It is in a patriarchal culture (and subsequently in many rape cultures) that we as women are expected to subscribe to whatever our male counterparts desire, regardless of our own, or lack thereof. In this culture, women are seen as little more than a necessary accessory of sex, not as actual participants who can enjoy the process as much of the man, but merely as the receptacle for his fantasies. We are not expected to have any such fantasies of our own (but are shamed and berated if we dare to), and are certainly not advised to ever speak up about these, lest we want to be called “sluts.” Those of us interested in the alternative to this culture—“consent culture”—are often pegged as being part of some radical subculture, when in reality, it should be seen as an inextricable part of the human sexual experience.
The following are my complex and detailed feelings on sex in our patriarchal culture. I’m honestly growing tired of explaining these feelings to the men I had or am about to have sex with. I am tired of being made to feel like expressions such as these are overemotional, dramatic, or unimportant. None of this means that I love you. None of this means that I need you. None of this means that I necessarily want anything more to do with you than I would any casual encounter. I simply want the sex that I have to not be a waste of my time. I want my feelings and desires and agency to be legitimized. I want yours to, too. I want us to have good sex. I want to be treated like a human being, and for my consent or lack thereof to be fully respected and understood. I don’t want all of this to be a huge assumption that I am some “crazy bitch” who is completely unreasonable for having specific thoughts regarding what I do and do not want happening to my body.
I know that being a woman and writing this candidly about sex makes me seem crass and possibly “slutty.” That’s the misogynistic double standard we’ve had to live with. However, I am bored of all the metaphors that are made of sex because we are too terrified to speak bluntly about it. Furthermore, I am truly uninterested in cultural expectations of women, those that impose arbitrary standards of purity and innocence while simultaneously objectifying the hell out of us.
Dave Eggers wrote, “What about dignity? You will die, and when you die, you will know a profound lack of it. It’s never dignified, always brutal. What’s dignified about dying? It’s never dignified. And in obscurity? Offensive. Dignity is an affectation, cute but eccentric, like learning French or collecting scarves. And it’s fleeting and incredibly mercurial. And subjective. So fuck it.”
So, I proceed.
I am not interested in sex merely to get off. That is truly the last thing I care about. While that is certainly nice, if that were really my endgame, I would never have sex with another person. I can fuck myself really well, maybe better than anyone else, so if I just want to come, I’m happy to do that myself. I have sex with other human beings because they can provide things I am unable to provide for myself.
I am fully aware that in many super sexy, super male-centered pornography, sex is portrayed as a man thrusting roughly and repetitively, while grunting, and dominating the woman beneath him. Invariably in this pornography, we see the woman moaning and writhing and seemingly enjoying it like nothing else she’s ever experienced. I do not know about other real girls other than myself. Maybe many men have encountered many women who truly enjoy saying hello, and then having a his big dick thrust inside them almost immediately with little foreplay or buildup. Maybe such sex makes them crumble into the best orgasm of their lives every time.
Unfortunately, that is not me. I am not a pornography. I am a real human being who is unfortunately a bit more complex than that. When I have sex with someone—and this goes for casual sex, too—I like to know that they are paying attention to me, that the foreplay is not just a means to an end, one that leads to pleasure for them and a mess for me. If all he is interested in is quickly reaching the point where his dick is inside me and he doesn’t want to think about much other than how great said dick feels, then alas, we are truly not compatible.
If I’m not in the mood to pay attention to the nuances of the sexual experience, to the motions and words and subtle passes of another person, I stay home and I get myself off. It’s much simpler and has no baggage, and allows me to be completely selfish. For this reason, I expect that someone else having sex with me wants to actually be having sex with me as a human being, not as simply a receptacle or means of getting off.
