Obviously I did not wave my ersatz lightsaber around making FWOOHM noises in between taking nude pictures with it. Of course not. That would be completely immature and unsexy.
There was a brief period in college when I thought I might be a lesbian.
I was having sex with men for the first time, a flurry of one-night-stands that left me confused and disappointed, but never quite enough to stop me trying again another night, with another man. I knew I desired them–the way they looked at me woke something wolfish in me–but after we went to bed I would leave bored and a little frustrated. (Sex with men has, thank goodness, much improved.)
I was having sex with women, not for the first time, and it was electric. I was a growling, shuddering mess, they were all skin and sweat and moans. I didn’t want to leave at all.
I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to those young men that my desire or pleasure might be part of the equation. I often complain that desire and pleasure aren’t discussed as part of sex ed, but the reality is more insidious than that: desire and pleasure are not discussed. They are assumed. Integral to men’s sexuality, irrelevant to women’s. The narrative is that men have the drive for sex, and women’s role is to choose when to give in.
Expectation doesn’t always match experience when it comes to women’s desire. It can be confusing, complicated. When anything past kissing boys slammed the brakes on my pleasure–was that my fault? Theirs? No one’s–did it just mean I was queer? Or was it supposed to be that way? How many times had I heard that sex would hurt at first (it didn’t) and was a thing women do for men, not something we like? How do we learn to understand our sexuality if we aren’t exposed to the idea that we’re even supposed to enjoy sex? How many young lesbian women date and sleep with men because they’re taught relationships and sex are a duty, not a desire? It is one thing to be confused, another to go looking for answers and find, almost overwhelmingly, that your question hasn’t been addressed.
Erotic writing was the exception. Erotica shows women’s desire and pleasure. In the absence of school or home education, against an environment that erases women’s sexuality, erotica takes shape as a rare mirror of feelings rarely discussed and never normalized. It was the conversations around sex, women participating in and driving the action. Erotica offers alternate scripts, templates, vocabulary to start to know what was lacking and how I wanted to change it. (And the written word didn’t hurt, during the time my sex life consisted mostly of instant messages to a partner seven thousand miles away.)
It’s still one of the only places I see women’s desire treated as normal and expected, let alone prioritized. And grateful as I am that erotic books and blogs exist, I can’t help but wonder why women’s sexuality is still so hidden, or why it’s most accessible in such a limited medium, and one that’s still more than a little ridiculed and shamed.
Photo courtesy of Switch Studies
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“You were my single period, you know? And the stuff we did was incredible. I want that. I want more. But my girlfriend isn’t adventurous like you. What can I do?”
I try to answer kindly, because I remember you kindly. This is how you tell her what you like. This is how you explain to her what it means to you. Here are books and blogs, so if she wants to learn more about kink, about swinging, she can do it on her own time.
But all you can do is open that door. You can’t change what she likes any more than she can change what you like, and it would be monstrous of you to try. Don’t forget to listen to what she likes. Don’t forget to learn what that means to her.
I try to answer kindly, but there is a storm lifting my hair in electric ire. I want to say: Of course it was incredible. I know it. You know it. You’re the one who stopped it. You’re the one who chose a girl for her sweetness. How dare you come back to say “help, I’m lucky enough that this perfect, soft kitten is purring just for me…how do I make her a tiger? Only sometimes. Only when it suits me.” How dare you. Do you know how insulting it is to me, that the wantonness that made me undateable is what you want to cultivate in her now? Do you know how insulting it is to her, to tell her you could be happy with her in vanilla monogamy, when you knew you lied?
Kittens are not tigers. You cannot seek the company of something tame and train it to be wild.
I can promise you this: you won’t forget me. Years from now you will catch a glimpse of red hair out of a window and that will be it. The memory of what we did will hit you so hard you stop mid-sentence. You’ll need to brush the gooseflesh from your arms and shake your head to clear it of the echo of my gasps. You won’t miss me–we weren’t close enough for that–but you’ll wonder, a little rueful, why it can’t be like that with her, whoever she is.
I can promise you this: you won’t find someone who satisfies you, not until you understand that women who like the things you do aren’t too perverse to date. That they’re whole sexual being before you ever meet them, that they can and will and should explore their desire when and with whom they see fit. That as long as you think this taints or degrades them, you must see what you want to do as degrading. That they deserve more respect than that (that we all deserve more respect than that). You won’t find a partner who’s right for you until you stop searching only among women you’d have to change to fit you. Because kittens are not tigers. And they deserve to be adored for who they are, not pushed miserable into who you want them to be.