I’m still slowly rediscovering my blogging mojo – I have one story I’m hoping to finish this week, and a couple of ideas for posts that I need to start working up in order to see where they take me.
In the meantime, I have two pretty exciting guest posts to share with you all. The first of them comes courtesy of Coffee & Kink, who joined me for this mammoth discussion about pegging back in March. CK is a kickass writer, who also has a bunch of really interesting, insightful things to say about sex, so I’m thrilled to be hosting her again here.
The second post…well, you’ll have to wait till later today for that one. It’s a piece of fiction, it’s a response to this story from last week, and it’s super hot – really, what else do you need to know??
For now though, sit back and enjoy CK’s take on the five biggest lies she was told about sex, and why they’re basically all total bullshit. I found myself nodding along wearily to all five of them, so I have a feeling they’ll resonate with most of you too…
We are all fed toxic beliefs about sex and relationships from the time we’re tiny. Whether it’s parents, the church, teachers, your peers or crappy internet porn teaching you these things, they’re almost impossible to escape. Here are some of the most toxic, thoroughly busted by Yours Truly.
- “Your first time will be the best sex of your life.”
Why It’s Told: We live in a society where (female, or those read as female) virginity is highly prized and highly commodified, and where woman/vulva-owning people are not supposed to enjoy sex or seek it out for its own sake. Setting up sky-high expectations for the mythical perfect ‘first time’ puts young women under huge pressure to find the ‘right person’ and effectively serves as a warning. If it’s with the ‘wrong’ person, we’re told, we will miss out on the One And Only Opportunity to have The Best Sex Of Our Lives.
Why It’s Toxic: It sets up hugely unrealistic expectations. I was told that my first time would feel like I was flying through space on silver unicorn wings (I’m exaggerating, but only a bit. ‘If you do it right you feel like you’re flying’ was literally said to me.) My first time, although it was with someone I loved, was also awkward, painful, and overly-romanticised-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness (literal bed of rose petals, anyone? *barf.*) It wasn’t the best sex of my life. It wasn’t even GOOD sex. I was sixteen, for fuck’s sake. It took me a good five years after that to really learn how to have good sex. For years, I wondered how I’d missed out on the magic I had been assured was supposed to be there. For longer, I beat myself up for “losing it” to someone who was not, it turned out, my future husband or the only sexual partner of my life. An expectation of The Best Sex Ever puts tremendous pressure on young women to have a certain experience and then wonder what they’ve done wrong when it doesn’t happen. And there is no performance anxiety in the world like that of a teenage boy or young man being told he has to give a girl the Best Sex Of Her Life the first time they get naked together!
Why It’s Untrue: You know that joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall? (“Practice.”) The same is true of sex. No-one expects a person to be able to play a sonata on the piano, write flawless code or run a marathon without practice. So why do we expect ourselves and each other to be magically amazing at sex the first time we do it? Sex is a SKILL. It’s LEARNED. How many of us are even still with the person we ‘lost our virginity’ to? (In quotes because virginity is a bullshit concept, but that’s for another time.) I’m not, because he wasn’t the right person for me. I’ve had way, way, WAY better sex with subsequent partners when there has been sufficient practice on both sides, a healthy dose of self-knowledge, strong communication, and LESS PRESSURE.
- “Penis In Vagina is real sex. Everything else is foreplay.”
Why It’s Told: Our culture focuses on phallocentric and male-pleasure-focussed sex above all, and PIV is assumed (incorrectly, might I add, in the majority of cases) to be a thing that’s only done for the penis-owner’s pleasure. Vaginal intercourse with a penis is seen as being a form of ownership – if a man fucks a woman, he has some kind of claim over her and/or has somehow won or taken something from her, even if she was enthusiastically into the whole encounter. Also this probably feeds into the cult of virginity thing a little bit – a young woman can still be ‘pure’ (UGH) if she’s done every sexual act in the book except PIV intercourse. It also reinforces heteropatriarchy, with thrives on straight male dominance and queer and female subjugation, by placing same-sex encounters as less real than cishetero ones.
Why It’s Toxic: It puts pressure on partners to rush to the End Goal (PIV sex) and as a result a lot of us miss out on a whole world of other amazing sexual acts and experiences we could be having (because those are ‘just foreplay.’) It’s homophobic as fuck (how do queer people have sex if ‘Penis Enters Vagina’ is the only way to have real sex?) It encourages a view of sex that is centred solely around male pleasure and male orgasm. I remember reading a magazine when I was about 15 and considering fucking my boyfriend that said, ‘sex is over when the boy has ejaculated.’ And I was just like, ‘but what if I haven’t come yet? What if I still want more!?’ I didn’t puzzle out the answer to this (‘fingers, tongues and toys exist!’) for years.
Why It’s Untrue: Because goddamn, have you ever had a really, really hot sexual encounter, with a person of whatever gender/body type, where a penis didn’t enter a vagina once? Oral sex, manual sex, toy sex, even phone and cyber sex… these are all real and valid sexual experiences and just as much ‘real sex’ as PIV. Some of these things might even work better for you, regardless of what body parts you have. And if that’s the case, that’s totally okay and wonderful! Your sex is as real as anybody else’s!
- “It’s not sexy to talk about it.”
