Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

Graphic Jennifer Aedy

The first time I took a mirror and looked at what was going on in my nether-lands, I was about 19 or 20 years old.

I had never had the opportunity or the interest before, because I shared a room with my sister until I was 15 and lived at home with my parents until age 19. Even when I had the room to myself, once she left for university, I had no interest in further exploring what I thought I already knew pretty well. I was also scared of getting caught doing something “weird.”

It hadn’t occurred to me to check what was really going on downstairs until I had a room to myself in my first apartment in Montreal. I did have three to four roommates at any given time, but I also had my own closed door with a lock, and people knocked on it before entering. I wasn’t shocked or disgusted at what I saw—more pleasantly surprised to be acquainted with a part of myself I had never seen or understood so intimately.

With my newfound space, I took some time to explore things further, and when I got bored of my own two hands, I made a trip to Boutique Erotika on Ste. Catherine St. I was 22 when I bought my first vibrator and I was very excited about it. I used it all the time. But that too grew old, once I realized how many watch batteries I went through and how expensive they were to replace. (Thank goodness Dollarama now carries batteries.)

I decided it was time for an upgrade and opted for a model that took AAA batteries and had three speeds. This one suited me a little better, and definitely was designed to last longer than the one with a battery that’s only supposed to make things tick.

I felt pretty comfortable around some of my closer lady friends and our conversations veered toward sex and masturbation—as they often should and do. I described the wonders of my triple speed toy with them and told them how well it worked. The conversation began with excitement and full engagement from everyone involved, but as I explained how late it kept me up rocking through the wee hours of the night, things took a turn—they began to get uncomfortable.

They began saying things like “three speeds is too many; that sounds scary,” deciding that my allotted time for personal play was far too long, or exclaiming “I don’t need a vibrator because I have a boyfriend who can do that for me.”

These friends were not horrible prudes. These were the type of friends who frequently if not constantly made sex jokes, dick jokes and would jokingly hump or thrust at things, more often than not just for a laugh. We were all being open and honest in what started out as a warm and welcome conversation.

As soon as I decided to be straightforward about my personal sexual exploration, they each resolved that what I chose to do with my own body in my own time and space was somehow abnormal or wrong.

The flaw in the conversation was not to do with my friends, but with the way that society has moulded our minds to believe that when women have the liberty to talk about masturbation, personal pleasure or sexual fantasies in general, they must be shamed or disgraced for their sinful, un-ladylike thoughts and behaviours.

Hell—the vibrator was basically invented to shut women up.

Vibrators were initially used about 200 years ago to cure “hysteria” in women, which is presently known as sexual frustration, and they were designed to save men—doctors mostly—from the exhaustion of providing women pleasure. It was widely believed that women did not experience pleasure or even have sexual desires—unless it was the sheer delight of pleasing her man.

A woman would have to set an appointment with a doctor to zap the sexual urges and crazed thoughts from her troubled mind in order to better serve her husband and stay focused on his sexual needs.

Though some 200 years have passed since the initial “medical necessity” of creating the vibrator, the world we live in is still based around the pleasure of men.

Based on my findings, the majority of porn on the internet is designed with a straight male viewer in mind, and is based on a repeated pattern.

The story starts with a girl giving a BJ, followed by a variety of male dominant positions as the girl squeals with “pleasure” and the guy plugs away, followed by the climax of a much appreciated facial as the girl licks her lips and smiles. (Of course there are so many other genres of porn available out there with different partners and different story structures, but this format is the most widely available without hunting for specifics.)

Every pervy schoolyard joke I can remember from high school, maybe earlier, told in reference to pornos or extreme sexual positions, was always based on male pleasure and the joys of sexually degrading a woman. (See urban dictionary for “superman dat hoe,” “downhill skiing,” or “pig roast.”)

Everyone uses the universal symbol for jerking a penis as a sign to say “I don’t care,” or to show someone slacking off, jerking around or as an insult to another person. They are comfortable using these gestures in everyday life.

From this schoolyard banter or the general joking around of a societal norm, young boys are taught that it is normal to expect and express pleasure, as young girls are taught that it’s their role to provide it—one of the massive hallmarks of the rape culture eminent in society.

Boys are encouraged to discuss their sexual desires in a joking manner with their buddies or even in front of girls, while girls are expected to keep it to themselves. I never once heard a casual conversation in the girls’ locker room in high school, or any safe haven away from boys, where a girl bragged about that guy she fucked or how great she felt when she jerked off. That would not be acceptable behaviour for a young lady—that’s just generally not how we’re raised.

Toddlers start to become aware of their gender identity around the age of two or three, and it is also at this time that they adopt gender roles and decide which behaviours are categorized as feminine or masculine. It’s natural during development for children to touch their own bodies in order to become familiar with them, and as boys have external sexual parts that can be seen, touched and played with, it’s easier for them to understand what is before them.

Girls too will explore their bodies at a young age, and although children are taught that it’s inappropriate to touch oneself in public, it is the girls who are swiftly shamed into maintaining this behaviour for the foreseeable forever. As boys grow older it’s seen as socially acceptable for them to “readjust” down there when things are sweaty, itchy, uncomfortable or out of place, but if a girl decides to pick a wedgie, it’s considered gross and un-ladylike.

Girls are taught to be discrete when it comes to personal sexual matters, to keep their thoughts to themselves, and to keep their hands somewhere appropriate. If a girl does choose to speak up about her desires, she is considered to be kinky or freaky instead of a human with natural wants, needs and desires.

When I was first approaching this subject, I wasn’t sure how much of my own private background story to include. I questioned whether it would be too much information, too personal, too something for someone.

Isn’t that the problem? If I didn’t say my part, I would perpetuate the silence of yet another woman’s personal desires, in order to ensure that someone else’s comfort zone isn’t crossed. Think what you will, but I refuse to be shamed, guilted or disgraced into being silent, proper and ladylike, just to be sure that someone else is comfortable.

What I choose to do with my body in my time and space is nobody’s business but my own, and so is my choice to speak freely about it.

If I didn’t say my part, I would perpetuate the silence of yet another woman’s personal desires, in order to ensure that someone else’s comfort zone isn’t crossed.