A long time ago, the first time I stayed at my in-laws’ house, many years before they were my in-laws, my (then) boyfriend and I were rather confused by their “when you’re under this roof” rules. The first night we were there, we were all going out to dinner. There were several guests in the house and bathrooms were at a premium. We were rushing to get ready, when his dad forbade us to take a shower together (we were legitimately trying to economise on water and time), yet there was a bed made up for us to share that night and for the rest of the nights we were visiting. He contested, his dad was very firm, so we dropped it. Later that night, as we lay on the lumpy fold out couch in the too-hot basement, he made a move, snuggling over and getting handsy. I immediately froze because of how his parents had been about the shower. He laughed and insisted that if they’d made us a bed to share, they knew we’d fuck in it. At eighteen, I found this prospect horrifying, but I was also eighteen so my resolve was easily worn down, and we did ultimately have sex on that lumpy hide-a-bed.
Why Be a More Sex Positive Host?
Since then, every time I have been a house guest or had house guests, I think about that silly double standard. I don’t spend loads of time thinking about whether or not my guests are banging, but I do go out of my way to ensure they have privacy and personal space, and adequate down time, should they need it. How they use that time and space is up to them, but I wouldn’t be mad if they used it to have sex. Why would I? It seems strange to assume that people would halt the pursuit of pleasure while on holiday. As the host, there’s so many ways that you can make a house guests’ stay more comfortable, and sex-positivity is part of that. Being a good host is all about making your guests comfortable, both physically and mentally. If your guests aren’t the kind of folx who embrace sex positivity, these may not be the tips you need, but being sex positive isn’t just ‘promoting sex’. It’s also about acceptance, of ourselves and others, without fear of judgement. You don’t have to talk about how sex-positive your house guests’ stay will be, you can simply express your sex-positive values through acceptance, privacy, advocacy, discretion, and respect. Let’s explore how being a more sex positive host can have a positive impact on the holidays …
Let House Guests Feel at Home
One way to signal to your house guest that you’re not fussed by what they do in private, even in your home, is by equipping them with the basics, should the mood strike. Making up a little basket of “essentials” is a fun way to ensure that they have everything they need, and also some extras. You don’t have to go all out, but a few travel sized items will be enough to give them the go-ahead. This is also a good way to remind young adults that sex is totally okay to do, but it should be safe and responsible (condoms,dams, wipes) but also that pleasure and comfort are valid and important (lube, massage oil, etc.). You can even go so far as to leave a note encouraging them to take them home. They may not ever use them, but the message of acceptance and an open mind is clear.
Don’t Rush Them In The Morning
Is there anything as awkward as waking up, naked and disoriented in someone’s house, to the squeals and flying leaps of small children who want the immense delight of waking you up? Parents: I beg you, stop letting kids in to jump on the bed and wake up the aunts and uncles, etc. Mornings are delicate times for lots of people! You don’t have to let your guests sleep the day away, but it’s reasonable to give them space and privacy, especially before they’ve even had coffee. Unless your itinerary for the day needs to start early, don’t. Instead, encourage guests to languish. Privacy and autonomy are big parts of sex-positivity and an easy way to mindfully be generous and respectful of their privacy, however they wish to use it.
Keep the Food & Body Talk In Check
Almost every post I see online about going home for the holidays includes anxiety and worry about food and food criticism from family. Some people have a weird obsession with projecting their feelings about food, diet, fitness, and health onto other people. It’s not appropriate, it’s unwelcome, and it’s not healthy. Let’s call it what it is: rude. Every person has the right to respect, and as a sex-positive host, you may need to help that happen. No one wants to start a big fight over Aunt Carole tutting about how much casserole someone ate, but equally, the person being singled out shouldn’t have to endure cruel statements or inappropriate questions, just to keep the peace. A simple statement like, “We have a rule in our house that we don’t comment on others’ bodies. Does that sound like a rule you can respect?” will stop them in their tracks. And if it doesn’t, address it one on one. Your event, your rules.
When we think of sex-positivity, it’s easy to see it as something that has to be done out loud, be proclaimed, and recognised. While de-stigmatising and starting conversations are important, sometimes the most sex-positive thing you can do is provide some quiet understanding. As a host, you want guests to feel cared for, but you don’t have to wait on them hand and foot. The inevitable laundry at the end of a stay is a small but thoughtful way to live your sex-positive values and ask for much needed help. Whether they had some break though bleeding on the sheets, left a sweat stain on the pillowcase, or a skid mark on your Egyptian Cotton towels, directing them to the laundry (leave the detergent and stain treatments out for them) lets them evade potential embarrassment or discomfort, while not asking too much of them.
Refer to Them Respectfully
This one should be obvious: Learn the names and pronouns of all house guests, and commit to using them. In no way am I suggesting you start The Great Inter-generational Pronoun Debate over Christmas dinner, but calling people by the terms they use for themselves is simply good manners. Likewise: knowing and pronouncing their name correctly. As the host, you probably know these details, but things change and new people join families, so if there’s any doubt, ask ahead of time. As a sex-positive host, this is another area where your advocacy is necessary. Sitting back and letting a guest be deadnamed, misgendered, or uncomfortable because no one took the time to learn their name, is the opposite of warm and welcoming. You may not “agree” with how someone identifies, but that literally doesn’t matter, because it’s their identity, not yours.
As with everything you read on the internet, take what you like from this, and leave the rest. If your house guests are not the kind of house guests that would appreciate or benefit from these concepts, don’t do them. If they’d be uncomfortable, skip it. And don’t feel like you’re failing at sex-positivity by doing so – knowing what is appropriate and respectful for the situation is all a part of it. I hope that your holiday travels and/or holiday hosting is stress free, sex-positive, and everything you wish them to be!