I've been terribly negligent of this blog of late. What time I haven't been spending on my personal writing, I've been spending doing prep work for Sex Week over at CC2K. Sex Week is an annual event, which we hold in honor of Valentine's Day, where we run sexually themed articles--still with our usual pop culture bent, of course.
It's a lot of fun, but running it is a shitload of work. This is my third year running it; I volunteered, again. Is it a masochistic streak? You'd think I'd know better by now.
Part of it is that I tend to forget, after a year of bouncing merrily along in my normal, less-demanding editor duties, just how much work it is. But part of it...well, it goes deeper than that. It's important to me as a woman. It means something to me beyond just the normal "Yeah, it's a fun week where we post smutty articles." I've been thinking about it a lot over the past few days, and I think I want to let a few things out.
I once dated a guy who thought I was a slut.
I constantly felt like he wanted me to apologize for the things I had done in my past, the other guys I had dated, even the tattoo on my back! I think, in his mind, he accepted me in spite of those things--as if he were so magnamous, choosing to overlook my "sordid" history. It eroded my self confidence, much more than I realized while we were dating. He never said I was a slut. don't think he even realized it on a conscious level, and if you were to ask him, even now, he'd probably deny it until the end of time. But it was there, and I felt it.
You know, in a way, I think those types of unstated put-downs are worse than the stated ones--at least for me. If he had said to me, "Beth, I think your past behavior was skanky," I would have slapped him and marched out the door, and it would have been over. But when someone doesn't say it, there's always plausible deniability. I wonder, sometimes, in moments of self-doubt, whether I imagined it all, whether it was my problem, not his. But I don't think so. I'm very intuitive, and I'm good at reading people and picking up the things they aren't saying--especially with people I know well. Furthermore, if it were my own paranoia and shame, wouldn't I have "felt" the same thing from guys I've dated since then? But I haven't. Not once. But those thoughts, those kinds of malignant tendrils, are the kinds of things that tend to creep into your soul.
Funny thing is, the more I learn about what other people are doing, the more I realize how comparatively vanilla my sex life has been; I just happened to be more experienced than this guy, and I don't think he knew how to handle it. It didn't fit into his paradigm of what a woman should be--what I should be. My past wasn't all that unusual; I was just more sexually experienced than that guy. And if that's the kind of crap I get, I shudder to think what it must be like for the women who genuinely are sexually open and adventurous.
From the time we're very young, women are constantly being given mixed messages about sex. Nice girls don't, but if you don't the boys won't like you. Don't have sex on the first date, but don't wait too long either. If you have sex, you're a slut, but if you don't, you're a prude. Boys masturbate, but girls don't do that. Men like sex more than women. And my favorite, the horror stories told to young virgins: you won't like sex very much, you'll bleed and it'll hurt like crazy and you won't have an orgasm. Oy. With such shitty expectations, it's a wonder women have sex at all!
Women are expected to be chaste, discriminating in their choices of partners, less willing to "put out." They're seen as the gatekeepers of heterosexual intercourse--because, clearly, women don't get horny sometimes and jump into bed with men they've just met. Well, some do...but they're just skanks, right?
Even in romance novels--a genre writen for and by primarily females--you see this archetype played out again and again and again. The woman is a virgin, or nearly so, when she is seduced by the wiser, more experienced lover. And I don't mind reading that; I just wish it would play out the opposite way a little more often. (One of the things--among many--that I liked about Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is that she turns this on its head. Claire, having been married before, is sexually experienced, and she indicates that she had lovers before her first husband. On the other hand, Jamie--despite being attractive and very sought-after--is a virgin.) Or at least, can we get a couple in a romance novel who are both sexually experienced?
It's 2011. Isn't it time that we stop perpetuating this stupid, antiquated ideas about women and feminity? Shouldn't we stop condeming women for being sexually active and healthy? Isn't it time that we showed these stupid, insecure men (not saying all men are stupid and insecure, just that the ones who think like this are), that women can be sexually open and it doesn't make them sluts?
So what does this have to do with Sex Week? There's certainly no deeper agenda there; we just like to run sexy articles because it's fun for Valentine's Day. But many of our contributors are females, and I like the idea that Sex Week gives women the space and opportunity to talk about sexual themes. Exposure is key to busting some of these old-fashioned stereotypes. If women are to be seen as sexual creatures, just as much as men, we've got to show them to be sexual creatures.
For me, on a more personal level...I like the opportunity to write freely and openly about that part of myself. This year, I'm doing an article on how women often use romance novels for the same type of sexual release that men use pornography for. I'm excited about it. It's a topic I feel really strongly about, and one that I don't think is talked about much in society. Romance novels are schmoopy things, with Fabio on the cover, right? Clearly, they couldn't be connected to their readers' sexualities.
And I do it because, in the time since I ended my relationship with the aforementioned guy, I have become a lot stronger and more confident. I have spread my wings. And I have realized that there is nothing in my past I should apologize for, not to anyone. I will not be ashamed of the things I've done. And I will not tolerate anyone who makes me feel that way.
As is my way, I tend to be bodly defiant in such things. This is who I am, and I'm happy with it. And if any ex-boyfriend (or future boyfriend, for that matter) happens to stumble across it and thinks, "She isn't the girl I thought she was," well...screw him. Screw them all.
I'm waiting for someone who doesn't think they're accepting me in spite of my history, for someone who realizes that my history made me who I am...and thinks that who I am is awesome.