Learning about sex as a girl is usually a curvy path. Some are brought to the realizations by the harshness of abuse, while others are nudged into the sexual world via playground tales and awkward sex-ed classes in junior high.
A woman is taught that her sexuality does not belong to her. It is part of her value, yes, but not if she owns it. Not if she is proud of it outside of cultural allowances.
I was always the “good girl” who was close friends with the Promiscuous Girl, the School Ho throughout my young adult life. I longed for the sexual confidence of these women and I was often annoyed at the boys who would point blank ask me about the sexual lives of my friends. Usually these same boys had similar if not higher numbers of sexual partners, but the double standard played firmly in their favor:
My friends were sluts and they were just, well, boys.
It’s an old story.
But, in looking at the Divine Feminine Fallacy, there was no way I could write about unearthing my true experience as a woman without giving mention to female sexuality and sensuality.
As much as I sprouted quite libertine airs about female sexuality, I saw that there were solid stumbling blocks to my true acceptance of sexual pleasure and sensual expression as a right.
It is not easy to be a woman who speaks about female desire openly, but what was my own story besides the “wing-woman” of my sexually adventurous friends?
I started going to burlesque shows in about 2009 and quickly fell in love: the pageantry, the comedic antics, the body sovereignty of each woman who took the stage.
I took a couple of burlesque classes myself, started playing around this different personas and characters in my long mirror in the privacy of my home.
Around this time period, hip hop songs featuring the talents of strippers started to become more popular. Former strippers were landing reality show spots, hanging out with Drake, teaching twerking classes.
Why was I hesitant to celebrate these women and their obvious talents?
One of my friends was a stripper throughout her twenties. She had the kind of natural charisma CEO wanna-bes pay thousands to acquire. I was always riveted by her stories, her unashamed and unadorned ambition in a world not exactly as glamorous and fun as T-Pain would have us believe.
But, in my mind, there was a bit of a difference between the world of burlesque and stripping, one that, yes, had much to do with the “male gaze” (a term I’m not always sure I really get all the time) but more so with what ideas of society I had ingested about female sexuality.
I was dipping my toes in Respectability Pond.
And this did not solely cover the Strippers vs. Burlesque camp. When I peeled back the layers, I started to see I had some other ideas about female sexuality that were hindering my life.
Because I hardly saw women who looked like me inhabiting their sensuality and sexuality being celebrated, there was part of me that wondered if it was okay to find myself sexy.
Sexiness in the public imagination was starting to look like an onslaught of half open mouths and fiercely penetrating (lol) gazes. All without a pore in sight.
Was this sexy?
What would feminine sensuality and sexuality look like if it wasn’t used to sell cheeseburgers? If women were taught that sex was beautiful and full of pleasure? If we were taught to see our diverse bodies with pride? If there wasn’t a rape culture and epidemic levels of childhood sexual abuse? If our mothers did not tell us, “Good girls don’t ___________.”
These are the questions I am asking myself.
I know…I ask myself lots of questions.
I seek to be fully free woman.
And part of getting free means revising and sometimes chucking out all the mess that clouds who we truly are.
I cannot leave sexuality out of this conversation for sensual peace is part of the who the divine Feminine is. Ownership and celebration of female sexuality are some of the major hallmarks of goddesses like Osun, Venus, and Freya.
Here’s to a new kind of sex-ed.
Art from top to bottom:
Mickalene Thomas, I thought you said you were leaving, 2006
MICKALENE THOMAS, Portrait of Mama Bush 1, 2010
MICKALENE THOMAS, A Little Taste Outside of Love, 2007
Mickalene Thomas, You’re Gonna Give Me the Love I Need, 2010