The sex-positive movement began in the 3rd wave feminism, and the 4th wave boasts a new brand of digitally driven sex-positivity. With things like the slut walk and sex-positive resources on social media instigating social change, people are realizing that a woman’s worth has sweet fuck-all to do with her sexual history, and she is free to sleep with whoever she wants, how often she wants.
But, women are still reporting having bad sex. We want to fix that with the Empowered Sex series. This week, we are looking at the social and cultural reasons empowered women are still reporting bad sex. Here are three big ones.
1. We live in an emotionally illiterate culture
Crying at work is considered just as distasteful as photocopying your butthole and sticking the print-out on the fridge in the staff room. We tell our little boys to ‘man up, don’t cry’ from the time they’re two years old and thereby curse them to forever associate ‘being a man’ with ‘being an emotional corpse.’ If a woman exhibits any signs emotional attachment to a casual dating mate she is, of course, ‘hysterical’ or ‘crazy.’
Women are more than comfortable saying “choke me, daddy” to the person they’re casually seeing. But, they would rather die before saying “hey, if we keep sleeping together my feelings for you are going to get stronger. Where are you at?”
In modern dating, majority of people would still rather get chlamydia than feelings.
How many times have you heard female friends say it to each other? ‘Don’t seem too interested. Don’t get too emotional. Try to stay chill.’
My question is; if we all own such an immense range of human emotion, why stick to the safe lanes? Aren’t we here to feel it all? As Anaïs Nin put it:
“You do not know what you are missing by your microscopic examination of sexual activity to the exclusion of aspects which are fuel that ignites it.
Intellectual, imaginative, romantic, emotional. This is what gives sex its surprising textures, its subtle transformations, its aphrodisiac elements. You are shrinking your world of sensations. You are withering it, starving it, draining its blood.”
When you try have sex without emotion, without sensitivity, without imagination and vulnerability, you’re draining sex of its vitality, its life force, the exact thing that makes you feel alive. And subsequently, the stuff that makes sex so good.
2. We socialize women to put the needs of other’s first
“In our society males biological needs are the one we care about,” says Bridget Todd and Anney Reese in awesome research-based podcast Things Mom Never Told You.
They explain that we learn from a young age to priotize the needs of others over our own. Many of us grew up seeing our mothers run themselves into the ground serving their family, and so we embodied that as normal.
Not to mention societally, men’s pleasure has been statistically proven to be treated as more important than women’s.
In the US, there are only 10 studies looking into vaginismus, a condition associated with painful sex for women. There are 1,954 studies on erectile dysfunction. The average weight to get endometriosis diagnosed is 10 years and a farkload of money. To get Viagra in the states is a simple prescription, and is usually covered by insurance.
This shows not only does the system not care about women’s pleasure, it barely even cares about her pain. If she’s been socialized to ignore her pain, how will she even begin giving voice to her pleasure and desires, even during one night stands?
We have also been socialized to belong. To feel accepted we often cut off the parts of ourselves that dudes may not like.
We swallow our emotions, ignore our sensitivity, bite down on our needs. To be one of the cool/ chill girls.
“Women are socialized to be competitive to other women and we can’t deny how many of us carry that with us our entire lives,” says Canadian women’s rights advocate Julie S. Lalonde in an excellent Medium article.
“There’s this idea that if you distance yourself from other women and align yourself with men, not only will they ‘choose you’ over other women, but they will treat you with the same respect they show their friends.
It’s a phenomenon known as ‘proximity to power’: the idea that aligning yourself with the person/group in power will give you access to said power.”
So, what is a way to get that acceptance, that alignment with men and that ‘proximity to power’?
You pretend to have the same sexual values.
You convince yourself you’re not ‘like those other girls’. Maybe you decide you don’t get feelings and have needs and all that boring stuff. You shift the focus from your own pleasure and make it totally about making your dude feel good. Sure, you might not have the best time, but the approval and belonging you receive makes it worth it, right?
It starts with knowing your needs and desires are just as relevant and important as your male partners. Then, developing the confidence to speak to that. You are ALLOWED to say ‘hey, I don’t really like how that feels, can we go a little slower?” and “maybe we could try something different.” You do not ‘owe’ anyone anything and you do not need to continue anything you are not enjoying, ever.
Or, at least, the current porn on offer. For a $30 billion dollar industry that dominates the internet, porn is almost-totally unregulated. It is heavily influences by the hetero-patriarchal culture it exists in,
Porn shows sex as a game of action, instant gratification, dominance, success, ‘winning’ and reward.
Orgasm is the goal, which we see women achieve unrealistically quickly after a few rough thrusts.
Little boys grow up thinking that this is real sex, that to be a real man or good at sex you need to fuck like a porn star.
Porn are also very quickly puts men under the fixed delusion that all girls just want a partner with a huge dick, which couldn’t be further from the truth (men, she does not care about the size of your dick.)
So, it’s easy to see how sex quickly becomes an act of performance rather than connection.
A race to come, for quick ‘achievement’, for reward. Women try to live up to an impossible standard set by porn stars, and can pressure themselves to come quickly to please their partner. Suddenly, both partners are under pressure to please and be ‘good at sex,’ rather than the whole point of sex in the first place: to connect and have fun.
Do I mean to stay you should stop watching porn, by yourself or with your partner?
No. I’m all for people doing whatever gives them tingles in their dingles, but hey, some people also like watching Game of Thrones together. That doesn’t mean they run around with an arrow and a crossbow all day taking down everyone who dishonours their name.
Know where to separate indulging in recreational fantasy with reality.
Sex can be sexy but it is also messy and silly and dumb. It’s negotiating and trying things that sometimes work and sometimes really, really don’t. It’s embarrassing noises and sometimes not orgasming because you want to focus on each feeling. It can be wild and brave and make you see stars but it is also trust and softness and vulnerability. That is the kind of sex I want. Real sex. Skin sex. Human sex. And I think that’s the sex that many people want.
“Don’t take sex tips from an industry that profits off fake orgasms.”
* The writer writes from her heterosexual experience and as a result this article is very heteronormative and focuses on the sexual relationships between cisgender men and women. If you are after some great queer sexual resources for empowered sex check out:
and if you are looking for content on empowered trans sex and sexuality check out
artwork by @milkmycoconuts