Towards an Authentic Male Sexuality

#sex #BDSM #rapeculture

I want more men to (re)claim their sexuality. By that I don’t mean that I want them to boast about how big their cock is* or many women they’ve fucked or how many times each one of those women came. What I mean is that I want to see more men learn to be comfortable with their sexual selves, especially when expressed in ways other than aggressiveness, dominance, and emotional numbness.

I want more men to think of themselves as attractive, or potentially attractive to someone. Yes, many individuals of all genders struggle with their body image and those struggles are valid, but when it comes to men, there’s rarely any acknowledgment that a man’s body can be beautiful or sexy at all. I’m tired of this “women are the fairer sex” bullshit. I want more men to think of their bodies as capable of getting someone hard or wet. I don’t want men to become objectified or expected to fulfill extremely narrow beauty norms like women are; I want them to be able to think of themselves as desirable and fuckable if that thought appeals to them.

That will not be accessible for some men, just like it’s not accessible for all women or nonbinary people–especially when you consider race, disability, and other intersecting identities. There’s no moral obligation to love your body or find it attractive. But right now, our main cultural message about men’s bodies is that they’re laughable at best and grotesque at worst; that the problem with dick pics isn’t that they’re often unsolicited but that yuck who would want to see that; that nobody could ever really want to fuck a man, which is why it makes sense that men have to use coercion to “get” sex. (And that homosexuality is “unnatural,” and that there must be something horribly wrong with women who actively pursue sex with men…) What if men’s bodies can actually be beautiful, can actually be sexy?

I want more men to get to know their own bodies and desires. Nine times out of ten when I ask a man, “What do you like?” or “How do you want to be touched?”, he says, “Oh, whatever you want” or “We can just have sex” or “Just being close to you feels good.” While this may be genuine for some men, I think most are uncomfortable sharing any desire besides to fuck, or they don’t even know.

I don’t buy our cultural myth that men’s sexuality is “simple” while women’s is “complicated.” (Where would that even leave trans/nonbinary people?) While I think that people with penises sometimes have a more obvious or clear path to orgasm, that’s not the case for all of them, and orgasm isn’t necessarily the goal, and maybe there are other paths they might discover, ones that are more…scenic.

I want more men to masturbate not with the goal of reaching orgasm as quickly as possible so they can feel relief from sexual tension, but with the goal of discovering what feels good, or weird, or interesting. I want them to try out different fantasies and watch different types of porn. I want them to try masturbating while reading erotica. I want them to try taking time to touch other parts of themselves first, before ever touching anything that can lead to orgasm.

I want to hear from men more of the things I hear from the women I sleep with–“I like my nipples licked, but not pinched”; “That’s a bit too much pressure, can you use less?”; “Please don’t touch me there because it’s triggering”; “I get turned on when you kiss the back of my neck.”

Feminist men often fall into the trap of thinking that the opposite of male sexual entitlement–the opposite of men using other people’s bodies to get themselves off without any concern for that person’s consent or desire–is to focus entirely on their partner’s pleasure and deny any preferences of their own. No. The opposite of male sexual entitlement is two (or more) people working together–playing together, rather–to create the experiences they want. If you’re the kind of sub who’s only interested in pleasing your partner, that’s one thing. But that’s not the only way to be a consent-aware man. You’re allowed to have your own sexuality.

Most of the men I’ve ever been with did not see themselves as potentially sexy to anyone, not even me. They did not have much of an understanding of their own sexuality; I imagine that even a few weeks into those relationships they knew my sexuality better than their own, because I communicated it. It is very difficult to have a healthy sexual relationship with someone who on some level doesn’t believe you could actually want them. I felt like I had to try and prove it to them constantly, and that emotional labor would quickly end up being too much.

My healthiest sexual relationships have been with people who knew their bodies and their sexual selves–even as that knowledge is, of course, constantly changing and developing. They weren’t magically free of any insecurity, shame, or confusion about their own bodies and desires. But when I said “You make me so hot” or “I want you now” they believed me. They had a sense of their own sexuality that was more complex than just “I want to have an orgasm” or “I want my partner to have an orgasm.” It could be, “Wow, I have a body that feels things, isn’t that amazing” or “I want my partner to feel punished” or “I want to feel humiliated and then comforted” or “I want to feel like my partner has all the control even though I know that actually we both have all the control” or “I want it to feel like my partner and I are writing a story together” or “I want to look at my partner’s face while I fuck them” or “I want to look at my partner’s ass while I fuck them” or “Tonight I feel bad and I just want to be comforted.”

Our deeply anti-sex culture undoubtedly impacts women and nonbinary people more than men, but male privilege–as protective as it is in some ways–does not extend to automatically giving men the ability to engage with sexuality in an authentic, healthy way. They’ll have to work hard to learn that just as the rest of us do. To see sex as a collaboration rather than a competition or a game to be “won”; to see their own bodies as vessels for pleasure rather than tools for domination; to see their partners as partners rather than opponents or targets or prey; to see desires other than fucking as valid rather than irrelevant or shameful–those are just a few of the challenges I want to see men to embrace.

