UCI CARE hosted “How to Speak Your Language of Sex, Love, & Play,” a webinar that focused on how systems of oppression impact love languages, on Oct. 20. The virtual event featured cultural sociologist Ignacio G. Hutía Xeiti Rivera (they/them), who has expertise in sexual trauma and healing for marginalized populations.
Rivera, who is a survivor of sexual trauma, explained that although people learn about sexuality in different ways, most individuals acquire a framework of what constitutes normative sex from friends, family and the media.
“We get a lot of different kinds of messages. When we get these messages from the family of origin and the people older than us, telling us this is how it is, we accept this as true and this is where we fall,” Rivera said.
In efforts to look beyond these accepted ideas, Rivera opened the conversation to the larger structures that impact and constrain how individuals may experience intimacy.
“The way we have navigated intimacy and connection has been at the backdrop of heteronormativity, white supremacy, and cisgenderism,” Rivera said.
Despite progressing towards a more sex positive perspective, Rivera noted that certain individuals remain invisible in romantic films and pornography.
“We see the same kinds of people, mostly white, very fit, tiny bodies, or muscular men,” Rivera said. “Who is not entitled to have sex are people that are fat, people that are old, people that are dark skinned, and people who are disabled.”
According to Rivera, these parameters can be harmful and indirectly communicate that certain groups are unable to have relationships or be perceived in the context of intimacy.
“Even as LGBT people are being more visible in the world, there is still a point of conflict around what constitutes a legitimate or real relationship,” Rivera said. “What we end up doing is fighting within the constraints that are given to us, rather than thinking outside of those very constraints.”
Rivera went on to say that in order to achieve sexual liberation and envision a better future, intimacy must be viewed in connection to oppression, history and power.
“We can’t negate all the ways in which poor women, women of color, women with disabilities, have been completely affected by laws, regulations, and policies that oppress their bodies, sexuality and reproduction,” Rivera said.
Examples included the government’s control of bodies, forced sterilization, sodomy laws, coerced birth control, welfare reform, criminalization of sex work, pathologization of homosexuality and the requirement of psychiatric approval for gender reassignment as structural oppressions against sexual liberation.
“There is a broader way about thinking about sexual liberation that incorporates vision, understanding the role of power for ourselves and others,” Rivera said.
To encourage self-reflection, Rivera introduced their own model of human sexuality, which include pieces of sexuality that are important to sexual play, experimentation and data gathering. Additionally, Rivera provided students with more communicative strategies to establish their own intent and agency by defining consent, the intentional setting of boundaries and negotiation as tools vital to having a relationship.
“This is not about this completion of self. It’s about digging into self and thinking contemplating, assessing past relationships, and taking inventory to have an active role and how to find your way of talking about sex, love, [and] romance,” Rivera said.
Rachel Vu is a Campus News Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.