The Truth About Sex

This isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but it is an important one.

The truth about sex is that it often really isn’t as great as everyone would like us to believe. And not having it or not wanting it are completely normal.

I don’t remember a time when sex was ever not a source of anxiety for me. Whether it was anxiety about whether to do it, when to do it, how to do it, not wanting to do it but not having a choice, wanting to do it but afraid of being rejected, being judged for doing it. It has also been a great source of guilt and shame.

Popular opinion is that couples should have sex all the time, that sex is vital for healthy relationships, that if one partner won’t oblige the other and provide them with sex, the other has a right to leave or cheat or generally act like a selfish jerk.

‘Sexperts’ agree that the only bad sex is no sex, that women should be open to trying things their partners suggest even if it makes them uncomfortable, that sex involving pain and violence is more normal and healthy than not having sex at all. They recommend that if you aren’t enjoying sex you should try doing it more often. They advocate ‘taking one for the team’, which is a polite way of saying that women should allow their male partners to have sex with them even if they don’t want it. They support men coercing women into unwanted sex by reminding women how much men ‘need’ sex and that doing it when you don’t want to is just another part of caring for a man, which is a woman’s job, after all.

To ‘spice things up’ in the bedroom we are encouraged to use toys, food, restraints, fantasies, porn. Experimentation and adventurousness are encouraged ahead of kindness and respect. The default position is that men are always up for it and women should always be available and provide an outlet when called upon. That sex begins when the man initiates and ends when he ejaculates, and everything in between focuses on his pleasure. That women are probably not into it, but do it anyway.

It is easy to believe the experts when the party line suits your agenda. It is easy to listen to the few people who get to talk openly about sex in our society and just go along with what they say without really thinking about it. What is takes courage is asking yourself why you feel like you do, and who this promotion of sex really serves.

Have a poke around the internet and see how many women post exasperated accounts of how their husband expects sex even when she is exhausted or not interested or in actual physical pain. All the men who are quite happy to have sex with an unwilling spouse. Then read responses from all the men, and a lot of women, who pop in to explain that all men are biologically hardwired to need sex and she is being cruel to him by denying him this need and she shouldn’t expect him to support her and her (his?) children if she won’t put out. There is an epidemic of it. Women are expected to be available, no matter the circumstances, and men are expected to be willing, all the time.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reasons most people in relationships have sex have nothing to do with ‘because we enjoy it’ and ‘because I love my partner’. I suspect that a lot of the unspoken, unadmitted reasons are more like ‘because that is what women are for’, ‘because it validates my masculinity and dominance’, ‘because I am entitled to it’, ‘because if I say no he might not like me any more’, ‘because it proves that I look good enough for someone to have sex with’, ‘because he earns more money and this is how I earn my keep’, ‘because we are married and it is my duty’, ‘because it makes me feel like I am valuable’, ‘because sex is an important part of a healthy relationship and by having sex I can lie to myself that this relationship is in any way ‘healthy”.

Admitting these things to yourself can be downright impossible. Suggesting them to someone else is a recipe for disaster.

If you really want to know why you have sex, ask yourself how it feels when a) you want to have sex and your partner doesn’t, or b) your partner wants to have sex, but you don’t. Ask yourself why you respond like you do.

Do you get mad? Depressed? Resentful? Do you feel ugly or unsexy or pathetic?

If you get angry or resentful when your partner turns you down, then you probably have sex because you feel entitled to it or because it reinforces your position of power. If you feel bad about yourself when your partner turns you down, then perhaps you have sex because it validates your value in society as a sex object and makes you feel like you are suitably attractive. If you feel lost or confused or ashamed then it might be that you are simply motivated by adhering to your conditioned gender role and the prescribed sexual behaviour that goes with being ‘man’ or ‘woman’. If you feel depressed then possibly the perceived rejection is messing with your perception of your self.

Here’s the thing. Not having sex is not a problem. If someone not having sex with you feels like a problem, then that is your problem, not theirs. Nobody should ever have sex for any reason than because they want to. And nobody should be made to feel bad for not wanting to.

I had a woman tell me once that by saying women should not ever have sex unless they genuinely want to, I was denying women the right to have children, the protection and economic benefits of relationships with men, and status within society. It made me very sad to realise that there are people – women even – who believe that women should pay for ‘status’ and ‘protection’ with our unwilling bodies.

You can have a healthy relationship without sex, all you need is love and care and respect. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is anything wrong with you for not wanting sex. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are abnormal or damaged or inhibited. And if you are a fan of sex with other people, don’t go around expressing an opinion that only weirdos don’t want sex. That is you impressing your beliefs of what you think other adults should or shouldn’t do with their bodies, which is never your place.

