On one of my recent trawls through FB, I found an article written by Emily Ratajkowski, her of the glorious breasts, lips… everything basically. The article proclaimed to be about women’s sexuality and I’m ashamed to admit my first emotion was surprise; surprise that she was the author. Yes, even I can be one dimensional at times (shock horror). I shudder at my own judgemental behaviour and assumptions. Please don’t hate me, it was a momentary lapse. In fact, it’s kind of the point of my post.
In her article for Lena Dunham’s online feminist mag, Lenny (please subscribe if you’re that way inclined, it’s full of epic reads), Emily talks about her experience growing up as a 12 year old girl with D-cup breasts and how people projected their fears and expectations about sexuality and womanhood onto her from the very beginning. As a proud A-cup owner, I haven’t lived her life but I do understand.
At every turn, women’s sexuality is something that’s twisted and bent to suit the male gaze. If a woman dresses a certain way, she’s doing it for men. If she wears make-up, it’s so men think she’s pretty. If she fucks a lot of guys, she’s a slut. It couldn’t possibly be because she enjoys sex. Everything about women and sex is skewed towards men and nothing is ever because we want to do it. She must want attention. She must have daddy issues. She wasn’t loved enough as a child. What about because it feels good or I want to dress this way because I hate clothes?
As a sexually precocious teen and young adult (just conscious that my mum reads this blog so I probably don’t need to give too much away – sorry mum!), I never really bought into that. I did what I did because I wanted to, not because I wanted to please a guy (most of the time at least). And I copped flack for my choices but not from where you’d think. Often the most slut shaming and guilt tripping came from other women. I’ve had friends stop talking to me because I chose to work in the sex industry. I’ve had friends give me countless lectures about my sexual choices and not because I wasn’t being safe but because I was doing things they didn’t agree with, behaving in ways they didn’t see as ‘ladylike’.
It’s the saddest thing. We suffer so much constraint and push back in so many areas of our lives and yet us women are our own worst enemies. Sure, I’ve had guys treat me in not so pleasant ways but it’s always the women whose words and actions cut the deepest. Somehow you always hope other women will at least understand that our bodies are ours to do with as we will and as long as what we’re doing is safe and consensual and we’re not hurting anyone, whose business is it? But women don’t. Or let me rephrase, some women don’t.
Feminism is such a buzzword nowadays. Everyone wants to wave their girl power flags from the rooftops. Yet, how can we truly be feminists when we cut each other off at the knees for things that don’t matter? We can be the best of friends, reliable and fiercely loyal, and yet we sabotage each other at every turn. Making ourselves feel like crap for exploring our bodies and our desires. Who cares if someone has multiple sex partners? Who cares if they sleep with someone on the first date? Did they hurt anyone? Were they safe? Is it really any of your business? No. Then back the fuck off and let women be women.
How long has it been that we’ve truly been free to express ourselves in this manner without fear of serious repercussions? Not all that long. Some people would argue we’re still not there. And if that’s the case, why make things harder? Why make someone feel like crap just because their sexual behaviour isn’t the same as yours?
As someone who sits quite outside the norm in these types of things, I’ve been lucky (if you can call it that) not to experience this kind of girl-on-girl bashing since my teens or early twenties but, in those years, I certainly had my share. As someone who is now confident in their sexuality, I’d welcome the debate that would surely follow if someone decided to question my choices. But it won’t come. Because women who do this to other women do it because they feel superior or dominant and they pick women they know won’t fight back. Which is sad because it only serves to perpetuate the idea that women can’t own their sexuality. That it’s something shameful and dirty. That there’s a ‘right’ way of being sexy and some person other than you is in charge of deciding what that is.
Sorry for the rant but I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days/weeks and it’s been really bugging me. I’m not perfect in the slightest and, yes, I’ve been the perpetrator of this behaviour in the long ago past (it’s still something I’m very ashamed of, especially how much of a pot/kettle/black situation it was in hindsight). It’s a terrible thing to do to someone (whether it’s coming from a guy or a girl) and I hate seeing young women get beaten down for exploring their sexuality. It fucking sucks and it’s so unnecessary. We all have enough shit to deal with. If you do get a chance, read Emily Ratajkowski’s article. It’s a really fascinating piece by a very smart and insightful woman (sorry that I ever doubted you, Emily. I’m weak and I let my baser instincts get the better of me).