Welcome to the great unknown: the female sex organ formally known as the vulva, and its internal friend, the vagina.
I have one. I’m sure many of my readers have one, and if they don’t, well I’m sure most of you have some experience with one in some way, or another.
The problem is, I’ve never been given an instruction manual on how to live with mine. When I was a young child, I was lectured about not letting anyone touch, or see it. I was told to keep it clean, but not really taught the best ways to do so. I was warned that at one point in my early teens, it would start spewing blood, and that meant that I was a woman, and in my late mother’s words “could never trust a boy again because they only wanted one thing, and now pregnancy was a possibility!” Yeah, there we have it folks, “The Great Sex Talk of 1980something.” By that point, my Barbie dolls were already fucking each other, and whatever male doll I could throw into the mix. I had no idea what they were really doing, but in my mind, it was amazing, and I couldn’t wait for my life to begin so that I could have as much fun as my plastic role models.
I remember when my mother found me getting the dolls to date and have sex; she panicked and called one of my cousins to take me shopping and have a talk with me “to make sure that no one was hurting” me. I was 11-ish, so her concerns made sense. The truth was, I was simply curious. I had so many questions spinning around in my head, but no one I could really ask; not even my cousin.
My older brother had wallpapered his room with Playboy centrefolds. Every inch of his wall space was covered in naked women showing body parts that were surprisingly unfamiliar to me. They had hair. They had breasts. I had a sad little round body with no indication of maturity whatsoever. I wanted to be them. In fact, I set my life goals at becoming a Playboy model until I was told that I was too short, and too fat to actually be beautiful in life. (Yes, this was my reality. )
Until the day my dream was shattered, I would secretly take my brother’s magazines and try to copy the poses. I dreamt of having large beautiful breasts. I couldn’t wait to sprout pubic hair. I wanted to be sexy. These women taught me what sexy was, and I was going to make them proud one day. Considering I’m writing this from my small office desk at the end of another long day of teaching, this clearly never happened.
I was curious. I was curious about how the mechanics of sex worked. I was curious about how it felt. I was curious about what led up to two people actually wanting to be naked and intimate with each other. The way sex was portrayed in the media we consumed told me that women rarely had orgasms, and when they did, they were incredibly loud. Women didn’t initiate sex, and were often pestered for it until they gave in. Most of all, women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex after a certain point in life. Basically, before marriage, if a woman was opening her body to a man, it was because he coerced her, but she got sometimes got pleasure, or gifts out of it, and if she was having sex after marriage, it was for the purpose of having babies, to fulfill her wifely duties, or to gain something from her husband. Whatever representation existed showing women wanting, or enjoying sex was always skewed to ruin their reputations, or pin them with a scarlet S. Sex was always about what the man wanted, him not getting enough, and how to make him happy.
The magazines we read were all about creating male pleasure, how to give the best blow-job, and what to do if your man couldn’t stand at attention in the bedroom. We were told how to attract men, how to keep men, and why, if they left us, it was always our faults. Our bodies were simply designed to keep men satisfied and happy.
Let’s take a step back in time to when I started seriously dating someone. I remember my mother, and my grandmother sitting me down and telling me that I could never “lead my boyfriend on” because if I did, he was going to get “blue balls,” and suffer. Blue. Balls. I had to endure the “blue ball” lecture from the two matriarchs in my life. They were so worried that I’d get my boyfriend hard, and not relieve his pressure that they lectured me to ensure that I either didn’t get him excited, or if I did, I was prepared to help him through his struggles.
I don’t know if I have enough words to describe how misinformed this was. First of all, I was so twisted and confused. How was I supposed to maintain my virginity, and keep my boyfriend from suffering with blue balls? How was I supposed to quench my own sexual needs while still being “a good girl?” How was I supposed to decide for myself when my sexual body belonged to men, and the people who felt that my pleasure was supposed to be locked up until they decided I was ready to share it with the world? How was I supposed to be a liberal-minded, open-minded individual young woman and still adhere to archaic social structures? Everything felt wrong, even when I felt right doing it.
Fear kept me from truly enjoying my sexual growth. I was fed so much misinformation that I actually thought I could get pregnant when I slow-danced with a boy, and he got hard while we were dancing!!! I was so sure that because he got hard, he ejaculated, and his sperm was able to swim through his underwear, his jeans, my jeans, and my underwear, then impregnate me. No lies. My friends and I all panicked and counted the days down until my very irregular period reared its ugly head. We literally jumped up and down and danced with joy. Folks, this was 1987. It was the Halloween right before I turned 14. When I say we were misinformed, I mean we were MISINFORMED!