It is hard to undo the training that society bombards us with from such a young age, that is perpetuated by pop culture, ‘sexperts’ and the expectations of others. You absolutely have every right to not have sex if you don’t want to, to say no at any time, to anybody, and not suffer any consequences as a result.

For many women, however, saying ‘no’ is not a safe option, and leaving a man who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer is not always a safe option. For those of us who do have the freedom to decide what we do with our own bodies, we need to perpetuate and promote the idea that nobody is owed sex and real consent comes from being free, safe and able to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ at any time without fear of negative consequences. That nobody needs, deserves or is entitled to sex with another person. That nobody should ever have sex for any reason than because they want to, and not wanting to is just as normal and healthy as wanting to.

Women Who ‘Really Love’ Sex

I’ve been watching the promotion of ‘choice feminism’ and reading all the women who talk about how much they love sex and love sucking dick and swallowing cum and how liberating and empowering that is for them. I read comments from women who are all ‘yeah, I love sex, why shouldn’t a woman be allowed to fuck whoever she wants, whenever she wants and not get shamed for it?’ One even said ‘I love being eye candy for men to masturbate to’. And they claim to do all this sexual servicing of men ‘for themselves’ and ‘because I love it’ and they even believe that what they are doing is actually feminist.

The thing with ‘choice feminism’ and sex-positivity, is that they are all about choosing to be sexually available and choosing to present yourself and circulate your image for the facilitation of male sexual gratification. But when it comes to women who choose not to do these things – you know, for themselves – suddenly it becomes apparent that not all  choice is seen by libfems as ‘feminist’ or ’empowering’.

The idea that feminism can encompass two opposite viewpoints puzzles me. Feminism has one end goal, one focal point, and that is the liberation of women from male oppression, a concept that is often abbreviated to ‘equality’ and can lose a little in the translation. Somewhere along the line this concept became bastardised, and now there is a whole movement that calls itself feminism and whose one policy is that ‘women can choose to do whatever they want’, and in the act of ‘choosing’ their actions become ‘feminist’.

So this policy of ‘choice’ has led to patriarchal society devoting itself to encouraging women to ‘choose’ actions that further subjugate women and empower men. Women telling other women that being sexually available for men or presenting yourself in the sexualised manner that men enjoy is ’empowering’ is one of the neat tricks that patriarchy employs.

Suggesting to women who have found a way to feel important and valued by the patriarchy that their ‘freely chosen’ choice to have lots of sex with men is not an act of feminism gets a similar reaction to when you suggest to men that their video games or porn might not be just harmless fun. They get very angry, very quickly.

They will assure you that you are just repressed, uptight, need to get laid, haven’t met the right man, call you a prude, a pearl-clutcher, anti-sex, and so on. They won’t ever look at exactly who gains from them offering themselves up to facilitate male sexual pleasure.

Many of you will think well, if that is what they are into, sex can be fun, women can enjoy no-strings sex, why should we be limited to sex within the confines of a relationship, or with a limited number of partners? Some of you may even think ‘but I love sex, and I don’t want the hassle of a relationship, so what is wrong with having as much sex as I want with whoever I want?’.

My answer is always that there is nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality in a way that suits you. But I have read so many stories from women who decided to become ‘sexually liberated’ and ended up feeling used. Who started to feel regret after every hook-up. Who felt that they were losing a part of themselves by being sexually available.

I was once, and not so long ago, of the opinion that there was no such thing as too much sex. I would have happily done it every day. The more I had the more I wanted. So when I found myself in a relationship with someone with an ‘I can take it or leave it’ attitude towards sex, things got… well… difficult…

I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say I did not always behave well in response to being given the cold shoulder. And as someone who has been on the other end of the situation, I had a lot of conflict to deal with. But when, after… well… a couple of years… I came to realise that I did not NEED sex (just like I have been saying that men do not NEED sex), and I had no right to try to manipulate a person into having sex with me, which was essentially what I was doing, I was finally able to be critical of what I had previously assumed.

I had completely absorbed the idea that my value was linked to whether or not  men saw me as a sexual object. The accepted ‘norm’ within a heterosexual relationship is that the man ‘requires’ sex and he desires it from his partner, who is thus made desirable and useful. She has something of value, something he wants, and he seeks to obtain it from her. Women are ruthlessly programmed to want to be desirable and useful, to feel valuable when men want to have sex with us. It makes us feel ‘good enough’.

After being in relationships or being lusted after by various boys my entire life, I remember being greatly disturbed by the realisation that I was not aware of a single man who wanted to have sex with me. That was when I turned to online dating for the first time. I was proud of my ‘sexyness’ but being sexy means nothing if there isn’t a man there to tell you you’re doing it right.

