About 20 years ago, I had an epiphany: being a sexual human being with sexual parts (genitals) is a lot like having money, and having sex is a lot like buying groceries.
Let me explain.
If you go to the grocery store, you will see a lot of people wandering around the store. Some look quite purposeful and others are truly wandering, just killing time. No matter how much time people spend in the grocery store, there is no guarantee that they are going to buy groceries. In fact, we don’t even know if they have the money to buy groceries…until they get into the checkout lanes.
One you get in the checkout line at the grocery store, we know a few things about you. First, you are about to buy some groceries.
Second, and more importantly, we now know for certain that you have money.
As you get to the front of the line and the cashier starts to ring up your groceries, you might even get your money out of your wallet or your pocket. At this point, other people can see your money because it is right there in your hand. Yet strangely, no one seems to ever reach out and touch another person’s money or try to snatch their money out of their hand because that would be wrong. Just because someone has exposed their money and everyone can see it does not mean that other people are welcome to touch their money or to grab their money. Money is personal, and other people should keep their hands off. No one has to tell the people in the checkout lane how to behave, possibly because they learned how to behave properly around money a long time ago, but also possibly because they all have their own money and don’t want anyone trying to touch it or grab it without their permission.
When the groceries are finally rung up, the cashier (who has every reason to expect you to hand over some money) still does NOT reach out and snatch the money out of your hand. No sir. The cashier tells you how much your groceries are going to cost and then the cashier waits patiently for you to offer them your money. Basically, the cashier makes it clear that there is going to be an even exchange here: groceries for money. The cashier lets you know just how much money they want for those groceries…and then the cashier waits for you to decide if you really want to go through with this.
It is a transactional kind of moment. There is no rudeness, no unreasonable expectations. You actually have to give the money to the cashier willingly, who will in turn give you the groceries willingly.
Another thing that is truly interesting: even though the groceries are already rung up, you can decide at the last minute that you are not willing to pay for those groceries. You can say ‘No…I decided I don’t want groceries right now’ and the cashier will simply void the grocery total and they will let you walk away. No one will call you names and accuse you of simply pretending to want groceries. No one will yell at you and demand that you hand over your money while shoving groceries into your hands. No one will impugn your character for deciding you don’t want groceries right now.
Funny how this all works, isn’t it?
And just as there are expectations about how the customer with the money and the cashier handling the groceries will behave, there are expectations about how those who are observing the transaction will behave. They are not really welcome to make comment on your groceries or tell you if your groceries are good enough or appealing to them. They are not welcome to comment on your money, either it’s form (check, EBT, cash, etc.) or the amount you have. And once you have handed over the money, they are not welcome to jump in and start grabbing your groceries and eating.
Now let’s get back to talking about exactly what I am talking about here: sexuality, bodies, and sex itself.
I find it interesting that the whole grocery transaction takes place in public, because so many women get judged for displaying just a little too much ‘money’ in public, leading to the conclusion that they deserve to be assaulted. You know what I mean: how was she dressed? Was she drunk? Was she flirting with him? Was her skirt too short? Was her blouse cut too low?
You know, if some customer took out her wad of cash and was kind of waving it around, being obvious about showing off her money in the grocery store, onlookers might think her immature or ill-mannered, but no one would assault the woman. Really…no matter how much money she flashes in the checkout lane, we are all supposed to leave her alone. And while we may not approve of her behavior, we’re not really going to do much about it but look away (or foolishly stare) because it’s not really our business what this woman does with her money. In the end, we are certain that money is private and personal and other people’s behaviors with their money are not our business.
This is pretty clear. It isn’t that difficult to understand.
A person’s ‘money’ (body/sexual parts/sexuality) is their own and no one should ever try to take that or force them to give it away for any reason ever. The idea that they ‘showed their money in public’ does not deny them the right to control their money at all times. Moreover, it doesn’t matter that you think the groceries you are offering are superior to all the other groceries in town. You are not to touch/take anyone else’s money without their permission, for any reason, at any time, just because you think you are giving them the ‘good groceries’. And let’s remember that people who are drunk enough to pass out are not awake enough to buy groceries in real life (like at Safeway or Kroger) so you should not try to take their bodily ‘money’ and force your ‘groceries’ on them when they are drunk enough to pass out.
Finally, a word to the men reading this: I came to this epiphany while I was in counseling because I was afraid of men. By the time I was 35 I’d been assaulted and harassed frequently enough to understand that I was a non-stop sexual object. I was a walking advertisement for sex …and it was my fault that men saw me that way. I am not bragging that I was good looking. I was simply female, breathing, and not overtly disgusting…and therefore a sex object. Society made it clear that I was responsible for somehow conveying to men that I was chaste and unavailable, and if I failed, then I got what I deserved, which was more assault and harassment. You can probably understand why I was so afraid of existing in a world where men roamed freely.
After a while, it felt like having ‘money’ made me guilty of offering something I wasn’t willing to actually give…and so I felt like I had to apologize just for having ‘money’ at all. I felt as if it would have been better for everyone if God had made female ‘money’ a detachable part that we could leave at home so as not to lead men on and make men think that we are ‘grocery’ shopping. Then one day I paid close attention to the way that people behaved in the grocery store checkout lane…and had an epiphany that freed me from having to fear half the human race. I realized that every person in the checkout lane had actual cash money and we all knew it…yet no one tried to take our money, ever. That’s when I realized that my bodily ‘money’ was mine, and no one had any rights to that ‘money’ but ME. And I have the right to give my ‘money’ to anyone whose groceries look appealing to me…which for the last 30 years has been my husband. He has…nice groceries. Very nice.
Back to topic.
This allegory may not work for you the way it works for me, but you have to admit: actual money (I’m talking dollars here) is a very emotionally charged thing. People spend their adult lives trying to get enough money to live comfortably, and most people want more money than they currently have. Some people will do anything, even illegal things, to increase their earning potential. And the funny thing is that even before I thought about the bodies/sex/money allegory, my mother used to tell me that flashing your wad of bills (cash money) to impress other people was ‘vulgar’…a term we usually use to condemn sexually charged words or actions.
There is so much more than can be explored using this allegory: how some people buy nothing but bread, milk, lunch meat, and apples every single time, while others buy exotic and unusual groceries. What does that mean about the customer? Does it imply something about their morals? Some customers might buy groceries that another person might not consider fit to eat. Does that make them a bad person? You can use this allegory to explore and discuss different types of sexual expression, the morals we often apply to sexual expression, and the importance of not judging people whose sexual choices do not fit cultural norms and stereotypes. You can even use this allegory to talk about ‘healthy eating’…and making sure that you don’t buy groceries that aren’t safe to consume.
If you want to open the door to a rich, meaningful discussion about bodies, consent, sexuality, and sexual choices…go to the grocery store. I encourage you to take your adolescent children down to the grocery store and have them stand there and observe the checkout lanes. Have them observe the behavior of the people in line, especially when it comes to retrieving their money. Have them pay special attention to the interaction between the cashier and the customer when it comes time to pay for the groceries. Have them pay attention to the way that the customers in line interact with each other and the personal space they give the person who is paying for their groceries.
One last thing to tell your children: you are always allowed to touch your own money. That’s kind of like a self-serve grocery checkout lane…the ultimate in ‘safe groceries’. You may disagree with that idea, but remember: no one ever ended up buying diapers at the grocery store because they touched their own money.