For too long women's sexuality was viewed as somehow unnatural, oppressed by unhealthy and unbalanced social norms. The fight to change this is well underway, but has a long way to go, writes Emma Sayle.
Fifteen years ago I threw my first Killing Kittens event – a female, oriented sex party in pursuit of women’s pleasure . I had no idea at the time that it was an event that would be such a catalyst for change and open up a conversation about sex and women’s sexuality that had never really happened before.
Sex! Even the mention of the word has so many connotations running around in our brains. Natural vs. unnatural, fun vs. guilt, loving vs. abusive, happy vs. shame. Sex creates such polar opinions and behaviours and these feelings are all woven so deeply into our concept of sex and wider society’s attitudes to it.
This is especially the case when it comes to female sexuality and how we, as women, can openly express ourselves in the bedroom. It is no surprise it has taken until the 21st century for women to be able to fully embrace and own this fundamental part of our being.
When I was young we were often told sex was unnatural or sex was dirty. You mustn’t sleep with a boy on the first date. You shouldn’t put “it” out there on a plate. If you have sex too soon, people (i.e. men) wouldn’t respect you. I was once told to keep my knickers on and one foot on the floor at all times!
Sex creates such polar opinions and behaviours and these feelings are all woven so deeply into our concept of sex and wider society’s attitudes to it.
There was never any discussion about sex – just that sex was wrong. I never knew there was anything other than sex for procreation. Indeed I only knew that sex would lead to babies. The end. As I grew older it seemed that the very definitions of sex became intertwined with what was deemed ‘natural’ i.e a man and woman in marriage and what was ‘unnatural’ i.e everything and everyone else.
Every turn you took, as a young woman exploring her sexuality, there was a voice telling you that women – and it is always women not men – should be careful in how they portray themselves sexually. There was ‘good’ sex and there was ‘bad’ sex and this ‘voice’ of warning always came with a man’s voice behind the rhetoric.
Sex was naughty (not in a good way) sex got you in trouble (also not in a good way) and sex was ultimately the root of all evil (definitely not in a good way). Whether you blame the church, the patriarchy or just that general level of misogyny we have all grown up with, women’s sexuality has always been suppressed, from Eve onwards, and it’s the patriarchy that always benefited from the suppression of women’s identity and their sexuality.
I wanted to change all that.
When it comes to women and sex, I have always championed the woman’s right to have pleasure. I have also always demanded our right to be open and loud about enjoying sex. For me, sex is the most natural thing it the world, it’s the way two humans communicate with each other on the deepest of levels. It makes no sense to me to have 49.6% of the world’s population unhappy, unfulfilled and unaware of the potential of their own body.
People wanted this change. For me it has always been about creating a space where women could explore sex in and safe and non-judgemental space be that virtual or physical.
From orgasm to libido, menopause to periods, such natural things for all of us and yet they have been pushed and hushed away into the shadows of our everyday lives. Why? Because it make’s men go yuk?! Those daily and monthly bodily functions we all experience as women are topics of conversation that just don’t get talked about openly. We are still debating what is and what is not suitable when advertising a tampon on TV.
Sex is the most natural thing it the world, it’s the way two humans communicate with each other on the deepest of levels.
The power of the internet and social media has challenged the power of the traditional media. It has at last allowed women to find a global platform where we can connect, discuss, converse and generally discover what makes us all tick – without any voice of moral outrage or any patriarchal hegemony taking over our discussion.
What started in the USA in the 1960s and 70s has at last been given the green light as a truly global movement that reaches all the corners of our world. Just look at the power of #metoo.
Yet whilst the global notice board is most definitely open for business, be under no illusions, women are still under attack. Women’s right to control their own bodies is now, more than ever, under threat. The buck does not always stop with men with the suppression of women’s sexual freedom. In the words of Gloria Stenheim’s character in Mrs America: “Oh they finally found the best smoke screen for their chauvinism. Women.”
To hold power over women is to control them – economically and physically. We have to keep our antennae open, we have to protect and support each other as the journey we are all on will continue to be a hard one.
To hold power over women is to control them – economically and physically.
I have been lucky to have witnessed the transformative power of sex. I have seen at first-hand how women, on discovering and owning their sexuality (many for the first time in their lives) have become greater and more powerful human beings as a result. If you stand up for yourself in the bedroom, the same will happen in your professional life.
The awakening of a woman’s sexuality, be that collectively and individually, is like seeing a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis. We finally have our moment to voice this transition. As women our sexuality has been deemed unnatural and has been oppressed for a long time, but now I believe we have the chance to own it and be proud about it. I am so excited that this community that we have built all over the world will now expand even further to more women and, of course, those men who are not frightened of the women in their lives being in control.
Liberalism is under attack. Sexuality is under attack. We must defend our freedom. John Locke once said, ”New opinions are always suspected and usually opposed without any other reason but because they are not common.”
Let’s make women’s sexuality and all those who sail with her as common and as natural as women themselves.
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