Violence is so normalized that we often don't even recognize sexual abuses in the moment.[TW/CW: discussion of sexual violence.] I recently realized that sex is unhealthy for me. Not sex in theory. No, of course not. Sex is healthy for our bodies and even our hearts and minds.When I say that sex is unhealthy for me, I mean the kind of sex that I have experienced — an experience that I share with many women, femmes, and bottoms. The sex where my needs are neglected and my boundaries are ignored in favor of whatever desires my partner may have. Not everyone experiences sex and the things surrounding it in the same way, for various reasons. Some of those reasons might include gender cultivation, (a)sexuality, choice of sexual expression, knowledge of self/knowledge one's own (a)sexuality, or relationship with one's own body. Some of those reasons might include how certain body types are deemed "normal" and acceptable while others are only ever fetishized or demonized. Some of those reasons might include the fact certain folks are told that they should be grateful that anyone would even be willing to look at them, let alone touch or love them, while others are expected to always be available for sexual contact. Some of those reasons might include the fact that some people are afforded certain permissions to make decisions about their sex and love life without being eternally scrutinized, while others are nearly always assumed to be sexually irresponsible. Some of those reasons might include past or current trauma and abuse. And a host of other reasons not mentioned here, or reasons that you or I have never even considered because they're not a factor in our personal story. I'm not straight. I'm just an asexual with a libido—infrequent as it may be—and a preference for masculine aesthetic and certain genitalia. Most of the sex that I have had is what we would consider to be “straight” sex, and I am fairly certain that I would enjoy the act more and have a healthier relationship with it if more sexual partners were willing to make the experience comfortable and safe for me. Instead, men seem to want to make sex as uncomfortable and painful as possible for their partners, whether consciously or unconsciously, regardless of whether or not that is what we want. Many men seem to judge their sexual partners abilities the same way that they gauge how much we love them and how deep our loyalty goes — by how much pain we can endure. I say this based on my personal experience, as well as the experiences of many of the people around me who have been gracious and trusting enough to share with me their testimony. Many of us have been conditioned to measure ourselves in the same way, using our ability to endure pain as a barometer for our worth.
Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.Dear Cam, How exactly do I address consent in casual relationship settings? If I'm in a longer-standing relationship, I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to talk about literally any topic....but if I go on one date with someone and I'm not vibing them then they kiss me or grope me or touch me in some way that my body is adverse, I get uncomfortable and can't find the words to defend myself in the moment. Sometimes it's because I shut down, other times I just prefer the out that I can ghost them and use that as a way to avoid the in-person confrontation. If I don't know the person at all, I'm fine. You creep on me at the bar or catcall me I'm telling you to your face to not sexually harass me, but it's this weird in between where I almost feel a sense of either guilt, or obligation, or fear that clouds my ability to speak out. -Casual Consent Dear Casual Consent, I think your question is an increasingly important one. There's so much conversation lately about the ways that desirability, consent, and autonomy spill over into our everyday (*ahem* sexual) lives, and I think that we don't really allow much space for navigating these things in ways that are free of confusion and awkwardness. When I first read your letter, I immediately thought that this wasn't so much a question of consent itself – you already seem to have a firm grasp on that – to me, your question speaks more about boundaries. Boundaries are a tricky thing in itself – for women and people who have been conditioned and socialized as femme folks, we've been brought up with this idea that other people's needs should come before our own. Empathy and compassion for others are admirable traits, but because conversations about autonomy and boundaries weren't accompanied, the message that most of us received was that what we want and need aren't as important as our partner's wants and needs, whether they identify as cis-het men or not.
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