"Subjectified": What Happens When We Don't Talk About Sex?

By Maggie Freleng


What happens when we don't talk about sex?

This is what Melissa Tapper Goldman, director and producer of “Subjectified: Nine Young Women Talk about Sex” was trying to figure out.

“When we don’t talk about something we do send messages,” she said at the premiere screening at The Pleasure Chest, a sex toy shop in New York City.

“Where we have silence we have shame,” she added, and went on to explain the work she is doing with “Subjectified,” which started as a project in 2006.

“Subjectified” features nine young women from diverse backgrounds across the United States talking about their experiences with sex. They discussed everything from pubic hair to masturbation to abortion.

As an extension to the project, through November, everyone is invited to join Subjectified's international story-sharing campaign “Do Tell.”  In an effort to create compassionate conversations, people can anonymously submit stories about their sexual histories. Whether funny, life-changing or just asking questions, the goal is to continue to break the stigma.

“What I am working on around this project is asking this big question, what is the cost of shame? What happens when we can’t talk about sex? What happens when we can’t talk about pleasure? There is a price to pay for simply describing our experiences.”

She mentioned from a friend giving a judging eye roll to actually being stigmatized, there is always a price to pay.

Tapper Goldman said both projects are “motivated by the radical idea that actually listening to people's stories can be transformative.”

What she is trying to transform is the stigma around sex in our society and consequently the stigma that comes along with and the inability to prevent rape.

She also mentioned the connection between talking about sex and talking about other issues such as sexual health, pleasure, birth control and abortion.

“If there is a mega silence that in itself does contain information,” she said. “Where we cultivate silence we do cultivate shame.”

We cultivate shame around rape, sexual violence, pleasure, and abortion, for examples.

She went on to discuss the role the media plays in the shaming around sex because of how conservative it is with everything except heteronormative sex. Gay, lesbian, trans, queer sex and female pleasure are particularly censored in the media.

“Sex is everywhere but it took me a long time to realize sex is everywhere but still nowhere,” she said.

Speaking about the messages about sex that are already in public, she said if we cannot erase what is already out there we can add.

"Subjectified" allows women to open up, add to and erase the shame associated with sex.