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But I Thought Feminism Gave Me Self-Esteem…

Apparently I don’t have very much self-esteem. At least not the way my therapist defines it.

I suppose she’s right. I’ve done a lot in my 31 years yet I rarely give myself credit for anything. I second guess almost every decision. I am constantly arguing with the voices in my head that aren’t really mine. Yet simultaneously getting confused sifting through the words echoing in my brain – are these my values or someone else’s?

Upon reflection, it would be accurate to say I am insecure in that I do not feel secure in myself. Because a lot of my time and energy is spent sorting out what IS myself and what is not. Even very basic things can sometimes consume me to the point where it stops me from doing what I want to do. I question what I want and whether I should want it, constantly looking for a reason not to take the very next step – the step that, a few steps back, I was aching to take. I am often pining for some time in the future, yet when that time comes I am terrified, frozen, unable to move. Then I pine for another time down the road. Until the tension gets so uncomfortable I take the damn step as I’m half-averting my eyes away. Sometimes I laugh that it was so easy. Other times I question whether I should have taken the step at all and worry endlessly about whether I should even be here. And I pine again for another time that will somehow be different, a few steps ahead of the one I’m struggling with. Up there, it’ll be easy.

It does get easier. Yet this is hard to acknowledge. There are starts and stops to personal growth. ’Ignorance is bliss’ isn’t accurate, though at times I reminisce as if it was. In ignorance I assumed it was all me. Now, even if I am insecure, I know deep down that I must be okay because I’m no different from anyone else. If I see value in other people, that logically means there is value in me. I love the ‘new age’ (though its more like super old) concept that we’re all connected, as if we’re each different manifestations of the same life. The same need to live that implores me to get out of bed every morning does to you, though it may look different (I have to pee, I’m hungry, my kids are screaming, my dog needs a walk, I’m late to work). Before I had this idea, the logical conclusion is that there was something wrong with me and other people were therefore better. Now from this perspective, if you’re a cool person then I must also be a cool person deep down (though you and I both may not act cool sometimes). This makes intuitive sense to me. It feels like one of those truths about the world. At least for now. And it operates to temper too much finger pointing at myself. Oh I’ll go at it with myself for awhile, but there IS an end point. There are increasingly happy breaks before it creeps in again.

It is hard to admit because I thought I was past these insecurities. I thought my time studying feminism somehow melted it all away when I decided whatever I read about that supposedly subordinated women, I’d just do the opposite. I decided I wouldn’t preoccupy myself with silly ‘women’s issues’ like beauty and babies because I’d be enacting patriarchy in my own life and no way in hell was I going to do THAT. And somehow by NOT doing things I read were cultural expressions of sexism and misogyny I would be free. Looking back it was actually more silly to think all my problems could have been erased by diverting my attention away.

Where feminism failed me was in developing my own sense of self worth. Feminism was paraded as empowering yet became another external metric to measure myself against. If only I could erase the impact of the patriarchy on my life, all would be okay. Almost all of the attention in feminist writing was on the ways we have been put down by a male dominated system. Which I do not disagree with, at least not in entirety (I now believe the problem is more an oligarchy than patriarchy, though those oligarchs have usually been men; nonetheless, men suffer under existing social conditions too, we all experience gender-based social pains). Yet I did not learn the many ways in which it was okay to be feminine, and okay to be a woman. I did not learn to be embodied, that is, to be present in my physical pleasures and pains. I was not taught how to establish healthy boundaries. I did not delve deeply into myself and my experiences to discover my unique gifts and the value I bring to the world. I mostly learned how the world suppressed them. And in reaction I tried to suppress anything that might have contributed. But in the process, I suppressed parts of myself that needed healing in exchange for false bravado. Just because someone yells something doesn’t make it true.

Those parts, and others pushed down far far earlier in my life, are now being stirred up. I’m feeling things I haven’t felt since I was a teenager. What was underlying my 10 years on anti-depressants (ages 14-24). Processing old, old emotions that feel fresh and new. My insecurity is at a high, though that isn’t necessarily new, I’m just finally looking at it. The form is much more overt.

I have so many rules in my mind, and my emotions are constantly getting set off when I break one, yet the ‘real me’ (the spiritual me, my soul or higher self) exists on a plane where those rules don’t make sense. Self-esteem, I’m now seeing, is about listening to that part of myself and trusting it. That’s what I’m learning to do.