Encouraging men to get in touch with their bodies and desires might seem like a weird way of fighting rape culture, but in my experience all of the toxic messages we get about sex and gender go very well together, and fighting rape culture means fighting all of them.

~~~

*Not all men have cocks and not all people with cocks are men; not all men want to fuck women and not all people who want to fuck women are men. However, it would’ve been equally presumptuous to write this article about cis/straight men only, because trans/queer men probably experience many of the same pressures of toxic masculinity and much of this probably applies to them as well, regardless of what genital configuration they happen to have.

**Another important note: this was written from my own experience and social position, based on the struggles I’ve observed in the people around me. If it doesn’t resonate with you, that doesn’t make it “wrong”; maybe your social position is just different.

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Sexual Orientation Can Change

#sex #BDSM #queerphobia/biphobia

Hey, did you know that sexual orientation can change? Mine did!

I was bisexual for years, throughout adolescence and college and half of grad school. Like many bisexual people, my attractions to different genders weren’t identical or equal: I tended to be more attracted to women, but everyone I’d fallen in love with or had a serious relationship with had been a man, so I wondered if I could ever love a woman at all.

Well, I could and I did. Perhaps because of that experience, perhaps not (probably not, in retrospect), my patterns of attraction started shifting.

I’d always experienced a certain…apathy about men when it comes to sexual attraction, but I figured that was just attributable to demisexuality. The only way I could ever want to fuck a man would be if I sort of made myself do it the first time, and then afterwards I’d usually really want to. Sometimes I even thought about men when I masturbated. But it was always tenuous and fragile thing. When I saw male partners after a long time apart, it would always take me at least a few hours to want them again. They’d expect me to throw myself into their arms at the first greeting, but honestly, in that moment I usually didn’t want to touch them or look at them at all. Eventually I would “get into it” again.

But starting about a year ago, even that started slipping away from me. The idea of having sex with men started to fill me with dread, then revulsion. At first I thought I could have mostly-asexual relationships with them, but then I realized that I couldn’t even really experience crushy-type feelings with them anymore. (My last crush on a guy was probably over a year ago, unless you count Jon Snow.)

How much of this is political and how much of it is “biological”? Truly, I have no idea. Maybe I would feel differently about this if every single relationship I’ve ever had with a man, no matter how casual or how serious, didn’t fall apart in the same tangled mess of unexamined assumptions about gender roles. Somehow, no matter progressive they are, it’s only a matter of time before it’s my job to take care of their feelings, and they’re feeling sad because I’m not interested enough in sex or moving in together or whatever, and they’re trying to take charge of my mental health for me without my consent, and “I just don’t understand why you’d even want to be with me,” and on and on and on. Worse, they keep insisting that they’re not trying to get me to change my desires or behavior, but then they consistently act in ways that seem designed to get me to change my desires or behavior. Seriously, anyone would lose interest after all this.

And maybe it doesn’t matter. Even if these negative experiences somehow caused me to lose all ability to even imagine fucking a man without feeling nauseous, I mean, the nausea is still real.

People really don’t like to hear about all this. Straight people get terrified of being “turned” gay; gays and lesbians are terrified of being “turned” straight; bisexual people hate me for “confirming” the stereotype that bisexuality is “just a phase,” since I guess I ultimately did “pick a side,” didn’t I?

I feel that. But it’s not my job to make sure that the things that happen to me are politically expedient for The Movement. It would be awful if someone decides to use my experience as “proof” that bisexual people are all going to “pick a side” at some point or that maybe we really can turn queer people straight, but even though it would be awful, it wouldn’t be my fault. I can’t singlehandedly stop queerphobia, not even if I make sure that my feelings and experiences always align with what’s most politically advantageous.

It would be convenient if I could somehow convince myself (and others) that I was Really A Lesbian All Along. And I do wonder if I would’ve been, were it not for the social conditioning that caused me to believe that I desperately Need A Man. But again, it doesn’t really matter. For ten years I genuinely felt that I wanted to be with men, romantically and sometimes sexually. Now I don’t.

There are exceptions, though. I sometimes enjoy sex with men in the context of a threesome with another woman. I sometimes enjoy cuddling with men. Sometimes, men who exhibit a certain combination of Dom-ness, sweetness, and great progressive consent-focused politics can really turn me on. But the idea of looking for Doms specifically is horrifying, because very few of them have those other two qualities. I’m not looking for some controlling, hyper-masculine asshole who’s actually deeply insecure on the inside. I’m looking for someone who knows how to make me feel good and has the confidence to make it happen. I’m looking for someone who knows how to fuck without me having to patiently explain every little detail. I’m looking for someone who actually knows what he wants and gets it rather than prefacing every single sexual encounter with “But what do YOU like?” (Please do not assume my preferences are universal. I’m a kinky sub, and even then not all kinky subs like what I like.)

But those men are very rare, and even then I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to have a relationship with one.

