Proud to be a Sexual Woman
This year, for the first time, I am celebrating PRIDE! In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June Gay & Lesbian Pride Month and in 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama added bisexuality and transgender to the declaration, stating, “I call upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists.
2011 is a special year for me, the first year I have identified myself as a member of the non-hetero community. And yet still I grapple with vocabulary, feeling that none of the labels sanctioned by our presidents to be recognized during June describes my sexuality. “Queer is my identifier of choice, as it does not disclose exactly what I like, only that what I like is not what one might expect. And of this, I am proud.
Because you know what? Before coming out as queer, I didn’t see my sexuality as something to celebrate at all. Looking upon myself as a heterosexual woman, well-behaved mother, proper and professional, I sold myself short for three decades. Yes, I have felt pride about my career accomplishments, my gestures of compassion to friends and strangers, and most of all, about the incredible daughter I helped create and devote a lifetime to nurturing. But pride about my sexuality? No. That is something I have never felt before.
Now is my time, and I am proud to be a sexual being. I proudly identify as sex-positive. I read recently that “sex-positivity is a misleading concept because there is no such thing as “sex-negativity, but I beg to differ. Sex-negativity is our culture’s baseline, and sex-positivity is my radical answer to the ethos of shame that boxed me in until now.
And so today I offer you my epiphanies about just how wonderful sexuality is for us women. For reasons that nobody bothered to explain to me as I navigated muddy waters trying to define my identity during my teen years, sexuality is a blessing most divine. It is a blessing worthy of exploration, worthy of celebration, and yes, worthy of PRIDE!
Pleasure “ Did you know that the clitoris has twice as many nerve endings as the penis and no function besides pleasure? Seriously! It’s like God gave women a gift, a gift which our culture promptly forbid us to enjoy. Well, I’m here to tell you to enjoy it! Your pleasure is important. I wonder if anybody has ever told you that before. You may find the greatest pleasure by stimulating the clitoris, or you may find that other parts of your body are more sensitive and erogenous. Find out what happens when you combine sensations on two parts of your body at once! Your body’s potential to sing with joy is a blessing, and it’s all yours to enjoy. Masturbation is the simplest and safest way to explore your own pleasure, but valuing your own pleasure while with a partner or partner(s) is important too. You can learn to tell partners what you like. And here’s a little secret: when your pleasure is genuine, your partner’s pleasure will be enhanced too.
Embodiment “ My favorite definition of the word embodiment is: “giving concrete form to an abstract concept. In my use of the word here, the abstract concept I refer to is YOU. You are a complex, multi-faceted, ever-evolving spirit, and the real you resides in your mind, your heart, and your soul.
Do you ever feel that the physical characteristics of your body hide the real you? That people see your form, your appearance, and think that they know you when in fact they don’t know the first thing about who you are? I have felt this way too. And because of this feeling, sometimes I have wanted to discard my body, erase the barrier it creates between my identity and my world. Body image is a huge topic for us to discuss. But the bottom line for now is that you cannot erase your body. What you can do instead is learn to love it. When sex is good, it can make you feel comfortable in your own skin. It can make you want to celebrate your five senses and your countless physical abilities. It can make you appreciate that the abstract concept of YOU is manifested in this God-given form, as much a part of the beauty of the world as a glowing sunset or a vivid rainbow.
Power “ Boys and men aren’t the only ones who can find that sex makes them feel powerful. You can find power in your sexuality too. By power, I don’t mean power over the choices of another person, because consent is non-negotiable. But there’s no denying that sex is often about power, the power to give intense pleasure to another person, the power to request your own pleasure, the power to feel beautiful. There are short-term rewards for acting sexy, aren’t there, girls? We get noticed, we get admired, and we get to be desired. This can make us feel powerful in a given moment for sure. You are allowed to feel powerful. Just so you know, though, there are other ways to explore power, ways with benefits that are not so short-term, ways that do not cast you in the role of seductress as dictated by the story of woman as sexual object you see in your media. Remember, the story of sex media tells us is just that, a story. You can play with this story, try on different roles in the story, and better yet, write completely different stories of your own. You have the power to be the author of your own story of sex.
Surrender “ Ah, power’s counterpart: surrender. When you have an orgasm, you have to let go. You have to abandon your usual self-control and allow yourself to simply FEEL. This can make you feel incredibly vulnerable, which is why it is important to trust that your partner(s) respect you as a person. He/she/they will see you raw, will see you release your grip on manners and prudence. When communication and trust has been established prior to sexual activity, surrender can be an incredibly intimate and positive thing. You will be at the mercy of pleasure, whether self-given or shared. Creating safe spaces to indulge in surrender can actually be one of your most powerful acts, and can reinforce for you that you are entitled to the whole spectrum of life’s experiences. Consensual surrender can be the antidote for a climate that promotes sexual violence. The key word is CONSENSUAL.
Channel to the spiritual “ In the name of full-on honesty, I’m going to tell you that, sometimes the inherent interplay of power and surrender during sexual activity is not about the feelings you have for your partner(s). Sometimes it is about God. While rejoicing at your body’s potential, you can feel a new sense of control over your role in your own life, or you can feel yourself relinquish control over the parts of your life that are handed to you, and in doing so arrive at an epiphany that every part of you is a part of God. What God is is a subject for another essay entirely, and not one that any single one of us is fully qualified to write. Sexuality and spirituality are not at odds, as the old doctrine of shame would have you believe. They are entirely complimentary.
Intimacy and connection “ And sometimes the positivity of sex is about your feelings for your partner(s). I almost feel like I don’t even need to mention this because this is the one and only positive function of sexual activity our culture allows us women. You’ve heard plenty about how sex can be an expression of love. But I don’t want to ignore it, because in truth it can be profound and beautiful. And even when what you feel for someone falls short of what you would define as “love, and instead feels like something else that is good, such as friendship, respect, or playfulness, sexual activity can still be a lovely way to express positive feelings to another person. Ironically, by embracing the selves that exist in our bodies (embodiment) we can sometimes transcend the body and show affection for the mind, heart, and soul of another.
Life-affirmation “ And last but not least, there is the simple fact that sexual activity, when it is consensual and attentive to the pleasure of all participants, can make you feel alive! You are alive, and life is a blessing. Even the aspects of life that are most complicated are blessings. Your time to feel powerful, to feel loved, to feel pleasure, to feel connected to others is limited. Use it well. Rejoice!