Last night on my walk I listened with particular interest to an episode of the Heart podcast called “it’s not me it’s you”
. The host, a bright young woman named Kaitlin Prest was interviewing several other bright, young women about their inability to engage in penetrative sex.
They felt failure and shame around this issue with partners only too happy to reinforce their inadequacies. One woman went to a doctor looking for a medical diagnosis. Another endured in a relationship where her partner’s approach was to push her into life changes with the idea that moving or getting married would fix her. It’s stunning how willing women are to take on the full weight of a problem that isn’t entirely theirs.
Listening through my forty-six year old lens I recognized that arousal was the primary issue. The solution, a cooperative approach. This was the easy portion of the problem to solve. Engage with a partner who was willing and eager to take the time to warm them up before going in.
The fascinating tidbit that came out of this dialog was how they had found success later when they had more agency over the courtship. In other words, this wasn’t just a matter of better sex tips, that was the easy part. When the women were part of the pursuit and communicating interest, the result was a better experience in the bedroom.
Courtship, and how we engage in it, is where women learn to be the passive object of desire and not an equal participant. Yet, for many of us this presents a significant barrier to allowing our own desire to flourish. Women need to feel and show their desire in order to engage in pleasurable sex.
Seems so simple, yet every part of culture teaches women a binary approach. You are either a bad girl who does anything (for the pleasure of men) or you are a good girl who withholds except for one ardent suitor. After a bunch of years on this planet, I am pretty sure zero women fall neatly into these two categories. I aspire to neither.
It’s discouraging, and ultimately makes me lose interest when a man takes a step back because I dare to display my desire for him. The subtle implication being I am of lesser value because I won’t find satisfaction in only being wanted.
This is a foolish approach. A woman who inhabits her own body, knows what she wants, and is happy to be with the partner she has chosen is one who will enjoy the sex she is about to have. This seems an easy win-win. However, my observation is that it takes men a long time (if ever) to embrace and feel genuinely lucky to partner with that kind of woman.
A man I was intimate with some years ago described me as being the most self-assured woman he had met. I remember thinking it wasn’t altogether a compliment. It didn’t slow me down either 😉
Women can be scary to men, our desire even more so, but tamping down on women benefits no one. We aren’t raising too many men to value sexually self-actualized women, and the result is less fun romps for everyone.
We play out all sorts of cultural constructs that make their way into the bedroom. Rethinking courtship to make space for female desire is one worth revisiting.
Encouraging women to be fully present in their bodies and actively choose their partners is good for getting it on, and pretty much everything else.