One of the more frequent questions that sex coaches and other sexologists encounter from clients is “Am I normal?” As it turns out, there’s more to this question than meets the eye.
In our society, most people receive detailed and rigid guidance as to how people should view their sexuality, and how they should practice it. Children get this guidance from parents, from church organizations, from educators, and to some extent from their peers. Kids are expected to “color” within these “lines”, and they incur strong correction from those in authority, if they choose to deviate from these prescriptions.
Perhaps more insidiously, these same authorities exert great influence in instilling specific attitudes about sex into children. To compound the situation, outright gross misinformation about sex abounds; some such misinformation is the product of ignorance and lack of knowledge, while some is undoubtedly used as a “tool” to reinforce the sexual morals and beliefs preferred by the authorities. All of these guiding influences effectively tell a child what they should consider “normal” sexuality.
This mental and emotional formation happens before a child is really able to exercise significant self-assessment and personal choice. The sexual experimentation that children naturally indulge in provides some personally-acquired information about sex, but all too often that knowledge is freighted with a sense of wrongness that can promote feelings of guilt, shame and self-rejection. Those “sex-negative” feelings then color all subsequent sexual and intimate interactions that an adult experiences. Social messages (e.g. in the media) add to the confusion, with more misinformation and with artificially-created “ideals” of what a mature sexual life is like.
The reality is that individuals differ in their sexual orientation and in their preferences. Just as some people love cilantro while others are repelled by it, there is no one-size-fits-all set of sexual practices or perspectives that everyone should subscribe to.
One of the more difficult challenges for a sex coach is to help shed light on the sexual “programming” that a particular client has assimilated— so that the client can then make free and informed choices as to what is natural and “normal” for them. In making those choices, though, the client can gain a sense of freedom, comfort and self-acceptance that they may never before have experienced.
There are, of course, some constraints on any form of legitimate sexual behavior: it must be truly consensual, and it should not result in serious intentional harm to a partner, or to oneself. Beyond that, the available sexual terrain is wide and varied. It is perfectly “normal” to have curiosity about, say, BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism), such as that popularized in the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy of novels. Those with a gay or lesbian sexual orientation have no less valid or meaningful relationships than do mainstream heterosexuals. Those who fail to credit and respect the sexual reality of others are likely acting out of captivity to their own rigid “programming”. One may not feel the same desires and inclinations as another, but mutual respect is essential.
The more important question that we can ask ourselves is not “Am I normal?”, but rather “Do I know and accept my sexual self?”. This is a question for which a good sex coach can provide invaluable help to a client. As a sex coach, it brings me much personal satisfaction to accompany a client on this voyage of self-discovery and self-liberation. I consider it a true privilege to be part of such important, life-changing work!