By Sam Judd-Kim
This post is one of eight in the center’s You Might Be Causing Harm If . . . campaign.
What’s the harm in talking about your sex life? Aren’t we trying to destigmatize conversations about sex? While healthy conversations surrounding sex are vital, talking about how much sex you’re having may actually cause harm.
One thing to note upfront: Sharing how much sex you’re having looks different for people with different identities. Many women, non-binary people and queer people find connecting by talking about their sex lives to be empowering. These conversations can create open spaces where people discover shared experiences and build healthy support networks. However, bragging about how much sex you’re having to your buddies — particularly if you’re a cisgender, heterosexual man — might be more detrimental than you realize.
First, bragging to other men about your sexual encounters plays into damaging ideas about masculinity that often place women as a means to an end. This can result in framing sex as a conquest, where winning means “scoring” the most women and success is defined in comparison to and competition with other men.
Paradigms like this are harmful because they reinforce attitudes that strip women of their agency when it comes to sex. It objectifies women by reducing them to a number or a bragging point. Bragging about having a lot of sex may cause other men to feel inadequate or ashamed for not being as sexually active, while denigrating women who are “too sexually active.”
It also can result in the harmful idea that the more sex you’re having, the better — whatever it takes. You might end up ignoring boundaries, skirting consent and hurting people — especially women — to construct your sexual success.
The idea of sex as a competition where women are there to be “won” or “collected” harms people of all genders, but it especially devalues women. It perpetuates the notion that men are entitled to sex from women, whether they want it or not. And it can normalize men acting to build up their sexual status in ways that cause tangible harm to those they seek to “conquer.” Good sex involves equality between all parties involved and only happens when everyone involved wants it. Just because you’re having a lot of sex doesn’t mean you’re having good sex. You could even be having really hurtful sex. And if you’re not actually having good, healthy sex, what is there to brag about?
Note: Learn more about the You Might Be Causing Harm If . . . campaign and other topics covered at this link.
Sam Judd-Kim (he/they) is a senior studying philosophy and music. He is a student staff member at the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention Research & Education.