In this month’s Glamour there is a story about a girl who has had a lot of sexual partners – her self titled ‘project slut’ phase saw her sleeping with strangers and exchanging cigarettes for fumbles. She was in the throes of depression, an eating disorder and a clear quest for self fulfilment and convinced herself that she wanted the attention sex brought her. It got me thinking about the value of sex. The girl in question decided that sex can, and maybe should/could (?) mean something, changed her ways and settled down. Sex is powerful. We know that sex sells – a cd cover with girls in barely there underwear is going to shift a lot of copies regardless of the song they are singing; mens magazines survive by having a bevy of ladies at their disposal who will drop their knickers for a price and pose provocatively on the cover; perfume, make up and clothes adverts all have models who look like they are in the throes of an orgasm
I mean, what the hell is that? Maybe I’m doing it wrong but I don’t look like when I put some perfume on. It is the way the body mimics sex in the adverts; hands in the mouth, lips parted, body arched. Don’t tell me that isn’t deliberate, an advertising angle adopted by everyone.
Maybe because I work in a school where hormonal teenagers moon about throwing sex around like it’s nothing. Maybe it’s because I live in a society where to get by we need to peddle our looks as well as skills. Personality as an afterthought. Maybe it’s because the music industry places more value on a star in stockings and low cut tops than talent. Maybe it is because magazines have new sex tips, positions and discoveries every month. Maybe it’s because the underlying promise or threat of sex is everywhere we look, but I have come to the conclusion that sex is a massive nothing and everything at the same time. It can be two people in the moment, using their bodies as instruments to get what they want or it can be an expression of love between two people who need each other and use their bodies to say things their mouths never could.
I have had sex that meant nothing more than an itch scratched. I’ve had sex that made me cry, sex I’ve regretted, sex I’ve forgotten, sex I’ve thought about for weeks, months afterwards. The point is that sex has gone from something valuable that was held onto to something we chuck around, talk down, talk up, exaggerate, crave, can do without, public knowledge.
I’m not sure what the price of this is, what this costs us. A loss of innocence perhaps? When I was younger I played with barbies, sylvanian families – kids I see today are having sex younger and younger, the 16 year old age of consent a distant thought. We have the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the western world. We read about children having children aged 12. We see 16 years old on Jeremy Kyle having arguments over who the father of their child is, scores of boys vying for the title. Don’t tell me that this comes without a price. That we all come out unharmed the other end.
I don’t know what is worse – beating kids over the head with sex and then acting shocked when they imitate us and get pregnant, have abortions, fall apart or selling sex so blatantly but so misrepresented. I have written before about how unrealistic sex in the media is, women falling over themselves the second a man deigns to breathe on her neck, coming at the drop of a hat so grateful to be acknowledged is she. Glistening bodies, gracefully, artistically, draped all over each other, writhing in ecstasy – it’s all false and so so damaging to our self esteem and the sex lives of everyone around us who can’t compete.
Sometimes I look at adverts and I think what the fuck? How in any way is that image related to the product? And it isn’t, it is just an ideal that sells so of course companies are going to use it. If it ain’t broke and all that. Look at some of these:
I reckon that we are all guilty of using our sexuality. A bit of cleavage at the bar to get served, licking lips, legs crossed to get attention. Low cut dresses, tight body con, high heels. All emulating sexual prowess. It breaks my heart to see little girls though, playboy logos blasted across under developed chests. Ciara, Rihanna and Pussycat Dolls as role models.
I don’t know if they are saying these are our bodies, we own them and we can be sexy or if it’s more a case of I know that wearing nothing under my coat will get me headlines and if I wear my underwear and do some stretches I’ll go platinum. I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing I want my little sister to be seeing daily. If I want her thinking that her body is a commodity to be sold, ogled, used as a weapon/tool/tease. I don’t know if I want her growing up thinking that if she has sex she will get the love she wants and deserves. I want her to love her body, to know that she can be sexy without trying and to see sex as something to be done on her terms only. That’s the crux for me – sex can be thrown around if that is your decision. Have sex with whoever the hell you want but because you want to, not because its a means to an end which is what so much of the sex around us seems like now. It seems like we educate kids into sex but not about it and the consequences. How about feeling shit when he doesn’t call. How about the attachment you might feel to someone who knows your bodys every curve and freckle but not your name. How about the disappointment when it isn’t great or even good. How about the satisfaction, the frustration, the bittersweet relief. How about understanding that it’s a two player game that both should win. We don’t teach girls how to enjoy sex, just how to use it to get what they want. We don’t teach girls to understand their bodies inside and out, just how to dress them to get attention. We don’t teach girls how to love and care about someone, just how to give great head. I can’t help but think that somewhere along the line we got it all wrong?