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Taking Sexy Back: A Guest Post

December 6, 2010

The following is a guest-post by Cam Ostrow, as part of the SPARK campaign. Cam is from Newton, MA, and is currently a sophomore studying English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Colby College.

Hi, my name is Cam. I’m 19 years old, I still watch Survivor religiously, I’m an English major, I’m a camp counselor, I hate football, I can’t cook, I’m half-Japanese, my first concert was Britney Spears, I didn’t understand the ending of “Inception,” and oh yeah… I also like having sex. Actually, I like it a lot. I’d like to think that, that’s okay and that I can still have a life outside of my sexuality… but then again, a life separate from the one I lead in the bedroom seems almost impossible. On the days when I’m “DTF” (that is, Down to Fuck), I’m just a whore; but when I’m not, I’m just a virgin. At least, that’s what everyone seems to tell me— But they’re wrong, because the fact is that there are so many facets to my personality… so why is it that everything else has to fade away as soon as my sexual desires come into play?

Last weekend, for example, I had sex. He wasn’t my boyfriend and to be quite honest, I didn’t even know him very well… but sometimes sex just happens. No, I wasn’t clad in some tight leather mini skirt, and no, I was not drugged. I’m not some self-conscious little girl dying for attention and he’s not some pig who prayed on my insecurities to get into my pants. I was having a good time, I had a few drinks in me, and I just wanted to. That was all. No being slapped around, no unwilling blow-jobs… no feelings of unwarranted subordination. I met him, I liked him, I had sex with him. End of story.

My girlfriends had one of two reactions to my night of fun: either they danced around me like the “tell me more” ladies in Grease, saying, “you totally want to date him now!” or they gave me a look of sad pity and quietly insisted that this “wasn’t the best way to get over my ex-boyfriend.”

The problem with these responses was how distinctly they characterized my sexuality in terms of men: I was either in search of pleasing a man, or I was using a man to gain some sense of reassurance. Without question or even a second thought, I now had to frame my sexuality in terms of a man simply because my femininity barred me from framing it any other way. But the truth of the matter is that I hadn’t become a sexual object at the hands of my male counterpart; I had just acted on my basic human desire. It wasn’t my sexual act which brought about such objectification, but instead, it was the responses which followed that left me totally prone to assumptions about my personality based solely on my sexual activity.

And what’s perhaps most troubling about my girlfriends’ reactions to my one-night-stand is how perfectly they fit into the media’s portrayal of female sexuality. Females who exhibit desire today are either insecure weaklings looking for approval through men, or more simply put, whores. Conversely, females who do not flaunt their sexuality are either virginal angels equipped with white haloes and blue jays circling their heads, or of course, prudes. But why is that my sexuality had to become this all-consuming entity linking me inextricably to my “duties to men”? Why can’t I be a sexual creature, but also a human being?

I think my best friend said it best the morning after my sexual episode when he said, “Damn, nice one girl. Want to watch a movie?” In his eyes, I hadn’t become some needy puppy dog vying for male approval and I hadn’t become some Lara-Croft-seductress; I was still just me. And we continued about our days knowing that my sexual identity was there, but that it wasn’t ALL that was there.

And that’s precisely what taking sexy back means to me: that we can be sexy or we can be not sexy and we can have sex or not have sex without reservations. We are not our sexual identities and every sexual move we make does not have to render us stagnant sexual objects totally at the hands of men. So here I am – maybe some days I’m “the virgin” and some days I’m “the whore,” maybe some days I’m feeling sexual and some days I’m not; regardless, there will never be a day when my sexual identity consumes me. After all, even in the wake of my sexuality, the rest of me can never fade away and in the end, I can have sex with every guy in the world but still never understand the ending of “Inception.”

10 Comments leave one →
  1. college girl permalink
    December 6, 2010 7:22 pm

    Great essay. I really love this part: “On the days when I’m “DTF” (that is, Down to Fuck), I’m just a whore; but when I’m not, I’m just a virgin. At least, that’s what everyone seems to tell me— But they’re wrong, because the fact is that there are so many facets to my personality… so why is it that everything else has to fade away as soon as my sexual desires come into play?”

    It’s so true! I feel like sometimes I get reduced to the “whore” if I talk about my sexuality at all, as if it erases all the other things I do in my life and all other aspects of my personality. I can be a hard worker, a good student, and a kind person, but somehow that is all subsumed by my sexuality activity which people think makes me “bad.” Luckily I have had good friends who understand this isn’t true and that I am a person whether I casually sleep with many people, sleep exclusively with one person, or if I slept with no one at all!

    I feel like I have to play the “virgin” role in certain circumstances (around my parents, at work, in certain classes) and while I realize that the expression of sexuality isn’t appropriate to all contexts, it seems like this gets taken overboard to the point where it completely censors sexual expression. It makes me sad that I have to pretend not actually be attracted to my boyfriend around my parents (he has to sleep in the guest room when we visit because we’re not married, I can’t kiss him in front of them, they literally pretend that I am a virgin because they don’t want to think about all the clues I’ve given them and don’t want to think of their precious child to be a dirty slut and apparently any sexuality makes me a whore etc). I have to deal with this even though I am 21 and he is 25 and we are both financially independent adults. One of the reasons I like this blog is knowing that there are parents like Thomas who will teach a healthier version of sexuality to their children.

