I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to blog while I was in Nairobi, but it’s my free day and this helps me decompress (but don’t come to expect it!)

The wonderful thing about the American University study abroad program is the manipulation of group time in the orientation week activities.  There are 12 of us total, and about half of the activities are for all of us together, with the other half having us split into constantly rotating groups of 4, which is meant to help us get to know everyone.  I’m finding that both sides of these group arrangements are very beneficial in understanding where people are coming from, and it also tends to lead to very amusing conversation.

Now you’re thinking, ok, Bianca, that’s cool, you’re studying abroad, but what does that have to do with sex, sexuality, or any of the stuff you’ve been writing about for 4 months?  Well, thing being, when you get a certain number of women together, they’re inevitably going to start talking about sex and relationships- their pains, their triumphs, their dirty secrets and whatnot.  These conversations are also the time when the group seems to bond the most.  And me, being a person who thinks a lot about thinking, can’t quite figure out why that is.  What about sex talk brings people together?

My first thought was universality.  Everyone has either had sex with someone, wanted to have sex with someone, or felt the societal pressure to have sex.  It doesn’t matter who you’re attracted to and what kind of context you interact with that person (or persons) on, everyone’s felt it.  Somehow this universal understanding of a force makes it easier to connect to people, because everyone has a story.

But… being hungry is universal.  As is friendship.  Or school.  All of these are topic areas which have universality, but don’t draw half the conversation that sex tends to.

My second thought was excitement.  You don’t get much of a thrill by talking about being hungry.  What you and your best friend did this past holiday can be amusing or interesting, but it probably won’t send chills down your spine or make your eyes grow wide with intrigue.  Sex, on the other hand, being the taboo and infinitely complex societal interaction that it is, has enough dimensions, twists, turns, and surprise endings to keep people constantly interested.

And yet, that doesn’t seem sufficient either.  There are plenty of exciting things to talk about- the antics that people get into drinking, the sports and travel adventures that others have taken, etc.

I think what it truly comes down to is the depth of the questions involved.  The truly engrossing things- sex, religion, love, philosophy, fate- are exciting and unknown, they’re universal and fundamental, but more than that, they reveal the deepest part of a person’s self understanding.  The way you frame sex can be indicative of the way you conduct your life, or it can be purposefully opposite.  The relationships you’ve had can fundamentally shift who you are as a person, and they will almost always reveal something about who you always were.  Sex is dirty, but it’s evocatively dirty.  It makes us remember that we’re all human and that we’re dealing with similar questions in very different ways.  And I think all of this is compounded by the fact that so many people are telling us not to talk about it.  Because so many of us have had to find answers on our own because of society’s stifling silence, there’s an even greater sense of camaraderie built around the sharing of these struggles, these heartbreaks, these laughable snapshots and the inevitable comparisons we so desperately need in order to validate our own experiences.

I’m open to being proved wrong, though.  I especially would like input from the asexual community- is what I’m saying valid for you?  Does sex talk matter, and is it interesting?  Does it help you bond with people or push you farther away?  Do you have any alternative suggestions, or is this whole philosophical musing a big N/A ?

I don’t have all the answers, you know.