Edited: September 5th, 2014

What is Women’s Sexuality? There’s No Right Answer.

For awhile I’ve struggled with my version of women’s sexuality.

There are so many books, videos, and people who say definitively that THIS (fill in the blank) is what women want. Be it romance, spirituality, monogamy, or the #1 GUARANTEED METHOD TO MAKE ANY WOMAN ORGASM (riiiiight). And with all that noise, its been a learning experience to tune into myself. I don’t give a shit what anyone says women want. I care about what I want.

So what do I want? I’m finally starting to understand, to communicate it, and to allow myself to let go and receive it when it comes.

Unlike my husband, I’m not looking for any specific act in a sexual encounter. I’d usually like my pussy to be played with in some way, but how doesn’t often matter. What I want is an experience, a feeling that I get with him. I want him to lead me somewhere without my knowing the exact destination (if there is one). I want to trust he’ll take me somewhere I want to go, or depending on my mood, give me the space to drive the car. I want to feel both his physical strength and his gentleness, his love with just a hint of aggression. I want to feel safe being vulnerable because in that space I can let go. I want to “worship” his body, his smell, his taste, to appreciate and give pleasure to this person who makes me feel that.

Evolutionary psychologists like Roy Baumstein and Lisa Diamond believe that women’s sexuality is more “plastic” or variable than men’s. They study the phenomenon that women are more likely to fall in love “with the person, not the gender” – and forgo a straight or gay identity for someone they care about. This seems to reflect my experience, not exactly in terms of sexual orientation but rather the specific sexual activities I’ll practice in my personal life.

Whereas my husband is focused on licking, fingering, and fucking my pussy or ass, I’m fairly open as to what we do. Sometimes I’ll want my pussy licked, or toys in my ass, or my feet rubbed and sucked while I masturbate. Sometimes I want to be massaged, sometimes I want to suck his dick, sometimes I want him to fuck my ass HARD. I love to role-play – sometimes I’m in charge, but more often I’m submissive – sometimes in a loving, caring situation, others in a pseudo rape fantasy.

What I want is space to allow these fantasies and desires to rise and blossom. I don’t always know what I’ll want until I’m in the middle of it. Sometimes I choose to let him run the show, only giving feedback if, say, his tongue is too far to the left. Other times I describe a fantasy, a sensation, or act I’m craving in the moment. Whatever it is that I want is not static, and my desires today don’t necessarily reflect what I’ll crave tomorrow. If the stereotypical woman constantly changes her mind, then I suppose that’s my experience of women’s sexuality. So be it.

Edited: July 5th, 2012

Women Against Pornography: Is Pornography Propaganda Against Women?

Short answer: No. Not according to Laura Kipnis, author of Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America

Pornography does, in an emotional sense, do profound violence – emotional violence – to some women. However, for women who hate pornography, the violence it inflicts is to female identity and “female sensibility”

Not all women dislike pornography; some even like it a lot. So obviously there’s a spectrum of female identities. But the problem most women who don’t like porn is that they don’t recognize the female characters in it as “like me” – either physically, or in their desires. These big-breasted porno bimbos want to have sex all the time, with any guy no matter how disgusting, will do anything, moan like they like it, and aren’t repulsed by male body fluids – in fact, adore them – wherever they land. Women who dislike porn refer to this as a male fantasy, but what exactly is it a fantasy about? Well, it seems like a fantasy of a one-gender world, a world in which male and female sexuality is completely commensurable, as opposed to whatever sexual incompatibilities actually exist.

Women Against Pornography

Women Against Pornography

Heterosexual pornography creates a fantastical world composed of two sexes but one gender, and that one gender looks a lot more like what we think of (perhaps stereotypically) as “male.” Pornography’s premise is this: What would a world in which men and women were sexually alike look like? (The romance [book] industry proposes a similar hypothesis in reverse: What would the world look like if men were emotionally and romantically compatible with women?) So pornography’s fantasy is also of gender malleability, although one in which it’s women who should be the malleable ones. Whereas feminism’s (and romance fiction’s) paradigm of gender malleability is mostly that men should change. It’s possible that the women who are most offended by pornography are those most invested int he idea of femininity as something static and stable, as something inborn that inheres within us. (“Women are like this, men are like that.”) But of course, sexuality is completely malleable (and sexuality is a component of gender, by which I mean masculinity and femininity), altering radically over history, or with education level, age, religion, etc.

