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Making Sex “Normal”

A new project launched to help the public get over its inhibitions.

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As for policy, I think we’re living in an exciting time of significant political changes, such as the number of people and organizations supporting marriage quality. And while I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for that, there’s a part of me that’s impatient for change, that wants sexual diversity to be celebrated and recognized right now. And it occurred to me recently that we shouldn’t have to wait forever. That we can’t wait forever. And that if enough of us do our part to at least open up conversations about sex, to make it almost mundane, that at least we might help remove some of the taboos.

Just how sexy are you willing to let the site get? Would you publish, say, an explicit photo from an educational porn shoot?

The submissions so far have not been explicit. I want Make Sex Normal to be a handbook of sorts about how people can make sex normal for themselves and their partners and their family. Everything from how they can talk to their kids about puberty to how they can approach sex with a partner to the fun, amazing things that might challenge them in some way about the very human experience of sex. But we’ll see how it goes. Certainly there’s a lot that we can learn from the enormous diversity of human bodies and sexual behavior. Right now many of the photos people have submitted are of themselves at Pride parades, wearing sex-positive T-shirts, holding vulva puppets, marching in Slut Walks, teaching human sexuality classes in college or in churches, and holding sex toys.

The people who will be submitting to the site are probably not the folks who most need to see sex normalized. How will you target those folks?

Make Sex Normal is brand-new — it’s been live only for a few days. I started by reaching out to friends and colleagues who, like me, work as sex researchers and educators simply because I knew they’d get the idea and would likely have photos on hand. I’m starting now to reach out to other people to ask them: how do you make sex normal? I can’t wait to hear from people who are willing to share the concrete ways they make sex normal in their everyday lives. For example, I’d love to see pictures of age-appropriate sex-positive kids’ books with captions like, “I teach my kids accurate information about their bodies” or “I talk to my kids about how babies are made” or “I answer my kids’ questions about sexuality.” Or maybe pictures of condoms, with captions like “I teach my teenage son or daughter how to protect themselves and their partner.” Or pictures of a drawer of sex toys with a caption like “My spouse and I make sex normal by talking about sex — and making it fun!”

I don’t know what to expect. I hope I’m surprised. I hope pictures pour in. I hope people open my eyes to the many ways that they are opening up conversations about sex, gender, puberty, genitals and the many ways of being sexual in this world. That’s what this is about — recognizing the ways people are already making sex normal and showing other people, so they can do it too. It’s kind of a “Wizard of Oz” moment: As a society, we’ve been waiting so long for politicians, school systems and healthcare providers to make sex normal for us when all along we’ve had the power to do it ourselves. So let’s do it already.


Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow@tracyclarkflory on Twitter.

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