#talkaboutit – Discussing Sexual Grey Areas

TRIGGER WARNING: this post talks about sexual abuse and sexual grey areas and might be upsetting to readers.

#Talkaboutit is the international version of a project that originated under the name #prataomdet in Sweden in 2010. Its founder, Johanna Koljonen, discussed “sexual grey areas” with a friend on Twitter under the hashtag #prataomdet; eventually, hundreds and then thousands of people joined the conversation to discuss their feelings and behaviors concerning these grey areas as well as abuse, force, and doing things that one does not feel comfortable doing.

The stories on Twitter, and from people involved in the project, ranged from descriptions of groping, to sexual abuse, faking orgasms, and having the feeling that you yourself forced someone that was not ready or that did not want to engage in sexual behaviors with you. Other stories involved being nagged by a partner about sex and finally giving in; the sense feeling like a “bad girlfriend” or a “bad boyfriend” if not sexually satisfying your partner was commonly mentioned.

Here’s an excerpt from one story:

“I have woken up to find my boyfriend’s hand in my crotch; I have been half-forced into having intercourse; I’ve endured physical pain during sex multiple times; I have been overpowered by a man’s lust unable to say no. I have had a strange man force himself into my bed even though I told him no tens of times. I have been so afraid of sex I have gotten into panic attacks to avoid it.”

To some of us, those are clearly examples of abuse. However, many sexual grey areas are not always “common sense” or obvious to the person at the time. That is why #talkaboutit is so important: we need to understand what behaviors are not acceptable or border on abuse. As the #talkaboutit website says, “We need a language for sex that isn’t stifled by shame, we need to think about our boundaries as well as others”, which emphasizes the fact that we need to respect our own and other people’s bodies.

Photo by Elin.

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