1. “When you’re giving me oral, just because you’re moving your tongue really fast, doesn’t mean you’re moving it in a way that feels good. It’s a beautiful combination between sucking and licking that you have to practice, not just flicking your tongue around mindlessly.” —Cara, 25
2. “Don’t just stick it in, warm me up first. Rub my body, kiss my body, make me feel something before you put your dick inside me and cum in 3 minutes.” —Tiffany, 26
3. “Let me take control once in a while. I understand you’re a man, and you don’t have to tie me up to prove it. Some women get off from control alone, so if I tell you you can’t touch me until I say so, don’t.” —Vanessa, 25
4. “Oral works so much better when you use your mouth AND your fingers.” —Meghan, 26
5. “When I’m rubbing my clit while you’re inside me, don’t take it as an insult, just accept it as some extra assistance, a helping hand.” —Alanna, 26
6. “When you kiss me, don’t dig any deeper than necessary. Your tongue should not be down my esophagus.” —Molly, 24
7. “You stare at my boobs all day, so don’t ignore them when we finally decide to have sex, that’s just negligent.” —Emily, 25
8. “Not all girls want you to ‘make love’ to them. Occasionally we like to be fucked.” —Chloe, 24
9. “If you’re wondering about something, just ask. Literally the best way to have the best sex is to talk about what’s going to make it THE BEST. Pretty self-explanatory.” —Arianna, 25
ıo. “Not all women are vocal, just because I’m not screaming at the top of my lungs, doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying myself.” —Morgan, 27
11. “Foreplay is key. Don’t rush it.” —Victoria, 26
12. “Let me help you with my bra. I understand it can be confusing at times, but it will be 100% less awkward if you just let me help you take it off rather than both of us waiting 5 minutes for you to figure out it clips in the front, not the back.” —Zoe, 24
13. “Stamina. Try to last. Please.” —Hailey, 25
14. “Openly communicate what you like or don’t like. You won’t know that I like you biting my nipples unless I tell you so, just like I won’t know whether or not you’d like me to suck your balls. It’s amazing what improvements we each can make if we just talk about it.” —Adrienne, 26
15. “Stop asking for anal. Ain’t gonna happen.” —Casey, 28 TC mark
On 18 May 2011 , the prolific dominatrix-turned-pornstar Asa Akira sent her Twitter followers one brief, but provocative message: “Ass is the new pussy.”
Although Akira was not the first to utter this smutty axiom, the tagline has been pegged to her name. That may have made it easy for many to dismiss the concept as nothing more than a shocking, perhaps self-promotional assertion by a savvy performer sometimes known as porn’s ” Ass Queen .” But the starlet wasn’t just blowing smoke out of her buttocks. She was channeling a growing and convincing body of data on the inexorable rise of heterosexual anal play in America.
We can actually track the rise of heterosexual anal sex over the past quarter century thanks to your tax dollars. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a series of studies in which they asked huge groups of people the same nosey questions about their sex lives— including whether men had ever put their penises “in a female’s rectum or butt” and if women had experienced a man putting his penis in their rectums (or butts) . In 1992, 20 percent of women and 26 percent of men aged 18 to 59 had reached fifth base with an opposite sex partner at least once. In 2005, the figure was 35 percent of women and 40 percent of men aged 25 to 44. In 2011, it was 39 percent of women and 44 percent of men aged 15 to 44. In some smaller age subgroups, the prevalence of anal experimentation was even more common.
The CDC didn’t ask whether people had heterosexual anal sex on the reg (probably because it’s hard to measure what “the reg” means), experimented with other forms of anal play, or tried male-recipient butt stuff. The best numbers we get regarding frequency are studies that look at what proportion of people had heterosexual anal sex in the last year, or the last time they had sex, which is a weak proxy at best. But it give us a sense that recurrent hetero butt sex is on the rise as well as one-off experiments.
A 2010 study also suggests that experimentation with wider forms of anal play may be even more common than experimentation with anal sex amongst heterosexual couplings. Among its subjects, 43 percent of women and 51 percent of men surveyed in heterosexual couples copped to testing out anilingus, anal fingering, or anal toy play at least once. A 2008 study suggests that at least some self-identified heterosexual men are receiving anal pleasure as well (mostly fingering, some anilingus). We have no good data to compare that to in terms of trends. But given the taboos against men receiving anal play, any male-receiver experimentation seems, anecdotally at least, like a pretty big sign of the times.
