What’s The Big Mystery?

Truth-be-told, I have been watching a lot of Sex and the City lately. And by, “a lot,” I mean that I binged about six seasons in under a month. So, I’m going to have a little Carrie Bradshaw moment here.

Let’s talk about sex, baby.

Now, if you didn’t agree with my last post – than me writing this will most definitely make you shift my name into the category of “slut.” Truth-be-told again, I don’t care.

Let’s start with the facts.

  • A 2011 study found that about 80% of women fake orgasms at least half the time
  • 25% of women fake it 90% of the time
  • Women generally orgasm 69% of the time they have sex, compared to 95% for men
  • 62% of women are not satisfied with their sex lives
  • 30% report pain during intercourse, and a “large proportion” don’t tell their partners

There is an obvious trend, and therefore an obvious problem. There is a plethora of benefits when it comes to sex. Some are incredibly un-obvious. Here’s just a few:

  • boosts your immunity
  • decreases stress levels
  • the release of oxytocin and endorphins increase relaxation, which helps fight pain and depression
  • those same feel good hormones lead to feelings of warmth and closeness

So when we talk about gender inequality in the bedroom, we are talking about real benefits that women disproportionately are not able to access.

Now let me throw a real doozy at you.

More than half of men aren’t comfortable discussing gynecological health with their female partners. (Sorry for the heteronormative example) In one study, only half of the men could identify the vagina on a diagram, and two-thirds mixed up the different parts.

Now the article I read was discussing how your partner could potentially be the first person to notice a change that could be a warning of gynecological cancer and other sexual health issues – but I think that this also bodes poorly for women’s sexual satisfaction. Especially because men in the study, aged 18-44 years old, said it was too embarrassing to talk about the vagina. Yet I’d argue over 50% are comfortable sending an unsolicited picture of their private parts – ironic.

People, ladies. Let’s talk about sex.

In my life, I have been lucky enough to have a mother that once said to me – “if you aren’t satisfied, either say something, or leave him.” (You go girl, am I right?) She never made my sexuality negative, and simply allowed for open discussion. I think that that is why I have felt comfortable engaging in discussion with partners. Full disclosure, I have felt the most satisfied in relationships in which my partner and I shared full disclosure about our sexual experiences together. We established boundaries, shared what we liked and what we didn’t, respected the word “no” when something was painful, and prioritized each other’s pleasure. Mine was equally important, and not an afterthought – as it seems it typically is. Nothing is more unattractive than a man who views the bedroom as a race to complete a task for himself. It’s objectifying, boring, and frankly, sad.

“if you aren’t satisfied, either say something, or leave him.”

If you don’t want to take my word for it. Listen to the research:

  • in a study of 293 married individuals, it was found that disclosing sexual information was positively linked to relationship satisfaction and closeness
  • another found that open sexual communication was a predictor of not only sexual satisfaction, but overall relationship satisfaction

We grow up with this weird myth that communicating about sex is inappropriate, and “un-ladylike.” Think about all the movies and TV shows you’ve seen where it just comes naturally to everyone, and both parties are completely fulfilled. No discussion, just background music and a couple grunts and moans. A Psychology Today article posits that the three biggest myths are: “great sex comes naturally; your partner should know intuitively what you want and like; and good sex must be spontaneous.” I love the analogy that they give following this list as well:

“In reality, more often than not, great sex, much like a great meal, does not just happen—it needs to be carried out with skill, thoughtfulness, and the right mix of selfish abandon and mutual attentiveness. People’s tastes, preferences and values with regard to sex—as with food—differ greatly. You’re better off knowing something about your partner’s tastes before you start cooking.”

Psychology Today

In reality, no one knows what they’re really doing. And all bodies are different. Communication is essential. And ladies – we work just as hard, if not harder than men, we deserve to be just as satisfied.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ask what someone is and isn’t into before you engage in intercourse.
  2. When something hurts, SAY SOMETHING.
  3. It’s okay to do some research. Find positions that are comfortable, or techniques you want to try. (boys, I think it’s about time you go look at a diagram of the vagina)
  4. Do a recap when you’re finished. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Give high-fives where needed.
  5. It’s okay to need a little help. Use some of your sex tech!
  6. Make it fun and flirty, or draw up a PowerPoint – whatever floats your boat.
  7. It’s okay to ask about the last time someone was tested, or if they have any Sexually Transmitted Infections. 1 in 8 people in the U.S. have herpes.
  8. If someone does have an STD or STI, learn about the risks and what you can do to protect yourself.
  9. As always, be vocal about using protection if you need to be.

