TW: sex, sexual assault
“Woah, are you okay?” or a discombobulated rearranging of those words are what I remember most about the night I lost my virginity, that phrase muttered after I smacked the back of my head on the air conditioning vent of the dude I lost my virginity to one night in the middle of the summer after my sophomore year of college with my only identifier of him being ‘he was wearing a Bill Murray shirt that I thought was funny.’ I wouldn’t have hit my head if he didn’t have the incredibly considerate idea of asking if I was ‘cool with being on top’ after 40 seconds of missionary. Was this the first time I hit my head on his vent, my head able to reach because he had a bunk bed without an actual bed underneath, but a dresser, so I was like ‘why the fuck are you 21 years old with a BUNK BED?’ No, but it was the second time I hit my head and was flustered with incredibly bright rosacea on the tips of my cheeks and blood starting to drip down my leg. Afterwards, he said he was ‘totally cool with me spending the night, but only if I wanted to.” I do not think back often on my first time having consensual sexual intercourse, as I do about other sexual experiences, and I don’t often think about changing it, but I do often think about what my desire means and if I will ever discover its true potential.
Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again: Women & Desire In The Age Of Consent by Katherine Angel really left me with more questions than answers, in a way that leaves me both hopeful and heartbreakingly sad. I am both, another way in which my desire to understand my desire is completely unknowable. Some would call this book provocative, but I would call it a breath of fresh air. It might be jarring if you don’t identify as a woman. It might elicit an exaggerated reaction if you hadn’t had a sexual experience that in the moment you felt liberated, but later found yourself letting your chin fall to your chest in exasperated recollection.
Last year, I read Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski and loved it so much that I included it in my ‘Best Books of 2019’ wrap up here on The Book Slut. I got a boyfriend at the time to read it. I was so inspired and encouraged when he let me know that he was reading it AND taking notes into his iPhone notes app (with a password so his coworkers or friends could never see.) But then, he dumped me because he said the sex was a little too ‘out there’ for him because I needed a vibrator to orgasm. I’ve had boyfriends who haven’t wanted to sleep with me barely at all but wanted the emotional connection that entailed me holding him when he expressed his disconnect as a stem of his depression after six months of dating without a label. I’ve had boyfriends who said I was sex crazed to their friends that I heard after the fact once he had dumped me, versus him ever saying to my face that he had questions about my hyperfocus on sexuality and what traumas in my life caused them. I also read and reviewed another book on the desire of women: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Clearly, women’s sexuality and desire are of immense interest to me. So, now, here I am in a really healthy relationship where for the first time in my life, I actually feel like more of the ‘toxic person’ in the partnership, and I was luckily granted early access to this new book on female sexuality.
Angel says early on that her ‘expertise’ is on heterosexual cisgendered relationships, and that while some of her research may be relevant to nonbinary or same sex relationships, she is not an expert on those topics. Moving forward in appreciation of her disclosure, Angel’s split up her book with four main chapters titled:
While I connected with all of the chapters, the first and the last chapters resonated most with me. Why? The middle chapters left me more confused than when I started, which is not a complaint of the text, but a worshipping of the writing because we all know a good book makes you dig deeper into your own emotions than you ever have before.
Currently, women are in a bind. We are told that in the age of sexual consent and how SEXY IT IS, and how empowered we should constantly be due to marketplace feminism overrun by corporations with a capitalist agenda, that we must proclaim our desires clearly and confidently. But, what if you don’t know what you desire? When my boyfriend and I have sex, it is unlike anything intimate I have ever experienced. He constantly asks me how I feel and what I want, in a way I am not accustomed to. This is not to be applauded because it is the absolute baseline of accomplishment in a relationship, but still, every single day I feel lucky. He makes sure everything feels okay for me and asks me what my fantasies and sexual aspirations are, but sometimes….I don’t know how to answer him.
Per sex researchers over the past century, women have never had a clue what they want, but so many male, cis, white interviewees and money-backed researchers are at bay to persuade women with what they want, which per their calculations, seems to be exactly what men want? Don’t know what I mean? Let’s look at the Call Her Daddy podcast.
Call Her Daddy has 128K ratings on Apple Podcasts with a 4.5 star rating. It is a female-dominated podcast led by Alexandra Cooper, and previously Sofia Franklyn, with the concept supposedly revolutionary for women because it delves into the nitty gritty details of the so-called modern dating scene centered in toxic hook-up culture from a heterosexual female perspective. In this book, Katherine Angel forces you to look deeply at our current state of dating affairs.
“If women want equality in sexual matters, then their own lust needs to be recognized and embraced. But does women’s sexual liberation - does their emancipation - depend on their sexuality being like men’s?”
Does sexuality equal sameness? Call Her Daddy acts like it does. My warped intention to try and “dominate the power dynamic” in a relationship with my current boyfriend has been almost the only thing that has ever caused a disruption in our partnership. Similar to the way Sheryl Sandberg tells her readers to “Lean In” and behave like male CEO’s to eventually become female CEO’s by ending the task of adding exclamation points to our emails and maintaining an emotionless demur, we try to elevate ourselves in new relationships to keep the upper hand, to try and prove that we don’t care as much so we never get hurt. But what if instead of trying to date like men, we tried dating in the way we both deserve?
Trying to dig for empowerment by acting like the men who have fucked us over is not the answer. I love the sexual liberation women are finding right now, but when our liberation looks like male oppression in a dress, does that make us more free? After I was sexually assaulted in college, I hypersexualized myself. I thought my lack of control in that moment was screaming at me to take control back, to always be the woman who invited men into MY bedroom, that me giving them permission first to do in actuality whatever THEY wanted was a new form of control, but it was just a way to bury myself deeper.
The crazy thing about sex is every time you participate in it, you learn something new about yourself. It is not static, it is a learning experience, full of potential moments of deep communication and opportunities for growth as a person, as a couple, as a member of society. Katherine Angel reminded me that it is okay to view sex as an exciting, joyful, and non-coercive act. We are not required to behave in any certain way in the bedroom and we never have to speak as if we always are overflowing with self awareness and knowledge surrounding our own desire.
As the arguments grow around sexual assault, all the police officers, lawyers, district attorneys, abusers, and strangers will constantly try to pick at your desire and your trauma and try to specify and categorize your sexuality. Because they want to know if you were ‘asking for it,’ or ‘deserved it.’ But that’s not your responsibility. The fetishization of certain knowledge pertaining to your sexuality does nothing to enable rich, exciting, or pleasurable sex. It doesn’t bring you justice. It doesn’t change the laws. It doesn’t abolish the prisons. It doesn’t end any violence against you.
This book put a hand on my shoulder and said ‘it’s okay to take a second look into what sex means to you.’ It can be a conversation. You can allow it to offer you insight, interaction, and mutual vulnerability between you and your partner. You can trust your body with someone, you can allow them to get to know it, to get to know you, and allow it to be a shared collaboration into the absolute unknown.
You don’t need to wait until tomorrow to enjoy sex, you can enjoy it today. Pick up this book to try and understand the un-understandable depth of your own desire.
Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again: Women and Desire In The Age Of Consent
By Katherine Angel
160 pages. February 09, 2021.