My Utter Confusion About Sex Is Why I'm Obsessed With Writing About It
Maybe you thought it was just because I love sex.
I’ve often wondered why I've dedicated so much of my life to writing about sex. It's not because I’m completely obsessed with it.
Well, okay—maybe I am a little. I love sex.
I have explored my sexuality with a lot of different people. But my obsession with writing about my sexuality comes from a different place.
I’ve been confused about sex as a woman.
As a woman, I’ve been quite confused about sex. It’s my confusion about my sexuality that has propelled me to write so much about it.
I’ve had to unpack everything I haven’t understood—all the contradictory messages.
Growing up female in this world has been very confusing. At least sexually speaking it has.
Sex, for women, is framed in a bewildering way. The messages I received from an early age about sex were never anything but perplexing.
Even before I hit puberty, I was bombarded with conflicting messages about sex. On one hand, I was told women wanted sex very much. On the other, I was told a woman shouldn’t want sex.
This dichotomy was demonstrated through the imagery I saw almost everywhere I looked. Red lips. Big breasts. Shiny hair. Fluttering eyelashes. Female sexuality was used to sell almost everything.
Even as a pre-adolescent I understood this. I was taught that the female desires and is desired. I read article after article in magazines like Cosmo about women and their sexual wants and urges.
We were pleasure-seeking creatures.
Only I also learned we weren’t—and this was what was so mystifying.
I was told young women like myself shouldn’t have sex. At least this was the message I received at school, amongst my friends, and definitely at home.
My mother expressed embarrassment when even talking about sex. I certainly wasn’t allowed to talk about it.
If sex was spoken about at all in my house, it was from a standpoint of fear.
“Wait till you’re married.” “Don't let him pressure you.” “If he really likes you he’ll wait.”
Wait until when? Until what?
And what happened if I didn’t wait?
I’d be considered a slut.
My family wasn’t even religious. I received these same messages at school. I didn’t attend Catholic school.
Still, I was taught I’d lose something if I had sex before I was married.
I’d lose my value.
“People will think badly of you,” I was told by my friends. “Boys won't want to date you.” “People will talk behind your back.” “You’ll get a bad reputation.”
What about the articles I read about women wanting sex in Cosmo? Sex was supposed to feel good!
But still, I wasn’t supposed to desire it.
But other women did.
The women in the magazine advertisements did. Those women dripped with desire.
The women in the movies wanted sex. They had sex with men the first time they met them.
They got off on this sex. They gained something from it.
Why couldn’t I gain that too?
These two contradictory forces always seem to be at play when it comes to women and sex. We’re supposed to want it, but only in a proscribed, socially acceptable way.
If we don’t have sex the “right” way, we’re considered bad people, lacking morals.
What was even more confusing was that my mother was the exact person who bought me those magazines, who went to see those movies with me, and who purchased the revealing clothing that trends dictated were fashionable.
All this happened while I was instructed that men would want sex from me but that I should deny them that sex.
At least if I wanted to keep my value.
No one ever discussed that I might want to have sex simply because it felt good—as it was described in all the imagery I saw.
No wonder I was so confused.
My friends who had grown up in similar families with similar mothers, reading similar magazines, watching similar movies, finding themselves similarly persuaded by similar ad campaigns to wear sexy clothes, only helped to confuse me more.
They also believed they’d lose their value if they had sex. So we shouldn’t want sex.
But we also should want sex, according to what we saw everywhere else in the world.
We should show off our bodies, advertise our sexual availability.
We just shouldn’t actually be sexually available.
Being sexually available was bad. Gossip about “sexually available” girls ran rampant through my high school.
Those girls were sluts. Calling a girl a slut was the easiest way to disparage her.
It was the quickest way to demonstrate she had no value.
I hope you can see why sexuality has been so confusing for me as a woman. This is why I am so obsessed with writing about it.
This is the first part of this story. In my next couple of newsletters, I will tackle how I began to push back against these contradictory beliefs, the consequences of doing so, and how I finally came to define sexuality on my own terms.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, please show your love by sharing this post.
You can also buy me a cold brew to show your appreciation. I am eternally grateful for every cold brew I receive.