At that stage of my life I was careful. I always chose who got to access to me. I had ‘standards’. I felt powerful. But I was not. I was an interchangeable body in a situation where any willing female of a certain body type will do.

Unshackling my identity and my self worth from my vision of myself as ‘fuckable’ was sometimes akin to an exorcism. And if I had not been so aware of the dynamics I was involved in, an awareness made possible by my understanding of patriarchal culture and radical feminism, I am sure that I would have become increasingly resentful of my partner and left him to find a man who would be more appreciative of a woman who ‘really loves sex’. There are many men out there who would love to get their hands on a woman who thinks there is power in being sexually available. And knowing what I know now, I would not want to be in the hands of any of them.

After many years with my ex, who thought that having sex with me whenever he wanted was a right that I had to oblige, the level of enthusiasm that I required in order to act like I was consenting was somewhere between ‘disgust’ and ‘ambivalence’.  Yet any time that I sensed that he was losing his desire for me would also lead to anxiety, fear that there must be something wrong with me or that he was getting it somewhere else. I wonder how many women out there have sex with their partners simply because getting it over with is better than putting up with his whining. Who say ‘yes’, or at least, who don’t say ‘no’, because they know that the only way he will let them get on with their lives is to let him do what he wants right now. But who, at the same time, would be suspicious or anxious if their partner suddenly stopped showing interest.

So going from that to meeting men I was actually attracted to, with whom sex was actually enjoyable, was a shock to the system. Now anything above ambivalence was my equivalent of ‘desire’, and actual desire was overwhelming. I was ill-equipped for the surge of adrenaline that came with it. My judgement was clouded. I found that I could do this thing and enjoy it and be praised for it and have my body admired and it was intoxicating. I became willing to compromise myself for it. I did things I didn’t really want to do, and told myself I should want to do them, in order to obtain more of that gratification, to validate myself, to feel important. In the quest for empowerment through sex, I began to give up my power.

Because when you are seen as an unlimited source of something that men feel entitled to, they are probably not going to be very forgiving if one day you say ‘no’. And deep down you know that they will only keep respecting your lack of boundaries as long as you keep saying ‘yes’.

I know now that I am worth more than the pleasure I can provide to men. That my sexuality is not an asset I can trade with. That my body is not a commodity. That the freedom to have sex or not have sex and be treated EXACTLY THE SAME either way  is a rare and precious gift. And increasingly, I am leaning to the side of not having sex.

That’s right. When given a choice, when I have the same power, the same agency, whether I have sex or not, it really is easier and simpler not to.

So I am skeptical of women who claim to ‘love sex’ simply because that is ‘who they are’. Who are resistant to the idea that maybe they have convinced themselves that ambivalence is enthusiasm because men make it worth their while to do so. Who are resistant to the idea that if there was no social benefit to being sexually available, if they weren’t praised and elevated as some sort of ‘better woman’ for claiming to love the D, they might admit to themselves that the D really isn’t that great.

I’m not saying don’t have sex. I’m not saying don’t show skin. I really am not ‘telling women what to do’. I’m saying that internalised misogyny is called that because you don’t realise you have it. I’m saying that claiming to love sex and love servicing men sexually is not the pinnacle of being a woman. I’m saying that trashing women who are critical of your claim that you innately love sex and that sex empowers you is not good for women in general. I’m saying that even if you suck all the dicks in the world, men will still be in charge, and they’ll still see you as a hole to stick their dick in.

Bragging about your sexual availability doesn’t help women. Telling other women how great it is to be sexually available doesn’t help women. These things benefit men. All women should be able to have sex for no other reason than because they want to. Not because there are social benefits. Not because there might be consequences if they don’t. And not because they believe they are worth more if men want to have sex with them.

 

 

Can We Reacquaint Sex With Love in a Porn-Filled Society?

I think it was Dr Karl who said something recently that has stuck with me and (somewhat ironically) influenced every idea I have had lately.

He said that people are hugely susceptible to the power of suggestion. That to see or hear or read something is to have it affect us in some way. That this is the reason why people whose surnames are associated with occupations are more likely to take up those occupations.

Bear this in mind as you navigate our media-ravaged, hypersexualised society. There is nothing that you see or hear that does not affect you in some way.

I personally avoid a lot of mainstream media. I started doing this several years ago and I think it has greatly affected the way I see the world and myself. I think it has made it much easier for me to sift through the so-called requirements of ‘Being a Woman’ and cast aside the things that I was doing primarily for the benefit of men. I let my body hair grow. I wear my hair short. I wear comfortable clothes and no make-up. I expect the males in my family to capably contribute to maintaining the home and feeding everyone.

