So, since I’ve been thinking very deeply about this first /r/DommeBloggers topic challenge on “sexiness & desire” for months now, also being the person who suggested it (yay!), it makes little sense for me to be typing up my response on four hours of sleep. Yet the strike of inspiration is callous and arbitrary, so here we are.
This is the prompt: “As women, we hear a lot that to be “sexy” means being desirable/desired. But if we’re doing the desiring (or even the up-against-the-wall kissing!), is there still room to feel “sexy”? Or maybe you think of being “sexy” and being desirable as two different things? How do you like to know that your partner desires you, and how do you like to express your desire for them?”
First of all, the definition of the adjective “sexy”, according to Merriam Webster:
- sexually suggestive or stimulating : EROTIC
- generally attractive or interesting : APPEALING <a sexy stock>
- She wore a sexy skirt.
- Her legs are long and sexy.
(Funny how the examples are both gendered, whereas neither definition gives any indication of such. What a weird coincidence! Ha ha ha.)
And the transitive verb “desire”:
- to long or hope for : exhibit or feel desire for <desire success>
- to express a wish for : REQUEST <they desire an immediate answer>
- He desired her approval more than anything.
- The apartment has modern amenities, a great location—everything you could desire.
- She knew that men still desired her.
So then, to be “desired” is to be the object of some subject’s desire, someone’s longing or hoping for you (ex. 3), something about you (ex. 2), or something you can give them (ex. 1).
When I think about all this in regards to myself, I mostly feel weird. 99% of the time being “sexy” and being “desirable” means being angrily told by predatory, misogynistic men that I am those things, and also a whore for it. Male entitlement to female bodies has a funny way of slipping over into outright hatred and actual violence.
Yet, I also want to be wanted, not in general, but by one single person who I desire, ideally a priori. Knowing that I am desired by men in general makes me painfully, painfully aware that “being a sex object” is inescapable purely because of my anatomy, which is so mind-boggling to me on a felt level. I recall the guy I asked out a while ago saying he thought I was attractive upon accepting my proposal. In his undeserved defense, he did also say he thought I was interesting as well, but in the end, it just goes to show you how much value is placed on your appearance as a woman, and even to the absurd ignorance of actual compatibility.
I don’t want to be desired principally due to my appearance. Whenever anyone ever tells me I’m pretty or hot or anything similar, I’m much more uncomfortable than flattered, maybe because I don’t actually believe them and I just think they’re trying to be nice, but also, I suspect, because I don’t feel it’s all that important – being beautiful doesn’t require any real effort. I want to be desired based upon the things I say and do, the way I think, the way I am, who I am.
I don’t want to have sex with someone whose mind is so trapped in porn world that my tits and my vulva and my asshole are these super sexy, erotic images for him to visually consume, grope and touch without so much as a shred of awareness that my body is not a fuckable plaything. I want to have sex with someone I love who conceptualizes me as beyond my body, who doesn’t see my femaleness as something inherently erotic or submissive or “fuckable.” I never want to be around anyone ever again who can’t stop saying “you’re so hot” every single damn time I take my clothes off. I don’t want to sleep with a guy who’ll look at my boobs and think “omg tits, gimme” instead of “omg Sol’s tits, omg Sol is letting me see/touch her tits.” God, I can only hope, right? With my defenses spiky and bomb-rigged thanks to a history of being made to feel like at best awkward and at worst awful, I almost don’t even want to have sex with men thinking about it in the abstract, that is, without a face and a name and a pure heart to be thinking of having sex with. Is he even out there?
But ugh, okay, let’s see if we can imagine “sexy” as applied to me, Sol, a woman, in a way that doesn’t have anything to do with gender or having sex with men or being desired by men. What makes me feel “sexy”? Well, that’s hard, because sexy means “sexually suggestive or stimulating” or “generally attractive or interesting.” So the best I can do is go with the second definition and say I feel “sexy” when I feel attractive – which is usually when my skin is 100% clear and I’m wearing make-up (sigh) – or when I feel “interesting” – which is, internally, all the time, because I think I’m an interesting person, and externally, when someone I know well expresses sincere interest my intellectual pursuits (if I don’t know them well, I’m kind of skeptical they actually, truly care, and therefore tend to give a hyper-condensed, abridged response.) But saying I feel “sexy” when a friend asks about what I was studying at the library doesn’t sound quite right. Maybe we aren’t really ever fully extracting sexy from sex? Maybe when we say “a sexy car”, there’s something implicitly a little humorous about it, like we’re saying the car isn’t just “good” or “cool”, but that it’s so good or cool as to be almost sexually desirable, the epitome of aesthetic beauty and therefore, our want.
