There’s something I have been feeling quite passionate about for a long time, something I however wouldn’t have felt comfortable sharing on this blog merely a year ago: the stigma around women having sex and (god forbid) even enjoying it. It’s laughable how contradictory our generation truly is when it comes to sex; We pride ourselves on being the progressive generation, the one that is open and honest about sex-based topics. Yet when it comes down to it, a lot of us – mainly women – are still too afraid to admit that we have sex, enjoy sex and heck, even crave sex.*
*Take a shot every time you read sex.
Recently I had the pleasure of contributing to an article by Laura, a fellow blogger who doesn’t shy away from having open discussions about all things dating, love, sex and society. 5 women reveal their best and worst sex; That was the title of the article (which you should totally read by the way). When Laura contacted me and asked if I would be willing to share my own experiences, my immediate reaction was pure excitement. My second was doubt. I knew that I wanted to be part of Laura’s article yet I was still hesitant on whether or not I should actually do it, mainly out of fear of judgement and worry that I could be regarded as uncouth or unrefined.
The reason behind my decision to 1) contribute to Laura’s article and 2) finally share my thoughts on this topic is that I realised I had been unconsciously feeding into that stigma I loath so much by NOT writing / talking about it.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to maintain some privacy. In fact, I believe some things should remain private; That some things are purely meant for my partner and I to share and know. And I will always retain that stance. That’s the beauty of intimacy: sharing vulnerable moments with someone and forgetting what exists beyond your four walls. No fear of judgement, no self-consciousness – in these moments we let go of that mindset and of our diffidence. Just pure, raw intimacy. How very beautiful indeed… definitely something that we need to treasure.
There have been, however, plenty of situations in my teenage and adult life where I have wanted to talk about sex and some aspects of my sex life (surprise! I am not some sexless female!). Yet something always held me back from sharing too much; Shame, embarrassment, fear… Regardless of with friends, family, or with all of you on this blog, there was always this sense of hesitation and questioning how much I could truly share without being judged or being told that it was TMI (too much information). Sex and shame is one of the most harmful combinations out there, one I have definitely been guilty of harboring in the past.
Women desire sex as well
“I miss sex” is something I revealed to a friend not too long ago. An admission that I was terrified of making because I felt like for the most part nobody (and by that I mean no women) ever openly confesses that they crave sex. And talking about female masturbation? Unthinkable. All of this despite it being proven that, on average, women think about sex 18,6 times a day. Although this number is merely half of the amount that men think about sex per day, it shows that (surprise again!) plenty of women want, crave and need sex too. So why is it that women feel the need to act as if they don’t?
Most women have been subject to hearing about all about men’s need for sex from the time we hit puberty. “Men only want one thing” is a phrase most of us probably heard countless times while growing up. Besides stereotyping males, this wide-spread saying solidifies society’s idea that sex is something purely craved and initiated by men and not the other way around. It is a harmful message that enforces (from a very young age) the notion that it is somehow “wrong” of girls to feel regular lust, shameful of women to crave sex and that, above everything, we shouldn’t admit that our sex drive can be just as strong as mens’.
As someone who as been single for a while now, I am no stranger to longer periods without any ~fun sexy time~. I am in the same boat as my single male friends but the inhibition I myself and countless of other women feel while talking about our desire/need to maintain a healthy sex life is significantly lessened, if not almost absent, when it comes to men. I am amazed at the ease with which some men discuss their need for sex, their own experiences and even masturbation. For them it is a topic like any other, easy-breezy chitchat that most of us females hardly ever engage in. If we do, it is done in hushed tones and with half embarrassed, half apologetic smiles.
Female sexuality remains a taboo
The well-known drinking game Never Have I Ever was a nightmare of a situation for me in my teens. More often than not, the topic of masturbation would soon be approached. Never have I ever masturbated in the last 5 days. My thought pattern always followed the same pattern: do I admit it or do I lie? More often than not, I would not drink that round. Instead, I curiously watched the other girls in the room. While almost all boys drank generously, even laughing and joking around, most girls seemed visibly uncomfortable and refrained from drinking and consequently admitting to self-pleasure – just as I did.
Never will I forget the silence when a friend of mine decided to come clean: “Actually, I masturbated this morning”. All heads snapped to her direction. The boys who loudly making masturbation jokes just a second before had fallen silent. The judgement on everyones faces proved: a lot of women who talk about their sex lives (with the same openness as men) are still frowned upon.
Despite living in a sex-dominated society, a large chunk of people still cover their ears, their faces reflecting disgust and disbelief at the thought of a woman having sex or self-pleasuring. A woman having sex is bad enough, a women enjoying sex is even worse. Even women are guilty of promoting the mindset that harms them so much. We unconsciously hold biases towards sexually active women while giving men free passes for the same behavior because “boys will be boys”. After all, women are just as likely to slut shame women as men are.
Sex is part of most of our entertainment outlets, we are surrounded by it constantly. It is in the SIMS games we played when we were younger, the TV shows and films we watch regularly and splattered across newspapers and magazines daily. Women having and enjoying sex in entertainment has been normalised, so why is it that this hasn’t fully translated into the real world?
We have to tackle the sexual pleasure gap
A fascinating article by UnHerd discusses the age-old question if men truly have a higher sex drive than women. Featured are quotes by various men, all claiming something along the line of “women do not enjoy sex” or do not do so as much as they do. “Women may CLAIM to like sex, but you really don’t” one man states. Another quote reads “I have yet to meet a hetero woman who enthusiastically participates in sex”. These comments were met with heavy criticism – and rightly so. Buddy, I hate to break it to you but maybe you just haven’t met a hetero woman who enthusiastically participated in sex WITH YOU.
Despite the great advances in gender equality, female sexuality still remains a taboo. To this day female sexuality is underlined by the outdated notion that women should be pure; That a woman engaging in regular sex is promiscuous, that reaching a certain number means she is a slut or that it somehow doesn’t make her “girlfriend / wife material”.
We need to get past this stigma by collectively fostering an environment in which women feel they can talk about their sex-lives without shame or fear of judgement.This is not about pushing women to share intimate details they would rather keep to themselves. It is about the creation of an environment in which women feel comfortable enough to express their sexuality freely if they want to. And the first step towards this is acknowledgement: All of us – women included – have to acknowledge female sexuality. A woman wanting / craving / needing / initiating / enjoying sex should not be abnormal or shamed. It is neither uncouth, nor unrefined to admit to having a sex life and enjoying it.