Back in sixth grade Health class, the girls were separated from the boys as we learned about each other’s physical changes during puberty. I have very little inclination about what the boys were taught about their bodies, but I’ll never forget the homework the nurse assigned the group of tween girls. We were sent home to look at ourselves in the mirror, the ultimate goal being to find our clitorises. Yes, we were sent home to examine our bits and pieces in a mirror and figure out what, and where everything was. I remember going back to school the next day and meeting up with my gaggle of girlfriends. Blushing, we all tried to figure out if we had found the right thing, and why it was so important to find it. One girl was super confident that she’d found her clit, while the rest of us were simply hopeful that we were “normal” and that we had everything we needed to function in life.
In retrospect, that nurse did us a huge favour. From that day forward, I never felt uncomfortable looking at my nether regions in a mirror. That practice came to help when it was time to figure out how to use tampons, trying to shave places that can’t be seen without origami-ing into contortionist shapes, and when checking to make sure that everything looks the way it’s supposed to. Okay, so I knew what I looked like, but I still didn’t understand how things actually worked, or why they happened.
By the time I turned sixteen, most of my friends were well versed in some sort of sexual contact. They’d tasted things that I never imagined, touched skin that I’d only seen in my brother’s magazines, and been touched in places that I set off alarms alerting the world that they’d crossed over to the adult side of physicality. By this point in my life, I’d been enjoying the depths of passionate kissing which made me crave MORE, but I as so terrified of taking the next steps in my sexual growth.
Then one day, I was with my boyfriend on his couch kissing. His hands started traveling over my clothes, gripping my breasts, and slid between my thighs. He moved my hand to his lap where I felt his caressed his harness through his jeans. My brain was swimming in confusion. Would anyone know what we’d done? I felt so wet. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought my period was starting and that I’d stand up to find my favourite brown pants stained in red. I was shocked when that didn’t happen. I was sure the wetness was visible between my legs, but it wasn’t. Why, I wondered, why was I feeling so slippery, and wet from being touched and kissed? I was confused, but intrigued, and I wanted more.
I raced home, hopping on the bus thinking everyone could tell what I’d been up to, but no one seemed to notice my sexual transformation. The next day, a friend came over and I told her about my experience. She was SHOCKED that I had allowed my boyfriend to explore my body over my clothes! She chastised me for wanting more. She had no explanation for my wetness. I was left feeling shamed, and confused for what I’d done, and for wanting more.
I reached out to another friend. Thankfully she was able to advise me with a degree of comfort, and experience. She taught me about my body, explained what I was experiencing, and encouraged me to safely explore my curiosity. That boy and I never did anything except kiss again, but he did ignite a spark in me, and for that, I’m grateful.
Throughout my teen years, it seemed that everyone around me was having sexual fun. I had opportunities, but I was always terrified. Still trapped in my tornado of misinformation, I was sure that anything, absolutely anything could get me pregnant, or worse, saddle me with a disease that would either kill me, leave me suffering for the rest of my life, or leave me infertile. I was so sure that any skin on skin contact, be it hands, or lips on southern lips, or dick would stain me with disease, or death.
It was so confusing! We were taught about condoms during the peek of the AIDS crisis. We were taught about herpes, syphilis, and chlamydia (the posters at the doctor’s office read “Chlamydia is NOT a Flower!” We were taught about birth control. What we were also taught was that no matter what did, we were going to get pregnant, or diseased because we were exploring our bodies. We couldn’t trust anyone. We were misinformed.
Of course, many of my friends took the risks and had their share of fun. I was jealous of them. I shopped for condoms with them, knowing that I wanted, but would not engage because I was too freaking afraid of my own body, my own mind, and my own perceived consequences of my own pleasure.
My first orgasm came as a surprise. Given to me by gracious fingers that I only allowed over my clothing, the sensation put me over the edge and made me very aware of what my body could do. Once I realized that someone else had the power to give me pleasure, I decided to explore my own body and take control of what it could do. Of course, I felt guilty giving myself pleasure. Wasn’t my body supposed to be for someone else to explore and enjoy? Why should I please myself? Wasn’t that depriving my blue-balled boyfriend? Wasn’t I gatekeeping what should be his? Shouldn’t I give him MORE than I was sharing? I was so confused, and twisted between self-care, guilt, and peer pressure.
It was years before I was actually ready, and willing to lose my virginity. Trust me when I say it was a very unpleasant experience. Physically, it simultaneously hurt, and felt pleasurable. My partner was shocked that I bled. The shock ended things before they could even really get started. He ran. I was left feeling shamed, and disgusting. I couldn’t understand why everything seemed so easy, and wonderful for my friends, and I was struggling so intensely.
