Sex-Positivity, Autonomy and Why I Don’t Sleep With Women
“I think they throw you out of the sex-blogger union for admitting that.”
I was having a conversation with what may have been the most sex-positive human being I’ve ever encountered in the wild. Within an hour of meeting our discussion had touched on polyamory, circumcision, toys and abstinence-only education. We had just arrived at the topic of group sex when it came out that I am generally not attracted to/ sexually interested in women and it caused him to utter the sentence above. It was the one thing I said in the course of the conversation that this gentleman found genuinely shocking.
The thing is, men just do it for me. It’s always been this way. I remember being in pre-school and feeling something nice when I saw a certain boy. I recognize that women are beautiful but I don’t get that same charge from women that I do from men. All other things being equal, I really like dick. Seriously, when the clothes come off, I want a biologically attached penis there. Okay, now I know there’s no rule saying I can’t have both. Neopolitan ice cream was invented for this very reason (ok, maybe not this very reason, but you know…) so I weigh it and still… just no.
Truth is I have actually struggled with this one myself. As a sex-positive, progressive woman open to new experiences and seeking pleasure I feel like I should be down with exploring all the avenues. As I geek out about anatomy and am continually blown away by the beauty of the human form I feel like I’m supposed to be turned on by all the incarnations of that form. As I reject narrow definitions of what my romantic and sexual life is supposed to like it seems so obvious to question the compulsory sexual identities our society throws on us and when questioning that led me right back to my original identity I was left wondering if I had done it right¹.
I was left with this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was all this learning and growing I was supposed to be doing coming up against some resistance? Was I failing? Can I really call myself sex-positive if I can’t do a belly flop into the middle of a sex party² and be equally happy regardless of who or what I land on?
A while back there was a spate of pieces that seemed to all come out at once that I filed under the heading “Stop Picking on the Vanillas”
In Praise of Vanilla: Sexual Expression and Acceptance – Portia Blush
What’s wrong with “Vanilla”? -Tracy Clark-Flory
Are WE Sex Positive?– Alyssa Royse
I don’t think of myself as vanilla, per se, but when the statement “No, I’m not attracted to women” got me roughly the same response I would have expected to receive with “I’m soldered into this chastity belt” theses pieces immediately sprang to mind. When functioning within a community that works to let people know that what they are doing is safe and healthy and normal, that all love/sex is equal, that all partners should be respected and have their needs met and that when it comes to sexuality, gender, sexual expression and pleasure there’s a whole rainbow of sensations and experiences available to them at all times, sometimes it can feel like in order to truly understand the depth and breadth of sexual experience you need to be tasting the rainbow at all times. That whether it’s same-sex partners, bondage, anal G-spotting or clown sex, if you don’t want to do it you are somehow coming up short on some scale of sexual evolvedness. I start thinking like this and suddenly I get panicky and think that if I really wanted to learn and grow and be sexually enlightened I would go out and find a (consenting) female clown to tie up and practice some anal G-spotting on ASAP.
I’m actually quoted in Alyssa’s piece “Are WE Sex Positive?” She took quotes on what people thought the term “sex positivity” meant and I said it meant “Allowing the space for the sexual experience of individuals w/out judgment as long as everyone is happy, healthy & consenting.” What I couldn’t put into words then but have since figured out is that this means sex positivity is not about activities or orientations, it’s about people. To create the space I mention in that quote we need to respect the rights, desires, proclivities, inclinations, tendencies, kinks, wants and needs of each person without agenda. One of my favorite educators is Airial Clark, of The Sex-Positive Parent and she says that a big part of sex-positive parenting is assuming that children will become “autonomous, sexually active adults” and supporting their “individual sexual identity no matter what.” Well now, I don’t know about you but to me that sounds like an excellent idea for us all to keep in mind when being relating to each other. Recognize each others’ autonomy and support each others’ sexual identities no matter what. I know I need to work on applying that lesson to myself.
Listen, we’re all turned on by something different. What does it for me may not do it for you. What does it for you may terrify me but as long as everyone involved is happy and consenting you’ve got my support. In the end I think that, maybe, what sex -positivity celebrates is sexual individuality, an understanding that when we work to keep people informed so that sexual interactions can be happy, healthy and based on consent, there’s no need to get worked up about difference. Usually when folks get worked up it’s about fear, so, if everyone is informed there’s nothing to fear we’re all free to just be those aforementioned “autonomous sexually active adults” and seek out the different things that please us.
So, I may never be attracted to a woman, or I may meet one that blows my mind tomorrow, either way what I know is this: Everyone is entitled to their sexual autonomy, everyone deserves support and respect in whatever sexual identity they choose. Everyone’s happy place may be different and that’s awesome!
For now, at least, my happy place has a frenulum. That, is also awesome.
¹12 years of Catholic school have left me with very definite ideas about accomplishing tasks “correctly.” Interesting that my Catholic schooling showed up in this experience in the form of concern that I wasn’t trying hard enough to engage sexually with women, I’m wondering if that’s a problem anyone else has ever had. Ever.
²Don’t try this, it just sounds like a really bad idea.