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Within a week, we have seen Yvete Amos and Zoella publicly shamed for owning, showing and talking about sex toys. For those who haven’t seen, Amos was interviewed on BBC Wales regarding unemployment during Covid and her Zoom view featured a rather shapely, realistic penis-shaped dildo on her otherwise book-covered shelf. Suffice to say most people have no idea the interview contained. Then, Zoella wrote a review on her own blog entitled ‘The Best Sex Toys to Spice Up Your Life in 2021’ and received a barrage of outraged parents (due to her young audience) and even an exam board dropping her from their syllabus. And while both individuals have been vocally supported by lots of you lovely people, this is just within ONE week.
We’ve all told or heard stories from friends about family or flat-mates walking in and finding your sex-toys charging or even you in flagrante. In mastubari? The embarrassment, shame, and the feelings of needing to explain your way out of it experienced by any gender have long-lasting effects on our relationships with our bodies and simply have no place in this day and age.
So, when we see two women being shamed, not only by some of the public but by recognised bodies of education and authority, what does it tell us? That women are not deserving of pleasure. That is women dare to seek pleasure then there will be negative consequences. That pleasure should only be given by a real penis. That the penis remains, in 2021, God’s most pleasurable gift to humankind?
We are still fighting for abortion rights across the globe. FGM happens even in progressive countries like the U.K. Women’s “honour” is metaphorically implanted in their vaginas by men with fatal results. So honestly? Why am I surprised that people are up in arms about women staking their claim over their own bodies? What is so threatening about women owning themselves and their pleasure?
Boys are encouraged, nay expected, to watch porn from a relatively early age. In my year 9 sex-ed, boys were taught how to get to grips, literally, with their sex-drive. Girls, however, are largely shielded from consuming such content until much later in life, if at all. I was told “it might feel nice to touch yourself there sometimes”, but nary a word about orgasms until I was actually having sex. This language is binary because sex-ed is (still) binary. There are gaps where it comes to a full awareness for women, people with disabilities and for the LGBTQIA community. I still know womxn who feel enormous amounts of shame when they flick the bean to a bit of tastefully lit pornography, let alone some of the really sweaty stuff. The idea of women remaining ‘pure’ and untouched is archaic, something that smacks of an era when the only thing we were good for was marriage and babies. Why, in THIS world, do we want to keep our girls innocent? Is it because we know what a dark place it can be, and that it’s just easier to put the onus on each new girl to keep themselves to themselves, instead of changing legislation and syllabus content, and challenging the lessons we teach boys and the standards we hold men to?
We see the double standards everywhere. Men going to strip clubs and paying for sex aren’t nearly as critiqued as the people who work there. Emily Clarkson (@em_clarkson on Instagram) was bang on when she said “The world has no problem with female masturbation when it’s done for the male gaze. Porn sites are bloody full of it. The problem arises when we close the feckin’ door. Which means the problem isn’t masturbating. It’s the power.”
Girls are not taught about pleasure. We are not taught about how remarkable our bodies and cycles are. We are not taught about female orgasms or female ejaculation. We are not taught that pleasure can be found all over our bodies and in a variety of ways. We are not taught that we can safely and enjoyably have sex or that the end-goal of sex does not have to be a baby. Where do we learn about it? Experience, or porn. Both of which are still predominately male-gaze (at least on first go around) and therefore wholly inappropriate tutors. We don’t always want a (potentially high-risk) one-night-stand. We don’t want to have to deal with STIs, which are similarly as stigmatised. We don’t always want to be in a relationship. And yet, a girl’s gotta eat…
What it comes down to is loss of control and social, gender dominance. After millennia of men being in control in every possible way, it’s scary that suddenly there’s yet another thing that women don’t need them for. Lads, it isn’t personal. You wank, We wank, They wank. Humans are sexual beings, with sexual needs and the rhetoric around womens needing to be purified and ignored needs to stop. Because we really can’t win: any asexual folx out there will have had to tackle the same problem but from the other end of the stick.
It is worrying to know that there are girls who are totally out of tune with their bodies. It is scary that these girls become women with no idea of what they like and dislike and that men will continue to take advantage. It’s exasperating that boys equally will grow to have no idea about proper consent, the clitoris and how to properly stimulate it, the full extent of the problems associated with hormonal contraception and the shared responsibility that it enjoyable, fulfilling and holistic sex. It’s just not on that I will go weak at the knees for a guy who can actually make me cum and give me a good time because it is so unusual. (No, orgasms aren’t the only signifier of pleasure, Yes, I am making it a personal goal to reduce the Orgasm Gap)
We can say “Can’t believe this is still a problem, it’s 2021” all we like. The fact is, as with every type of oppression, if it isn’t discussed and called out then it will remain a problem. Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What we need are school syllabus’ taking responsibility and teaching every student, irrespective of gender, about periods, consent and what constitutes sexual assault, sex toys, orgasms and pleasure – not just wet dreams and the female reproductive system.
Now, I’m not saying that owning (and really owning) a sex toy is going to change the world. Nor am I saying that you should do a Miley and decorate your house with them or frame your zoom calls in a bid to solve sexism. There is nothing radical about a woman owning sex-toy. But I do think that asserting your stake in the Pleasure Games, fully educating your kids at each stage of growth, openly talking about sex and pleasure, and replying with “yes that is my damn vibrator, what of it?” will do bits for you sexual-self.
image: womanizer wow-tech via unsplash