One model for looking at pornography oddly be as a kind of science fiction; that is, as a fantasy about futurity, whose setting is the present. We don’t get offended when science fiction imagines different futures, even dystopic ones set in worlds that look like our own. Of course one reason that women, and particularly feminists, have a hard time either enjoying pornography as an interesting gender fantasy, or dismissing it as a harmless gender fantasy, is our worry that in a world in which men have more social power than women, men have the power to force their fantasy of a one-gender world onto unwilling women, who have their own ideas about how female sexuality should feel. But is pornography proffered (and enjoyed) as a form of propaganda? And if you think so, why presume that pornography alone, among the vast range of cultural forms, works as indoctrination, whereas every other popular genre is understood as inhabiting the realm of fiction, entertainment, even ideas, not as having megalomaniacal ambitions to transform the world into itself? We don’t spend a lot of time worrying that viewers of pro wrestling will suddenly be seized with some all-consuming impulse to wrestle innocent passersby to the ground. On what grounds are such megalomaniacal intentions imputed to pornography?

Edited: March 6th, 2012

Shaved Pussy is Everywhere: Pubic Hair is Becoming an Endangered Species

Once upon a time, pussy and pubic hair were synonymous. Not anymore.

According to this article, and Indiana University study found over 60% of women 18-24 and almost half of women 25-29 completely shave some or all the time. Count me in.

No Pubic Hair for My Shaved Pussy

No Pubic Hair for My Shaved Pussy

I’ve been shaving for about 3 years. I prefer it. Why?

- Removing the hair makes it easier to see – it demystifies the pussy. I like looking down and seeing my clit and labia, not just a patch of hair. When there’s a dick in my shaved pussy, I can actually see what’s going on down there, and my boyfriend can see better too.

- Its helped me get to know my pussy better. When I shave, I have to touch my body in ways I wouldn’t otherwise.

- Sex feels better. I love how it feels when the whole area between my legs and upper thighs is smooth, wet and slippery.

- Shaving my pussy (and legs + armpits) makes me feel more feminine. It makes me feel sexier. My boyfriend is quite hairy, and its an arousing contrast to feel my soft skin against his roughness.

Like your pubic hair? Awesome, keep it. Love it. Take a cue from Furry Girl:

Edited: January 8th, 2012

Fuck me, NOW: Perspectives

Bossy Women Don’t Get Sex, Despite Their Constant Demands

 

Moral of the story?  No-one wants to have sexual intercourse with a control-freak. Amazing. Next week, study reveals woodland area to be primary defecation area for bears.

 

My tantra teacher would undoubtedly add the following:

Women who are constantly working to take control are out of touch with their feminine energy… if they’re a predominantly feminine-energy person, that is.  (Some women “naturally” have a masculine energy – this probably doesn’t apply to them.)  If a feminine woman is alienated from her femininity, she won’t feel as sexual, and if her partner is attracted to her femininity then they won’t want sex so much either.

 

“The more decisions a women reported making on her own, as compared to joint decision making, the less likely she was to have sex and the longer it was since she last had sexual intercourse.”

An obvious conclusion: These women are exhausted.  No wonder they’re not having sex.

A social structural explanation: The skills women learn to get ahead in the career world don’t necessarily create a happy home life.  Nonetheless, if she wants to succeed in the workforce, she has to masculinize herself.  Sorry to say though, most heterosexual men don’t want their partner to be the boss of them.  They already have one at work.  The simple solution?  Men, help your women more.  Women, ask for some freaking help.  One person can’t do it all (and why would you want to?).  That’s why we create these things called families… so we can support one another.  In an ideal world, anyway.

 

My additional $0.02 — There’s something intimate about making decisions together.  You’re actively shaping your life with another human being.  If one partner (regardless of gender) is overly controlling, then the other won’t feel free to be themselves.  To me, an ideal relationship is one where life is co-created, where both (all) partners’ opinions are valued, and both (all) partners’ being is honored.  When one partner has too much control, the other will shrink back.  And of course their sex life will suffer.  Sexual problems are often a symptom of a larger relationship issue.  If you’re not connected on sex, where are you connected?  Start outside the bedroom (playroom, dungeon, wherever you fuck) to work your way back in.

Edited: October 1st, 2011