vəˈräɡō/: a woman of strength or spirit; a female warrior.

In or Out: My Trouble with the Sex Positive/Sex Negative Feminist Dichotomy

Recently, I read an article in Salon penned by Mish Way, front woman for the band White Lung about how she dated a guy with a cuckold fetish.

The crux of the article was that she tried it and it ended up backfiring, but she bravely explained that what she thought would be freeing, ended up making her feel trapped. I read the article and tried really hard not to look at the comments section because comments sections are the equivalent of a giant toilet of vitriol. I glanced at the comments for no more than 30 seconds. It was mostly a venomous mess of condemnations on how Mish had poor self-esteem and was lacking in judgement. Poor, little girl. Doesn’t she get how she’s just selling herself short?

I had to examine my immediate response. Were they right? Why would she go along with that? She most certainly deserved better, waved my feminist finger.

Because this is the millennial of the woman. We’re supposed to have it all figured out, right?  Job, finances, romance, our creative lives, our callings. We’ve been uplifted, girls. What’s wrong with us to to be backpedaling all of that power by dating some douche bag?

Like many women, I’ve read all the books on the Oprah Book Club. I read Eat, Pray, Love like it was some sort of bible. I’ve gone on spiritual retreats, been in therapy, work out regularly, run my own business, have a great support network, great friends, great family, and I’ve been in enough DIY bands to fend for myself. I didn’t look back when I heard Poly Styrene and PJ Harvey and Kathleen Hannah howling in my ears like a long forgotten swan song. Destiny’s Child told me to take charge in 2001 and Beyonce reminded me I should still be in charge in 2014. I appreciate powerful messages from powerful women. Who doesn’t like being in charge? I’m thrilled about the progress women have made and I’m a proud feminist. That is, I want men and women to be be treated as equals. Don’t get it twisted, folks.

But we gotta be careful about twisting messages of self-esteem into weapons of judgement. Isn’t that what we’re fighting to begin with? Now, I’m not saying that if we wish to create a feminist movement that is “sex positive,” we must ignore the systems of oppression that violate women’s lives and bodies globally on a daily basis. I’m not proposing that women go around and treat themselves like orgasm machines either.

But, it’s never been this all in-all out kind of thing. There is a spectrum and I hate to break it to everyone, but sex feels good. We might have left all that behind in our purpose-driven dialogue. Oxytocin aka the “hugging hormone” and the same hormone that women experience when giving birth, is brought about by human touch and yes, orgasm. That’s not some sci-fi voo-doo; it’s real. So why have so many people taken on the self-esteem movement of women and turned it into a measuring stick of judgement. Wasn’t that what we were trying to get away from?

Recently, I was in a relationship for about six months. We went on plenty of dates. I assured him he wasn’t getting in my pants right away and it wasn’t some kind of violent urge I had to control with a chastity belt, it was just a desire to get to know him more and I was really busy. So over time, I opened the door a little, peeked in, etc. He wasn’t on my mind 24/7. I wasn’t trying to “Get to I do” or follow “The Rules.” It was experiential, because there is no formula for dating that you brew up in your backyard shed and bring with you to Outback and it’s sure as hell not explained neatly in some book on the Amazon best seller list.

People are as varied and complex as dating experiences. Divorce rates are at 50 percent and many more couples aren’t even opting for kids. Women have more buying power than ever, and more sexual freedom. I consider dating the equivalent of sifting through a bunch of bins of vinyl at a thrift sore. Some are new (still in their packaging), some are a little cracked, some are totally destroyed, and some are just not for you. It’s lots of time and sifting, and purveying and assessing and it all depends on what you want and how much you want to invest. Some women want different things. *ahem*. I repeat. Some women want different things. Yes, I said it. Not every woman is masking her real desires for a Disney-like wedding by “selling herself short” on the fuck-buddy train.

Now, I say this having had a history of getting physical rather quickly in the past. A lot of that has turned into long-term, meaningful relationships. A lot of it turned into a steaming pile of hot mess. Neither makes me good or bad. Both make me human. It’s a spectrum. What works for some, may not work for you. People need to remember that before they bring out their giant morality measuring sticks. Ask yourself if your snap to judgemnt isn’t just another form of sexism?

Anyway, the sex was off the damn chain. I’m talking hair washing, massages, foot rubs, candles, french sing-a-longs, etc. I decided I would commit about 25 percent of my energy to the situation. We both work a lot and I was still trying to figure my shit out like the rest of the world (still am). Remember now, I have to balance my purpose-driven damn life just like everyone else. So, if I’m the phone too much, my album doesn’t get made, but then I don’t want to be a creative shut-in either, so I need to make sure I get plenty of social. Then I need to make sure I’m working out, eating right, not working too much, not procrastinating, scooping my cat’s shit box at regular intervals, yoga, no artificial sweeteners, travel (I need to travel!) but I also need to “be here now.” Take off this hat, put on that one, but make sure I’m doing yogic breathing while I’m doing it. Also, do these pants make my thighs look big? What’s the meaning of the universe? I missed an episode of New Girl. Must watch now. No fucking time. You get the picture.

Needless to say, the scenario, in my opinion, couldn’t have been more perfect. Regular Sunday coffee and sex is my jam!

Unfortunately, he fucked up the jam. Hit too many wrong notes. And it’s okay. No one died. His vinyl surface is just a little more scratched up than your average. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not disappointed. It’s never a fun thing when you connect with someone and then realize they don’t have the capacity to be honest or constitent. I’m going to have feelings about it. And then I’ll move on. Maybe I’ll check out the next bin, maybe I won’t, but the bottom line is there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t have to berate myself and buy into that the idea that my cherry-picker is broken like all those commentators who couldn’t handle Mish’s honesty. I don’t have to go on a spiritual retreat or cleanse myself with a thousand herbs. It’s an experience. Letting go is hard. Staying stuck is hard. Living is comprised of experiences that are both painful and pleasurable. It’s how we figure out how stuff works. What worked for me a year and a half ago, might not work for me now.

The moral of the story is that feminism is not a movement of perfectionism. I hate to break the sad news, so I guess I’ll let Ms. Poly do it for me. We’re all born knowing something. Trust that your truth will surface sooner or later and not because someone told you what is it, but because you know it to be true. So I applaud you Mish Way, not just because you’re fucking awesome, but because you trust your own truth.

About Plavia Rantham

Plavia Rantham

I was born in little town near the Appalachian Trail, raised on Sweet Tarts, Solid Gold and home-made, Cabbage Patch Dolls. My neighborhood bragging right was “Best Linda Blair impersonation” which wasn’t so much an impersonation as it was my feelings about growing up surrounded by rednecks who didn’t like “black music.” I’m now a freelance writer living in NYC.

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