I do not allow myself to be susceptible to the consumerist chicanery of every image that tells me exactly what it takes to be a woman. I am not a fool, and I am not naive, and after years of being a woman, I can say that I have finally figured out what it takes to be a woman. I have always been a woman – that will never change. And while at first being a woman was a challenge, it was difficult, over time I have honed my craft of femininity so as to excel at what I do best: being a woman. I have lived my whole life in this world, constantly bombarded by what other people tell me a woman should be. I have observed and ingested these images, at times falling prey to the false femininity that other people are trying to sell me. I have experimented with my expression of femininity, because that is the nature of being young and not knowing things: in order to figure it all out, we must try several options. While I appreciate that other people tell me the best way to be a woman, I respectfully decline their definitions of who I am or what I should be or what my role is here. I make my own decisions, because that is part of being a woman and not a child. My sense of self is not easily malleable in the hands of people who want to sell me the empty husk of a woman that I should crawl into so I can die. Commercial femininity is a farce; it is an unattainable ideal that is dangled in front of women as a way to take the money that they work twice as hard as men to earn. Commercial femininity is a rouse. It is a joke. It is something that only few people can accomplish and excel at, yet it has come to define what being a woman means to most of us on a deep level. So, as a woman, and as someone who has the experience of having been a woman for a long time, I would just like to let you know that there is only one thing you need in order to be a woman: confidence. The confidence to look at what other people tell you a woman should be and tell them that they are wrong. The confidence to make your own fully informed decisions when it comes to your sexuality, your profession, your appearance, your relationships, your ideas, your hobbies. Sure, confidence is not something that is easily attained. Confidence is something that is elusive and requires hard work. Possessing confidence takes time, which is why it is so much easier to go to the store and buy eight different shades of lipstick and hope that the quick fix covers up the fact that confidence is lacking. Wearing lipstick harms no one, but it is the deceit of pretending to be something that you are not that causes the most pain. Although that’s not to say that you aren’t getting there or already well on your way. But that lipstick will look way better when you feel wonderful about every aspect of yourself, and it looks good now, so do whatever you need to do to not be another victim of society.
He is texting me again in the middle of the night, and after years and years of the same old shit, for the first time ever I am putting my phone on silent and rolling over so that I can sleep for a few more hours before waking up and doing whatever it is when I wake up in the morning. For the first time ever, I am not smiling at my phone or replying with sly missives that allude to my acquiescence in whatever impending sexual disaster upon which we are about to embark. I am not jumping up and sliding into whatever clothes will come off easily as soon as he gets here. I am not reapplying mascara at 4 am just so he can lick it off my face in moments of future fucking. Which is strange, and it’s scary to know that for the first time ever I am not doing the same thing I do every time. This means things have changed. This means that I have changed, and instead of succumbing to whatever easy fucking stumbles into my lap, I am passing up a fairly decent piece of ass in the name of – of what, really? I find that it’s easiest to keep fucking the same people I don’t love year after year after year, continually engaging in the same quiet, uneventful and emotionally unchallenging pursuit of yet another empty orgasm. There’s something comforting about it, and as I turn over and blink into my pillows in the darkness, I am overcome with the fear of doing something different for the first time in my life. I don’t know who I am becoming or even if I will like that person, but I am doing it nonetheless because the brand of happy that kept me satisfied during my mid 20’s has grown thin and feckless. I am willing to try anything new to see if it makes things better, which is why I am falling asleep alone, instead of in the arms of someone who isn’t good for me but is good enough to assuage the pain of now.
I whisper his name into my pillow before I go to sleep so I can hear his name in my dreams. I drift away, alone, without him, but I know in days to come he will hold me here. He will anchor back down into reality every day when I wake up, but for now as I am floating through this dreamscape, I am seeing him, replayed in every flashback memory that I am folding neatly and tucking quietly into a box in the back of my mind. With my eyes closed every time, I wait for small moments when I can open up my box of beautiful memories. When I can take them out and spread them across the floor of my mind, turning them over slowly and admiring the small details. It won’t be long before these memories are worn out and dirty, but I will admire them forever, in these shoebox that is stacked among all the other shoeboxes filled with memories that I will probably one day throw out, but for now the memories of him and the dreams that I pile on top of all my maybes and could have beens are the bread and butter upon which I feast in my sleep.
