Toronto
3 min

The girl who’d have sex in public

I’ve been feelingpressured to go public with my sexual being. I think it started in August on a trip to Hanlan’s Point — dozens of women baring it all after a sweaty soccer game and me feeling paralyzed and immature (and sweaty).

Or maybe it started last summer in the Dyke March when all these girls took their tops off and I hid behind a drum.

Then again, it could’ve started back in grade six when Stacy Hill had a hippie party and someone dared Christina to moon us and I was petrified for the rest of the night thinking they would dare me, too.

I’ve always been desperately uncomfortable with my naked body in all but the most trusting of contexts. It’s something I would like to change but I’m not sure how, or why, really.

Cue the porn party. My partner and I got asked to do a sex performance. I said no right away, but I was left with residual disappointment. I consider myself a progressive queer woman, except when it comes to public sexual expression. Then I am shooed back into the “conservative” world where I’ve never wanted to be.

My partner was curious about the party and made plans to go, knowing I probably wouldn’t. I agonized. I went back and forth with my housemate, wondering if it mattered that I’d never rented a porno, if it mattered that I think much of the porn I have seen would fit better on the nature channel than it would on Sextv, if there was something wrong with me because I felt uncomfortable about going. I ended up going because I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t go.

Movie time is grossly elongated. If you consider the length of an average sexual encounter, then the porn scenes were short. But I quickly became, to use an appropriately overused word, desensitized to the close-ups that were so characteristic of our never subtle, never gentle world. Being sex-positive means being loud about it, partaking in the “diamond room,” being the subject of hard erotic photos. Do we equate being private about our sex life with being unliberated? Absolutely.

I panic at the mention of public sex events. I fold my arms, cross my legs and revert to academic dictionaries, abandon the “I” voice I am most known for. I am instantly afraid of failing, instantly afraid my body won’t measure up or my talk won’t measure up to the queer revolutionary I’ve always wanted to be.

That girl would do it, and do it well. That brave, beautiful girl, the one so many people see when they look at me — I want to be her. Whenever something arises that pushes my sexual realm I recognize acutely that I’m not her. She wouldn’t have an issue. She’d be first in line.

Women are socialized both to fight exposure and be willing sex objects. Feminists are socialized to deconstruct their attractions until they’re anything but sexy. Queers are socialized to love sexual displays. Queers of colour are socialized to see themselves as exotic, the “next big thing.” Where does that leave me? It’s like I’m not out enough if I can’t parade in leather, do the bathhouse or attend a porn party. It’s like those acts are the height of outness, leaving me, by comparison, in the closet.

The smile I get when I say, “I’m not comfortable with that yet,” is like the smile lesbians give bisexuals, or the smile bisexuals give everyone else. I am using language that perpetuates my position as inferior, and people respond with “You’ll learn, dear, you’ll get there.”

Maybe I will, but I want to believe I wouldn’t be a lesser lesbian if I never did.

We weight sex disproportionately. If my partner hated Korean take-out and never wanted me to have it because she couldn’t stomach the smell, it would suck but I would live. No one would consider it a threat to our relationship if I gave that up, or if I shared it with someone else. No one would consider it something she had to “work on” or mourn the loss of.

Not so with sexual experiences. We make ourselves squirm, trying desperately to access some piece of ourselves that we think we should have. There is an invisible checklist of queer sexual experience; the more you’ve done the more you are sexually aware, liberated, better. The only way to refuse an experience is to say you’ve already done it. You are choosing not to do it now because of X, Y and Z, not because you “just can’t.” “I just can’t” is for cowards, unacceptable for a progressive queer woman like me.

This is all so elitist, but I kind of believe it. Argh! Who doesn’t have aspects of their personality that are bound by inhibitions? I still have to learn that “everything is relative” means there is a continuum of all things. It doesn’t mean that the continuum has two ends labelled “good” and “bad,” “free” and “enslaved,” or “proud” and “ashamed.” Does it?