This post discusses sex, violence and rape. Please read at your discretion. Thank you.
Someone I know was raped recently. To imagine that kind of violation makes me feel sick to my stomach. I’ve discussed, more lightly, female fear in an earlier post and whilst I was writing that it did trigger deeper issues within me that have been brought back to the surface.
When I was too small to remember someone in my immediate family was raped. A man broke into her ground floor flat, raped and nearly beat her to death. I have heard about other people in my life having near-misses or being raped or assaulted, men and women, and it has always affected me physically and emotionally. I think that sensitivity has led in part to some of the trust issues which I have also touched on before.
When I was 17 I decided to have sex with someone for the first time. I was young, so young, but at the time I was one of the last of my friends to have sex. The ‘hot’ friends of mine told tales of huge penises and weird sex positions, and I had felt the urges, the physical desire to explore sex with boyfriends of mine by then but had never gone ‘all the way’. There were no fireworks, there was no love. It was just getting it done.
Around this time, Christina Aguilera released D.I.R.T.Y. Her music video had her parading around a boxing ring, in chaps, and nowt much else, grinding, and twerking (thanks Miley Cyrus for defining that ‘dance move’). I remember I was pretty pissed off about it at the time and had a heated debate with a friend who believed Christina was waving the flag of feminism – dressing and acting how she wanted, the modern day version of burning the bra. Some 15 years later during my travels, I took a bus between Battambang and Siem Reap, Cambodia. There were about 10 of us on this bus including a family with small children. To entertain us on the 8 hour drive, there was a TV which played Nicki Minaj music videos on repeat (until it broke an hour in (there is a God)). I had barely woken up and had a brew and there were Nicki’s breasts and crotch thrusting in my face on screen. To sell music.
In our Western society it’s all about sex baby. At this time of year in particular we are shown images of women ‘bikini ready’, with defined stomachs, waxed within an inch of their life, pumped up breasts, pouting lips. Men, ‘Real Men’, are pumped, strong and hard. Men and Women are ‘hot’, ready, waiting and wanting.
It appears to me that sex is often depicted and treated as a purely physical act – that women and men just ‘need’ to have that itch scratched. Men have seed to sow. Sex can be reduced to this in music videos, films, TV shows and then there’s porn readily accessible on the internet, on our phones, by adults and children. I felt a lot of pressure as a teenager (before the dawn of the Internet but after the dawn of the dinosaurs) to be pretty, thin and sexually active so god knows what present day teenagers feel, think and do with each other. Sex is available on demand, online and on your latest dating app and unfortunately I have seen many a penis on Tinder. Yup, just a penis profile pic. One guy even used a Coke can as a helpful measuring aid. There are websites designed purely so that people can have affairs. Sex is just another commodity. Something else we consume, demand and trade.
Age, experience and yoga have all changed the way I think about my body and sex. I do not wish to calculate how much money I have spent on bikini waxes since the age of 22! From a yoga perspective, sex is more than just a physical act. It is an energy exchange, it is connecting two people, and apart from childbirth it is the most intimate experience we have as humans. How many of you get squeamish at the thought of getting a smear or an STD test? Heaven forbid a doctor prods your private parts but then you willingly have sex with other people, with or without protection?
When I was backpacking, I went to a beach party on an island in Cambodia. I drank a lot of beer and got pretty piddled. On one trip to the bar a pleasant looking fellow started bantering with me and asked if we could have a selfie. In good spirits, I turned my back on my open beer can and posed with him but something, something in my gut, told me to turn around and as I did I saw him put a pill in my drink. I called him out and he brazenly admitted it with a shrug of the shoulder! I left the beer can and returned to my friends. At best, that man wanted to give my evening a ‘boost’ and watch me stumble around out of it a bit later. At worst – well it doesn’t bear thinking about. Isn’t that what we normally say to avoid uncomfortable conversation? But let’s think about it. At worst he wanted to assault or rape me or give someone else the chance.
I feel truly saddened when I hear of sexual violence, and more so by the victim blaming that goes on afterwards. I do not believe that I made myself ‘vulnerable’ to assault or rape that evening in Cambodia. That night I went out to a beach party as an adult and consumed alcohol by choice with other consenting adults. I do not like to think that I had a ‘lucky’ escape either.
I wrote this blog initially to get down on paper how I felt so I could move on past the feeling in my gut. I am aware of how sensitive the issue of sex and sexual violence is and I have discussed whether or not to post this blog now, or at all. After much thought and debate I am sharing this blog with you because I hope to raise more awareness of the importance of connecting to your body, not just with Yoga. I’m not suggesting that I know what is right or wrong for you, or that we should all remain virgins until our wedding day (should you believe in Marriage). A lot of shame and judgement is connected to sex and I am just one young(ish) privileged White girl with views based on my current experiences and bias. And perhaps I owe Christina, Nicki and Miley an apology.
I hope that this post will encourage you to take a moment to consider that we, Men and Women alike, are bombarded by sexual imagery, subliminal messages, and misinformation every day. To bear that in mind, and to slow down, even slow sex down – the rush to have it and the way we have it. To consider spending less time comparing ourselves to how we assume others are having sex, and to connect to what we need, to what feels good, safe and pleasurable for our body, for our self.