08 Sep Who’s in Control of Your Sex Life?
During the pandemic I’ve watched lots of TV, streaming to be exact. Recently I started watching Bones, a forensic-type cop show—casting several very thin, very beautiful women wearing impossibly tight dresses. What makes it unique is the female characters appear to have a satisfying sex life.
I’ve been thinking about sex lately (and layer that with any interpretation you want), as I sit here alone watching my television. And I realized that in this series the traditional storyline around sex has been flipped. Here it is the women who talk freely about sex. Two of the three main female characters have a very open attitude about sex and regularly talk about their sexual activity. The men, partnered at times with these women, are less vocal. One is quite religious and sees sex as completely tied to notions of love and relationships. None of the male characters play the typical flirty, overly sexualized man frequently depicted in the media.
I’m fascinated by this aspect of the series. And I’m pleased to see it in the light of a culture shifting, albeit slowly, towards a more balanced view of women’s sexuality. Even if it’s still all about satisfying the male gaze. Because if the show were more focused on female viewers they probably wouldn’t have the head of a major forensics unit dressed in such astonishingly sexy dresses.
Talking about the balance of power in sex is difficult these days. We’ve seen far too many stories about men abusing women, men taking what they feel entitled to and then, when caught, trying to flip the tables. This idea, adopted most recently by Cuomo, that things have changed and they no longer know how to act around women is pure BS. We are no longer in the caveman era where men just grunt and grab women by their hair dragging them off to the nearest cave. Mutual respect and professionalism in the workplace has not changed—these men have simply gotten caught abusing their position and power and they don’t know what to do except deny, pass the blame and whine. What has changed is that women are speaking up more and being listened to.
Women want to be considered as equals when it comes to sex and relationships. In the workplace too. We don’t want to be grabbed. We don’t want to be seen as objects to placate men’s urges. What we want is an atmosphere where we can express our sexual desires safely, with the partner of our choice. Women will be most at ease and more active in their own sexual encounters when they feel comfortable speaking up about their needs—and when the partner of choice respects and advocates for that as well. And in that regard this television series does a pretty decent job.
This idea of equality and balance in relationships isn’t a novel concept, it’s just that most of us were raised to believe that men are the experts in sex, and most other areas of life—and we as women were meant to prioritize a man’s pleasure over our own. And as a result, in and out of the bedroom, men wield most of the power in this country.
Our attitudes towards sex and intimacy will change as we age. And for many older women this can be a time of great freedom and exploration. Unfortunately there are few age-appropriate examples in culture, so we get to figure it out ourselves. The women in television/streaming series are almost always young and pretty and like this show, exclude older women in general. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the three main female characters are all quite good at setting boundaries. There is none of the helpless female here, or overbearing, over sexualized men so powerful that the women feel unable to resist. It’s actually quite a good series in this regard. It’s no coincidence that the producer for most of the episodes, and the writer of the series’ source, are female.
All of this is possible for us as well. Sexual freedom, and fun can be the norm for women of all ages. We can create satisfying moments of intimacy, take control of our own sexuality, and set conditions for when and how and with whom.
Where do you start? Well, Socrates is credited with saying, “to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”, and I think that’s good advice for anyone who seeks intimacy with another person. And given that our desires and sensual cues change with age, we’re always learning.
Do you know what arouses you? Do you know how you want to be touched? Are you touching yourself with some regularity? Could you describe what you like? Are you comfortable talking about these things with a prospective partner? Knowing your sexual self is the key to helping you and your partner have a more satisfying sex life. It is a gift for both of you to be able to say, “this is what I like.” To show them, or tell them what feels good and how you like to be touched. It is empowering, and ultimately it will lead to better sex. My first book, Inviting Desire is based on this idea, very specifically, with chapters designed to help women figure out what they want in intimacy.