Yet for all that we’ve collectively bickered, raved, and railed about this widely acknowledged trend, almost no one’s investigated what America’s changing anal inclinations have meant for the sex market— namely brothel owners, pornographers, and toy manufacturers . To find out, I reached out to a few makers and shakers in the sex industry to get a quick look at how America’s smut mongers have responded to the rise of hetero anal sex.
Art by Peter Johann Nepomuk Geiger
PORN IN THE HETERO ANAL-ERA
According to Pornhub, the king of dirty search data, the heterosexual anal revolution correlates with exactly the trends you’d imagine. Anal-relatedporn searches still represent less than 10 percent of all queries on their site. However, anal is a more common term among straight content searches than gay ones and its pervasiveness in hetero searches is rising rapidly. Pornhub crunched the numbers for VICE and found that between 2009 and 2015 , anal-related searches increased by 120 percent in America. That’s significantly higher than the 78 percent increase in anal-related searches globally. The increase was steeper among male than female users, but anal-related tags were still the 18th most searched most searched terms among the site’s female clientele.
(As a side note, Pornhub’s investigation found that users aged 18 to 24 are actually 33 percent less likely to look for anal content than users aged 35 to 44, which is unexpected given how often we talk about hetero-anal as a young person’s game. But that 18 to 24-year-old demographic is 290 percent more likely to search for My Little Pony porn than any other age bracket, which is certainly its own can of worms.)
Image by Paul Avril
Yet, despite this clear demand spike, and the excitement a first-time anal scene can generate for a female performer, anal-focused heterosexual videos make up a small portion of the market. A Pornhub investigation last year revealed that just 7 percent of their straight content has an “anal” tag on it. And it doesn’t seem like porn studios are making any notable move to increase the volume of anal-focused content they create.
“I don’t think the overall production has gone up,” says Holly Kingstown, the editor of Fleshbot and a fixture of the adult industry since 1999 who’s held every job possible save actress. “In your talent pool, there are still [only] a certain number of girls who will do [anal]. And how many of that scene can you do with that girl?”
“There are performers who are willing to do it,” possibly due to industry pressures and consumer demand. “But in terms of the quality, when you’re talking about DVD sales…” she adds, before pausing briefly. “You can get a crappy internet scene or two out of a girl, but if she’s not really good at it, you’re not going to get that too many times. And when you’re talking about a girl who does it just to get a scene, it’s usually not going to be a girl who loves it or does it very well. So she’s not going to get that much work.”
Kingstown does believe that there’s more consumption of the anal-focused content that already exists. But the absolute number of anal-focused titles available for consumers is fairly static.
What has changed, says Kingstown, is the tone and packaging of the anal porn that gets made. Towards the early 2000s, when Kingstown was still working at Buttman Magazine, she and a her colleagues realized that more couples, versus angry men looking for painal (grimacing girls , visibly suffering and un-lubed ass-ramming), were exploring their content. Adjusting to this mass market, pornographers shifted to portraying anal as pleasurable and normal versus painful and sick, which had apparently been the norm for the bulk of anal porn content up to that point.
“You still see the stuff where you’ll see a woman called an ‘anal whore.’ But you also see the tone overall to be a bit more… I want to say woman-positive,” says Kingstown. “For example, I’m looking at my desk and I’ve got James Deen Loves Butt here. This isn’t James Deen Loves Sodomizing Little Girls and Making Them Cry . That title would sell too, but to a whole different audience. There’s Anal Warriors, where women are shown as strong and powerful and in control of the sex that they’re having. There’s a whole ton of these kinds of movies where the women who enjoy anal are shown as strong and powerful.”
But even if movies today portray anal sex as pleasurable, they still don’t paint it realistically. They don’t focus on the time and preparation most (s)experts agree good anal requires . They often show a ramrod, angled experience that wouldn’t be pleasant for more than a few women in the world. Of course, a lack of realistic sexuality is a chronic problem in all niches of fantasy-driven porn.
