Tag Archives: sex

Why Being Crude, Rude and Damn Well Inappropriate Is Something Women Should Aspire To

An opinion piece by Ruth Horsfall, Member of the UQ Womyn’s Collective

This piece was first published in Wom* News, The Zine of the UQ Wom*n’s Collective. Issue 4: Sex Through a feminist lens. Find a copy of the zine in the new ‘Zines/Collective Resources’ Tab


There are two things in life that are thoroughly enjoyable to me: a) having a good argument about something that means a lot to me and b) being deeply inappropriate when it comes to all matters of sex, bodily functions and other things that when you talk about them crudely and in graphic detail, can be uproariously fun (we can also add watching endless episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’ and wishing I was Amy Poehler to the list of ‘Thoroughly Enjoyable Life Activities’ – but that’s for another time). If you have like-minded friends, which I am lucky enough to, this activity is probably one that happens on a daily basis – especially if you’re all having a myriad of very enjoyable health problems such as Urinary Tract Infections.

However, the greater population does not always welcome this kind of talk, and that is a problem. Women are still expected to uphold a certain degree of modesty and decorum, even amongst friends (often male) and can be made to feel shameful and humiliated talking about perfectly natural occurrences.

Obviously for such uncouth talk, there is always a time and a place. I doubt the job interviewer will appreciate your monologue on how you were late because you were, to quote Cher Horowitz, ‘surfing the crimson wave (Clueless, 1995)’. However, even among close acquaintances in informal social situations, it is considered ‘icky’ or ‘gross’ if a female was to mention something personal about her body – men say, ‘we don’t want to hear about your periods, or if you’re constipated; it’s disgusting’.

They seem to enjoy stories of you having sex, in a way that a voyeur enjoys hearing a dirty story, but they shy away from specific details of a vagina, or if you experienced something like say, bleeding post-coitus. And I mean, everyone is shy and nervous in those first few months of a relationship, but you still hear of that girl who, years into her relationship, has never gone for a number two at her boyfriend’s place – I mean, god forbid that he know you have an arsehole and a functioning bowel movements, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

Women shouldn’t have to feel this way – it shouldn’t have to be embarrassing to talk about your body. If something you have said has made someone uncomfortable and they mention this discretely to you, that should be fine; but under no circumstances should you have to feel dirty or abnormal because someone has reacted so negatively to something you told them, possibly in confidence.

This unwillingness to know their bodies and be comfortable with the weird and wonderful things, often negatively impacts women in regards to having sex. Sex is a deeply personal activity and if something unexpected happens, and the partner isn’t willing to address or discuss it, it can be incredibly traumatic. Often you just need to be able to laugh about it, and women shouldn’t be made to feel like lesser people.

Talking about sex brings almost as much joy as the act itself and can go a long way to reassuring each other that you’re perfectly normal – it’s like when you finally got the courage to talk to your friend about masturbation and were shocked (and pleasantly surprised) to discover they did it too. Derision from men towards women who are comfortable talking about their bodily functions, sex and how much they enjoy it, reeks of the old adage, ‘women should be seen and not heard’.

Men are still confronted and deeply intimidated by women who are open about their sexuality. Just last week, Fung (2012) wrote about how American talk back radio host Rush Limbaugh (a man so hideous I hate to even type his name) called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’, ‘prostitute’ and suggested if the government were to pay for her Pill that she should have to film herself having sex and put it online for viewing purposes – after she made public her support for government funded insurance that would cover free contraception. He is not alone. His sentiment was echoed by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum (the same Santorum who said: ”[Contraception] is not OK. It’s a licence to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” – The Age) and a number of other conservatives.

Men like Limbaugh are not even really worth our time because they are so old-fashioned and cruel-hearted towards any sort of minority, let alone women, that their perspective will never be changed – but it is a sad indictment of society that they are allowed to say those things and indicates that there is still simmering antagonism towards female sexual freedom. Not only that, women who state that they enjoy sex, and have sex frequently, are STILL humiliated and stigmatised in this outdated manner.

On a more hopeful note, last Sunday, arguably the most well-known feminist of our time, Germaine Greer, spoke at ‘The F-Word’ in Sydney, about all things feminism. Sarah McDonald attended and wrote a follow up article in The Daily Life about why women should be more difficult. After observing Greer on Sunday evening (and probably for years before that), McDonald noted what most of us are already aware of – Greer is incredibly controversial. And she is controversial because she refuses to pander to anyone’s opinion but her own – and in the author’s words: ‘She genuinely doesn’t care if she annoys, alienates or threatens men. Or women. And in not caring she shows us true liberation’.

What Greer speaks of is patriarchal repression, which still sadly reverberates with women – a belief that they should always be pleasing and compliant. As a result, she believes (and so should we) that women should be ‘difficult’ – and being difficult is talking about your period even though people may think you’re disgusting, being difficult is wanting to discuss the gross noises vaginas make when you have sex and being difficult may just be not shaving your legs, because you honestly just don’t care.

Talking about these sorts of personal and confronting issues may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but no woman should ever have to feel ashamed or humiliated in any capacity simply because she has chosen to vocalise about something relevant to her, something she may have been working up the courage to talk about for a while.

Openness breeds more openness, and the more wildly spread the message that ‘talking about your bits is cool, kids!’ is, the more comfortable women can all be with their bodies, the things it puts them through and most importantly, being able to enjoy sex on your own terms. It leads to better sex and stronger relationships and (hopefully) the proliferation of hilarious terms such as ‘lady boner’, which is something all women deserve.

You know what, sometimes totally clever, intelligent, interesting young women still spend a lot of their time talking about boys or girls, soz lol old ppl, it’s a fact.

