On Being Hungry… Sexually

OoOOoOOOoOoOOOooOoooO….. see what I did there?

So I finished Appetites yesterday, just could not put it down. In case you missed it, I posted yesterday inspired by this book, feel free to review here.

Throughout the book author Caroline Knapp speaks to many issues of appetite, from the hunger for food, things, success, approval, and yes: sex. Sexual appetite, from what I can see, is a super conflicting place to navigate for women. In this age of (supposed) liberation, women are supposed to want to have sex, and we are no longer limited in who we want to have it with. Or aren’t we? There is still this unbelievable stigma when you think outside the box. I think the ‘Madonna-whore’ complex has given way to the ‘g/f-NSA’ complex, that there are still two kinds of girls and rules about how much you are allowed to want/enjoy/engage in sex. There is definitely a ‘too much’ as far as women are concerned, and female sexual appetite is still hushed and veiled in secrecy the way that men’s appetites never need be. Think about sex education. First of all, if you are lucky to get taught anything except abstinence, I doubt you were taught about female pleasure or orgasm or anatomy. It took me another twenty years after my sex ed class to actually read and learn about my anatomy, not that I hadn’t explored, but oh boy did I gain a whole new understanding (that book, for the record, is called ‘The Smart Girls Guide to the G-Spot”. I swear by it.) How are we supposed to figure out what we want if we don’t even know how the mechanics work?

Anyway, here is an incredibly eloquent passage about the language of desire, about why women have a hard time articulating what they need and want from lovers, about how our needs may be different, about how to start using language as a tool to satiety. Again, from Appetites by Caroline Knapp, the Chapter is ‘From Bra Burning to Binge Shopping’:

A psychiatrist tells me about her efforts to get women to think differently about sexuality, which is often a battle fought with words… She talks about sexuality in terms that evoke its internal nature, a man’s native level of desire as “sharp and daily,” a woman’s as more “hidden and complex.” She uses food metaphors to describe differences in need and satisfaction- the sexual ideal for a man might be quick and frequent and focused, the equivalent of grabbing a bite to eat; the ideal for a woman might be more leisurely and indulgent, a gourmet meal in a restaurant instead of a sandwich on the fly, and encounter preceded by a lot of thought, a lot of planning and preening and fantasizing during the day, a lot of warm-up time, no distractions, no work to get done or bills to pay or piles of dishes to wash. Her descriptions are peppered with words you rarely hear applied to female sexuality- “dark” and “glittery” and “mysterious”- and when I listen to her, I’m impressed by the power of even those hints at a reconfiguration, a word like “glittery” so much more apt and evocative than a word like “sexy,” its path so clearly headed inward instead of outward.

I think this is a beautiful idea, that my sexuality is mysterious and glittery. Glittery. Yes. And the other reason I like this is because it doesn’t say a thing about men wanting sex more than women, which is an idea I am consistently denying. It speaks to the idea that there are different kinds of sex and different kinds of desires, and it stands to reason that these can be shaped in part by gender (after all, we do come with different parts, different buttons to push and different ways to experience pleasure and orgasm.) I have been pondering for awhile why sex always seems to me to be hurried, fast and furious, goal oriented. I do fantasize about slowing it all down, lingering, languishing, going back for seconds (thirds, fourths…)

Of course, this isn’t always possible. We live in an oh so productive, on the go, gotta get to work/make that money America. (I do blame capitalism in part for the way we learn to have sex. We just don’t know how to relax and take our time, so focused on the end goal, in the work place and the kitchen and the bedroom.) I have nothing against fitting it in when thats your only option. But if that’s all you ever get, and its not really doing it for you, then you have got to talk to your partner (or find a new partner) and figure out what would satisfy you. If its something slower, or if you need props, or more warm-up throughout the day or right before or WHATEVER. You are allowed to want different things than your partner. In fact, its completely normal. But don’t think about it as difficult or wrong. It’s just different. It’s glittery. And you deserve to be satisfied. Male sexual desire is so obvious, so culturally mandated, so hanging out and obvious (literally, there it is!). As women our sex happens inside, our body needs more attention, it takes a different kind of effort, one that any partner worth their weight should be willing to exert. If not, drop them, learn how to satisfy yourself, and don’t give it up to anyone who isn’t willing to satisfy your needs and not just their own. You are sparkly and fabulous, and your desire is glittery and mysterious and enticing. Words matter, so make your own mantra and don’t settle. You deserve fullness, your appetites deserve consideration, your glittery-ness deserves love and attention.

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