The big secret
“Okay. So I joined this group and …” I hesitate. We are on lunch break and I am about to tell my immediate colleague over a hot tajine in an otherwise empty restaurant what I have been keeping secret for everyone: what I have been keeping myself busy with since the start of 2015.
“ …it’s called Sex Positive Belgium.” I hurry to explain: “Now I know that sounds really… sexual, but actually it’s not. Not so much. We strive for more openness and acceptance of sexuality in all its shapes and colours, and less taboo around it. Everyone is welcome, straight, LGBTIQ, transgender, fetishists and even asexual people. And we have movie nights around these themes … we’ve been to lectures about pornography, we went to a feminist art expo, and so now we’re reading this book, on polyamory.”
All of which is true, but I conveniently leave out the visits to the naked saunas, or fetish cafes, the weekend retreat in the Belgian Ardennes with activities such as making bondage ropes and sensation plays. Not to mention the outing I organised myself, to unveil something that has intrigued me since I discovered its existence: a visit to a swingers’ club.
Why wouldn’t I be able to tell something like this to my colleague? I wish I could.
Why haven’t I told anyone before? I wish I felt like I could.
Why haven’t I been to a swingers’ club before? I wish I had.
Everything (sex) negative
Because it does not feel safe to openly discuss sexuality. Not even so with my former life companion.
Because when I wanted to give some tips for between the sheets, I got the opposite effect and my partner shut me out.
Because we went to buy lingerie to improve our sex life, even though I strongly felt like we did not need it. We were young and I was brimming with energy. I let out that energy at the gym, because I could not let out in the bedroom, at the same time hoping that a fitter body would make my partner desire me more. Because I for one, did feel desire for my partner.
Because once again I brushed aside the idea, when I saw the sheer panic in the eyes of my other half, when I suggested swinging. We would be happy either way. Like all those others. But I wasn’t.
Because when I told my mother the whole truth about the breakup after several months, her only reaction was: “But … you two loved each other? … You just want too much.”
Because my first trustee, my dad -go figure -, gave me a surprised but sympathetic smile, lavished in awkwardness. Although he could empathize with the situation, it was not only awkward for him to have a discussion about unfulfilled sexual needs with his child, but mostly because it wasn’t his son asking for fatherly advice, but his daughter.
Because since I was young I was weird, because I preferred to play with cars over dolls.
Because I was the slut, just because I hung out with boys.
Because I was an attention whore, because I spent time on internet forums, went to LAN parties and gamed.
Because when I got older, I learned to adapt to society and its prevailing standards and expected behaviour, and hide parts of me.
Because when I dared to show my true self to people who said they loved me, I was often left disappointed, and more than once heart broken.
Because, as a close friend with benefits, I was not only put aside for the benefits when a new love came along, but for the entire friendship too.
Because of everything sex negative.
The big depression
All of this left me thinking. Am I that … abnormal? Am I that horrible? After having accelerated right after the breakup and excessively celebrating my newly found freedom, my mind started crashing. Hard. I had a difficult time dealing with the friends and family I had lost and lost all sense of logic and reason. All I was left with was this overwhelming sadness in my chest that was sucking the life out of me like a giant black hole. I got alarmed. I talked to friends. I talked to my doctor. I talked to strangers. I talked to my parents. I talked to his parents. Got rejected. Was not understood.
One of the last straws I reached out to was an on-line acquaintance who was very open and explicit about her sex life and BDSM on a mutual forum. She sent me the link to Sex Positive Belgium, and it took me some time, some pills, some visits to the psychologist and some stabilising, before I was feeling ready to encounter this group, of which I knew in advance that it would suit me.
Now, I am still wondering why I waited so long. All the positive things that Sex Positive Belgium brought me since, are countless. I have learned so much.
Everything (sex) positive
Seriously, I sometimes wonder if the sessions with my therapist bring me as much as the discussions at the book club evenings.
Not only did I start feeling better in my skin; no, I wasn’t alone, no, I wasn’t abnormal. Even better, I might be one of the most mundane, not to say boring people in this group! I wasn’t judged. I wasn’t shamed. I wasn’t pushed in a box. I wasn’t labelled, unless I wanted to be.
I gained a group of friends and acquaintances with whom I can really be myself. Really. Silly innuendos, uncertainties and divergent life vision included. The blunt male side of my personality included. This is honestly the only place where I don’t suffer from social stress.
Having activities to look forward to helped lift me out of my depression, because I knew in advance I was going to be among chill people, meet interesting people, who would let me be, that I would learn new ideas and insights. And I would also get to know some new snacks and recipes! (We sometimes jokingly say that we should have a food lovers section).
I have had the privilege to encounter beautiful people who struggle with their gender and their body, and to witness their process of transforming their outside to what they are feeling inside.
I met other beautiful people who have a lot of love to give, and choose to do so with multiple partners.
I have gotten different insights and perspectives from all kinds of people. I learned about myself, I have even had some real epiphanies, unravelling things that were eating me up from the inside. I learned to research and understand my feelings, even the ones that are sudden, surprising and also painful.
The hoped-for end of my Utopia
I think everyone always feels ‘different’, at one moment or another. Despite our society’s efforts to be tolerant and open, there are still a lot of norms and labels in place about sexuality. Sex Positive Belgium allows you to be yourself in your own unique way. Join and let yourself and your differences be embraced (also literally, there are hugs, hugs, and more hugs). There is a total lack of gossip and total respect for your boundaries, wishes and privacy. This is my Utopia. An underground Utopia. But we’re striving to go mainstream. Sex Positive Belgium, or Sex Positive World – yes, we exist on a global scale! – will have achieved its highest goal, when there is no more need for such a group to exist. We’re coming for you, world! And I’m starting with my colleague…