When did vanilla become the only acceptable flavor?
I can’t tell you what the surname of the woman in the cubicle opposite me at work is, nor could I confidently assert her star sign or preference for spicy food, but I could tell you, without hesitation, when the last time was that she had sex.
I could also deftly describe each of my girlfriends’ SO’s man jewels despite never having seen them unclothed, tell you which female acquaintance thinks blow jobs are tedious because, “they don’t call it a ‘job’ for nothing” and which gym buddy likes to suit up in latex before she gets down and dirty.
Put a group of women together in a room for long enough, and the conversation will inevitably turn to sex – the topic that bonds us like few other things can. Because after all, if you know your co-worker’s lover bought her a book on Kama Sutra for Christmas, who really cares what her career aspirations are?
But while my lady friends and I will readily deconstruct our latest sexual encounters with the ease of skilled chefs machine-gun dicing tomatoes, we’re decidedly less comfortable admitting we’re into anything that deviates more than a couple of shades from vanilla.
Screwed on the washing machine? Someone grab the popcorn! Tried anal sex? Save it for your next confessional. Like it rough? Good for you. Enjoy a little sexual asphyxiation? You’re basically the female anti-Christ.
Because while orgies and whips are allowed to exist in the make-believe bedrooms of Samantha Jones and Anastasia Steele; we’re still not comfortable with women who like to fuck outside the lines in real life, something that struck me listening to friends’ reactions after reading 50 Shades Of Grey.
“Vibrating butt plug? I mean, that’s just ridiculous!” a girlfriend scoffed during our debrief, with an eye roll that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a PTA meeting.
We all pooh-poohed in concurrence and quickly changed the conversation to our respective grievances with the writing, but the offended looks on my friends faces lingered in my mind long after we left the bar that night.
Was I the only one who didn’t find it repellant nor far-fetched that a woman living in the 21st century may want to have the kind of sex that didn’t involve staring at the ceiling and thinking of the Queen?
It suddenly dawned on me that in all the many hundreds of hours I’d spent discussing sex with my girlfriends, the closest we’d even come to discussing non-conventional fucking was the night a friend and I split a bottle of Bacardi while watching the episode of Sex & The City where Charlotte becomes addicted to her vibrator; some moments after which, my friend burst from her bedroom brandishing the identical model, declaring she and her husband used it on one another.
The topic was never mentioned again. Potentially because she threw the night’s memories up with her breakfast the next day, but also quite possibly because she wasn’t altogether comfortable in the knowledge I might have thought of her as someone who didn’t abide by the textbook of 101 ways to have socially acceptable sex if you’re a woman.
This was the same friend who chose a male dominated science degree at uni and beat most of her classmates, once kicked a guy in the crotch for shouting lewd comments at her on the street and proudly wore a fluffy pink vagina costume to a Halloween party.
So why is it as women we can be so empowered in every aspect of our lives, except for when it comes to our sexuality?
Feminist Gloria Steinem asserted, “You’re either a feminist or a masochist” – but is there a reason we can’t be both?
I’ve always found conventional sex tiresome and leaned toward a little masochism myself. But it wasn’t until I hit my thirties that I was able to actually ask a partner for it, convinced I’d be met with looks of horror if I expressed what I really wanted. However in the safety of a trusting relationship, in bed with a man with whom I felt comfortable, the opposite was true.
Regardless, I still find myself almost by force of habit nodding along with women when they unanimously tsk-tsk the latest pop culture depiction of sex that strays outside the lines of conventional acceptability. But according to search data from adult content site pornhub, not only are a large chunk of these women putting on a front about what they truly find unacceptable, women in general are being largely dishonest about our true sexual preferences.
Since the 50 Shades wave peaked our interest in non-vanilla sex, we’ve all taken to learning more about it. However, while men’s searches for BDSM related porn rose by 30 per cent this last year, women’s searches spiked by an exponential 186 per cent.
So why are we still scoffing in disgust at women who choose to embrace their sexuality in a way that deviates from outdated ideals of apron clad housewives politely fornicating for the purpose of procreation?
Much of the recent public slut-shaming of Miley Cyrus for choosing to pose semi-nude featuring a strap-on in her recent shoot with controversial photographer, Terry Richardson, came from women, while we’ve also been equally eager to shoot down women like Kim Kardashian who the public seem hell bent on making eternally pay for daring to make a sex tape in the privacy of her home with her partner and trusting said partner not to disseminate it.
It’s this very unease with our own sexuality that is rooted in rape culture; the idea that asking a woman what she wore, said or did at the time of being sexually assaulted is somehow justified.
Even Cyrus’s twerking at the 2013 VMAs was accused of inciting rape in an op-ed piece by the Washington Post, entitled ‘Miley Cyrus, Steubenville And Culture Run Amok’. (This suggestion is in itself so offensive that I won’t be doing the writer any favors by linking to the article. He’s had enough air time.)
Perhaps because of this systematic public crucification of women who choose to rebel against conservative ideals and own their sexuality in a very raw and confronting way, we believe that by owning our own sexual desires, we too will fall victim to pitchfork wielders.
However the reality is, regardless of how conservatively we dress or detached we are from our sexualities, we will always risk a backlash of tsk-tsking and head shaking if we fail to be one anothers supporters. A woman who prefers monogomous, vanilla sex should feel no less comfortable in owning her sexual identity than a woman who enjoy casual encounters and acts of BDSM. Because if we remain compelled to fit into some sort of superficial, misshapen mold of who we feel we’re expected to be, we’re going to end up losing our flavor altogether, and there’s nothing more tasteless than that.
Comment: Do you think we’re afraid of owning our sexuality?