Just a few (500!) words on the discussion of sex that has spilled out from the Aziz Ansari Babe article.
The story has encouraged a lot of women to open up about their experiences of sex.
The bad experiences of sex.
The sex where you play a part: the role of the quietly-passionate-entirely-willing-everything-feels-good-woman. You stay quiet when you’re not feeling pleasure, you go along with what they ask for or you anticipate what you think they want. Even if you don’t enjoy the sex, even if the sex is not what you want at all.
I identify with this sex, particularly from my twenties when I was even more insecure and still trying to be perfect. Most of the women I know identify with this kind of sex in varying degrees, from one-sided to aggressive. I may be projecting but I would say that for a lot of women every experience of sex contains some elements of ‘bad sex’. I don’t think that can change until we start talking.
Sex for me, and maybe most women, is mostly about the other person’s expectations. Not necessarily a bad thing… except… that often I used to strive to meet their expectations above and beyond my comfort. I learnt from godknowswhere (everywhere I suppose) not to have expectations and that my feelings come a distant second. Trying to talk about sex seemed to ruin the moment or cause an argument, often because men, despite the laddish stereotype, don’t actually talk about sex very often and it makes them uncomfortable. Their discomfort did matter, so I stopped trying.
Not all kisses are magical and most boys don't live up to your expectations, but there are those times when everything, I mean love, romance, relationships, it all falls together perfectly and it's incredible.
Joey, Dawson's Creek
I remember watching Dawson’s Creek and other teen TV when I was at school. Those representations of teen sex and how close the two people seemed, their faces staring into each other. Sex seemed so sweet and intimate and connected. Instead, I found that sex was more of an interior monologue that drowned everything out and carried me away from the person I wanted to be close to.
Even now, the voice says please them, make them feel good, protect their ego, seem ardent but not too slutty and stay quiet. But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that it’s a man’s voice. It took a long time, good friends and a great honest relationship for me to be brave and voice my feelings even when I didn’t know how to phrase them. Every comment sounded like a criticism. I had to rewire my brain so as not to see my desires as detracting from but adding to the experience.
Other women’s stories make me feel like I’m watching a movie and I’m shouting at the screen- ‘TALK TO EACH OTHER!!?!’ If only the two people weren’t so scared to say how they feel. It seems SO SIMPLE. I know how hard it is to speak up, no matter how secure and happy you are. I still can’t untangle what made me feel thatI had to behave that way during sex, but I am not giving up hope that if we can create such powerful social forces to hold us still and quiet then maybe we can create social forces that do the opposite and turn monologues into dialogues.
(And if I’m holding back, what are the men wishing they could say??)
If you haven’t yet read the Babe article on Ansari and ‘Grace’, read it here.
Also Cup of Jo has a great round up of different articles about the situation, here.
For more on this topic listen to the most recent Pantsuit Politicsepisode and then there will be more from the amazing Beth and Sarah on the issue in The Nuanced Lifethis week.