What Women Want

Own your de­sires

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

If we want to end sex­ual vi­o­lence, we need to talk about fe­male de­sire. It might seem strange to be talk­ing about plea­sure when we are sur­rounded by sto­ries of rape and ha­rass­ment. But, hon­estly, the worst men – and the worst lovers – I’ve known, were the ones who didn’t un­der­stand that women also want things from sex. That sex is not sim­ply some­thing we give to men – or some­thing men take from us. These were the men who com­mented, with a mix­ture of sur­prise and re­vul­sion, on how much I ac­tu­ally seemed to en­joy the sex we had, how I acted as though we were sex­ual equals, as though my own de­sire mat­tered – and how un­usual that was. I’ve never known what to say to that. I’ve never known whether to pity their ig­no­rance or worry about the other women they’ve been with. About how those women may have felt forced to deny their de­sire, to keep their sex­ual agency se­cret, even in bed. Stud­ies show that women want sex just as much as men do – but we’re of­ten afraid of the con­se­quences of say­ing so. The story that’s told about how women should be­have sex­u­ally is one of hes­i­tancy, of sub­mis­sion, of wait­ing for the man to make the first moves. In fact, ca­jol­ing a woman into sex is con­sid­ered “nor­mal”. Good sex is about more than lack of vi­o­lence or fear. But there are still too many peo­ple out there who be­lieve that it is enough for sex to not be painful or fright­en­ing for a woman. One study showed that 32 per­cent of var­sityaged men said they would com­mit or had com­mit­ted acts of vi­o­lence against women that courts would de­scribe as rape, but when asked if they’d ever rape a woman, said no. This is rape cul­ture. Non-con­sen­sual sex is nor­malised and, as long as we don’t call it rape, tol­er­ated. There are still very few so­ci­eties that are truly com­fort­able with women hav­ing sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive agency – in other words, the right to choose when and if and how we have sex and when and if and how we have chil­dren. This is sex­ual re­pres­sion and we must fight it. We must also fight against in­ter­nal­is­ing it. The con­se­quences of ca­pit­u­lat­ing to what our bod­ies seem to want – whether it be an or­gasm or a slice of cake – are made very clear to girls long be­fore pu­berty turns up the dial on de­sire. We must not be too hun­gry, too horny, too greedy for any­thing in life or we will be­come un­de­sir­able. Women who eat too much, talk too much, shag too much – women who want too much – will face shame, stigma and os­tracism. When you’ve learnt to be sus­pi­cious of your own ap­petites, it takes time to treat your­self and your body with more kind­ness. It’s hard to be hon­est with any­one else about our sex­ual de­sires when “slut” is still one of the worst things you can call a woman, when women who openly en­joy or seek out sex are shamed for it, and men who do the same are cel­e­brated – even at­trac­tive? For women and queer peo­ple, for any­one whose sex­u­al­ity has been treated as ab­nor­mal and pun­ished – and par­tic­u­larly for those who’ve sur­vived sex­ual vi­o­lence – it can be very hard to be hon­est about what we might want in bed, even with our­selves. That’s al­right. It’s okay not to know what you want, as long as you know that it’s okay to want. This isn’t go­ing to change overnight. I’ve had more pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences than neg­a­tive ones when I in­sisted on mak­ing my de­sires clear. Be­ing able to ask for what you want is the first step to­wards sex­ual lib­er­a­tion. The sort that works for ev­ery­one.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.