We’re seeing a lot more prolapses. We’re seeing double anal. It used to be five anal scenes, done, not four anal scenes and a double penetration. They can go further, so they do. –Holly Kingstown
This pleasurable-looking anal, says Kingston, is now treated like a run-of-the-mill aspect of porn rather than a specialty act. Whereas in the past, you might stuff all your anal content into one niche film, nowadays directors think nothing of nonchalantly inserting an anal scene into a larger project. The overall amount of anal content remains the same—it’s just not as clustered into niche markets and individual movies. Yet, as anal becomes a normal part of heterosexual porn for a wider audience, a small audience craving painful or extreme porn, for whom anal is now too passé and mainstream, has started demanding more physically taxing and (Kingston believes) potentially dangerous ass play acrobatics from the limited actress pool.
“You see a lot more circus stuff than you used to,” says Kingstown. “We’re seeing a lot more prolapses. We’re seeing double anal. It used to be five anal scenes, done, not four anal scenes and a double penetration. They can go further, so they do. And physically, there’s only so far that you can go with your body [as a performer].”
SEX TOYS IN THE HETERO-ANAL ERA
“Anal sex has always been a frequent topic of conversation with our [mostly heterosexual] customers,” Claire Cavanah, co-founder of Babeland, told VICE when we asked for data on anal-related sex toy sales. The Seattle-based outfit with three outlets in New York is often hailed as one of the most accessible and acclaimed sex toy shops in America—a profile that lends it a large consumer base. “The ‘How to Have Butt Sex’ content on Babeland.com is the number one viewed piece of our [editorial] content. It has almost double the number of eyes on it as the ‘How to Give a Blow Job’ article, which is the second most viewed [item]. We don’t have data before 2009, but it’s always been number one.”
A Babeland survey of 18,412 customer respondents in 2009 (not a reliable sample, due to self-reporting issues, but still one of the better pieces of data you can find on this subject matter) also found that, 60.5 percent of men and 40.1 percent of women had tried using a butt plug, 56.8 percent of men and 31.7 percent of women had tried using an anal dildo, 51.8 percent of men and 29.2 percent of women had tried using an anal vibrator, and 37.4 percent of men and 27.8 percent of women had tried using anal beads.
Yet even with a high baseline of anal interest, Babeland has seen an increase in anal-related sales. Between 2012 and 2015, the genre averaged about 5 percent growth per year. As of 2015, Cavenah estimates that such toys, specifically made with anal in mind, make up about 16 percent of Babeland’s sales.
What’s more significant to Cavenah and company, they say, is how they’ve witnessed the tone and level of openness their customers use when talking to them about purchases and proclivities evolve. The hushed voices and seedy aura customers once took into transactions has faded away. And as people get more open, comfortable, and explicit with their anal sex toy needs, toy makers have responded to their feedback with a deluge of new, specifically anal-targeted sex toys , including smaller models marketed towards anal beginners. Babeland’s also noticed more luxury anal sex toys coming onto the market—products made of metal or glass, substances with higher price points—which suggests the emergence of a fair number of swankier, less bashful customers.
“We’ve definitely seen a shift in more interesting, innovative, and high-qualitybutt toys from some of the leading sex toy companies,” says Cavenah. “Je Joue debuted a remote-controlled vibrating prostate stimulator this spring. Anal toys come with vibrators, apps, and magnetic resistance that creates a pulsating sensation. There are also lubricants, such as Sliquid [Naturals] Sassy , that are marketed specifically for anal use.”
We continue what we started earlier in the week, I was all involved in responding to a young woman’s query about porn for women when I ran out of time. Let’s pick up where we left off in Part 1, shall we?
Last week we considered the proliferation of porn for straight women. This week we take a look at some of the other categories of porn for women. Remember this is by no means an exhaustive list. And just so you know, you can find most all of these titles in Dr Dick How To Video Library. Look for a Video Library tab in the header of DDSA for this great sex resource.
Porn for straight couples.
