I’ve been thinking a lot about sex, gender roles, and feminism. I’ve always thought of myself as a sexual person; yesterday I heard myself telling this to a friend. When I was growing up I remember watching movies which had sex scenes with my mum at a very early age. I even remember being on the floor of my friend’s boyfriend’s house with my eyes pretend shut whilst they were moving through the bases. I’ve always seen myself as a feminist. In one of my last works I proudly masturbated on stage to a hundred or so people in order to bring up the conversation around sexuality and shame. That’s the big one. That’s the thing I think I’ve been thinking about most. Recently, I watched Brené Browne’s follow-up Ted Talk which, of course, centred around shame. I might just be stubborn, but I feel like everyday I need to reclaim my right as a woman to sexuality. I look around and many women still appear to me as vacant, perfectly presented toys. And it angers me. I’m not an angry person. So I don’t know what to do with this antagonism.
Still, whenever I seem to advocate my feminist side – I find myself in sticky situations. You see, the conservative traditionalist is still close to my heart. Now nearing thirty I have begun to think about a long-term partner, and maybe even settling down. Well, not settling down, but quitting the flirty sexy twenties. I’m constantly at a standstill with whether these intentions are my own or those that have been sewn into me from an early age. Think: the fairy tales, the Disney movies, my mother’s values from an even more traditionalist generation. It seems difficult to escape the infiltration. I don’t want to reject all these ideas. There may be something of value. And I can’t imagine myself being the nasty feminist my brothers object to. I recently had a sexual encounter. It happened after I had been swooning over someone that eventually made me feel quiet confused, distracted, and just down right lost. How do we make these judgments so haphazardly that somehow this person is the one? It seems like we do it in an instant and then the next few weeks are torturous examples of how to get a screw loose with rampant desires and self-consciousness.
I went out clubbing and by the end of the night I took what seemed to me a decent chap home. Now here’s where the shame sets in. And my head-to-head conflict with feminism. At some point during the night I decide that I would like some intimacy and sexual satisfaction (possibly due to the excess drinking). I am satisfied with the connection I’ve made previously with this decent chap and head home to do the deed. Once we get to my apartment already I am feeling some shame because I am creeping around someone else’s home to have sex. The sex is already treated and identified as something that must be hidden. And afterwards the morning has begun and I cannot sleep. I am feeling that disenchanted feeling – who is the stranger here next to me? I remember fragments of our conversation the night before. I remember stroking his face tenderly. I remember making love to this stranger. I’ve been farting in the morning. Yes – gross. Now the sexy atmosphere has resided into grime and we both feel dirty. It’s extremely hot. Like a sauna. And I can hear my little Korean sister in the next room who is only 6 years old and I imagine her poking her head around the corner to see us here naked, as we don’t have a curtain. After the coast is clear I make my exit to the bathroom. When I return I see my stranger is making the same escape route movements. He says he wants to have a shower. I see him out as far as the lift. What connection we had is lost in a sea of unstable waters, both of us flipping out to finally navigate home. Home to a place of comfort. Home to our source of solitude.
In the days that follow I feel indifferent to whether or not he contacts me. I would be open to seeing where it leads but I have no strong desire to do the catching. I’m tired of this race. And again, he just seems foreign to me. I haven’t made that snap judgement I had with the other person to devote myself to hoping that something will eventually happen. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the sex. The more I think about it, the more I believe it to be the case. The feminist in me gets upset and defensive about her sexual appetite and her right to it. Why should a man get to have sex as much as he wants but a women is meant to be prudish and repress her desires? Why should a man receive a pat on the back by his peers for nailing a woman whereas a woman is left with the shame of giving herself once again? I used to think and make it my duty to go against these strides. Reclaim my sex and love my body and the instincts I have. Yet as I said, now that I am nearing that ripe old age of 30 and I have begun to look at babies in a rather comical way, almost beguiled by them as much as I am seduced by the idea of a lover. I have started to become more sceptical of the feminist tendencies I so admired. The more and more I think of it the more and more deluded I think I have been. To think that the other won’t disdain me me after sex because I am a feminist is denial. To think that I won’t experience shame because I had sex on the first meeting – not even date – is denial. To think that I won’t be ashamed of myself for objectifying this person and myself for my own sexual satisfaction is denial.
Now here is where I get confused again.
Is it worth it?
Yes, I cannot have any expectations of a long term partner coming from a sexual encounter post-clubbing. I don’t think I ever did. But I still experience the disappointment of never knowing that stranger; never knowing if there was the possibility that we could have enjoyed each other’s company; that our connection was in fact of more value than the night of heated hedonism we consumed. And if the heated hedonism is worth the emotional toll in the morning after and days there to come, then maybe I need to write this out/talk this out and put to bed some of my own insecurities before I go down ‘this route’ again. What is it that I really want? And what are my expectations? Can I be more realistic: is rationality the key in these circumstances?
But how do we know? How do we make these snap ‘lover’ or not ‘lover’ decisions? If we long for a long-term relationship do we give the benefit of the doubt and withhold? Do we suppress all the time? Or do we only have sex with people we cannot imagine ourselves calling ‘lovers?’
Image by Ellie Butcher