    Discussions of sexuality in the classroom are also often divorced from students’ lived experience. But the times this isn’t true produce invaluable learning about sexuality. I have had such great discussions in some of my Gender Studies courses because people were able to talk about their experiences. For example, in my Reproductive Rights class, I learned so much from the grandmother in our class who talked about her and her daughters’ experiences of sex education, contraception, pregnancy, childbirth, and sexual health across decades. I learned so much from the professor because she was willing to share her experience of being a pregnant woman and later a mother throughout her college and graduate schooling, and to relate the stories of other women such as one of her professors who breastfed while lecturing in the classroom (and had to stand up to critics to do so). I learned from the lesbian woman in the class when she spoke about the difficulty of getting pregnant with her partner.

    It’s too bad your friends don’t get it. I definitely would have been one of the “tell me more” Pink Ladies, but I agree that women have a sexuality that’s inherently our own and an aspect of our personalities rather than just a reference to men. Heterosexual women aren’t just submitting to the demands of men, they have their own sexual desires (although discussing the gendered nature of sexual coercion is important). Lesbians aren’t just women who “won’t sleep with men” – they are women who actively desire one another. Pregnant women aren’t reducible to their pregnancies – they are whole, individual people who are also experiencing pregnancy. All women are fundamentally just people, with our own complex relationship to sexuality, and that means we ought to see each other and ourselves as multi-faceted…and sexuality is one of these facets that needs to be recognized, but also not the only or the most important one!

  2. Lynet permalink
    December 6, 2010 10:01 pm

    Yes. I agree. It took me a lot longer to learn this than you (I was 21 when I started thinking that sort of thing, and nearly 24 when I finally acted on it and went out and got me some of the casual sex I wanted), but yes. It’s such a good thing when women learn that being sexual doesn’t mean you must be pathetic or dirty.

  3. ggg_girl permalink
    December 7, 2010 5:27 pm

    ahhh the good ol’ virgin / whore dichotomy. count me out. consider these factoids about my life:

    Exhibit A:
    I have had one sexual partner my entire life who is also my boyfriend, who I have been with for 5+ years. I met him when I was 17-years-old, he is the only person I have ever kissed or done any sexual activity with. Our first kiss was 4 months after we first met and 1 month after we began dating. We were sexual with one another 5-6 months after we first started dating and waited to have PIV intercourse until 3 years after we started dating due to pregnancy concerns, personal comfort level, etc. We love each other, I am planning on spending the rest of my life with him.

    Exhibit B:
    Me & my boyfriend do BDSM, we play with clamps, needles, handcuffs, rope and chains, we have all kinds of sex. We role-play. We talk dirty. We do anal, oral and vaginal sex. We own vibrators, plugs and other toys. We fantasize about other people and tell each other about it. We flirt with other people and tell each other about it. We dance dirty with other people. I am strongly considering a piercing in a private area.

    So am I “an angel” or “a whore” ? Both. Neither. The question has no meaning to me and I wish it would be stripped of all it’s subjugating implications.

    – ggg_girl

  4. M.S. permalink
    December 8, 2010 12:06 am

    “The problem with these responses was how distinctly they characterized my sexuality in terms of men”
    Yup. You’re preachin to the choir. Not to say I don’t enjoy it. I hope I see more of you on the internets.

  5. Tara permalink
    December 11, 2010 9:29 am

    We need more like you Cam. Thank you for practicing your wisdom!

  6. Anne Smith permalink
    December 11, 2010 9:18 pm

    Will the usual MRA chorus note that your next-day reaction to having had a one-nighter was not to file rape charges?

  7. Copcher permalink
    December 12, 2010 7:58 am

    This was great to read. A related problem that I’m dealing with now is certain people in my life that I haven’t known very long (and who therefore don’t fully get me, I guess) telling me that if I go home with someone I’ve just met, that person will think of me as just a slut and not someone they’d consider dating. And, two major problems there (more actually, but these are the ones I’m thinking of):
    1 – If they don’t like the person I actually am, it’s probably not a good idea for use to start dating. So if anything going home with them is like a litmus test.
    2 – Do these people really think it’s dating that’s on my mind when I start making out with a random person I just met in a bar with music so loud we can barely pretend to have a conversation?

    On the other hand, the people who do know me well and who are good friends with me never say anything negative or stupid like that. They get that my sluttiness is one part of my personality, and not a part that they need to ignore, but a part that they celebrate and love along with all the other parts of me.

  8. December 15, 2010 11:15 pm

    Great essay, Cam. I especially love this: And that’s precisely what taking sexy back means to me: that we can be sexy or we can be not sexy and we can have sex or not have sex without reservations. We are not our sexual identities and every sexual move we make does not have to render us stagnant sexual objects totally at the hands of men.

    And ggg_girl: fuck yes I love your response. You are a wonderful personification of why these dichotomies are complete bullshit. All of us are, really. No one truly fits into those tiny, flat boxes.

  9. December 25, 2010 3:23 pm

    You’ve just become my hero. More posts from you please!

  10. December 29, 2010 11:35 am

    As a man, I am just amazed at the level of double standards that still exist in our society when it comes to sex. If a man has sex with a woman he likes, he is pleasing himself and just having fun. Why can’t that be the simple explanation of a woman having sex with a man she likes?

    Basically, we all know what opinions are like and how both tend to stink. And a lot of people like to think that everyone should live by their personal world view.

    The day I stopped worrying about what other people thought about me, I became a much happier person. It seems that the author of this post had the same epiphany. Kudos!

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