Why It’s Told: We’ve all seen Movie Sex. Two characters who have never talked about their sexual desires, quirks or hang ups lean in, kiss passionately, grope a bit, we fade to black, and then we see them two hours later talking about how it was the best sex of their life. Or Porn Sex, where the pizza delivery boy knows exactly what the bored housewife wants without any discussion whatsoever. And we’d all LOVE to believe this is how it happens in real life. Talking about sex can be awkward and uncomfortable. Revealing our desires leaves us vulnerable. Asking for what we want leaves us wide open to rejection. Much better, we think, to just let it happen and then blame ourselves or our partner for not being mind-readers when neither of us gets what we want.
Why It’s Toxic: Not talking is a fast track way to some really shitty sex (and bad relationships in general, actually.) Expecting our partner to ‘just know’ exactly what we like and want puts huge pressure on both people and inevitably leads to hurt feelings and frustration when unspoken expectations are not met and silent desires are not fulfilled. And on the more sinister side, not talking means that consent and boundaries cannot be clearly communicated, which feeds directly into a culture of sexual violence and rape.
Why It’s Untrue: Everything is better with communication. I promise. I spent years not talking about sex and just letting it happen. I was unfulfilled, bored and thought I just didn’t like sex or that my partners didn’t care about my sexual pleasure. When I started communicating, I felt vulnerable, yes… but I also felt the tremendous empowerment that comes from taking charge of my own experience and speaking up for my own desires. Of course, partners don’t necessarily say yes to everything I ask for (and nor should they be expected to,) but if my lover knows what I want and vice versa, we have a fighting chance of a mutually pleasurable sexual experience.
- “If you’re using toys, it means something is wrong.”
Why It’s Told: Dangerous values about sex tell us that we should be able to satisfy our partner completely with nothing but our bodies and that if we can’t, we’re inadequate in some way. It also teaches us that if we need a toy to get off we’re broken, that if we use a toy too much we’ll become ‘dependent’ on it and not like partnered sex any more, and that if we own/buy sex toys we’re ‘sex addicts.’ (I have so many feels on the bullshit pathologising that is the notion of ‘sex addiction,’ but that’s not for here.) Toxic masculinity plays a big part in this as well – men are taught that if their female partner wants to use toys, it means they’re lacking somehow (‘will she like her vibrator more than me?’ ‘What if her dildo is bigger than I am?’) and that if they like toys themselves it means they’re pathetic or desperate (‘toys are only for men who can’t get laid.’)
Why It’s Toxic: Stigmatising sex toys stigmatises the sexual pleasure of a huge, huge number of people. From the queer and trans people who use toys to make their bodies and sexual expressions feel more in line with their true selves, to heterosexual vanilla women who need intense clitoral stimulation with a vibrator to orgasm, people of all genders and orientations use toys for a huge range of reasons and THEY’RE ALL VALID. Marking out one type of sex (‘bodies only’) as greater or purer than another type of sex (‘with toys’) breeds shame, sexual frustration and stigma and leads to some really bad sex. I felt broken for years because I couldn’t reliably come from oral sex, for example, whereas a high-powered vibe can get me off in two minutes.
Why It’s Untrue: I have amazing sexual experiences with all my lovers, and all my current sexual relationships also involve using toys to a greater or lesser extent. Using a toy doesn’t say a single thing about my partner’s ‘ability’ in bed (or mine!) – in fact, it greatly enhances the ways in which we can give pleasure to each other and the range of sexual experiences we can have together.
- “Your ‘number’ means something.”
Why It’s Told: Because, again, we live in a sex-negative and sex-shaming culture, one which simultaneously tells boys and men that they must bed as many women as possible, and that a girl or woman who has had sex is ruined, damaged goods or somehow less worthy as a human being. Teaching girls that they must keep their ‘number’ low is a form of the control and subjugation of women that still permeates our society. We may not be literal, legal property any more, but we’re still told that a man we have sex with owns a piece of us and leaves less for the next person who comes along.
Why It’s Toxic: This is where the ultimate double standard – he’s a stud, she’s a slut – comes from. This is the sort of belief that leads to young men being taught it’s okay to manipulate, coerce and pressure a woman into bed, because they simply can’t have a lower ‘number’ than their friend. It’s the sort of belief that leads to young women staying in toxic relationships much, much longer than they should, because they still want to have sex but they don’t want their ‘number’ to increase by seeking out a new partner. This is the kind of belief that leads ‘educators’ to compare women who have had sex to food with a bite taken out of it. It’s commodification, it’s objectification, and it’s just the most vicious and enduring double standard there is.
Why It’s Untrue: At last count my ‘number,’ since I know you’re all wondering at this point, was 21. I put this into an online statistics calculator made by people who have researched these things, and learned that I am more sexually experienced than 95% of my peers. There’s no doubt – I’m a slut. The thing is, it makes absolutely no difference to anything about who I am as a person. I am kind, compassionate, communicative, feminist, politically aware, highly intelligent and funny, to name just a few things that are absolutely not affected by the number of people I’ve rubbed genitals with. And I promise you that, with every new partner I have, I am still as able to give that person 100% of myself in that moment and connect with them on a deep and profound level, as I was with my very first partner. The partner who I ‘lost my virginity’ to no more owns a piece of me than the person I had a nice conversation on a train with that one time in 2005. We shared an experience. Nothing more and nothing less. I’m at whole at 21 partners as I was at 0 partners and as I will be at 50 partners. And you are too. I promise. (Also, if you’re the kind of person who has a vagina, your vagina won’t get ‘loose.’ It is a muscle and Muscles Do Not Work That Way.)
For accurate, shame-free and pleasure-positive sex education, please consider going to Scarleteen, Bish UK, or any of the multitude of feminist sex blogs out there on the ‘net. Good information is out there! Do not settle for shame, stigma and lies – you deserve better.