New York-based filmmaker Tony Comstock forged his own path in the adult business, creating films previously unseen in the world of porn. Blending a documentary style with hardcore sex, Comstock created a new genre, “pornumentary” or “docuporn”. His films feature real-life couples talking about their relationship and sex lives before having sex on camera. The result is a fresh and revealing look into the lives of real people, and depicts the kind of sex real people have. This is porn without the fakery and cliché so often seen in mainstream porn. It’s erotica with emotion and context.
Anna Span is Britain’s first female porn director and she brings a unique perspective to her hardcore films. Her college dissertation was titled “Towards a New Pornography.” She created her first hardcore adult film in 1997, and worked for adult TV channels in the UK. She is the author of the book Erotic Home Video. Her production company, Easy on the Eye, also releases films by other female directors.
Anna’s films are made for both women and men, but she makes a special effort to include more female perspectives in her films, with a focus on female pleasure. Her movies feature excellent acting and engaging plots. Anna Span created a series called Women Love Porn, which features a selection of newer female directors hand-chosen by Anna.
Tristan Taormino is an author, editor and filmmaker who made a career out of sex education, particularly in the area of anal sex. We’ve featured lots of stuff my Tristan here on Dr Dick’s Sex Advice. Her column and website Pucker Up deals extensively with anal sex and her book; The Ultimate Guide To Anal Sex For Women won a Firecracker award. It was also made into a film in 1999. In 2006 Tristan created her own production company, Smart Ass Productions, so she could create her own brand of porn films. She was honored at the Inaugural Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto in 2006 and her film, Chemistry, won an AVN award in 2007, the first of several such awards and nominations.
Tristan has her own line of educational films with the porn giant, Vivid, called, VividEd. Again, you can find all these titles in Dr Dick’s How To Video Library.
Tristan describes herself as “queer”, saying she dislikes the label “bisexual”. Her films are designed to appeal to women and men of all orientations.
Joybear is a another UK-based erotic film company that makes films for both women and men. It was established in 2003 by Justin Ribero des Santos after he won a Playboy filmmaking competition, Joybear creates high-quality, high class explicit films and makes an effort to cater to the real desires of their audience. The company regularly runs surveys and focus groups to determine what it is that people want to see. Which is pretty cool if ya ask me.
Porn Movies For Lesbians And Queer People
While girl-on-girl action has long been a mainstay of the porn market, authentic lesbian erotica is still relatively rare. But nowadays, there are a number of people working to create their own brand of lesbian and queer porn, reflecting their own experiences and tastes.
Maria Beatty and Bleu Productions
Paris-based filmmaker Maria Beatty is world renowned for her innovative and beautiful lesbian erotic films that focus on BDSM. Having previously worked on documentaries about artists, Maria began to make her own special brand of porn in 1994, producing The Elegant Spanking, which received international acclaim. This film documents the intimate sadomasochistic encounters of Maria and a dominant female partner.
Since then Maria has produced an impressive number of adult movies, all exploring “the playful relationship between pleasure and pain” as she says. Her films have been produced independently in order to keep her vision of erotica unblemished by the demands of studios. She also does all the writing, editing, camerawork and production design herself. Maria recently completed a second feature length film called The Boy in the Bathtub, is currently working on is working on other erotic films.
San Francisco-based Madison Young describes herself as a “bondage/ fetish model, adult performer, artist, gallerist, activist, published writer, rope slut, queer and feminist.” She runs a non-profit art gallery called Femina Potens and performs in porn to help fund it. She’s an exhibitionist who enjoys exploring the kinkier side of her sexuality on film. And she has been a guest on my SEX WISDOM show. Use the search function in the header, type in Madison Young and Voilà, the two parts of her podcast will appear.
Madison says, “I wanted to be part of a movement of sex positive feminists taking control of their sexuality on film. Somehow documenting my sexual explorations always gave me some unbenounced permission to explore parts of my sexuality that I didn’t feel comfortable exploring in the bedroom. I love the camera. I always used to beg my partners to tape us having sex even before I got into the industry. I believe that it is educational to document honest sexual exploration and experiences and I try to feed into that and put all of my sexual energy into a scene.”
Aside from performing in numerous mainstream porn films, Madison used to run her own website. Madison Bound, but now it’s closed. Her subject matter encompasses many different tastes but usually includes BDSM and a lot of lesbianism.
