HINT: If you're not talking during sex you're doing it wrong
A few tips in honour of International Men's Day.
It is a dark time for many, as the pathway of progression and equality seems blocked by arcahic sexism. Many people have many thoughts on equality of the sexes. Some feel it has already been achieved, others cannot believe how far there is still to go until men are exactly equal to women in bodily rights, pay, respect, sexual autonomy and sexual pleasure.
Men and women both suffer in an unequal society and it is long past the time both genders should have begun campaigning for equality rather than continually subjugating, diminishing and misunderstanding the Other.
This is a long read but it is worth it, we promise.
Words by Robin Oree
It says something about this particular moment in time that one of the sanest, most compassionate voices in the public discourse belongs to a man who hides his face behind a shopping bag.
But sure, when the most powerful nation on Earth crowns a frothing, barely literate megalomaniac as their commander in chief, maybe only gas cuntism can save us.
Indeed, Blindboy Boatclub’s message to us fellas on International Men’s Day, that we could do with a bit of feminism, could not be more antithetical to the primitive chest-thumping embodied by Donald Trump, a man who wouldn’t know respect for women if it kneed him in the groin.
Trump stands accused of sexually assaulting over a dozen women, including a 13-year old girl. When challenged by a female moderator on his many misogynistic comments, Trump waved it off and later snarled that she had “blood coming out of her wherever”.
He bragged about using his celebrity status to force himself on women, that he could “grab ‘em by the pussy” and get away with it.
He has publicly fantasised about dating his own daughter. That’s just a small sample, but evidently, to a vast number of Americans The Donald's litany of sexual misconduct is no biggie.
The term “rape culture” means that sex offenders are often shielded from the consequences of their actions, but when a self-confessed abuser is not just excused, but elevated to the highest office in the land, that, my dudes, is rape culture on steroids.
Here in Ireland, author Louise O’ Neill has stepped up to the plate as one of the most prominent crusaders against rape culture. In the wake of her bandaid-ripping documentary Asking For It?, I, like many others, took to Twitter to voice my thoughts on how we could create a safer society for our daughters and sons.
I reflected on the messages, both overt and subliminal, that shaped my view on what makes a man when I was growing up.
In secondary school, there was very much a pressure on boys to “get it”, the “it” being sex and girls being the ones to take it from. Boys would be cheered for their sexual conquests, whereas girls who slept with one too many guys or were judged to have surrendered themselves too eagerly got branded sluts.
The meagre sex education we received (even in ostensibly enlightened Germany) was restricted to the bare logistics of what to put where. Not one word was lost on the meaning of sex, to say nothing of consent. In our minds, sex was something you just kind of got down and did, without asking questions.
Movies didn’t help, presenting a blurry spectrum of acceptable behaviours, from performative seduction to unrelenting domination.
In short, we were told that our value as young men depended on how many women we managed to bed, but we were never given any roadmap. Instead, we were left to hurtle blindly through the jungle, swinging our machete in the hope that we got to the clearing without accidentally decapitating someone.
The Art of Consent
Let's face it: None of us, men or women, were ever taught the art of consent. We're expected to just go for it and hope for the best. For me, being exposed to feminist thinking on romance in general and the meaning of consent in particular tore that shroud of ignorance and insecurity apart and made me understand what a healthy, mutually fulfilling relationship looks like.
Now, if this doesn't apply to you and you're perfectly happy talking positions, kinks, specific fantasies and things you're uncomfortable with, more power to you. But from my own experience and certainly judging from the many incensed reactions I received to my tweet-up on Asking For It?, such healthy nonchalance is still far from the norm.
By far the most outrage was provoked by a tweet in which I reflected on the best sex I personally had ever had, which featured a lot of "talking, laughing, asking and checking in". Particularly the phrase "checking in" seemed to strike a nerve, with many shaking their virtual heads in disbelief and one commenter even worrying if he would need to get a "permission slip for every thrust".
Fear of Consent
It's telling that the idea of talking to each other during sex seems to be absurd, repulsive even to many. Apparently, it's preferable to just go ahead and initiate whatever kind of sex you want, leaving it up to your partner to stop you if he or she is uncomfortable.
To me, and I won't mince words here, that's a very cowardly way to go about it, a blunt assertiveness that really masks deep insecurity. One might call it Trumpian.
If we're really confident in our sexuality, why are we so afraid of putting it into words? Are we not able to accept no for an answer, so we'd rather not ask at all? Do we feel such blanket entitlement towards our partner's bodies that we expect them to go along with whatever we want? Are we so ashamed of our own desires that we can only indulge them if we let the lizard brain take over?
So what's the alternative? Here's some examples of questions I like to ask and like being asked during sex:
"Can I touch you here?"
"Want me to go down on you?"
"Do you like that?"
"Do you wanna get on top?"
"How do you feel about 69/anal/face-sitting/[insert your devious act of choice here]"
Of course, as you get more familiar with each other as a couple, you'll develop a dynamic where you're aware of what the other person wants and you can read each other's nonverbal signals.
Still, the rule of thumb is, when you want something and you're not sure if your partner does as well, just ask. Even though language can be occasionally awkward and imperfect, it absolutely beats unintentionally forcing your partner into a place they didn't want to go and then placing the onus on them to stop you.
BDSM and Consent
Imagine you're digging into a cupcake and someone just snatches it from your hand and takes a bite out of it. Sure, you can tell them to stop and give you back the cupcake, but at that stage, the cupcake has already been in their mouth.
So, if you do something in bed your partner doesn't like, does that make you a rapist? No, unless you keep going even after they've asked you to stop. But what you are doing is feeding into rape culture, a culture that treats sex as a ritual of dominance and submission.
That may sound alluring to some, but consider that even and especially in the most deliciously filthy realms of BDSM, affirmative consent is king. You don't start tying someone up without having made sure beforehand that you're both on the same page as to what goes and what doesn't. So, the rougher you like it, the better your communication needs to be.
Sex is about communication. Sleeping with people who don’t understand this is tedious at best, nightmarish at worst. Let's make this absolutely clear: If you don't communicate during sex, be it verbal or nonverbal, you risk hurting your partner.
Let's talk to each other. Let's be open about what we want and respect each other's wishes. Let's move away from rape culture towards consent culture, where sex is not something we do to each other, but something we experience together.
If we’re to choose a role model for positive masculinity, let’s reject the medieval machismo of an insecure blowhard like Trump and his ilk. Let’s turn instead to the badass bard with a shopping bag for a face, whose irreverent and yet deeply empathetic message resonates so strongly in this age of unfeeling utilitarianism.
Let’s be gas cunts to each other, in the streets and in the sheets.