Musing IX: The Bane of Sex Shaming (Revisited)


Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl has been published for over five years now. It enjoyed a long run on the New York Times Best Seller list and there was a film adaptation released in 2014 by famed director David Fincher. For anyone who's been living under a rock since then, the most famous part of Gone Girl was what has been dubbed the "Cool Girl Rant":

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are, above all, hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.

The reason I'm revisiting the Cool Girl Rant (yes, I know... sooo 2012, right?) is because I recently read an article that argued with a stark ferocity based solely in opinion and anecdote that women cannot possibly enjoy anal sex, and that the reason for anal sex's popularity is solely that some women choose to give in to the perverse desires of their male counterparts. Naturally, the Cool Girl Rant came to mind -- only this time its attack on women's sincerity and authenticity wasn't in the form of a fictional novel but rather in an article on a dating advice website. I feel a need to address that -- especially as a staunch advocate of open, nonjudgmental sexual practices and as a woman engaged in the companion life (or as I personally would like to call us: modern day Oracles at Delphi) . Women have the right to engage in acts that may typically be seen as patriarchal male-appeasing fantasies without betraying their gender.

The Cool Girl Rant, in addition to calling into question the sincerity of women who enjoy threesomes and anal, also takes a stab at women who profess to love things like sports or comic books. This isn't a new concept; men have been crying "fake geek girl" for years now in order to denigrate women whom they feel are donning the interests of a previously male-dominated subculture in order to attract attention. There is a particular cruelty in that accusation, not only in that women who genuinely enjoy comics and graphic novels are called out for being posers in a way that men are never questioned in their hobbies, but also in that even if for a moment we assume that accusation to be true, that perhaps there is a woman out there who is affecting a hobby for the sake of gaining "attention," that woman is still tailoring her actions to be pleasing to the very men who end up attacking her.

It isn't at all okay to shame anyone for their interests (as long as those interests don't harm anyone else -- PSA nerd guys, having more women at Comic Con isn't oppressing you), and the polite thing to do is to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are being truthful when they say they are truly into something -- whether it's Batman or blowjobs. When it comes to sex, hopefully we enjoy pleasing our partners and, if we are, that often means that we take pleasure in certain acts solely because they satisfy the people we're fucking. That also means that that enjoyment is no less valid than the enjoyment of our own physical satisfaction. Oral sex, for example, is almost entirely about taking pleasure in our partner's pleasure. We are turned on by turning on others, we take pride in our ability to satisfy, we want to make the other person happy. Pleasure does not exist in a vacuum of our own orgasm. Nor is pleasure limited to merely the bedroom. Perhaps the same drive that causes you to enjoy making your partner climax also applies to the enjoyment you find in cooking them breakfast the next day, or in picking up their favorite wine for dinner, or wearing their favorite color to meet them for a date. Perhaps it even extends toward cultivating an interest in your partner's favorite bands, or even their favorite comics. Our erotic selves are not so distant from our everyday selves, and it is no worse to harbor the desire to be pleasing to your partner outside the bedroom than it is inside it.

I realize that this is a gendered argument for many reasons. Women are often brought up conditioned to please men, to defer to their ideas, cater to their desires, to make sure that everyone around them is comfortable, in a way that men, frankly, are not. But I refuse to allow the pleasure that women may take in pleasing their partners to become collateral damage in the fight for equality. I would far rather encourage men to start conditioning themselves to please women in turn than deny women any true enjoyment they might take in being pleasing themselves. This is especially personal to me as a courtesan. I genuinely get off on pleasing others. Ninety-five percent of the time I masturbate, I am fantasizing about my partner's orgasm -- often in collusion with me servicing his cock or her clit.

Gone Girl does take a blatant cheap shot at female sexual submission. Or at least that's how author Mary Gaitskill interprets it in her review of the book:

Here’s how [protagonist Amy] sums up the young woman Nick turns out to be fucking: “Taking his cock in her mouth, all the way to the root so he feels extra big as she gags. Taking it in her ass, deep. Taking cum shots to the face and tits, then licking it off, yum. Taking, definitely taking. Her type would.” It’s normal, I guess, for a woman to hate her rival. But the hatred and scorn here don’t seem to be about the competition for Nick’s attention; they seem to be about Amy’s disdain for the young woman’s (imagined) receptivity or submissiveness.

So, yeah. At this point it becomes personal. At this point, the Cool Girl Rant is scorning some of the very things I myself fantasize about under the guise of concern-trolling. I get the sense too that there is some policing going on here by other women. The Cool Girl Rant shames women for their enjoyment of certain aspects of their sexuality by declaring it to be fake. Amanda Marcotte describes how in a patriarchal society, women are tasked with policing female sexuality in order to preserve their men as resources:

Women are also roped into judging each other’s sexual behavior because we’re led to believe it’s our only realistic source of control. Being lower status than men, and especially when you’re dependent on a man, means you often have a lot of desire to keep male promiscuity to a minimum, but men are expected not to listen to women or care much what women think about these issues. Thus, women start putting demands on each other, because we can’t appeal to men. Which is why you see a culture where the “other woman” is blamed more than the cheating man for infidelity. Or you see women like Susan Walsh arguing that other women have a responsibility not to have sex when we want with who we want, because that means that fewer men will have to pony up wedding rings in order to get laid.

I can think of few things more insidiously evil than women who concern-troll other women's sexuality in order to keep sex as a scarce commodity, and to try to keep men sex-starved, shamed, and pliable so that they can use sex as bait for the things they want. As a companion, I have certainly seen my fair share of the awful effects this has had on men who start to believe their sexualities are places of shame and wrongness. There are women out there who are afraid that the sex-positive natures of more sexually liberal women are raising overall bedroom performance standards past their own comfort levels and keeping them from being able to shame men into believing they're all porn-fed perverts with unrealistic expectations.

Ladies -- don't be mad that another woman lets her partner put a dick in her ass because you're afraid yours will leave you for someone like her. The old adage echoes truth: the (sexually) miserable surely does love company.

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Video: "Don't get mad at us! Get mad at our ex-girlfriend... 'You did what?! You licked his ass?? Now he wants everybody to lick his ass. Thanks a lot, bitch!'


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