Naked and Afraid, or Naked and Battered? (aka Wait, You Can Share A Bed Without Having Sex?)

My boyfriend and I are in a brand new relationship, yet we already radiate that “old couple” smell. People who see us together for the first time assume we’ve been together for years. Perhaps that’s in part because we have both prioritized spending time together early on to create and nurture a solid foundation of friendship that will last through the duration of our togetherness.

A few weeks ago when I initially drafted this piece, we were each living at home with our parents. This made sleepover arrangements a little awkward sometimes, but we managed to get away with sharing beds at both homes. He is now living in a dormitory at school while I am still living with my parents, but I digress.

For the almost-nine-weeks that we have been “Facebook official”,  we have had between five and ten sleepovers. (I lost count.) We have also both been asked — and teased — by parents about which sexual relations are presumably taking place. Much to the surprise of our elders, we were both honest and upfront about exactly how many times we have had sexual intercourse. Currently, that number is zero, despite us being naked most of the time we’re together and alone.

And yet, no bumping uglies.

Why would a couple choose not to have traditional intercourse with each other? While the knee jerk reaction to an outsider may be that there’s clearly something sexually dysfunctional in one or both of us, we have other reasons, particularly that copulation is a less than feasible feat for us right now because one of us has a very small body with very small parts and is scared of pain. Besides, our sexual choices are no one else’s business.

This is not the first time in my life when I’ve disclosed my sleeping arrangements to other people and received shocked expressions in return. I have shared beds with about half of my boyfriends when both of us were naked but never chose to have P-in-V sex with any of them.

So, where does the “battery” part of this post’s title come in?

There’s a show on the Discovery Channel called “Naked and Afraid”, where two contestants of different sexes strip down and attempt to survive in the wild for a few weeks. Aside from production cameras, they’re alone and without many (any?) unnatural resources. Needless to say, the show has gathered lots of attention, including my mother’s.

Recently, parents had DVR-ed a marathon of the show. While I was not actively watching alongside their binge, I was present in the room and occasionally looked up from my laptop toward the television. During the commercials of these episodes, the channel also showed a compilation of clips from popular episodes of this series. One clip in particular snatched my attention and enraged me to the point of ranting to my parents, then leaving the room.

In this clip, a male contestant says that he has never inappropriately touched his partner, then the screen shows multiple night-vision clips of him rubbing his partner’s rear end while she slept.

I expressed my horror of his behavior and my hope that the woman has since sought legal action against him for sexual battery. My mom’s reaction?

My mom:  Well… Maybe she liked it.

Me:  She couldn’t consent to it. SHE WAS ASLEEP.

My mom:  Huh. Maybe she was faking it.

What the fuck, Mom? Sadly for me, I would be surprised if my mother was alone in this viewpoint.

Gotcha. Now how do your complaints about that TV show and abstinence tie together?

Well, vigilant reader, they both center around perceptions about nudity and entitlement. There’s a social expectation that naked people are incapable of sharing a bed together without having sex. However, this assumption reeks of victim-blaming and sexism, as if to say that men are ravenous beasts incapable of controlling themselves, and that, in hindsight to sexual battery, any scantily-clad folks voluntarily sleeping nearby “should have known better”.

While there may be a generational gap to blame in part for the misconception, showing skin never equals consent. Never, never, never, never. Being naked feels awesome and is about your own sensations and comfort, and we need to stop treating nude bodies as purely for other people’s pleasure.

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