The hideous culture that women face is many things, but it should not minimise our own value. Here are four things I try to always keep in mind.
CW: This piece discusses rape and rape culture.
I’ve received a sudden deluge of comments from men informing me that I mustn’t write essays about rape culture anymore, so here’s another essay about rape culture.
One of the most common recurring themes I’ve seen is that I only believe rape culture is a thing because I’ve had a uniquely bad set of experiences with men, which distorts my ability to provide a clear analysis of the subject. But that’s just the thing – my experiences aren’t unique. Virtually all women have had extensive bad experiences with rape, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
We’ve had a long, chaotic march into the present moment as a species, and much of that march has included the commodification of women as essentially the property of a male partner who was entitled to sex whenever he wanted it. This has left many vestigial relics in our culture that have yet to move into consciousness, but we’re getting there. Here are four things that I would like to use my little platform here to say to every woman about this journey:
1. It is your right to be beautiful
Women know that we lose a little of our sparkle in our first encounter with rape culture. For some, it’s the first time they get catcalled. One moment, you’re skipping down the street in a tank top totally unaware of your budding boobs, and the next, you’re scouring your wardrobe for the largest, ugliest cardigan you can find to hide yourself in.
If you get raped or assaulted, you might find yourself packing on a few pounds as protection. Wearing a little less make-up, being a little less “on” in your next conversation with a guy. It rubs the magic off you.
Rape culture propaganda – otherwise known as fashion and beauty advertising – will squash you further and further into dullness. When everything everywhere tells you that you’re the wrong shape/weight/colour/height/abledness/age to be considered beautiful, you believe it. Culture tells us that our worth is in our beauty while simultaneously telling us that we aren’t beautiful, while also showing us that if we’re too beautiful, men hurt us.
Here’s the thing – you are beautiful. Women are beautiful, end of story. You know deeply that your beauty would have any man drop to his knees if you could just break through the bullshit for long enough to stand up tall and expand your energy to your true size. You know that’s true. We women keep our energy small and inconspicuous. We’re taught that tiny is better. But you know deeply that your beauty is in being a giant woman. If you could just unfold and inflate into the true beauty you really are, that power would bring the planet to its knees.
Here’s the other thing – the secret to becoming your full size is knowing your beauty is for you alone to enjoy. It’s not a show, it’s what you are. Do it now. Inflate. Enjoy it. That’s the real you and you owe it to no one.
2. You have all the sexual power
You ever notice how money doesn’t recognise women’s skills? No woman ever got rich by child-rearing. Money doesn’t reward you for your emotional labour. Money will never seek you out and pay you for taking in your elderly parents, putting on the family celebrations, or redistributing your second-hand goods to your friend in need. No woman ever got a bonus for making that lasagna for her poorly neighbour. All that work you will do from now til Christmas – from the presents to the food prep to the parties – all of that social integration work is done by you for free. We do so much of the shit that makes this world bearable, but money ignores all of it. That’s meant.
Money was created by men, for men, to reward men’s skills. That didn’t matter a few decades ago when marriage meant the men who owned women provided food and shelter for them in a kind of quasi-slave relationship.
It matters a lot now. Women are told they are free, but so much of the work they do and the value they bring is deliberately ignored by our only valuing system. This fact alone puts invisible pressure on women to partner.
Society emphasises romance and coupling as a pillar of all pop culture from songs, to books, to film, so it’s no wonder women feel like they need a man. To deny that these things have an effect would be to deny that advertising – a half-trillion dollar industry – has an effect.
It’s actually a trick though. Money has created artificial suffering for women by not valuing our work, and that suffering creates an artificial desire for a man. It’s not women who need men, men need women. Without us, life is dull and awful. They deeply know this to be true, which is why they fight me so viciously when I implore women to take back their sexual energy and use it for themselves.
You don’t need men’s sexuality, you need to survive, but through the artificial construct of money, men have created a subconscious need for them. It’s a trick. An artifice. They want our sexual energy so they created a patriarchal currency that we need to survive. A false resource to swap with our real one.
Men have made an art of making it seem like we need them. Negging, a concept that every woman should know about, is low-key insulting someone you want to fuck. In the act of insulting them, you reverse the power dynamic and put the hot woman in the submissive position where they find themselves reaching for the negger’s approval. Women have so little idea of their own sexual worth, even the most confident of us often fall for this play.
It’s a sick game and causes the woman psychological damage.
That’s just one manipulation men play on women to secure the most sex they can get out of you, for the lowest price they can manage.