S.I.R. stands for Sex, Indulgence and Rock n Roll. This company was one of the pioneers of real lesbian erotica and their titles are considered classics. Their movies are legendary for capturing raw emotion, intense chemistry, real orgasms that convey revolutionary queer desire. No wonder their films have played to sold out audiences to almost every LGBT film fest around the world.
The Submission Of Emma Marx
Here’s the story line: Emma Marx is a beautiful, confident, well-adjusted woman. Unfortunately, when it comes to love and romance, all of her previous relationships have turned out to be a bit routine and mundane. Suddenly, that is all changes with a chance encounter with a handsome and mysterious man. He introduces her to a world she had only dared to fantasize about, a world of erotic sex, role-play and BDSM. She is surprised by how a man can so easily strip away her inhibitions and replace them with lust and desire. How is it that he has such control over her? Why does she like it so much? This is her journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening, but it comes with a price. What happens when the greatest love you’ve ever known forces you to face your greatest obstacle – yourself?
Shades of Kink
Enter the dark territory of unbridled sexual perversion and fantasy in Sweet Sinner’s taboo-smashing feature film, Shades of Kink. Riley is a sweet, innocent and motivated college grad looking for her first job at Norton Ashe’s marketing firm. The mysterious Ashe is looking to help his new recruit open up her imagination and body to new experiences. With intense drama and explosive performances by Maddy O’Reilly, Andy San Dimas, and Lily LaBeau, Shades of Kink guarantees to re-invent erotica.
Fifty Shades Of Dylan Ryan
Back to award Winning Feminist Pornographer, Madison Young, who I mention just moments ago, brings you Fifty Shades Of Dylan Ryan. Wealthy entrepreneur and book publishing mogul, Ms. Grey, has met her match in young college student and curious submissive, Dylan Ryan. After a sexy and defiant Dylan challenges Ms. Grey to a bet, Dylan forgoes her freedom and submerges herself into a life of total submission, testing her boundaries, proving her servitude through sexual gratification, masked orgies, soaked in female ejaculate, vibrated and fucked to orgasmic heights coupled with fellow sexual servants Bianca Stone and Berretta James. Dylan is whipped to climactic moments of pain and pleasure and collared while cradled in an intimate embrace of tenderness after an aggressive and beautiful journey into the depths of her darkest desires. How fun! Sounds like holiday viewing material, huh?
Ok, that’s it for my porn for women presentation. Hope ya liked it.
With one sex toy company proclaiming 2016 as the year that pegging takes off, it’s time to re-evaluate the benefits of telling your boyfriend to bend over.
This is the most vulnerable I have been in a long time. Flat on my back, pillow under my ass, legs akimbo; my ankles are so close to my eyes I can inspect the architecture of my bones. And then she’s on me, all hot breath and readiness, a portrait of cockiness and control.
“Do you want my dick?” she asks, leaning over me, prodding at my most intimate space with something slippery and cold.
“Yes,” I whimper. “I do…” and I close my eyes and think of Charlie Glickman.
The year is 2011. Japan has suffered its biggest earthquake in over a century, the Arab Spring is tearing up the Middle East and the English riots are lighting up cities like Guy Fawkes. It’s pretty safe to say the world is going to hell – and at this juncture, to suggest that the answer to stopping this big ball of dirt we call home death-sliding right down the pan can be found at the tip of a dildo is, well, borderline delusional. Unless you’re sex & relationship coach Charlie Glickman PhD, that is.
Of course, when Glickman penned the blog post ‘How Pegging Can Save The World’ his thoughts were far from the above. Sadly, he wasn’t saying the best way to patch up world peace was to have soldiers and cops pull on a pair of Triple Penetrator Dildo Pants. In fact, Glickman was advocating role reversal in the bedroom, as a way of offering straight men an insight—”when sex is about catching rather than pitching”—into their female partner’s pleasure, potential discomfort and vulnerability. It’s something that I can certainly attest to.
“[Pegging] won’t make communication miraculously easy and it won’t fix everything about sexism or gender-based inequities [but] what it can do (besides being lots of fun) is help people develop empathy, compassion, and understanding for their partners,” he wrote. “And the more of that we have in the world, the better.”