So what about sexiness in terms of sex or BDSM? Okay, I admit it: I love that leather-clad Dominatrix shit. I don’t have any of it, but fuck, I’d wear it in a heartbeat, right down to the stiletto heels. Having always been tall (I’m 5’8”) and being raised by my mother, who is also tall, having half an inch on me, any heel over 1.5” was basically totally inappropriate and not allowed. So I can potentially feel sexy in high heels, and I do sometimes like towering over men since that can occasionally be unavoidable due to sexual dimorphism. But I’m getting away from the crux here, which is the whole Dominatrix get-up that us dominant women have importantly spent a lot of time picking apart, because yes, it’s male-centered and male-propagated and harmful and dumb and alienating, but goddamn, if I don’t want to try on the model once or twice or even once in a while for kicks. Part of the appeal to me is that you can be stereotypically “sexy” whilst having your skin completely covered. And anyway, the Dominatrix is inherently fierce, mean, and sadistic, which aren’t “good” things for women to be, yet she’s still cool and still definitely a woman. That likely doesn’t make her powerful per se, and it’s also imperative to note that 1) the Dominatrix still principally caters to the male gaze and male desires, 2) totally fulfills white Western beauty standards, 3) has her “sexiness” at the cost of the degradation of male submissive behavior, which is just a “sexy” switcheroo of real world power dynamics that rely upon the devaluation and hatred of men who don’t do masculinity right, regardless of whether said men are getting off on that devaluation, which is actually a consequence of male privilege to begin with.
So say I did get a skin-tight leather jumpsuit. I have a feeling that I’d only feel sexy in it if I were alone. I would never go to like, a freaking play party in it, because I know I would not be able to avoid the stares, and being seen as a sexual object sure as shit doesn’t make me feel very sexy. The shift in context means everything. But then again, even if I were wearing it alone, I’d still have the context of skin-tight leather jumpsuits only being “sexy” on female bodies because it leaves little to the imagination with the cleverness of not actually showing anything at all. Can I really claim possession of this article of clothing for my own purposes if I’m willfully ignoring its legacy of gendered sexiness whilst at the same time utilizing it to feel good about myself? It’s an uncomfortable thing to think about, even worse because in my gut the answer seems to be “probably not.”
Fine then, back to being naked and having sex: the reason it’s probably so awkward for me to think about feeling sexy and having sex is because the most enjoyable sexual experiences for me have been ones that didn’t focus on me, that instead were focused on my desires, which are generally not me-focused; they are about teasing and controlling someone else’s pleasure by “torturing” them. Do I feel sexy when I do that stuff, when I’m in control? Well, perhaps. “Deliciously evil” would be a better descriptor, however. Of course I want to know that he wants this, too, and that he wants me to do this to him. That’s a necessity. But the line between that and “Wow, this hot girl is doing hot stuff to me” might not be quite as thick as I wish it were.
I may not necessarily feel sexy when I do my own thing sexually, but at least I don’t feel like I’m trying to evade the pressure of the crap I once thought I had to do whilst having sex with men. All I can say is thank fucking god I spent my entire adolescence thinking I was a lesbian, thank fucking god the first person I had sex with was a woman. It has insulated me a great deal from the danger of androcentric heterosexual sex. Though not entirely, mind you, as I’ve had things to dismantle even within the past year. Like, for some reason, it took me a really long time to have the light bulb go off in my head and realize I don’t ever have to put a dick in my mouth. At all. Ever. For as long as I live. And that doesn’t make me a frigid prude, or “sex-negative” or “hating on someone’s anatomy” or whatever the hell else. I mean, first of all, I have TMJ, so it hurts, but even more importantly, I feel fucking ridiculous and just disgusting to have a dick in my mouth and then to have heard that very same person say “suck my dick” as a form of insult (albeit to other people.) It’s quite telling, from a feminist perspective, that said insult, with its implication of subjugation, exists at all. Let’s not fool ourselves and forget how that works in porn, either.
It’s been work extricating myself. I believe that heterosexual sex is right smack dab where a lot of the awfulness takes place. I believe that it is truly radical – yet very hard! – for us women to say NO, to annihilate the naturalized idea that we’re supposed to do or like anything sexually, and then to move on from that and say I like this (or that or nothing at all), in this way, with this amount of frequency. I understand better now that this isn’t equally easy for all women. I realize I’ve lucked out in some ways due to my personality, upbringing, experiences, and (probably) neurology. Because of the world we live in, understanding and owning your sexuality as a woman is so incredibly challenging, through no fault of our own. Yet I wouldn’t go as far as to say that being able to do so as an individual is “liberating”, especially not in a feminist sense – if it’s just personal liberation, that’s collectively meaningless, and not in and of itself very useful towards undoing the binds on women’s sexuality, particularly given its relationship to reproductive rights, which disturbingly remain under fire in 2015.
Now almost 2,000 words in, I realize I didn’t answer the questions I proposed in my prompt. So, “how do you like to know that your partner desires you, and how do you like to express your desire for them?” I do want to know that I’m wanted, but I can’t ever have anyone coming on to me, because that sets off the flags in my head and gets me thinking, “Great, now I have to have sex with them.” And in the past, I have totally had sex in those instances, even successfully convincing myself that I wanted it! I don’t want to be in that position ever again; I don’t feel “sexy” or “desirable” knowing that my partner wants to have sex with me, I just feel anxious. I have to be the only one who initiates sex. I also have to know that my partner can say “no” to me. As far as my expressing desire goes, I enjoy bringing him to a wibbling, whimpering heap of tears and cum, shoving him around a bit, but also hugging him and grabbing his ass a lot, lots of teasing, a lot of whispering in his ear about the devious things I’m gonna do to him, a dash of biting, some kissing, and well, love.
Part II of this response is “Look hard into the dark.”