A long time ago, I tried to define vanilla sex, but I could never quite get it right. Much like trying to define the difference between a sex worker and someone who knows their worth in dollars, what makes for vanilla sex is mostly about what it’s not versus what it is. For example, Wikipedia’s definition of vanilla is incredibly vague.
“Conventional sex, or vanilla sex, is sexual behavior that is within the range of normality for a culture or subculture, and typically involves sex which does not include elements of BDSM, kink, or fetishism. When looking at conventional sex with disdain, it may be described as unadventurous or dull.”
Conventional sex isn’t much better of a definition. For example, its well know that sex workers mostly offer companionship and intimacy, something I find to be generally considered conventional. Still, because of the open negotiation of payment, few people would regard what sex workers do as “vanilla.” So, that doesn’t get us any closer to a workable definition.
Plus, even if we take the word conventional to mean natural, it creates a problem. Bonobos, our closest relative species, have only wild exhibitionist jungle sex. I know most people wouldn’t consider the moves from that primal dirty playbook to be “vanilla.”
I even tried to get away from defining it at all, but that proved fruitless. Then I gave up trying to define it and came to best definition I could: vanilla sex is everything and nothing – literally and figuratively. Like Schrodinger’s legendary pussycat, the definition of vanilla sex truly is simply a matter of perspective. Otherwise known as a game of “I know it when I see it.”
That argument didn’t work out too well when it came to defining hard-core porn. In fact, the phrase has come to mean “attempts to categorize an observable fact or event, although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters.”
Even Justice Stewart, the man who uttered the famous phrase, admitted it's a fool’s errand. He made the statement right after saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so.”
Still, somehow, we’re still dealing with this mess – a la Janet’s nipple v. the FCC, the topic of my very first blog on LTASEX. Not to mention shutting down male escorting site Rent Boy, the battle for gay marriage and those defunct California porn laws.
At the heart of all these fights, categorize and set the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable – therefore condemnable – sexuality. Though it’s quite arrogant to believe any one person or group could really define what sex should look like for the entire world, we mean well.
I live by the rule that people are generally more stupid than they are evil. People with less understanding, emotional intelligence and awareness tend to try to control others. Keeping it 100, we all do it at some time or another; yes, even me, even now.
Although I wish I was beyond it, there are some sexual acts that still gross me the hell out – scat is first to mind. There are also ones that I don’t quite get and make me a little uncomfortable – sex work is the first to mind, here.
I don’t exactly understand why people would enjoy scat play. Sex work, while understandable, is completely foreign to me. With the latter, it’s easier to see why one would be or hire a sex worker. Still, I don’t know any sex workers. So, my imagination runs wild, even though the entire experience is probably much more subdued than it seems.
I, like all of us, mean well but simply can't escape the deep seated discomfort within me. So, I live by the rule that if I judge something negatively, I’m wrong and need to expand my understanding. That’s why I gave up trying to define vanilla sex, for you at least.
Conventional, vanilla, normal sex, they’re all false categories to make a barrier between us and the scary them. In truth, our personal definitions only matter to the people having sex with us and are otherwise irrelevant.
It’s a waste of time to try to define the undefinable and judge others for not living up to our standards. So, let's let the hookers hook, the kinksters kink and the vanillas do what they do. We're all right and, if we can manage to understand more, we'll be alright, too.