And then things start spinning. I’ve been here before, but I still don’t know what I’m doing. I’m dizzy again, and I try to catch my breath, but it’s barely working as we lie here together. I am nervous. I don’t want to be here for much longer. I want to go. I want to be alone. I want to be in my house alone where I can be sad and let my lumps of flesh protrude uncouthly all over the place, instead of here where I try to smile and repose with good posture. I don’t know what to say or how to act to make things feel comfortable, so I opt to say nothing instead and wait for the other person here to get things going. It is easier to be quiet and small and hope that if I try hard enough to disappear, eventually I will blink my eyes and wake up, fully clothed and fully ready, bright eyed and on my way to work. Instead of here, and the millions of miles that stretch between right now and me as soon as I set my foot out the door. The things I will have to do as I unwrest myself from this tangle of sheets and skin: I will have to wiggle my way from out of his arms, quietly so he doesn’t say anything If he says something, I will have to smile and squint and say something funny before dashing off to the bathroom, and my head is not filled with funny things right now. My head is filled with panic, and also I do not want him to try to pull me back in as I escape from his grasp. I do not want his eyes to be open as I scurry out of his bedroom door and down the hall, at first naked and with unkempt hair and it is possible that there is mascara like raccoon eyes all across my face because we passed out right after fucking. I do not want him to see my like this, a bit of wreck, a bit hungover, sloppy and slovenly and uncomely at this ungodly hour of 10:30 am. I will be scrambling around, seeking desperately for my underwear and a sweater, perhaps some socks, but at least the majority of my outfit and all the contents of my purse so I can abscond to privacy behind bathroom doors. I do not want him to know how much time I am spending in the bathroom as I sit on the toilet and secretly vape away while checking my phone and checking for bruises or any other undignified markings left over from last night’s fucking. At least seven of this minutes will be spent with me, bared ass hovering over the cold toilet while I let my best friend know that, yes, I am still alive, and, meh, it was okay. I will brush my teeth (because good girls like me always bring their toothbrushes with them) and fluff my hair and scrub off last night’s make up, splashing water over skin that is pebbled with the wear and tear of too much drinking and too much fucking and then falling asleep with my foundation still on. I will rue the fact that I don’t look flawless, and, in fact, I look quite flawed, with all the eyeliner and pretty lipstick washed off and instead replaced with the bareness of my face, which is probably too much for a hungover guy like that to behold after a night of fucking and saying too much and meaning too little. Eventually, I will emerge from the bathroom, probably with a laundry list of things that I have to find before absconding this sordid scene. Where is my bra? Did I leave my phone charger in there? These questions will result in me, shamefully sneaking back in to pick up the last of my things. Ideally, I would slip out without a sound, leaving him wondering where I went so early in the morning. But mostly this will set off the chain reaction of awkward AM interactions, which can go either way but will leave both of us feeling weird. He will either wave me away, which will inspire feelings of emptiness and rejection, or he will do something nice like offer me coffee, which I will invariably refuse, which will in turn make me feel callous and cold for not accepting the token affection of someone I was naked and thriving with just a few hours ago. Regardless, we will both feel awful, partly because of the booze, partly because of each other, but it will take a minimum of 45 minutes for me to untangle myself from last night’s bad decision and then carry on with the rest of my life. It remains to be seen if the rest of my life will be negatively or positively impacted by decision to let this Tinder date go balls deep last night, but most likely I will continue to engage in similar activities with different people, following up intermittently with text messages and subsequent sex. I will tell myself that this is empowering, or this is exploration, or I am learning more about myself and other people. But mostly I am just dabbling in sex as a pleasant distraction, and while everyone else will point at women like me and say things like, “See how unhappy she is? See how miserable all this makes her?” I would like to say to those people: well, what is your better solution for me? It is easy to point and stare and say “How dare she do those things.” But it is difficult to solve a problem whose root is not in something as passe as daddy issues and whose solution is not as simple as “Maybe you should slow down and find a boyfriend” because I guarantee you that a boyfriend won’t fix any of this. Sex isn’t the problem here. Sure, neither is sex the solution, it is merely a symptom. But it’s a symptom that, for the most part, I’m enjoying, and if you want to waste your time pointing at my symptoms and telling me that I’m happy, what I’d like to know is: what are you doing to fix the problem? Probably nothing, because I bet you don’t even know what the problem is.
