**This post was originally posted on Feministing**
The following is the preface to the collection of short stories MILLENNIAL SEX: I’ve Never Done this Before. The book is available in erotic or educational (16+) editions, and explores themes of consent, desire and millennial sexuality through the experiences of six fictional narrators of different identities engaging in the sexual culture. This is the authors’ imaginative attempt at inclusive, comprehensive sexual education. Let us know what you think in the comments!
“At your age, you’re going to have a lot of urges. You’re going to want to take off your clothes, and touch each other. But if you do touch each other, you *will* get chlamydia… and die.”
Coach Carr teaches Sex Ed, Mean Girls (2004)
Millennial sexuality is a two-sided coin, subject to much speculation and titillation from the arbiters of media and culture. On one hand, we millennials were raised in a hyper-sexualized culture saturated with explicit media from the time we were young children. Yet we were also raised in a culture grappling with the internalized shadow of Puritanical sexual shame. In the height of the culture wars of the 1980s & ‘90s, we were the children whose innocence & sexual purity were defended. When it came to sex education, Coach Carr’s iconic message was echoed in the hushed voices of our shame-based caregivers and peers:
“Nobody needs to see that.”
“Don’t have sex until you’re married.”
“Don’t have sex with the wrong person.”
“Don’t have sex with too many people.”
“Don’t be a slut.”
“Don’t be a prude.”
“Your virginity is like a new car; if you dent up your sexuality, no one will want to marry you.”
This advice has not served us well. The effects of our sex-negative acculturation include a legacy of sexual illiteracy, unsafe sex, and what the authors would argue is an intensification of the rape culture older generations also passed down to us. In a perverse twist on previous generations’ aims to “protect our children,” nowhere is this rape culture more evident than in our schools, a new shocking story of egregious violation, of sexual betrayal and the complicity of relevant authority figures emerging each week, each day as the movement to end sexual violence, bullying, and harassment grows.
Where did our young people learn to do these things to each other? In a sex-negative culture saturated with extremely graphic and accessible sexual material. No, porn didn’t make them do it. But their attitudes of sexual entitlement, their willingness to dehumanize and objectify the bodies of those they deem vulnerable came from the unexamined legacies of a history of patriarchal colonization put into a crucible of sexual shame.
We have a serious vacuum when it comes to sexual education in American culture, and yet we know so much—too much—of the sexual status quo, of the racialized fetishization and conquest mentality celebrated in our mainstream media. We know too little of consent, of sexual intimacy, of shared pleasure, of making love; of healthy, mature sexuality, because many of us have rarely—if ever—experienced it firsthand.
But Millennials are having sex. We now live in not just a digital culture, or a “hookup culture,” but a digital hookup culture, which, like internet porn, takes everything to the next level. Cruising culture has intensified and become mainstream, with millennials engaging in online sexual marketplaces like Tinder, Grindr, Okcupid, and even the sketchy ‘Casual Encounter’ bowels of Craigslist. Here, we fall back on the scripts and scenes we have learned to eroticize, and the legacy of a de-historicized rape culture that has served as the linchpin of centuries of racial and sexual subjugation emerges.
We are fresh out of a century of industrialization and digitization that has stripped many of us of connection to our own cultures, histories, and identities within our materialist postmodern society. Yet this is no excuse to plead ignorance of our context: the defining feature and potential of our post-historical moment is to be self-reflexive, literate of our past; to dialogue with it, to choose our fate moving forward, lest we recreate the sins of our forefathers and squander our own evolutionary potential. We are the inheritors of this culture; we are shaped by its scripts and mythologies. These dynamics live on within us, to the degree that we choose to carry them, or, through our silences, to allow them to permeate our culture unchecked.
As two queer and gender diverse female survivors of sexual assault in a long-term relationship, these are the issues we, the authors, have engaged with for years: issues of intimacy and sexuality, trauma and healing, and we are pleased to be able to serve as a conduit in bringing what we have learned to a broader culture struggling with the same issues. We come from the trenches of the Movement to End Campus Violence, as well as the daily struggle for the freedom of women, people of color, and LGBT people in 21st century America, and as we set upon a journey towards our own freedom, we asked ourselves what we could do to imagine and create a better future for ourselves and our communities. We came up with a sex-positive solution that wouldn’t merely demonize the scripts of our culture, but instead would inspire people to new possibilities of sexual engagement: we decided to write some erotica.
Informed by the most common fantasies of Millennials, as well as our own subjective experiences and those of friends we’ve been fortunate enough to discuss these sorts of things with over many cups of coffee, glasses of wine, and occasionally something a little stronger, we wrote a book. Let’s be discreet and call it an erotic novel. Erotica engages the imagination rather than any of the material senses we may associate with sexual activity. There is no shame in reading erotica; no shame in fantasy: whatever shame you find within these pages is your own.
We strive to make the characters we write as human, as multidimensional as possible, while manifesting scenes that are archetypal, that are larger than any one of us in that they exist as the sexual mythologies of our culture. Real people, three-dimensional people are not like the mythical specimens that populate the stereotypes and scripts we each hold about “people like us,” or “people like them,” nor are they able to be reduced to their most vulnerable and painfully human moments. We feel that too often the moments that shape who we are exist in the unspoken shadows, in the quiet space of our inner being, unnoticed and unresolved. These are the moments we explore through the perspectives of our characters, through their hopes and fantasies, traumas and desires; through things they’ve never done before.
It is from this context that we present to you the first volume of the Millennial Sex Trilogy: “I’ve Never Done This Before.” We hope you enjoy it, but more than anything, we hope it inspires the reader to reconnect their heart, soul, body, and desire to the most powerful sexual organ of all: the mind, and to have more honest and trusting communication about sexuality with their friends, families, and of course, sexual partners.
Nastassja and Lea