Self-responsible sex means accepting that, in most ways, you are the expert about yourself. Just as you may be tempted to give up personal power and deny your own experience in other areas of your life, when it comes to sex it is easy to become confused, if not persuaded, by the opinions of others - your friends, your role models, the media, the poll-takers. On the other hand, part of self-responsibility means recognition of limitations; recognition that we are often blind to our own tendencies and inclinations. It includes taking the initiative in reaching out for help in areas that are problematic and painful. Self-responsibility never means that we deny ourselves support or insight or direct guidance from those we determine are trustworthy.
In observing self-responsibility in sex, you need to examine who and what you are listening to, and question who or what you are believing. Our youth-oriented culture is obsessed with appearances. In so doing, it often dismisses the needs of the elderly and the mentally and physically handicapped, for whom sex is a right or a privilege as much as it is for the young and beautiful. Because the media use sex to sell everything from toothpaste to tractors, they constantly present a distorted view of the subject. Popular magazines inform you of the statistics regarding sexual orientation and frequency of expression; they may lead you to believe that you are abnormal if you fall outside the norm. The fact that, as some of these surveys report, married couples in the United States average X acts of intercourse per month merely indicates that some do it several times a day and others only on their anniversaries. Statistics can be very misleading, even when you approach them with an understanding of how they are gathered.
The research of Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, Hite, and others serves to underline the need to trust your own experience.* Their findings demonstrate that individual differences in sexual practice are truly amazing. In fact, there seems to be a wider range of human sexual appetite, capacity, and behavior than of almost any other human trait. Sexual practice often varies as widely as the number of subjects questioned.
Sex is self-responsible when it is informed, consensual, conscientious, and mutually enjoyed. Consensual means that it is freely entered into, not coerced or manipulated; conscientious means that it is not used to prove power, or get favors, or keep the other from leaving. Nonconsensual sex is abuse. It is against the law and against the integrity of the body and mind of the other. Non-conscientious sex often results from childhood associations of sexuality being linked with shame, guilt, pain, or violence.
Finally, sex is self-responsible when the rest of life is self-responsible. What we eat or drink, how we breathe, the exercise we take, the thoughts we program, our sense of spiritual alignment with the source of life - all will affect our ability for and enjoyment of sex. One friend reports that his jogging program did wonders for his sex life. The increased flexibility, improved muscle tone, and controlled use of the breath that come with exercise can certainly enhance sexual vigor. The improved self-concept that exercise encourages is a strong foundation for a healthy sex concept - and vice versa. When people feel good about their sexuality and the expression of it, they are more inclined to want to care for their bodies, and maybe even for their minds and hearts, too.
* Hite, S., The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality (Seven Stories, 2003), and The Hite Report on Male Sexuality (Ballantine, 1987); Masters, W., and V. Johnson., Human Sexuality (Addison-Wesley, 1997); and Reinisch, J., and R. Beasley., The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex: What You Must Know to Be Sexually Literate. (St. Martin's Press, 1991).