practiced by many worldwide, is a an excellent tool for communicating honestly, even when one is feeling angry or upset. Being honest in a direct and timely fashion, (notice I mention timely – ever had that bombshell dropped on you days, weeks, or years later?). This also requires not lying by ommision. Lying by omission is when you simply choose not to tell the other party what’s going on or conveniently cannot “find the time”. Both of these approaches show disrespect for the other person’s ability to handle the truth and absolves yourself of accountability or responsibility. It is impossible in any relationship to not have some responsibility in the dynamics of the relationship.
It takes courage to tell someone you have herpes for example, and it is much more cowardly to withhold that information. One can shed and pass on the virus whether sores are exposed or not and whether you ever have symptoms. I say if your prospective partner does not want to risk it, even with condoms, then you are simply not a good match – no matter how much chemistry you have. I’ve recently been dating a bit and have often been surprised, but also relieved, when a prospective lover rejects me because of my profession. “Fine” I say, “let the riff raff be weeeded”! I don’t always feel that way in the moment, but after the initial insult, it’s good news to know I don’t have to bump up against another’s judgement and shame.
Finally, compassion. First of all for yourself, then for the other. So you have HPV? you had unprotected sex in a moment of passion? Can you forgive yourself before seeking forgiveness? And where are your boundaries in a relationship with another? Where do you draw the line in a loving and compassionate way? Compassion is not simply about feeling sorry for yourself or another…it’s about finding peace with yourself for who you are and what is. One of my mediation teachers taught me that if you go swimming and you see someone starting to drown, your first obligation is to save them. If while saving them, you begin to drown, your first obligation is to yourself. That is compassion: taking care of your needs first, while being fully committed and aware of the needs of others.
I have much more to say about this, but will keep it short and sweet for now.