So, I’ve been watching (except that I haven’t because I couldn’t do so legally) and reading a lot about the new HBO series Girls. From the moment that it aired there’s been a lot of criticism of the show. Some of it may well be warranted, particularly the parts about it being a ‘white wash’ (read here, here and here)  While I don’t want to gloss over the serious lack of women of colour on our screens as a white woman for me to focus on them would be disingenuous and wrong. If you’re interested in this aspect of the show please, please, please write a blog because we’re sorely lacking the perspective of women of colour within feminist debate in NUS women’  The criticism I’ve most taken annoyance with is the criticism that these are smart young women and they just seem to be spending all their time talking about their relationships.

WELL, I hate to break this to everyone, particularly since it seems that it will burst some people’s bubbles, but sometimes, a lot of the time even, young women talk about boys, or girls, or whatever it is that takes their fancy. Some of them will talk about it endlessly, some occasionally, all of them will talk about it in some way or another.

Young smart, attractive, interesting women do talk about politics and the environment and literature and television, but it’s rare that they don’t also talk about relationships and love lives and the rest of it. Mostly, because that is one of the things that you will go running to your girlfriends and talk about. That doesn’t make you any less clever or interesting, it just makes you human.

There are parts of the show (which again, I have not watched) which I really enjoy and think are really wonderful. There’s a scene (allegedly) in the first episode where one of the main characters is asked by the total dick that she’s sleeping with about her tattoos. She responds that when she was in high school she got fat and it was her way of taking control of her body. This idea, of taking control of being out of control, is a really powerful one for young women.

So much of being a woman seems to be outside of your control, you can control how big your tits are, or how pretty you are, or how much people will put things on to you. A lot of the problems that young women face are about reasserting control over themselves. Anorexia, Bulimia, Self Harm, Suicide, they’re all on some level about trying to regain control over a situation which you feel you cannot change. That is a part of patriarchal control, the feeling that you don’t have the ability to affect change outside of yourself, which means you internalize those feelings.

There are parts that I don’t like so much about the show. The relationships to sex and relationships sometimes appear to be sending young men in the audience contradicting messages. In particular the relationship of one young woman to her boyfriend, where his respect and attempts at egalitarian heterosexual sex are mocked in many ways, or portrayed as being less than desirable. This is contrasted with the uncaring, selfish sex engaged in by another character. I feel that the show finds both lacking but offers no middle path. That said, this is an issue that raunch culture has required us to deal with, young women are meant to be madonnas and whores, often in the same relationships at the same time. How young women can be expected to be pure and porn stars has always been beyond me. I hope that in the coming weeks there will be a better job done at exploring these issues.

Girls is not perfect. It is not a perfect reflection of the way that young women and society exists today. However, that doesn’t mean that the show doesn’t have any value or that there aren’t things that can be taken from it by young women. There is a strong vein of friendship and feminism throughout the show. These women try and support each other, and love each other, for the imperfect beings that they are. To ask the show to be perfect is to ask that young women are perfect, which they are not, we cannot ask them to be.

Have any of you seen the show? What do you think?

#thenewfword A letter to before I was a feminist

Dear Little Me,

 You don’t know what the word feminist means yet, you won’t for quite a while. All you know right now is that you’re a vegetarian ‘cos mum and dad say you are. There’s video evidence of this, at your birthday party your grand grandmother will try and give you a salad with bacon in it, it’s okay ‘cos Auntie Nikki will save you. Despite this your nan is right, you wouldn’t have known the difference is anyway.

 You’ll grow up a little and begin to understand, being a feminist is a pretty rubbish thing, being a feminist means that when your mum hears you and your friends giggling about sex in the backseat she’ll find the need to draw you an anatomically correct picture of a vagina and a penis. You still haven’t really forgiven her for that, and you’re a lot older now.

 You won’t have a lightbulb moment, you’ll read The Female Eunuch when you’re fourteen but close it in the section when she talks about tasting your own menstrual blood. For Christmas the year that you turn 15 you’ll get a copy of Gender Troubles by Judith Butler. You’ll never read the entire book all the way through. You’ll write three essays at university based on her theories and you’ll still never read an entire chapter. Because you don’t understand her you’ll say she’s stupid. Until I finish the book I don’t know if that’s true or not.

 People won’t really understand where you’re coming from, they’re about to start calling you names, ‘cos you’re different. Try not to let it get to you too much, it’s not really that bad to be a feminist. In the end you’ll actually find that it gives you the strength you need to make it through the hard times.

 You’ll be an angry hairy feminist for a while, you’ll spend a year flirting with lipstick post-feminism. Then you’ll have a lecturer who completely changes the way you think about everything. She’s pretty hated by a lot of people but she makes you radical. You won’t throw away your heels or cut your hair but you’ll become more empowered and questioning.

 When you’re 21 you’ll shave your armpits for an election pledge, it’ll get your campaign 500 bucks but you’ll still cry when you do it. It seems like less of a big deal after that. One of your teachers from high school will tell you that you paved the way for strong feminist women at your old school, you’ll cry at this too. Basically feminism means a lot of crying for you, but that’s okay too.

 For you #thenewfword is really just the old ‘f’ word. It’s never a dirty word around your house. Except for when your mum draws the diagram. That part sucks.

 There’s a lot of time left to go in your life, but I don’t think you’ll ever stop being a feminist. For now you can keep playing with your Barbie dolls. Kiri who’s your favourite won’t be yours for much longer though, you’re about to leave her in the sun and she’s going to melt. You won’t get over it for a week.

 In Sisterhood,

 Noni xx