Gone are the days when we had sex for the sole purpose of reproductive success. Sex-positive folk are standing their ground and fighting for the sexual rights and pleasures of women at a time when sexual assault is rife and some reproductive laws are still in favour of men.
Even to this date, the right to choose abortion is still being debated. Not only is abortion still illegal in some countries, it remains with a stigma even in South Africa. Even though abortion is supposed to be accessible in government clinics, too many women report poor treatment and delays in services, forcing them to resort to illegal methods because private healthcare remains expensive and inaccessible.
But premarital sex isn’t the taboo it used to be and we are having more sex and sexual partners than the generations before us. Casual hook-ups have become a norm, with apps enabling bliss with the swipe of a screen. Some apps help locate people of similar interests and wants in your neighbourhood.
Contraceptives and fertility trackers allow women to choose when and if they want to have children. Soon men’s contraceptive solutions won’t be limited to a condom or sterilising surgeries such as a vasectomy because a male birth control pill and a contraceptive gel are in the works, with India saying it is going to launch the world’s first male birth control injection soon.
Advancements in technology have changed not only how we have sex, but how we meet potential partners too. Apps and social media have diminished the distance barrier. Cybersex is a thing, allowing partners who may have been geographically unappealing to become accessible. Innovations in sex toys have also thrust us into the future with the development of sex robots.
Sex for one is encouraged for safe sexual exploration. We have former US surgeon-general Joycelyn Elders to thank for this. She was fired by former US president Bill Clinton for suggesting that masturbation be included in sex education. Her axing in 1995 prompted sex toy retailer Good Vibrations to declare May 28 as Masturbation Day. Masturbation is a fundamental building block to not only how we choose to have sex, but our sex identity and thus self esteem. Toys for both men and women are easily available for this purpose.
Orgasms have long been illusive for women who have sex with men. While men find it easier to reach climax, it is more challenging for women. Research has found that over the past 20 years women have been reaching orgasm more than they did before. I largely credit masturbation for this. Knowing and understanding your body is key to leading a fulfilling sex life. Women are taking responsibility for their orgasms and finding their voices to let their partners know what it is they need to get off.
The #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment has exposed many perpetrators and led to arrests. Research found that because of the movement, more survivors are reporting sexual crimes. The impact of the movement has been widespread and women have come to learn that they are not alone. #MeToo has not only been a pathway to healing, it has thrust the world into necessary conversation about the unacceptably high rates of sexual violence against women.
While sex has been around as long as humans have populated the planet, the way we have it, the reasons we have it and our attitude towards it have changed drastically over the past decade. More people are choosing to study it as a profession and researchers have upped the ante when it comes to the field. Anal and oral sex have grown in popularity, and HIV/Aids research has seen the condition shift from being considered a fatal disease to the development of pre-exposure prophylaxis and even potential vaccines.
Sex doesn’t only feel good, it is an important part of wellbeing. A healthy sex life has many benefits and the advancements in the sexual arena seek to promote wellness.