Why Do Sexually Liberated Women Scare People so Much?
I have been called a slut ever since I was 16. The first time I kissed a boy was at 17. Men may read this and think, “that makes no sense?” but women know that you don’t need to do much to be called a whore. You don’t even need to talk to a boy. An innocent smile can be akin to jet fuel, propelling the rumour mill into overdrive. I would text a male friend, go to school the next day and find out that we were fucking.
Though I am immune to most kinds of verbal abuse, some of the comments I have received hit close to the now dormant vacuum that once housed my heart. I was called a slut way back before I’d even been touched, so once I had sex, I thought, fuck it. If being chaste isn’t enough to secure protection from hearsay, why suppress my sexual expression?
Not going to lie, I went on a bit of a mad one. Even though I was always safe in terms of using protection, I wasn’t protected mentally. There were times when men did use me; however, I soon learned how to play the game fairly and adequately. There is nothing wrong with casual sex, but I’ve found there is something wrong with the way men like to do it. It usually involves them acting interested in a woman, knowing full well that they don’t want anything serious.
There are plenty of women who just want no-strings-attached sex. However, these women are of little interest because they’re “easy.” We have romanticised the chase to the point where harassment and stalking are normalised, and women resisting is seen as a standard step of courtship. I am sure many women can think of many instances where they have told a man ‘no,’ and he has continued anyway. We are instructed to tell them ‘no,’ but they’re never taught to listen. Instead, what they hear is, “Please convince me” because women don’t know what they want.
I find the implication that women need to be hard to have sex with disconcerting. Why does sex need manipulation and the scent of rape culture to be fulfilling? Shouldn’t it always be easy? Why is disinterest and ambivalence pheromonal pixie-dust that enchants and possesses?
We know why. We live in a culture where sexual violence is normalised. We have internalised this false notion that men are unable to control their urges, and women don’t want or like sex — if they do, there is something wrong with them. Therefore, when coming together, the only way to get laid is either through manipulation, rape, or marriage. Yet even in the confines of marriage, women aren’t safe from either of the other two.
Men will openly avoid sexually liberal women because we are damaged somehow. Isn’t it terrifying how sex is seen as something difficult to attain? It has to be a fight and drawn-out courtship, even when you’re looking for something casual.
But this isn’t only a man problem. There are plenty of women who will join in with the vitriol. Choosing these moments to peacock their feathers, so others will notice that they are unsullied. I have, after all, been called worse names by women than men.
With the way I go about sex, there are no hearts broken or manipulation. I ensure we are open about the fact that we are sedating a need. It is why most of my friend-with-benefits arrangements span ages and not moments.
I have slept with a lot of people, and though I’ve played it safe, there are always people projecting shame and pity on me. But, I don’t appreciate the assumption that sexually liberated women are naive. I don’t like how the only way for us to have multiple casual encounters is under duress or coercion. You have sex with more than a handful of men, and suddenly we are a victim.
I wonder, why do sexually liberated women scare people so much? What is it about a woman knowing what she wants that terrifies and disgusts the masses? Why is the ‘helpless damsel who doesn’t know the way of the world’ act such a turn on? Why is this the norm? Why is it a turn off when I know I want it? Why does owning and using my body as and when I see fit so disgusting?
I may try to pretend but, I know the answer. It’s because it’s no longer fun. There is pleasure in the cat and mouse game. Some people would prefer we continue to see ourselves as prey. But I find it repugnant that I’m only sexy when “you know that I want it”, yet I haven’t done anything to verify your evidence.
You would think ‘feminism’ is a Captain Americaesque activation code word with the way some people behave once they’ve heard it. It’s as if all reason and logic disappear. Displaced by adrenaline, they fight until the blistering end. Friend becomes foe, and everybody is the enemy.
I have a very few male friends, and these days I try my best to avoid speaking about sex. It’s as if whatever I say, they see it as an opportunity to set me “straight.” They hear the activation code word and come galloping valiantly on a broom, decked in tinfoil wishing to protect the honour of men they didn’t even know existed five minutes before. Because how dare I, the woman, be the one in the driving seat. How dare I be in control? They want to ensure I know my place.
And as a woman, it will always be a step lower than them.
This is why I don’t mind being called a slut or a whore. These days I feel powerful, knowing that my existence is potent enough to rattle a stranger or observer into a fit of rage.
As a female writer on the internet, I get harassed a lot. I learned the hard way that even when you are on their side, they see your constructive criticism as an attack. But then I think of the many women who came before me who continue to push through the hate to create, even when it gets difficult and (even sometimes) violent.
I dedicate this piece to all the sexually liberated women who continue doing what they do. Who aren’t afraid of being seen as terrifying. Who cause mass hysteria and chaos with the stroke of a keyboard. And I appreciate the men who aren’t afraid to call out their fellow man out on their bullshit because blind solidarity will improve nothing.
I don’t know who told people that dismantling the patriarchy was meant to feel like a sweet summer breeze. When in fact it’s a tornado. It’s the smell of ashes and fire as pavilions burn down. It’s the sound of Emily Davidson’s body breaking and growing cold after she made contact with the King’s horse. It is sight of Angela Davis speaking behind a four sided bulletproof glass shield in 1972. So, you don’t get to feel comfortable while we suffer. And change will always be uncomfortable.
People like to talk about caterpillars transforming into butterflies. Yet, they neglect to mention how a caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues in the process. Change hurts. As Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it’ll piss you off.”
They say the sexual revolution is coming, but I think that is already here. And yes, oppressors should be scared. I feel powerful when people of all genders come in their hoards to try to shame me for something almost every animal does. I laugh as they call me “loose,” knowing their position is scientifically incorrect. Their anger doesn’t shake me because I’ve been angry my whole adult life.
So I keep fighting because it is what needs to be done. I get up, especially when it gets hard because there is pain in transformation.
This is war, and we’re winning. The future is female. Welcome to the fucking reckoning.
Modern Sex is a new column with a focus on the ever-evolving modern landscape of sex. We want to offer a place where we can see sex and sexuality develop.
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