The following is the first post EVER by my dear friend Amanda. She is an incredible woman that I love dearly, and she and I often rail (quite loudly) against the patriarchy together. Give her a warm welcome! - Kay
For women, sexual agency is quite a taboo. Sexual agency is most certainly about recognizing what you want from sex and being able to obtain those desired results in the end. However, sexual agency is also about defining what you don't want when it comes to sex. It's bad enough that women have a hard enough time exercising their sexuality because doing so often leads to stigmatizing the behavior as 'wrong', 'shameful', 'dirty', 'slutty', or 'indecent'. Just imagine the kind of backlash that can happen in the bedroom when a woman clearly defines a particular action as 'off limits' (for the time being perhaps) to a partner during their first sexual encounter together!
Well, I can tell you what happened in my case on such an occasion: I put back on my clothes and I left the guys house. "You should blow me," he had said. My head snapped back from his and I just stared in disbelief. "I should what?"
Women are socialized (here in The United States) in a very confusing culture when it comes to issues surrounding sexuality. As Susan J. Douglas puts it in her book The Rise of Enlightened Sexism, "Old-fashioned American prudery has always been an important component of keeping women in their place. So has pornography. A culture that is prudish AND pornographic--how's that for a contradiction to navigate?"
Prudery and pornography can work hand in hand to really do a number on a woman and how she may view her own sexuality. In my personal example from above, it was the particular tone this guy took with me when he suggested what I should do for him. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I'm far from a prude but when in the middle of foreplay with a completely new lover (even if for just the night), there are certain things that I'm just not going to do. Blow jobs are one of them. "But I have to have a blow job to stay hard," he reassured me. "Listen, I don't feel comfortable doing that. I just don't," I tried to explain. I wasn't really sure why he was so insistant being that he seemed pretty well hard to me at the time and more than able to deliver the goods, if you know what I mean but his demeanor and sense of entitlement to it just made me more and more uneasy. "Listen," I said. "It's not all about you. I am not going to just do whatever you command of me." He countered with, "You just don't like not being the one in control." I had to laugh at this point because to me sex is never about me being in control or my partner being in control but rather it's about the dance. I totally understand that there are sexual dynamics that others enjoy that do involve some kind of give and take of control but, again, sexual agency is knowing and defining your terms and not backing down. Yes, he had specific things he needed to be satisfied but I couldn't meet those terms so I had to gather my clothes, dress and leave. "Wait, what are you doing?" he asked. "I'm leaving. We're not having sex."
I love sex and believe me, up until he uttered those few words, I was ready to fuck his brains out but the tone and manner in which he demanded (it wasn't a polite suggestion or even a polite question) something I wasn't comfortable doing, I was as frigid as an ice cube.
He, of course, tried to change my mind but I just kept saying no and shaking my head. I had made up my mind. "But...well...we could...will you come back?" I finally had had enough, "Listen, I don't know what kind of porn you've been watching but when you have a real, live woman in front of you, you have to remember that I'm not some actress on a screen engaging in a sex act that is often times staged, written and filmed by men. I'm a real woman and am not going to suddenly submit to your every raging desire. Sex is about two people not just about you rubbing one out onto my face." He just rolled his eyes at me which had me fuming. "Go ahead, roll your eyes. You can't stand that I'm not afraid to tell you what I want and what I don't want."
Pornography is a tool and it's also an act. It can be a wonderful way to live out those naughty fantasies that we all have vicariously through others. It is a good resource to find new ways of enjoying sex but it most certainly should not be regarded as reality, especially when jumping into bed with someone new. I think that last point is rarely ever remember by some people. I sincerely think porn often times puts these expectations in (some) guys' heads and when someone snaps them back to reality, they really do seem completely let down.
This is why it's so incredibly vital that we encourage one another to talk about sex; what we like, what we dislike, what we want and most importantly, what we don't want. That last part may be hard because it might end up in you (or someone you know) not getting laid.