I don’t really have much of a label nowadays; I tend to use “gay,” “queer,” or “homoflexible” depending on the context. I know I’m not comfortable claiming the word “lesbian,” since most of the interactions I’ve had with lesbians about this suggest that they want nothing to do with me unless I either 1) agree to never ever fuck or date a man again, or 2) can qualify for their bullshit and often transphobic-in-context “Gold Star” rule. Well, I can’t, so you can keep your label, I shan’t sully it with my ambiguous sexuality.

(#NotAllLesbians, surely, but you can’t deny that as a community, they haven’t been very supportive or welcoming to women who can’t always define their sexuality.)

Where does all this leave me? Confused and lonely, mostly. I feel powerless to find solidarity among others who have had similar experiences, even though “used to date/fuck men and no longer interested in dating/fucking men” seems to describe many queer women. But there’s no label for it, so I don’t know how to find them.

Although some of them still identify as bi, in practice, I don’t find that I have much to say in bi spaces. Almost every bi woman I know is either in a serious relationship with a man, or is looking for a serious relationship with a man. Therefore, most bi women I encounter are often talking about dating and fucking men. Of course, that’s 100% their right: they’re still just as queer, no matter what some bullshit xoJane article says, and they don’t owe anyone any proof of that. But it does mean I don’t feel that I have much in common with them, and right now I really need spaces where men are decentered. I just really need to not hear about fucking men for a while. (Both in the adjective sense, and in the verb sense.)

I love blogs like Autostraddle for this reason, but in terms of finding community and people to talk to, that’s a lot harder. I don’t think most of my friends (let alone my partners) really understand what’s going on with me, and I don’t know how to explain it any better than I’ve already done.

To be fair, I don’t really understand what’s going on with me, either.

I will delete any comments that tell me that I’m wrong about my identity, or otherwise try to invalidate my personal experience.

Yes, that includes telling me I’m “actually bisexual.”

How It Feels To Be A Target

#sexualassault #rape #violence #victimblaming

There’s been a lot of talk of “risk factors” and “safety measures” and “being smart” lately, what with the celebrity nude photo leaks and the “anti-rape” nail polish and the prominent sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

Enough has already been written elsewhere about how much bullshit this all is, but here’s another thing you might not have considered if this doesn’t impact you personally.

The biggest risk factor for sexual assault or any other sexual crime is being perceived as female or feminine. Another big risk factor is lacking relative power in any other way, such as being a child or having a disability.

Do you know how it feels to be a target?

It doesn’t matter what I do. I could try to pass as a man, but even then, I would be a very small man with a body shaped in a “feminine” way. I would be exactly the sort of man that other men target for sexual violence.

I think of Wanda Sykes’ “Detachable Pussy” bit, and even though it’s just a joke, I know that in reality, women without vaginas are probably at even greater risk of violence than those who have them (if they can be read as trans). I imagine what would happen if someone tried to rape me only to find that I had no vagina. He would probably rape me some other way, or just beat me to death.

I already take a lot of those fucked-up “safety measures” they tell me to take, although I know I don’t do nearly “enough” because there’s no way to do “enough” and they’d still find a way to blame me if I got raped. Every time I go outside or attend a social event (especially one that involves alcohol) or socialize with a man, I think about the fact that I am a target. I am a target because I’m perceived as female. I am a target because I’m perceived weak, fuckable, a sexual object. I am not a target because I drink or wear dresses. I am a target because I’m perceived as female.

Do you know how it feels to be a target?

Rape isn’t like robbery or burglary. It isn’t like provoking a hungry wild animal. It isn’t like a car crash. It isn’t like driving drunk (hi Richard Dawkins). It isn’t like getting struck by lighting because you went out in the storm. It isn’t like basically anything else except perhaps a hate crime, because that is essentially what rape is.

I am targeted for rape and other types of sexual violence because I’m perceived as female. The only effective way to protect myself from rape is to not exist in the world while being perceived as female. (And even then, you know, men get raped too.)

Do you have any ideas about how I could do that?

I am patronizingly told that yes, rape culture is a thing, yes, men should be taught not to rape, yes, yes, rape is very very bad and it’s always the rapist’s fault, but

but

but

BUT

shouldn’t we really be giving ladies the tools they need to stay safe in the meantime after all change doesn’t happen immediately and we can’t just tell all men to stop raping and they’ll stop and yes this is unfair but maybe for now you can just keep yourself from getting raped so that we don’t have to feel bad about this?

Okay, I’ll indulge you. What’s your plan? How long am I supposed to appear outside only with an escort, carry pepper spray and keys between my fingers and a gun that I’ve paid money for and been taught how to use and self-defense training in case I can’t access the gun, wear only baggy clothes, refrain from drinking or dancing or consensual sex or anything else untoward? What’s the timeframe here? How long do I have to do this while you do the work of teaching men that I don’t belong to them? How are you going to teach them that? Where are you getting the funding for these programs? Who will teach law enforcement to take rape accusations seriously? Who will teach coaches, religious leaders, politicians, and other powerful men to stop covering this shit up? How are you going to implement mandatory consent-based sex education at all grade levels?

What’s your plan?

How long do I have to live like a prisoner in this world?

Do you know how it feels to be a target?