‘Even if no salvation should come, I want to be worthy of it at every moment.’
– Franz Kafka
I’ve realised that I’ve been a pretty poor sex blogger recently. I’ve not written much, I’ve not posted many photos and I’ve not really done much on Twitter except retweet and share cat photos (although that final part is probably not going to change!). There are various interesting and not interesting reasons for my silence, which I expect I’ll write more about when I can muster the energy, but I’ve found a topic that has made me so sad and so angry that I couldn’t not write about it – my writing mojo finally got the kick up the arse that it needed!
Incels. Fucking incels.
I hadn’t even heard of the phrase until a few weeks ago but now it’s everywhere. The incels themselves and the differing responses to them seem to define everything that is wrong with our current sexual culture.
Advanced warning: I’ve written this using heteronormative stereotypes. I hope I don’t need to point out that when I say ‘men,’ I don’t mean all men and when I say ‘women,’ I don’t mean all women. There are people across the entire gender and sexuality spectrum who are appallingly entitled or woefully self-critical. Sadly.
So why do these men feel that they deserve sex? (I know, I know. It’s the Patriarchy.) But seriously, why do they not understand that no one has a right to sex with another person? That sex is not a commodity and that no one has a right to another person’s body. From men banging on about being friend zoned despite their best efforts to others making highly inappropriate sexual approaches on dating apps because they don’t see that they need to do more than just demand, there is a whole swath of men who seem to think that Life owes them Sex.
And they can believe this aggressively. Look at the prevalence of rape culture. Look at #MeToo. Look at this incessant rise of ‘incel’ or ‘involuntary celibacy’ and its association with acts of mass violence. And, to a calmer but no less significant extent, look at the more generalised and widespread sense of entitlement among so many men, as GOTN so eloquently wrote earlier this week.
But as disgusted as I am with this explosion of misogyny, I am more upset about another revelation that has gone hand in hand with conversations about incels. The part where, in contrast to men who are taught to demand what they are owed, the Patriarchy has taught women that sex and love are rewards for being worthy.
And, just like that, I am raging!
How have we created a society where women who don’t have much sex see it as an internal reflection of their own worth and a sign that they don’t deserve sex, when men can see it as an external reflection of how they’ve been wronged? Why can’t women have that same unbreakable confidence in their own value? Why can’t women separate availability of sex and worthiness?
Because they are really, really not connected. Whether or not you are having sex says absolutely nothing about whether you are worthy of it. It says nothing about how much you deserve love and it says nothing about your overall attractiveness and beauty. Just as men should never assume that they deserve sex just because they exist, women should never assume that they don’t deserve sex because they haven’t had it.
It’s a significant difference in response to ‘involuntary celibacy,’ and one that is not talked about nearly enough, even though it says so much about the Patriarchy and how damaging entitlement can be for both men and women.
Its important because women who can’t get the sex that they want don’t become trash human beings; we don’t become angry and hateful – we turn that hate in on ourselves instead.
And I know this because I have been there. I have been fortunate; I am now a happily married sex blogger who shares stories of exciting and interesting sexual adventures, but my life wasn’t always like this. I’ve known loneliness. I’ve known rejection. I know how it easy it is to feel utterly worthless. I’ve just never talked about it.
Looking back, I don’t know why I’ve not written about this more specifically. I may have mentioned my limited sexual experience obliquely in previous posts, but I don’t think I’ve ever laid out quite how nothing my sex life was before sex blogging. In fact, I started writing this blog exactly because I was bored and lonely, and blogging felt like a way to take back control. And I didn’t want to write about how lonely I had been or how inexperienced I was when I started because I stupidly thought that it might invalidate my later experiences (and potentially scare off my new lover!).
