Women in pursuit of good sex
We are forgiven if we got the idea that the feminist movement is about men behaving badly when it comes to sex. It’s not. Author Nona Willis Aronowitz offers us a brief history of feminism from the 1970s to the present day.1 The most important thing she reminds us of: the “second wave” was absolutely pro-sex, pro-pleasure and pro-freedom. These women openly stated that they wanted to “sleep with people because we wanted to”. “Not to prove anything to them (to men), not to make them feel better about their masculinity, not out of weakness or inability to say no, but just because we want to.”
Feminism has seen refinements and revisions over the years, including a period of sexual conservatism in the 80s followed by the #metoo movement in the 2000s, which focused on rape and harassment. It’s time to refocus on promoting true equality in the bedroom on top of our ongoing concern with rape and sexual harassment.
Overturning gender stereotypes
A stereotypical view of male and female desire is that men are lustful, promiscuous animals who are hardwired for sex (a reproductive strategy to spread their genes as much as possible) and women are hardwired for intimacy and babies, wanting to impose marriage (monogamy) on men.
The key word here is “animals”. For most of evolutionary history, “sex was just sex.” And, it is true that for most species, sex is just sex. But not for our own particular species of primates, humans. For us, sex is making babies.
Sex as simple sex leads to the idea of a ‘libido’ (or a ‘need’) which is used to convey the idea that sex demands immediate attention. For animals, this libido cannot be ignored, but it is not a “baby drive”. Researchers Holly Dunsworth and Anne Buchanan remind us: “The human primate experiences sex in an entirely different way than any other animal, entangled in all sorts of cultural and emotional networks and meanings.3 Virgo worship, marriage, castration, contraception, fertility technology and genetic engineering.
What is happening? It is the awareness that sex makes of babies, called reproductive awareness that makes sex different for us than for animals. This understanding upends the mostly evolving psychological stereotypes that dominate our thinking about sex between humans.
Reproductive consciousness in humans (only), which we may have discovered around 100,000 years ago, is based on two things humans can do that no other animal can:4
- We understand the link between sexual insemination and the arrival of a baby nine months later.
- The reason we can do this is so we can reason about unobservable events – all the processes that link insemination to the birth of a baby.
Understanding the concepts that connect intrinsically unobservable events is a unique human ability. Don’t get stuck in stereotypical views of male and female sexual desire, sexual pursuit, and sexual performance. Discover your unique sexual functioning.
Since we can think about the relationship between sex and babies, we have also figured out how to have sex without having babies. We have learned that sex is a pleasure in itself, a wonderful human discovery.
What is good sex?
Good sex is couple sex. Sex is about partners because partners make babies. It’s a surprisingly different way of thinking about sex. What you want sexually should be thought of in the context of your relationship with your sexual partner, even if that “partnership” is for a one-time encounter. What you want sexually is not a static thing. It will change from time to time with the same partner and will change from partner to partner.
Because the evolutionary psychologist treats human sexuality as if it were animal sex, they missed the whole idea of couple sex. The result has been to place male sexuality and female sexuality in separate and distinct silos. Static silos of sexual desire, sexual pursuit, and sexual performance. Social structures built around distinct male and female silos have come to reinforce the idea that men are ‘driven’, they ‘need’ sex more than women. Much of our sexual knowledge is based on the male model of sexual desire, including female sexual desire.
Sex between men and women from this point of view amounts to arriving at an implicit contractual arrangement: sex for money, sex for maintenance, sex for conversation, sex for French provincial furniture. Yes! In the 1970s, a couple’s therapist arranged the fellatio swap for this brand of furniture using behavioral swap theory.
Good sex as a couple is not contractual. Noah Berlatsky, an author and editor who writes about pop culture, says marriage is not about obligations resulting from an exchange or misunderstandingcommercial type transactions.5 Sex is not an obligation.
Good couple sex can be had with:
- A partner fully committed to the autonomy of his female partner.
- A partner who can hear a no.
- A partner who is willing to negotiate their sexual relationship cooperatively despite their often greater physical and social power.
- Wanting to have sex and feeling excited about it.
- Let go of old stereotypical ideas about sex, especially female sexuality.
Negotiating sex in a truly couple sex encounter is a new exploration of what each of you wants every time you have sex. Do you want sex for fun? Do you want sex to be an intimate and relational encounter? Do you want sex because you feel lonely, anxious? Do you want sex because you adore your partner? Talk to yourself, each time, about why sex is important to you at that time. Make sex negotiation fun. Make sex negotiation an adventure.
What about solo sex?
Because of reproductive awareness, sex makes babies, sex is always couple sex. What about solo sex, masturbation, you ask. Even solo sex is done with the imagery of a partner, or in pornography with a virtual partner.
Pornography is about couple sex, but it reflects the stereotypical representation of male and female sexuality. Conventional “erotic” porn reflects the Hollywood style of storytelling, which is generally focused on conventional men.
“Gonzo” porn has pushed the traditional boundaries of pornography to new extremes.6 It depicts sexual performances in which a male actor appears to harm the female performer during sexual acts that no real woman would want to engage in. use explicitly degrading language towards women.
The problem with pornography is that it is a distortion of couple sex, not that it is about sex.
What about bad sex?
We have come to rely on consent and self-awareness for women to avoid bad sex according to Katherine Angel who wrote Tomorrow, sex will be good again: women and desire at the age of consent.seven Neither will protect you from the wrong sex. Bad sex is about inequalities in sexual pleasure, sexual pursuit, and sexual performance. Neither consent nor sexual literacy alone will prevent bad sex from happening.
Women have been told that to have good sex, they have to express themselves – they have to talk about what they want in any (and every) given sexual encounter. It retains the individual, the sexual silo, the view of sex – it’s not about couple sex.
Developing Sexual Literacy
Men and women still have a lot to learn to acquire sexual knowledge. Fortunately, more and more female scientists are venturing into the field of female sexuality. They find that women’s sexual desire is stronger than is generally thought. Sexual literacy for men requires that they become more adept at self-reflection and self-awareness so that they can have a less siled view of their sexual activities.