Content Notice for detailed accounts of sexual unpleasantry and mentions of sexual assault. For the sake of this post, “men” are “people categorized as straight men by society” and “us” are “people not seen as men by society.”
An ex of mine, who is otherwise a decent person, didn’t believe me when I told him that I didn’t want flowers. How absurd! All women want flowers, even the ones who say they don’t. Here, have the flowers that you want. And I had to stop protesting and accept the flowers because who complains about getting flowers? When he asked, I told him I dried and kept them for posterity, because I figured out that he would only hear what he wanted to hear. Years later, a man told me he didn’t understand why Jessica Jones was “such a bitch” about Killgrave doing something nice for her, like acquiring her childhood home and refurbishing it for her.
The sexual context is no different when it comes to men demanding we not only not ask for what we want, but also gratefully accept what they want to give us.
When we talk about what happens when we get into bed with men, no matter how jokingly or seriously, we get told to “just tell them”. Orgasm gap? What orgasm gap? Just tell them! Put on your “big girl panties” and ask for what you want! Walk away with your middle fingers raised in the air if they don’t do what you want! Communicate!
Yet communicating my wants has never been my issue. I spoke, and spoke, and spoke, through my many pants-less encounters with men. How much I spoke didn’t matter when the only one listening was me.
I like sex.
Early on in my sexual life, I said as many variations of this as was possible to all potential partners. I acted like it, too, because it was true. I was a repressed Muslim virgin who had never been kissed and had been utterly convinced that I was too fat to be allowed to even give a blowjob to a man, until I was suddenly 18 and horny and on the non-swipey version of dating sites, talking to men near and far.
Not only did they deign me message-able, they told me they would have sex. With me.
I was delighted. I was excited! I wanted to get down, and I told them so.
In response, they said they were horny. They were so excited to meet a woman who wanted sex as much as a man did. They had issues with past girlfriends, frigid bitch exes who didn’t want sex as much as they did. They were all smirks and erections.
Until we actually got down to it a few times, and the game was over. They seemed emasculated by anything I said, no matter how kindly or sweetly. I asked them to have sex too much. I asked for them to do too much. I was too wild, too experimental. Was I sure I was as inexperienced as I said I was?
I Just Want Sex
When my first and only monogamous relationship ended, I decided I wanted to have sex with as many men as it took to forget how my first boyfriend felt. It felt so good that, long after I needed the promiscuity to keep the grief of losing my first loving romantic relationship at bay, I kept going.
I was always straightforward about what I wanted. I spoke sometimes seriously and sometimes jokingly, but always matter-of-factly: It was strictly sex.
They didn’t care what I said. Afterwards, it was all about what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a relationship. I didn’t want to cuddle. I didn’t want breakfast the next morning. I didn’t want to date them. I didn’t want to stay over if I didn’t have to. How dare I.
Don’t Stop, Keep Going
Positive feedback and reinforcement is the solution, you say?
Facebook post, Fall 2017: After-dark type question for men who have sex with people with vaginas: We the latter group commiserate with each other about the following scenario, which occurs altogether too often. What gives?????
Me: *during non-PiV/PiA* “Right there, yes, don’t stop, just like that, keep going, exactly like that…”
Dude: *changes up the thing he’s doing*
Me: *has blue clit*
(Keep in mind I only started saying stuff like that, the precise urging, because without it, dudes in general don’t keep a steady rhythm and escalate/change things up too much for me to cum.)
Reply: When you become conscious that you’re doing something, it’s harder to deliberately do it.
Reply: “This is the best thing, please continue” leads to physical reactions from the requester which alter body mechanics in such a way that makes continuing the thing difficult or perhaps temporarily impossible.
Reply: It’s like thinking about walking. One might walk a certain way subconsciously, and as soon as they’re told “Yes! Walk exactly specifically just like that” it suddenly becomes harder to walk that way deliberately. I’ve had it playing music, too, where someone says my tone is good but then I’m thinking too hard about my embouchure to reproduce whatever was happening naturally that got the desired sound.
Reply: Perhaps they know what they’re doing is something you like so they then try to improvise but fail.
Don’t give direction. We aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing. Don’t say what you like lest you cause it to stop; the stopping is all your fault. You’re wholly at the mercy of your partner’s subconscious whims. If you don’t ask, they don’t know what you want, but asking isn’t okay either. Shut up and put up.
Yes, I Would Like That
A brief and non-comprehensive list of ways men weaponize consent culture and feminism or why straight women really ought to unionize:
- “Now it’s my turn.” (uttered after doing a rather perfunctory job at unasked-for oral sex)
- “You’re a strong woman who doesn’t need a man, take charge of your own orgasm.”
- “There’s nothing degrading about [sex act]. Women are equal, so why are you saying no?”
- “I respect women so much that I must call you Mistress, online female stranger.”
- “Most men wouldn’t do this, so you have to appreciate that I would even bother to do it.”
No, Not Like That
If I included the story of my sexual assault here, would you smile knowingly? Would you “aha!” and tell me that you knew all along that I had it all wrong, and this finally confirmed why? That I have particularly bad taste in men and that’s why my experiences are the way they are? That I can’t stereotype all men based on my personal pain?
Would it matter if I told you that the assault was well into my sexual life as an adult? That part of why I reacted to his consent violations the way I did was because I’d been trained out of speaking up?
I Spoke. And Spoke and spoke and
So yes, I spoke. I spoke until I went blue in the face, until I went from being happily slutty to…. whatever it is I am now. Speaking has never been my issue. You can only speak so much when you are glaringly not listened to. You learn to stop speaking and start doing what actually works.
What works depends on who you are and what your needs might be. It might be only having sex within a relationship so that you have some leverage to get him to maybe listen. It might be developing a preference for men who openly admit they don’t know what they’re doing and need help. It might be celibacy. It might be exhibiting what looks like extreme pickiness from the outside but is actually ensuring your time isn’t wasted. It might be fetishizing and eroticizing what men are willing to give you in bed so that you can artfully turn the scraps they throw you into a real meal. It might be trying to get men to listen in a less sexually-charged and less personal context.
What it isn’t is a lack of trying. It’s a lack of being believed. They didn’t believe what I had to say when I spoke up, and now they don’t believe me when I say that I did speak up.