By Bow Chika Wow Wow
Obviously, sex is both intensely personal and inherently political. Obviously, we all have different attitudes and experiences. Obviously, we should all have as much or as little sex as we like (and can get without hurting anyone), as well as the kind of sex we like.
Yet all of this often doesn’t seem obvious, or our ‘obvious truths’ differ from everyone else’s. I found myself nodding along to both Crimson Kitty Kutty and Eena Meena’s recent pieces in The Ladies Finger.
I didn’t really have sex until I got married, in my mid twenties. I’d done some sexual stuff, sure, but I’d never had penetrative sex nor an orgasm. I had tried masturbation but didn’t really enjoy it.
It took several tries for my husband and me to have PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex. Now I realise I probably had vaginismus. But at the time, I felt like a prude, like there was something wrong with me. I was a feminist and wanted to enjoy sex! Especially now that I was married and could have patriarchally approved sex! (Patriarchy is the abusive father whom we alternately try to please and stand up to.)
I blamed myself for wanting sex too much before I was married, for good girls are not supposed to enjoy being kissed — and not being able to do it (in the prescribed way) afterwards. Patriarchy had made me afraid of sex, and just getting married didn’t change the many years of conditioning, the psychological and even physical barriers I had put up against my own pleasure.
And even after we started having sex regularly — which was enjoyable, even for me — there was no sign of an orgasm. I was always unfulfilled, always wondering what I was missing.
But patience paid off. I came once, and started coming more often. And then realised that multiple orgasms wasn’t a myth, and that multiple didn’t mean maybe two or three; it sometimes meant a dozen or two.
Now, I can make myself come just by thinking about sex. Or if my partner licks my skin. In a way, I’m still never quite fulfilled, but in a good way — in the way that even after a great dinner you’re still tempted to try a bit of dessert.
My orgasms are usually small and fast (seven seconds seems really long to me). Usually the only outward sign is a faint sigh and a slight relaxation. But at times — when I’m relaxed and not afraid of being overheard, when I’m really, really into it… I scream as loud as in those movies you don’t watch. Yes, I’ve faked it on occasion — maybe to please a partner, maybe just to get it over with because I’m tired — but that’s rare. Most of the time, I look like I’m into it because I am. I’m kissing him back because I want to. I am leaning into his dick and grabbing his back because I want more and not (always) because I want him to finish up already.
Clitoral stimulation does get me off — but I still don’t masturbate much. When I read all the articles about how women only come through clitoral stimulation and how PIV sex is unnatural (as in, not pleasurable for women) I feel a bit like I’m betraying the sisterhood. Because while I love being fingered and eaten out, I unabashadly love dicks. I even enjoy blow jobs once in a while — in fact, my husband is the more frequent recipient of oral sex in our relationship, and I am not complaining. Most importantly, I love the feel of a dick inside me. For me, plain old PIV sex is still where it’s at.
But what really turns me on about sex is having a whole person — sorry about the objectification, boys, a whole body — stimulating me, pleasing me. A body weighing down on me, even if we’re just kissing and fully clothed. A naked body pressed against my side, hand and arms and lips and thighs touching my skin at the same time. How can I reduce sex to one body part, to one specific act? It’s the comfort and intimacy of opening up (pun intended) my self to another person, to my pleasure and his. To trust him, whether he’s my husband or someone I just met for the first time after finding each other on a dating app and exchanging heated text messages, to not judge the flaws of my body and the ways I don’t conform to patriarchal beauty standards but to please me and please himself with me.
Yes, I have had other partners. Yes, my husband knows. This is just one way in which we refuse to bow down to patriarchal norms.
The other day I was with a new partner and it was awkward and exciting and at one point we were in bed with our bodies against each other, and he… ran his thumb against my palm. In the middle of all the kissing and touching, somehow that felt amazing. And he noticed my faint gasp of pleasure, looked at me with a mixture of delight and surprise on his face, and he did it again.
And that’s why I occasionally seek out other partners, even though I have an active, extremely pleasurable sex life with my husband. Because of that thrill of exploration. Of the pleasure — narcissistic pleasure, yes, but being narcissistic in a misogynistic society sometimes seems like a radical act — of being appreciated by a new person. Because of the hope that they’ll teach you something new about yourself.
I’m lucky I haven’t had horrific sexual experiences. I’ve been lucky to have had most of my sexual experiences with gentle men who listened and responded and tried to please. Even when I had partners who barely listened to me or were more focused on getting themselves off, I’ve always managed to enjoy myself, to varying degrees. I stayed with some men too long partly because they made me feel so alive, so horny, when we were intimate.
And every time I initiate or enthusiastically enjoy sex, whether with my husband or with a (typically younger) man who’s just in my bed for a couple of hours, I feel like I’m laughing in the face of the patriarchy.
Image credit: Kama Mama by Aeneastudio