Sex and Public Opinion

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When we contemplate how we feel about sex, wanting to have sex, wanting to open ourselves to pleasure, what often stops us in our tracks is public opinion. What would others think of us if they knew we wanted more sex, or even better, more varied sex?  What would our parents think?

The real question is why do we care what others think of us?  Why would we focus on that instead of our pleasure? Is it really what others think of us that bothers us so much, or is it what we think of ourselves? Have we internalized public opinion?

Public opinion is the aggregate of attitudes or beliefs held by the adult population. The English term public opinion derives from the French l’opinion publique, first used by Montaigne in 1588, according to the New World Encyclopedia.

The German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies stated in 1922 that ‘public opinion’ has the equivalent social function in society that religion has in communities. Our sex-negative disposition has come from religion and has spread into the moral fiber of culture as tradition telling us how to behave and what to think.

Men and women learned to think sex is dirty or inhuman.  In many ways, we have been taught to feel this way about the body as a whole. The body is carnal. It’s only the mind or the soul that are pure.

When we do have sex, it is often in the form of a hasty encounter in the dark while wearing pajamas and nightgowns. Many people never talk about sex, feeling it should just be gotten over with, because after all, we are doing something wrong and we are wrong to want to have sex to begin with.  We suffer for even having the sexual urge.

With the introduction of the birth control pill and a couple of decades later the Internet, we are freer in the choices we can make about sex and our sexual freedom.  We can contemplate pleasure every which way, yet by and large we are ignorant of what to do with our freedom.  We are bombarded by options and we are so very confused.

Even in the privacy of our own bedroom or office (where the computer is), we are afraid of public opinion. It’s the internalized public opinion within us, the control fed to us through education and religion that keeps us in a split about loving our bodies and letting someone else love them.

This has to be transformed if a person is to value mind and body and end separation between them. We must clear all guilt and shame from our bodies. Unlimited aliveness and health for the whole body includes taking pleasure in feeling the body, whether from eating good food, exercising or having great sex. No matter what anyone thinks of it.

Exercise: How to begin appreciating your sexuality

•    Get present by taking a few deep breaths
•    Tell yourself you are willing to feel as much as possible in your body
•    Begin a sensual exploration with yourself
•    Tantalize yourself with light touches, different types of sensations
•    Take it slow
•    Build up to a few sensual peaks with yourself without going over into orgasm
•    Notice your sensations
•    Notice any mind chatter
•    If you notice yourself saying anything negative, inhale through the nose, gather the judgments; and then release them with a big exhale through the mouth
•    Set regular times and dates to expand your pleasure container

Laurie Handlers, MA, is the author of Sex & Happiness and President of Butterfly Workshops, LLC, a Phoenix, AZ based company currently offering sexual health and awareness courses and leadership courses for corporations and individuals throughout the world. She hosts a weekly radio show about sex and intimacy and has appeared in many articles, books and films. Find out more at