Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Best Sex Advice I Ever Got

There are so many takes on the whole Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct situation, it seems like a waste of time to add mine, but for what it’s worth it's basically embodied in this tweet:




The article in Babe that started it all is linked above. A less sympathetic, perhaps more "old school" generational take is here in the NYT. Another really compelling take, and one that resonated with me a lot, is here.

All of this got me thinking not so much about sexual assault, consenting, and relenting, but about the best sex advice I ever got, which did not come from Cosmo. 

It came from my psychiatrist mother, when I was a teenager.

My mom was very pragmatic about sex. There was no moralizing and certainly no religiosity. After explaining the workings of the female anatomy and that female masturbation was a great idea and the world’s best kept secret, her key advice was this: 

When you have sex, you need to protect two things: your body and your psyche. The first requires condoms and birth control. The second is harder. 

“You don’t have to be in love,” she said, although at the time I was. “But sex with someone you don’t care about and respect, and who doesn’t care about and respect you, usually feels awful.” (Emphasis mine).

Boy was she ever right about that.

So here’s the problem with this advice, and I suppose on some level it’s a bit of a "feminist paradox.” It’s not that casual sex always sucks for every woman. I am sure there are plenty of women who love it and enjoy it. 

But I also think there is a myth afloat that in order to be a true, empowered, woke woman, you HAVE to enjoy casual sex. The casual-sex-as-female-empowerment framework was, I think, a 1960s reaction to earlier, systematic social repression of women as the architects of their own sexual agency. Combine that with “a man who can’t take no for an answer,” and you have what some women dismiss as “bad sex” and others firmly characterize as sexual assault.

My point here is not to try to figure out which is which, to the extent there’s an answer to that question anyway. I am really just spinning off into a satellite angle, which is simply to observe the gulf that can exist between what women in 2018 might be socialized to believe about casual sex and what they actually experience in the moment of a casual sexual encounter.


I think there’s this idea among feminists that ALL sex by default should be good and fun, as long as it’s truly consensual and a woman knows her own body. The reality is a lot more complicated, for a lot more women, than anyone cares to admit, perhaps because these nuances are viewed as weak or regressive or something.

I don’t know.

But I do know this: for many women, myself included, sex without mutual affection and respect feels by turns abusive, repulsive, depressing, traumatizing, and terrible. Why this is could be the subject of an entire book, but the fact is that without mutual respect and affection, many women—and I'm sure many men as well—are simply not practicing safe sex.

You can put on a condom and be on the pill, but there is nothing to protect your trauma centers and your psyche from the experience of having your body touched in intimate places by someone who does not respect or care about you. You can quite literally FEEL the absence of these things, and it sucks. 

An orgasm is an orgasm and you can get that on your own. When you invite someone else to the party, well, it all becomes a lot more complicated.

1 comment:

  1. So true. I had some mixed emotions on the whole Aziz affair and what you’ve written here helped me clarify my thoughts. Thanks.

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