Make that stuff conscious. Take back your sexuality. If a guy really wants it, then he can work his ass off for it. Meanwhile, you can use all your freed up sexual energy to make yourself a beautiful, creative, deeply nourishing life for yourself to enjoy. By re-routing your sexual energy back to yourself, you inflate into the giant woman you are, and it’s all yours to enjoy.
3. Take a big-picture view of your sexuality
Men’s sexuality is pretty simple: rub him the right way and he’ll cum. Doesn’t matter if he’s got bills to pay or the hot water system just exploded or the in-laws will be here in 20 minutes and the house is still a mess – he’s still good to go. Doesn’t matter if he had too much to eat and feels bloated, or he hasn’t had a shower in a while, or the kids are in the next room and could burst in at any moment – those are just more reasons to have sex.
Our sexuality is the opposite. I’ve lost my wood when I’ve suddenly remembered the oceans were dying. You ask me to have sex when the dishes are still piled up in the sink, and I’ll just consider it another chore I need to do before I get to the dishes. Sex for most women most of the time is a performance we put on so we can get on with doing other things.
Our real libido needs us to be relaxed and feeling safe and cherished and un-self-conscious about our bodies. It needs to feel playful and like it has all the time in the world to explore, and like we have a curious participant who is willing to hold our hand and journey with us. In a world without a living wage that requires a crippling amount of unpaid work every day, where her body is critiqued into insanity, and her worth is unseen by money, this is almost impossible. Patriarchy has created a hostile environment for female sexuality in every way possible. That’s why it has, until now, often seemed an endangered species, possibly extinct.
That doesn’t mean that real sex with us is all Jeff Buckley and essential oils. It can take some dark turns and go to some kinky places because our sexuality is intimately tied to our self-healing, so our sex will go where our psychology needs healing. That can take any form. It just means that the container we need to relax into has to feel safe and secure and worry-free. We have to forget about the world for a while and we need a partner who can make that possible.
Or not. We can do it by ourselves too. The invitation and opportunity is there for a partner, but they have to make themselves worthy of that. It’s an intimate and vulnerable space that doesn’t open up if it perceives a threat and will seamlessly deflect into putting on some porno performance art to keep us safe from further damage. There is no shame in faking it to get out of there quicker if it’s not feeling right. Your sexuality is all yours to do with as you wish.
Inflate, giant woman. Become your true size. Dominate the room, the house, the planet.
4. A man’s sexuality is never your responsibility
This one got an incredible amount of backlash the last time I said it, so I’m going to say it again: a man’s sexuality is never, ever your responsibility, under any circumstances. Whether it’s the fifth date or your 20th year of marriage, the correct determining factor for whether or not you have sex with your partner isn’t whether you ought to “take care of him” or “put out” because it’s been a while or he’s really horny – the correct determining factor for whether or not you have sex is whether or not you want to have sex.
Men (and some of them deeply hate it when I say this) can go indefinitely on masturbation alone with no real problem. Your partner may prefer sex, and if he doesn’t love you enough to work through what big-picture problems are causing your aversion to sex he might leave (in which case good riddance), but it’s only ever a want, not a need. If you’re not feeling it because the kitchen’s a mess or you’re worried about bills or you feel unsexy or the kids are still awake, he can wait. He learned at a very young age how to take care of himself; he’ll be fine. And you don’t have to have anything to do with that either if you’re not feeling it.
If your partner is really into you, he’ll happily work through whatever stands between you and sex. He’ll make sure the kids are in bed by 8:30 and the kitchen is clean as a whistle, if that’s what’s bothering you. He’ll patiently walk with you through whatever unresolved woundedness you’ve got around your sexuality, whatever intimacy issues you’re still struggling with, whatever relationship problems the two of you have, whatever future worries you need put at ease, whatever adjustments you’d like to make in your lovemaking. If he loves you and wants to have sex with you, he’ll do whatever he needs to do to make sex enjoyable for you.
The more obstacles you clear in your big-picture view of your sexuality, and the more he makes sex enjoyable for you, the more sex he’ll get. And then you’ve got a happy woman and a happy man, standing on even footing at last.
And that’s it, really. That’s how you can enable your sexuality to inflate to its natural size in a society that is saturated in rape culture. Shine unapologetically bright and beautiful, refuse to let any man turn you into a beggar, look at your sexuality holistically, and don’t take responsibility for his. Amazing things can happen if you let this flower blossom in your life.