Dicks make me nervous. I don’t like to look at them; this is a fact that never ceases to surprise and make people laugh when they hear it for the first time. And why not? How can I have had sex as many times as I have without catching enough glimpses to get over my little girl issue of shyness?
I avert my eyes, I let my gaze stray upward, I give gentle caresses on stomachs, thighs, meaningfully cradle faces in my hands. I have had three serious boyfriends, and those three are the only ones with whose private parts I have become more than distantly acquainted with. And even then, when I think of their bodies, I think last of their genitalia, instead choosing to focus on the curvature of their spines, the softness of their shoulders, the smoothness of their chests.
I like sex; I think that much I have made more than clear by now in my writing. And I like sex that is meaningful the most. The kind that is devoid of shyness, that has had the opportunity to move past insecurity, into surety. My three ex-boyfriends and one additional non-boyfriend person know this about me; they know that I push the boundaries of what is possible for both of our bodies, that I don’t like condoms if they aren’t necessary for safety, that it isn’t likely for me to say no when prompted in the right ways.
What the men I have slept with who were never my boyfriend know about me is that I like kissing the most but can do without it if necessary, that I like to make others happy first, that I won’t have sex without a condom the first time, that I am a physical person, that I move quickly into a sexual relationship if it is something that I want. These are things I communicate with my words, with my own actions and reactions, the things I can control the message of.
I think the reason I have only had three serious boyfriends is because it isn’t just their dicks that make me nervous. The thing about feeling entitled is that many things feel like a gift put together especially for you, and when things aren’t given to you easily, it feels a bit like being robbed. In many instances, my body has been that thing in question. What I do with my body, with my clothes, with the expressions on my face, these are only adornments put together for the benefit of an audience, and so many men feel that they are, exclusively, that audience.
Here is a selection of what men have said to me about my body: I could get lost in your eyes, your skin is unfairly soft, how does your ass look like that, this is mine, maybe you should stop drinking soda, if you want to lose weight you should work out more, if you aren’t happy you should do something to change that, you’re beautiful, you’re gorgeous, I didn’t know you could be so beautiful until you took your hair down, don’t shave your head if you want to get into that industry, your legs are so strong it’s sexy, did you wear those shoes for me, I don’t want to force things, but I know we both want each other, I’ll follow your lead, I want to be inside you, I have a leash at home, if I get it will you walk me, I’m not usually a leggings guy but your ass can change my mind, you should smile more, I want you to be happy.
I had a talk with my cousin the other day, and it was a bit revelatory for me, to unpack just all of the things that (allegedly straight) men have done because of the confidence they have in themselves being the audience for someone else’s body. When I have consensual sex with someone, it feels like a partnership. It doesn’t feel like a performance in front of an audience, but then again, much of what I do that isn’t supposed to be a performance gets treated that way.
Is my body mine? Are any of our bodies ours? Sometimes the answer to these questions feel like an obvious no, especially not if you are small, if you are labeled as desirable, if you are young, if you are alone, if you are in the wrong place at the right time.
It’s conceivable for me to have commented, extensively, on the bodies of men that I have slept with in this piece, isn’t it? I could have discussed chest hair lengths, circumference of arm muscles, the qualities that give a dude good hands, the fact that I love a man who is comfortable enough to wear really short shorts, to go get a wax, to let me wash his face with my presumably girly face wash, to get a pedicure together. But then, if you didn’t think so already, I’d seem like a slut, like I’m crazy sexual and boy crazy, like I’m asking for things I may not be directly asking for. Or maybe you wouldn’t think that, but you might think I am shallow. In reality, I just want to feel in control of my own sexual desire, of my own sexual ability, of my own sexual existence.
I talk a lot about dismantling systems altogether, rather than relying on a simple reversal of hierarchies to right wrongs that have already been committed. I don’t have an inherent problem with men, after all, I still regularly sleep with them. Neither do I have a problem with my own body, despite the blame I have placed onto it for the things that have been done to me, for the things I have not stopped from happening.
It is a strange place to live in, right in the center of uncertainty. I know who I am, but the world doesn’t prioritize the parts of my identity that I hold as closest to the truth of me. I am sexually open, but not sexually available for free and open consumption. I think sometimes those two messages get a bit mixed up, which is a shame for all the good, healthy, consensual sex it prevents from happening.