It took another few years before I was able to feel comfortable enough in my body to try sex again. When it finally “worked” I didn’t actually get much pleasure from it, but all of the movie characters flooded my brain in how I should act, behave, and sound. Holy shit was it ever embarrassing.
I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever had a healthy, or happy sex life. At some point, I gained a partner who not only wanted me, but made me feel like I was nothing without him. He questioned my past experiences and held me to court on why I’d chosen the paths that I’d taken. He did everything in his power to make me believe that I was trash, worse than trash, and on top of that, I was lucky that he loved me and was willing to be with me. No one else, he ventured would ever look at me the way he did because I was broken, and used. He was, you know, for all intents and purposes willing to overlook my “sordid past” provided I fulfilled his “Madonna/whore fantasy.” He wanted a “Virgin Madonna” with the bedroom spirit of what he considered to be a “whore.” I was neither. I was however broken, weak, and whatever the complete opposite of a confident woman in her prime would be considered.
I latched onto him. I clung to the lifesaver that he through at me without realizing that the lifesaver was a lead weight that would only make me drown later in life, rather than lifting me up. As soon as he slipped that ring onto my finger, the ring that he made clear I knew I didn’t fully deserve because I wasn’t good enough for him- or for that matter, anyone else, he owned me, pussy, and all.
The red flags were there all along. He had SEXPECTATIONS that I could never keep up with. He wanted when I couldn’t and I didn’t have much choice but to give. Saying “no” resulted in arguments, put-downs, and manipulations. The guilt trips were more lavish than five start travel. Why did I put up with it all? I clearly deserved it. I had no choice. I believed him. I was broken. In many ways, I still am.
With that ring on my finger, my pussy became his prize possession. He’d had it already, but now, it was really, truly HIS. I was expected to perform for him, please him, regardless of my pleasure, or desires. He would claim to prioritize my pleasure, but it was always about what he wanted, and how he could receive it. There were YEARS that I faked pleasure just to endure, and get things over with. I honestly believed that this was my natural fate in life: punishment for my (honestly really quite innocent) past, and what every source of media had portrayed: Women don’t get pleasure out of marital sex, they are simply vessels for their partners, and to carry children. We didn’t matter. It was our wifely duty.
Think back to my post “The Joys? of Sex.” In it I spoke of a woman who holds an iPad up to watch her shows while her husband fucks her. What pleasure is she getting from that? Why is that even happening? How is that intimacy? That’s a man who could have taken a hot shower and gotten an arm workout at the same time. Fuck, I wouldn’t want to be involved in a sexual encounter with someone who wasn’t interested in giving, or receiving pleasure!
Yet, that’s where I found myself for way too long in life. I allowed my body to be used in order to have peace in my life. Saying “no” wasn’t an option. It resulted in arguments, insults, and eventually relenting and giving up my body in order to keep the peace. What peace? It was more like pieces of my soul slowly dissolving in my silent tears.
At one point, I simply stopped and denied all access to my physical existence. Not a hug, or a kiss, or a pat on the back is received from me. I’m cold. I’m off. I’m touch starved, and lonely, but I’m now in the most powerful position of my life. I have my pussy back. It’s mine. Eventually I’ll live a life where I can share pleasure with someone deserving of my powers. For now…it’s the guilt of self-pleasure that haunts my soul.
The guilt of self-pleasure. It’s MY body. It’s MY pussy. It’s MY pleasure, yet I feel an anvil of weight every time my hand slides down to privately tickle my wetness. Every time I bring myself to climax, I feel as though I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t know why. I wasn’t raised to fear, or deny masturbation. In fact, it was never really talked about when I was growing up. Save of that sixth grade lesson, we never really talked about pleasuring ourselves.
Clearly, now as adults, my friends and I talk openly about what we enjoy in the bedroom, and how sometimes we take matters into our own hands. I’m beyond fortunate to have a friend with whom I feel completely safe to go shopping for sex toys with. Sadly, I never have an opportunity to employ my Battery Operated Boyfriends because I’m never home alone to be able to let go and truly pleasure myself. Even if I did though, sometimes it feels like the biggest waste of time.
My friends with healthy sex lives agree with me: a woman’s orgasm is simply a slot in the day: basically climax, then get up and do dishes. I long for days of passion, and pleasure with a partner that truly respects my body; a partner who allows me to explore my fantasies, and still feel safe within my boundaries. I long to be able to share my body without guilt, or manipulation. I long to truly know the power of my pussy.