I love sex and all things associated. I don’t mind the mess or the inevitable clumsiness; the awkward sounds, the embarrassing mishaps, the weirdness of figuring out someone else and what they love and hate. I would consider myself very sex driven; however, this is not synonymous with simply thrusting and coming. Sex to me means everything culminating to the orgasm, if any. That means that I believe in kissing and touching and licking and groping and biting and everything in between, at varying intensities and speeds that can vary from time to time and even moment to moment. But even before all of that, and arguably more importantly, sex to me means paying attention to the person you’re having sex with, asking questions, and checking in. It means being acommodating and empathetic and generous and sympathetic and patient and kind. It means telling someone in a kind and patient and respectful and sexy way what exactly works, and what doesn’t, and trusting that they will do the same for you to make it your best experience yet. It means caring about what that person is excited by, scared of, or interested in; in what, for them, feels great other than just coming.
What I don’t believe is in interpreting “no” for “yes.” That is never the case for me. If I tell you coyly, “not yet, I want to tease you,” about anything, or swat your hand away from doing something you’re about to do, that isn’t me inviting you to challenge or dominate me. That is me being polite and sexy about enacting my own consent. That is not an invitation to try again in two minutes or question my motives or desires, and should never, ever be interpreted as such. There is a distinct difference in someone earnestly expressing frustration or impatience out of respect, desire and inquiry, and doing so out of self-absorption.
I know that this seems verbose, unnecessary, and quite possibly stressful, but really it doesn’t amount to much more than a description of how important it is to simply pay attention. No need to know everything someone does or does not like or want. No need to obsess over or complain about the “blurred lines.” If you have to wonder if something is a blurred line, it probably is. But, just in case, you can always ask. It’s okay to talk and check in and not try to make everything the most quintessentially romantic, wordless, flawless, sexy thing you could ever imagine. That’s not really attainable anyway. The heavy breathing and moaning in lifetime movies and Showtime shows is overrated anyway. Sometimes caring really is the most sexy thing you can do.
You will never be let down by anyone
more than you will be let down
by the one you love most in the world
it’s how gravity works
it’s why they call it “falling”
it’s why the truth is harder to tell
you have more to lose
but you can choose to bury your past
in the garden
beside the tulips
until it’s so alive
it lets go
and you belong to yourself
When you belong to yourself again
is not a tidy grave
It is a ready loyal knight kneeling before your royal heart
Call in your royal heart
Tell it bravery cannot be measured by a lack of fear
It takes guts to tremble
It takes so much tremble to love
Every first date is a fucking earth quake
Sweetheart, on our first date
I showed off all my therapy
I flaunted the couch
Where I finally sweat out my history
Pulled out the photo album from the last time I wore a lie to the school dance
I smiled and said “that was never my style
Look how fixed I am
Look how there’s no more drywall on my fist
Look at the stilts I’ve carved for my short temper
Look how my wrist is not something I have to hide” I said
Well I was hiding it
The telephone pole still down from the storm
By our third date I had fixed the line
I said listen,
I have a hard time
I mean I cry as often as most people pee and I don’t shut the door behind me
I’ll be up in your face screaming “SEATTLE IS TOO RAINY SEATTLE IS TOO RAINY
IM NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO LIVE HERE.”
I sobbed on our fourth date
I can’t live here
In my body, I mean
I can’t live in my body all the time it feels too much
So if I ever feel far away know I am not gone
I am just underneath my grief
Adjusting the dial on my radio face so I can take this life with all of its love and all of its loss
See I already know that you are the place where I am finally going to sing without any static meaning
I’m never gonna wait
that extra twenty minutes
to text you back,
and I’m never gonna play
hard to get
when I know your life
has been hard enough already.
When we all know everyone’s life
has been hard enough already
it’s hard to watch
the game we make of love,
like everyone’s playing checkers
with their scars,
whenever they get out
without a broken heart.
Just to be clear
I don’t want to get out
without a broken heart.
I intend to leave this life
there’s gonna have to be
a thousand separate heavens
for all of my separate parts
And none of those parts are going to be wearing the romance from the overpriced vintage rack
That is to say I am not going to get a single speed bike if I can’t make it up the hill
I know exactly how many gears I’m going to need to love you well
And none of them look hip at the hot coffee shop
They all have God saying “good job you’re finally not full of bullshit”
You finally met someone who’s going to flatten your knee caps into skipping stones
Baby, throw me
Throw me as far as I can go
I don’t want to leave this life without ever having come home
And I want to come home to you
I can figure out the rain