“My boyfriend likes to watch porn for women. But I like to watch the most brutal, weird, BDSM porn. It’s weird.”
I’m talking to my girlfriend about her porn habits when it occurs to me that so called “porn for women” isn’t really porn for women, it’s actually just porn that people assume women will like. The implication of “porn for women” is that it’s soft focus, romantically plot driven, and not focused so much on intense penetration. It’s also known as soft core porn, and the association of all things soft core with women is just a cultural standard these days. However, it seems like my friend and I are not the kind of girls who like porn that is specifically geared towards us. This isn’t because we dissociate from the idea of a woman’s identity as intrinsically linked to the softer side of life, but rather because (well, I speak for myself here) my real life experience of real life sex has hipped me to the fact that fucking has nothing to do with romantic plot lines and mood lighting. There is rarely Al Green playing in the background, and the men I fuck tend to not be big, strong, sensitive men with a yen for communication. And while I understand that pornography is supposed to be about fantasy, in none of my fantasies does sex look like it does in porn for women. Because I’ve had sex before, and I know that soft focus angles isn’t about fantasy, it’s about a total detachment from the reality of the messiness of sex.
That being said, that’s just me and my opinion. Apparently (according to my friend) soft focus angles and mood lighting does appeal to certain people, and certain of those people are men. To go against yet another cultural standard, it turns out that not every guy out there is dying to watch a woman get face fucked until she pukes and men point and laugh at her. Who would have known! On the other hand, I’m sure that there are women out there (hi!) who do like that kind of thing, which makes me wonder: is porn for women based on the cultural assumption that women on some level don’t like sex and by extension find porn to be morally objectionable? Sure, there was a part of the feminist back in the day that decried pornography as necessarily violent against women, and while there is something to be said for consent and fair payment and making sure everyone is of age, but for some reason nowadays people tend to think that women just don’t want to see porn because it’s yucky. That, however, is not the case, and it turns out that we women like seeing the crazy, intense, violent porn just as much as the guys do. Because, well, if you think about it: it takes two to tango, and companies like Kink.com wouldn’t be putting out heterosexual BDSM porn, making a profit and paying their employees if women weren’t there, consenting to participate and on some level enjoying it. It also seems like not all men are getting ensnared in the Internet trap of porn addiction and can moderate themselves and opt to consume sentimental and romantic porn. So I guess what I’m saying is: if you’re going to make porn for women, it’s probably just going to be regular porn because women like all sorts of porn. Y’all just think that we don’t because you don’t fully understand the breadth and depth of female sexuality and how its roll in modern sexual culture is 50%. So please respect that.
I look her in the eyes, and I see nothing there, so I shudder and I look away. I am having difficulty having this conversation with her, so I slam my way through it and wait for the perfect opportunity to jolt up and leave. I know that I should be nice to her, and I’m trying, but there’s something in her eyes and in her face that is making me cringe. She has the look of a cult member let loose from a cult and trying desperately to find a new cult that she can join. She is a lost soul. She is broken, too, but not in that beautifully broken way that I crave in women. To me, there is something majestic about a woman who has survived years of strife and trauma and still managed to come out the other side mostly intact and fleetingly gorgeous. But not her. Even though for some reason despite the fact that I don’t know her at all, I do know that she has one of those painful childhood trauma stories – and now here she is, sitting next to me at a cafe saying things to me that somehow are missing the mark as I find myself lost inside the echoing abyss of her. There is something about her that I just can’t pin down. Something I can’t name. And I consider myself to be good at assessing and analyzing people and what they want within moments of meeting them. Her? She has no discernible sense of self, and it is driving me crazy. She has no identity that I can place my finger on and give a name. She is a lost soul looking for a home in another person, or perhaps even a group of people, so that she can attach herself to a sense of purpose and meaning. That’s probably what bothers me so much about her – I am not the person to whom she can attach herself in order to attain fulfillment, and because of that there is nothing I can do to save her. And because I cannot save her from her selflessness, there is nothing for either of us here. It occurs to me that I could try to attach her to one of my petty little causes, like trillwave feminism or evening out the power struggle, but I do not have the time or the patience to train a member of the cult of me. That is for someone else to do.
In the meantime, I will be sitting here, shocked to be in the presence of someone who exists like this.