TRIGGER WARNING: This column discusses violent content and abuse, please use discretion in choosing to read it.
Sex can be brutal.
Since my TEDx talk was just released last week, I decided to toodle around the TED site and watch a few other sex-positive videos. I found Mary Roach's fascinating TEDTalk, and I felt transported back to college. My senior year, I registered for a class on "Medicine Throughout History," but I was so disturbed by the recounting of doctors abusing female patients that I dropped the credits. Unfortunately the course on monster doctors was the only one that fit all my requirements for on-time graduation, so I was forced to pick up the seminar the following semester.
The professor lectured about John Harvey Kellogg and his barbaric remedies for masturbation. Kellogg was a sex-negative crusader who believed that abstinence was the best policy, and even married couples could commit "unnatural" acts inside their sacred union. He ran with a crew that campaigned to spread all kinds of untruths about masturbation -- for instance, that it caused cancer, poor vision and insanity. He recommended to other practitioners that a very successful way to stop a female patient from touching herself was to burn off her clitoris with acid. Actually, he used carbolic acid, the very same substance that the Nazis used to exterminate mass quantities of Jews.
It's foul and disgusting to me how much some people hate sex. In this column, I work to debunk myths about the "Wicked Woman." Religion's clammy hands have strangled the free expression of sexuality for centuries. It may be hundreds or thousands of years before we can undo all the harm.
I just can't stand it anymore to have a woman's value be predicated on the number of men she's slept with -- the fewer, the better, of course. I often give my mom a hard time in my writing, but the fact of the matter is that my first experience of the world came from her teachings. Once, also while in college, I snuck away for a weekend at my boyfriend's school. I got busted. For four hours on the drive back to school she berated me and called me a slut who was "ruining my reputation." She also snapped, "Jincey, why would anyone buy the cow when they can have the milk for free?"
To be compared to livestock made me feel like a useless possession, yet somewhere inside I realized that my worth as a woman wasn't tied solely to the choice to employ or not employ my vagina. I had intelligence, right? I had wit, lightness and a depth of emotion and experiences to share with any potential partner. Surely my modesty wasn't the only bargaining chip for my future?
It's easy to look at all the sexy commercials on TV and think how far we've come in accepting sexuality; however, we still live in a time of purity balls, where Daddy pledges to protect his little girl from the scary world and to guard her crotch like a little pot of gold. We're far from liberated. Women are criticized daily for sexual expression. In America we slut-shame our ladies, and in other countries girls are raped, beaten and killed for letting their freak flag fly.
The worst part is how unnecessary all of the repression is. We are sexual beings. Nothing in history has effectively blocked us from getting it on, and nothing ever will. As much as conservative Republicans try to make us keep our panties under wraps, no amount of regulation will suppress our urges. I would bet that even women with mutilated vaginas might not stop wanting sex, despite being robbed of its pleasure.
As Mary Roach so entertainingly explained, orgasms are wondrous, satisfying and far more complex than we ever imagined. Wouldn't our time be better spent researching pleasure rather than painfully punishing something so natural?
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