I would have loved to have a number 10 to make it even, but in 2019 I’m working on letting go of a portion of my perfectionism.

Now, I love Carrie, but I’m going to leave you with a quote from Miranda to send this post home. When in doubt,

“What’s the big mystery? It’s my clitoris, not the sphinx.”

Slut Shaming

Aren’t shoulders just so sexually suggestive? I mean, I love a good shoulder – they really get me going.

When in the history of ever has anyone said the above? The answer is probably once or twice – to each their own. But the pinnacle of sexual appeal is definitely not shoulders.

So, answer me this: Why, in fourth grade, did the principal take me out of class to tell me that my tank top was “inappropriate?” Mind you, I was also wearing a cardigan over said tank top.

My TEN-year-old mind had far too many questions. But mostly, I was ashamed. Being the nerdy, little goody-two-shoes that I was – I had never gotten in trouble. The principal and I were pals. And for that reason, I also did not question her assertion.

I wasn’t sent home, but I could almost argue that for my self-esteem at that age – that was worse. I sat through class the rest of the day paranoid. Tugging at my sweater to make sure I didn’t have a shoulder slip out. Normally the first person to raise my hand, I held back because I didn’t want to risk jostling my clothing out of place. Really, at that point, I wanted to go home.

The media has been chalk full of stories like this in the past couple of years and the cultural consciousness seems to have progressed to understand that this shaming of young girls is wrong. Yet, we haven’t evolved past the over-sexualization of women’s bodies in general.

Shame on You

My wonderful personal trainer shared on her social media the other day that members of her family had repeatedly confronted her regarding what she posts on her social platforms. They were concerned that she was showing too much of her body. Initially I was furious. First, she is studying within the realm health and human kinetics, and she works as a personal trainer. Secondly, her athletic prowess and her strength is a testament to that success. She should be afforded the space to be proud of her body.

When I came in for a training appointment, she told me more about it. Now to my surprise, her family specifically called out old pictures from parties early in college. Frustrated at this, she said that she was just a, “stupid little sorority girl.” That broke my heart even more. Outside of the slut shaming, the age old double standard surfaced. The shaming by her family is point blank wrong. In fact, they themselves are objectifying and sexualizing her by making such comments.

example of slut shaming image of girl lifting skirt. her thigh is marked at different points to connote that her skirt length makes her: flirty, cheeky, provocative, asking for it, slut, whore.

But, what broke my heart was that she reduced herself to a very harmful stereotype – a “stupid little sorority girl,” to agree that those photos were inappropriate. I hate that that message has been internalized by so many women – including myself at times. But I argue that that is not the case.

Would we make the same judgements about a photo of young men laughing and holding red solo cups? Yes, we might make some. But we wouldn’t (A) sexualize them and (B) demean their intelligence.

Why do we do this?

Here lies the problem. As a society, when we sexualize women, we’ve also connected that to their intelligence. We say things like, “they brought this upon themselves,” for any negative attention that a woman receives, as well as, unfortunately, things like sexual harassment and assault. The problem isn’t what they’re wearing. We make the problem their intelligence. They should know better. They should have gotten the memo that their body is inherently sexually pejorative back in fourth grade when their principal told them so. (Insert eye roll here)

Further, and I can admit my own bias here. On social media we assume that those who post often, and mainly of themselves or their bodies, are self-centered and attention-seeking. Things that are also often stereotypically tied to low intelligence. And this is wrong.

Image of Diana Muzina as a kid in a halloween costume giving a condescending look.
This is how I feel about slut shaming.

This sort of shaming and policing behavior in society reinforces traditional gender norms. In my senior honor’s thesis in college, I discuss gender performance in women’s Greek-lettered organizations, and how those organizations often also serve to reinforce traditional views of femininity and “correct” gender performance. Sadly, something that I watched play out with a member of my own organization. A woman who is intelligent, comfortable in and proud of her body, who owned her sexuality was rejected as, “inappropriate” and, “bad for” the organization.  Point blank, she was slut-shamed. I struggle with the fact that many cannot see that they policed her gender performance. She’s badass, and it’s their loss.

