Why The Sex Myth Pisses Me Off

by Elizabeth Ollero

In The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, Rachel Hills identifies the sexual restrictions that still exist in a society that claims to be sexually liberated. Although our perception of sex has changed from only permitting sex within marriage to encouraging casual sex with several partners, how we have sex is still confined to the guidelines of strict social norms. This new set of rules is what Hills describes as the Sex Myth.

According to the Sex Myth, sex is the ultimate source of pleasure, but it’s also a source of corruption and moral decay. If you’re having a lot of sex, you’re a slut or a player, but if you’re not having sex, you’re a virgin and a loser. As a woman, you strive to be desirable, but if you’re desired too much, you’re seen purely for sex rather than as a respectable person. Girls are taught that boys are only interested in sex and they must protect their virginity, but that the only way to keep a man is to provide sex for them. Men are taught that their sexual insatiability is essential to their manhood. The Sex Myth makes assumes — or rather, requires — that sex is a significant factor in everybody’s lives. Suddenly, sex is a necessity for a healthy relationship, to please your partner, and to be a fun and spontaneous person. In today’s society, our sexual history defines our respectability, and our sexual desires define our normality or abnormality. Sex is the be-all, end-all.

Rachel Hills accurately defines the Sex Myth. However, her application of the Sex Myth is infuriating. If you do not emulate the Sex Myth, Hills provides validation for your sexual choices, as well as praise. But if your sex life does align with the rules of the Sex Myth — perhaps by having sex frequently, or casually, or with multiple partners, or with creative positions — Hills denies your sexual agency, and as she sees it, you’re simply a cog in the Sex Myth machine.

This book is a feel-good for those who haven’t lost their virginity, or rarely have sex. Me? I have sex. Rather often, actually. The Sex Myth seems to shame those that frequently have sex, giving reasons why this sex was invalid, or secretly traumatizing, or that the sex wasn’t for pleasure, but for other reasons.

This is why I’m so frustrated by Rachel Hills’ analysis of the Sex Myth. According to her, my decisions regarding sex are not my own. If I’m having casual sex, it’s because the Sex Myth told me so, not because I enjoy casual sex. You know what? I like casual sex! I do not seek sex because of how it portrays me as a person. I don’t seek sex to fit in with the crowd. I have sex because it feels nice, and is fun, and exhilarating. I don’t use sex to validate myself as a desirable human being, nor am I trying to define myself as “cool” because I have more casual sex than monogamous sex.

Maybe I’m irritated with Rachel Hills’ application of the Sex Myth because I fit the “norm.” Because I’m not a sexual recluse according to society’s standards, she’d say that the Sex Myth makes me feel good, and that I’m not suffering from feelings of inadequacy because I meet the standards the Sex Myth has set for me. But I would disagree. I have sex frequently despite the fear of being labeled a slut. Sometimes I wait “too long” to have sex with a partner, despite the Sex Myth’s insistence that I need to have sex with him to make him stay. I’m forging my own sexual path, and fighting the Sex Myth just as hard as anybody else, every single day.

Image via Simon and Schuster

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