Five years on and Glickman’s prophecy is inching (six, if you care to know) ever closer, especially if we take into account mainstream references in hit comedy Broad City as well as new year blockbuster Deadpool. Of course, pegging is nothing new. The 1976 Golden Age of Porn classic The Opening of Misty Beethoven featured a pegging scene; and the act emerged again, in bisexual and queer circles at least, in Carol Queen’s 1998 sex ed video Bend Over Boyfriend, culminating with Dan Savage coining the term “peg” for the first time in 2001 after a vote on his blog, Savage Love (“bob,” named after Queen’s vid, was also in the running).
Abbi considers pegging her date.
Mainstream depictions on Peep Show(2005), Weeds (2006) and Dirt (2007) followed, but whereas these portrayals involved an element of shame or “putting something up a man’s ass WTF” weirdness, Broad City and Deadpool celebrate pegging in a completely non-judgemental way. In the former, Abbi rises to the challenge (with a bit of wall twerking enthusiasm from Ilana) to peg her super-keen date and in the latter, pegging is thrown into the middle of sex montage like it’s no big deal; it just happens.
Erotic content is also seeing a pegging boom that defies demographics. Extreme hardcore producers Evil Angel, which boasts a 99 percent male viewership, tell me that their Strap Some Boyz series (link NSFW) has grown in popularity in recent years. Couple-friendly luxury sex toy brand LELO tagged 2016 as the year pegging really takes off, after the sales of male “anal pleasure objects” increased by 200 percent in 2015. As LELO point out in their yearly trends press release, “the deepening knowledge of gender expressions and sexual identities” as well as “the language of non-binary genders” are freeing people, particularly men, from the conventional confines of sexual identity, gender, and pleasure.
Dr Chauntelle Tibbals, sociologist and author of Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment concurs, telling me that such increasing acceptance of ‘taboo’ sexual play that destabilizes gender norms may point to wider social ideals about sex. “In the past 10 years we have seen such an explosion in public gender awareness, understanding, and a willingness to explore boundaries and the social norms that contributed to the construction of said boundaries,” she says. “It’s only logical that pegging is now something we see in a comic book Hollywood film (Deadpool).”
r/pegging is a subreddit for pegging enthusiasts. Any of the 34,000 plus redditors post on everything from harness advice to “we did it!” confirmation images (link NSFW). I spoke to two of its members to find out why they got into pegging and the impact it’s had on their sex lives. Drew Harris* is an American construction worker. We exchanged messages a few days after he’d first been pegged. “My wife thought the macho man/tough guy attitude was something she wanted in her life [but the expectation] was not making me happy as that isn’t how I normally am and she wasn’t very happy either,” he told me.
A sample post from r/pegging.
“When we switched roles [with his wife as the dominant sexual partner and he as the submissive] everything pretty much felt right for both of us.” I also messaged ‘getsome187’ who has introduced pegging into his last four relationships. “Some of the girls would wonder if I was bisexual or felt inadequate by wearing a fake cock but they got over it,” he said. “It’s like I’m sharing something intimate with them and it brings us closer because there is a kind of vulnerability to it.”
‘M’, who I messaged on the kink social network Fetlife, and who has pegged two of her male partners, agrees. “Sometimes it can be a really intimate moment, at other times it can be dominating and filthy,” she says. “I definitely think it can bring you closer though. It’s nice when someone trusts you with their vulnerability.”
It seems that this shared knowledge of vulnerability stems from experiencing two sides of the same coin: that of penetration. “For a man who has never received anal penetration, sex happens outside the body,” Glickman told me in an email. “So while men might intellectually understand the need for warm-up before penetration, it’s not the same thing as experiencing it. There’s a different perspective that comes from knowing on a somatic level and I’ve talked with lots of women who say that exploring pegging has given their male partners a more attuned, patient approach to intercourse.”
Can pegging save the world? It certainly turned mine on its head. In the wake of pegging, instead of feeling emasculated, I felt empowered. All the social norms of being a straight man in the bedroom (I must be the penetrator, I must be in charge) had literally been fucked into insignificance.