Continually sexualizing women’s bodies is malicious, and only serves to further bolster the geography of fear that many women experience. It also maintains current power structures we have in place. But, on a slightly different note, we cannot shame those women who do embrace their sexuality. There are infinite expressions of womanhood. No one expression is wrong, and no one expression warrants violence or discrimination. But, women should be given the freedom to determine what that expression is.

If you’re interested in reading about the effects of Slut Shaming, click here!

Body Talk

Aren’t shoulders just so sexually suggestive? I mean, I love a good shoulder – they really get me going.

When in the history of ever has anyone said the above? The answer is probably once or twice – to each their own. But the pinnacle of sexual appeal is definitely not shoulders.

So, answer me this: Why, in fourth grade, did the principal take me out of class to tell me that my tank top was “inappropriate?” Mind you, I was also wearing a cardigan over said tank top.

My TEN-year-old mind had far too many questions. But mostly, I was ashamed. Being the nerdy, little goody-two-shoes that I was – I had never gotten in trouble. The principal and I were pals. And for that reason, I also did not question her assertion.

I wasn’t sent home, but I could almost argue that for my self-esteem at that age – that was worse. I sat through class the rest of the day paranoid. Tugging at my sweater to make sure I didn’t have a shoulder slip out. Normally the first person to raise my hand, I held back because I didn’t want to risk jostling my clothing out of place. Really, at that point, I wanted to go home.

The media has been chalk full of stories like this in the past couple of years and the cultural consciousness has seemed to progress to understand that such shaming of young girls is wrong. But we haven’t yet evolved past the over-sexualization of women’s bodies in general.

My wonderful personal trainer shared on her social media the other day that members of her family had repeatedly confronted her regarding what she posts on her social platforms. They were concerned that she was showing too much of her body. Initially I was furious. First, she is studying within the realm health and human kinetics, and she works as a personal trainer. Secondly, her athletic prowess and her strength is a testament to that success. She should be afforded the space to be proud of her body.

When I came in for a training appointment, she told me more about it. Now to my surprise, her family was specifically calling out old pictures from parties early in college. She was frustrated at this, saying that she had been a “stupid little sorority girl.” That broke my heart even more. Outside of the slut shaming, the age old double standard surfaced. The shaming by her family is point blank wrong. In fact, they themselves are objectifying and sexualizing her by making such comments.

But, what broke my heart was that she reduced herself to a very harmful stereotype – a “stupid little sorority girl,” to agree that those photos were inappropriate. I hate that that message has been internalized by so many women – including myself at times. But I argue that that is not the case.

Would we make the same judgements about a photo of young men laughing and holding red solo cups? Yes, we might make some. But we wouldn’t (A) sexualize them and (B) demean their intelligence.

Here lies the problem. When we sexualize women, we’ve also as a society connected that to their intelligence. We say things like “they brought this upon themselves,” for any negative attention that they receive, as well as, unfortunately, things like sexual harassment and assault. The problem isn’t what they’re wearing. We make the problem their intelligence. They should know better. They should have gotten the memo that their body is inherently sexually pejorative back in fourth grade when their principal told them so. (Insert eye roll here) Further, and I can admit my own bias here, on social media we assume that those who post often, and mainly of themselves or their bodies, are self-centered and attention-seeking. Things that are also often stereotypically tied to low intelligence.

This is how I feel about slut shaming.

This sort of shaming and policing behavior in society serves to reinforce traditional gender norms. In my senior honor’s thesis in college, I discuss gender performance in women’s Greek-lettered organizations, and how those organizations often also serve to reinforce traditional views of femininity and “correct” gender performance. Sadly, something that I saw play out with a member of my own organization. A woman who was intelligent, comfortable in and proud of her body, who owned her sexuality was rejected as “inappropriate” and “bad for” the organization.  Point blank, she was slut-shamed, and I struggle with the fact that many cannot see that they policed her gender performance. She’s badass, and it’s their loss.

Continually sexualizing women’s bodies is malicious, and only serves to further bolster the geography of fear that many women experience and maintain current power structures we have in place. But, we also cannot shame those women who do embrace their sexuality. There are infinite expressions of womanhood. No one expression is wrong, and no one expression warrants violence or discrimination. But, women should be given the freedom to determine what that expression is.

If you’re interested in reading about the effects of Slut Shaming, click here!