But when it came to building a healthy sex life in a new relationship, after years of abuse and degradation, I found that there were many things that were very difficult to let go of. The idea of needing to be desired sexually, to be attractive enough, to be sexy enough. Even though I am aware of the fact that my sexual desirability does not correlate with my value as a person, I still hear that little voice say ‘what’s wrong with me? Am I not feminine enough?’. Even though I know that my partner’s level of sexual interest in me is not an indication of how much he loves me, that voice still asks ‘why is he even with me?’.

Many radical feminists came to the game late, already laden with the trappings of a life within the patriarchy. Namely, men and children, but also things like mortgages and low-paid careers in ‘traditionally female’ occupations. Some took their new-found feminist perspective and removed toxic men from their lives. But some of us are invested in situations that we hope we can salvage and integrate into our feminist lives. Some of us, for better or worse, actually love our men. Some of us have been lucky enough to find fairly decent ones who treat us like actual people, rather than free labour and sex objects.

We live in a world where sex is for men. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of that. The fact that most porn is directed at men is the most telling. That most prostituted people are for the consumption of men. That so many products are produced with the intent of making women more attractive for men. Women are sexualised everywhere you turn. And at the same time, girls learn early on that a woman’s purpose is to please and serve men. We are told how to look, how to smell, how to act.

We fall into a ridiculous conundrum where we are meant to put an enormous amount of effort into being as visually pleasing to men as possible, as well as being perpetually sexually available, yet we are expected at the very same time to look natural and not have ‘too much’ sex. It’s almost as though we are meant to constantly be in a state of confusion and doubt, like we are being set up to fail no matter what we do.

So sex, for women, is something we should always be willing to have, but never want.

And sex for men is something they should always want. And if they can’t get as much as they want, they need to try harder. And if they don’t want it all the time, there must be something wrong with them.

And amongst all this absurdity, some of us set the goal of achieving a healthy sex life.

I can only comment on what I know. I won’t go into what it is like from a male perspective, as that is not my story to tell, but I will go as far as to say that it is also tough for men who feel that they don’t approach sex like a ‘proper man’. That they too suffer from those little voices that tell them that they aren’t good enough because they don’t fit the narrow stereotype of aggressive masculine sexuality that men are sold.

We all know about this thing called consent. But there are two main problems with the concept. The first is that consent assumes that both parties are negotiating on an equal footing, which is very uncommon in a world where men have established a position of power. The other is that consent is basically an expression of ‘yes, you can’. It still focuses on letting someone do something to you.

Sex has become something that one person does to another. If you don’t believe me, consider the language commonly used to describe sexual activity. Men talk about ‘getting girls’, ‘banging chicks’, ‘getting laid’. The goal is to convince a woman to let him do things to her. It is not a two-way street. The woman is not so much a participant, as a tool for facilitating a man’s pleasure. How she feels about it is not important, as long as she doesn’t say no.

Consent should not be asking for permission, but an invitation to participate. Not ‘can I?’ or ‘will you?’, but ‘would you like to?’ or ‘why don’t we?’.

A genuinely equal sexual encounter is one where the emphasis is on experiencing pleasure with someone, not doing something to them or having them do something to you. There should be care and consideration between participants, whether you are long-term lovers or relative strangers. You should be there for the benefit of both of you, not just for yourself.

Those who think the key to a healthy sex life is ‘variety’, performing more and more extreme sex acts, are probably going to find that these things won’t keep them interested for long. They will always be chasing the next thrill.

I think that there is sufficient challenge in achieving mutual respect, focusing on mutual pleasure and enjoying another person not just for what they do to you or what they let you do to them, but for just being there. I think that learning to let go of your insecurities and quiet that nuisance voice takes more practise and presence than mastering the perfect hand job. That being conscious of your partner and being present and experiencing the sensations rather than going through the motions is part of the key to achieving  a more satisfying sex life.

We know that when the body craves food and you feed it junk, it is never satisfied. What a hungry body is asking for is nutrients, not calories. Until you feed it those nutrients, all the calories in the world won’t satisfy it. But it takes practise, and a lot of eating good food, to understand what your body is asking for. I think sex is kind of the same. When a person craves intimacy, pleasure and respect and but binges on porn or mindless, self-centred sex, that hole will never be filled. They might think that more of the same will satisfy them, but it just takes them further and further out of touch with themselves and with others.

It is not easy. Especially when you have to untrain all those years of shame and resignation and let go of how you think you should feel. First you have to realise that loving sex is the opposite of what mainstream media tells us sex should be. There is no domination, no conquest, no violence, no degradation. There is respect and kindness and consideration. There is ease and enjoyment. But with time you can separate yourself from the pornsick hivemind. And how everyone else is doing it won’t be of the slightest interest to you.