“I think that any time someone is penetrating their partner, whether with a cock or a strap on, it’s about pleasure,” adult star and director of Guide to Wicked Sex: Anal Play for MenJessica Drake told me in an email. “Everyone should try it once.”
Religion and sex have been intertwined for thousands of years. Religion often inspires guilt about sex. That guilt needs to go away.
I was raised Christian, which involved Catholic school, Baptist church and consecutive nights at Bible study. The recurring message throughout all of the teachings was that sex is wrong, wrong, wrong – unless you’re married.
When I’ve written before about the complicated relationship I have with religion and sex, people have messaged me that it’s possible to be religious and fuck. While I’m sure this is true, and there are absolutely liberal churches out there, where I was raised the rules were staunch on this: you don’t have sex until you’re married. Full stop.
Letting Go of My Guilt
I’m an atheist now, for a variety of reasons, and I’ve been working to let go of the guilt I’ve attached to sex for as long as I can remember. The guilt was a combination of my own sensitivity (I’ve always taken things to heart), and the teachings that spanned my school education and social activities. Having dated several committed Christians as a teenager, none of whom believed in sex before marriage, I’d become accustomed to not fucking. I wasn’t one of those “anything but” religious types, either. Sure, I’d engaged in plenty of dry humping, fully clothed, but I was beyond sexually frustrated well into my 20s. When my lon- term boyfriend decided that even making out was sinful, I started to wonder if this was the kind of relationship I even wanted to be in anymore.
More Than Just Teaching Abstinence
Abstaining from sex wasn’t the only thing that religion taught me about sex. Time and again in Bible study and Youth Group, the leaders got majorly specific about what was OK and what wasn’t OK. For instance, one workshop I went to in college told everyone that men could masturbate because they needed the physical release, but that women should abstain altogether. As a massive feminist, this should’ve been the only wake-up call I needed that perhaps religion was not for me, but it was years before I gradually moved away from religion and the rules that went with it. The fact is, letting go of rules that have been programmed into us from an early age can be incredibly difficult. (Read more about the author in How I Became a Sex Positive Feminist.) Friends of mine balked and broke the church rules time and again. When one got pregnant at 16, her family decided in conversation with the church that the solution was simple: she’d get married. Once she was married, she was instantly absolved of the perceived sin that had occurred. Despite the rules, people have sex. They just get shamed for doing it. (Read more in The Worst Analogy for Premarital Sex Ever.)
The Rules Totally Affected My Life
In hindsight, abiding by the rules of the church was no mean feat, and completely fucked my head up. Telling my body to deny itself, and constantly being denied the physical affection I so craved, gave me a bit of a complex about relationships. That being said, I respect anyone whose decision it is to not have sex for whatever reason. It’s all down to personal choice and being respectful of your partner’s wishes. Because religion is often an inflexible set of rules, personal wishes get lost, and this can be problematic. I didn’t have sex until I was 24. I’d previously been in situations where it was offered, but it took me a long time to untie myself from the associated guilt. Even when I stopped going to church and chose to start moving in a new direction, my old habits stuck. It was difficult to shake the thoughts, feelings, and teachings that I’d held for 20 years. It was important for me to reclaim sex for myself and separate it from the shame that so often gets applied to it by religion. Religion has a lot to say about sex. It dictates when, how, with whom, and, to some degree, how often people should have sex. As a feminist, I couldn’t live this way anymore. And I absolutely couldn’t stand the sexist doctrine that set different rules for men and women. I’m pro-masturbation, and don’t think that it should ever be separated out by gender. Repression shouldn’t rest more heavily on women, and any doctrine that says it should isn’t one I can abide by.
Breaking Free From Religious Guilt
There are some religious and spiritual traditions that have a more positive view of sexuality. In fact, in a number of cultures the moment of orgasm has been described as a transcendental experience in which one is momentarily elevated to a divine level of awareness. Instead of designating sex to an off-limits area, only talking about it in conjunction with sin or marriage, and refusing to recognize that it’s a natural and enjoyable part of life, we should celebrate it.
I don’t want outsiders dictating who I can sleep with. I’m ready to discard the shame I’ve been layered in like butter. I want to peel off my guilt and make choices that feel right for me. And I want to encourage you to do the same.