So here it is. Before my husband, no one had ever wanted to have sex with me a fourth time. A boyfriend and a casual fling made it to three, there were two sets of two-night stands, but all my other previous sexual experiences were one night stands. And there weren’t that many of them either. In the 15 years that I have been having partnered sex, I have had 9 partners but when 5 of those were just one sexual encounter, it doesn’t add up to much and, with hindsight but not much surprise, the sex before my husband was also almost universally mediocre. How could it be otherwise? We didn’t know each other well and we certainly didn’t know each other’s bodies well. And that was everything I knew. Nothing kinky, nothing exploratory, nothing lasting. Just nothing expect unrequited love, heartbreak and rejection.
Now I know that 9 sexual partners is above average, and having sex 15 times in the 10 years before meeting my husband isn’t really nothing, but it was little enough that it bothered me. Why didn’t anyone want to spend more than one or two nights with me? Was it worse that so few people wanted to fuck me or that those who did didn’t want to fuck me again? It bothered me that I seemed only worthy of casual sex when I wanted more. I wanted to believe that I was worth more, but I couldn’t. I started to dwell on all the reasons that I wasn’t wanted, all the reasons why I wasn’t enough.
Inevitably, it soon became difficult to maintain my self-esteem at all when I had no tangible evidence that I was wanted and when I still equated this with my value. No matter how often I told myself that I was beautiful or sexy or worthy, each rejection or period of solitude struck a blow at whatever self-belief I could muster. I actually used to wonder if I was genuinely delusional – that I must have no accurate sense of who I was or what I really looked like because I was clearly getting it so wrong. I didn’t feel worthless, I didn’t feel ugly, but I was still alone. Was I choosing men who were out of my league? Maybe I was worthless. Maybe I was ugly.
Luckily, my sex life was so bad and so nothing that eventually I had no choice but to fight against the notion that my worth was tied up in whether other people wanted me. It became too much; I had to change something. So I tried to find my worthiness elsewhere instead – in my career achievements or friendships or family or internal self-belief. I forced myself to shore up my confidence without needing the validation of a lover. And it took work. It took stubborn belief in that ‘delusion.’
But all that work made me realise why those cheesy motivational posters tell us that we need to love ourselves before others can love us. It’s not because loving ourselves makes us somehow more attractive; it’s so we can deal with the inevitable rejection without collapsing. It’s so we can look at the sex we are having objectively and decide if they are worthy of us. Otherwise we risk falling for anyone who just wants to fuck us a few times, and that is potentially disastrous!
When my future husband wanted to see me naked for a fifth time, I had to work so hard not to fall head over heels for him straightaway. I had to actively work on making sure my other confidences were intact so that if and when we stopped seeing each other, I’d still have my sense of value. It’s changed now, of course; his love has changed me and now gives me so much strength and happiness as our relationship grows, but it is his love that supports me, not his validation. And there is a world of difference there!
I feel like I am saying this too often this year, but I hope that these revelations and discussions that are filling Twitter will be a prompt for change. It may be a faint hope, but I do have hope!
Men; you need to put aside your entitlement and realise that nobody owes you anything. You’re not single because you’re short, it’s because you’re an arsehole. Nice guys don’t finish last, you’re just not as nice as you think you are. Paying for dinner does not guarantee sex, buying gifts does not guarantee sex, treating someone with respect does not guarantee sex because honestly you should just be doing that anyway! You have to accept rejection gracefully, you have to accept boundaries and limits. And you have to understand and accept that you can do everything ‘right’ and still not get laid, and that does not give you any right to be angry or demanding or fucking rapey.
And women; you have to believe that you are worth so much more than just whoever will fuck you. The person who loves you or fucks you or pays you attention is only one part of all of the hundreds of wonderful things that make you beautiful and valuable. You have value just as you are; you are worth it. You deserve happiness and love, even if it might feel like it couldn’t be further from your reach. And you need to believe in yourself so that we can change our story, change what behaviours we are willing to accept. Otherwise these arrogant fuckboys won’t stop taking advantage of us and nothing will ever change.
And it really is time for a change!