Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
We live in a society where sex is incredibly prevalent. Images that verge on the erotic are on bus stops, magazines and tv. Sex is used to sell, because it works. But on an individual level, we also use sex for personal gain. In this article I want to take a look at a few of the ways in which we use, and I’ve used, sex as a tool for personal benefit, and what the consequences could be.
In this post I’ve described my relationship to sex as I was growing up. I also touched upon the fact that I used my sexuality as a way to enhance my power in certain situations. It was a way to gain influence and control in a male dominated world, although it can equally be used to establish a pecking order in a group of women.
I’m not the only woman who has done this before. As women, we are very much aware of how other women around us may play this game, even if we’re not always consciously aware of how we participate in it ourselves. For many of us, it’s the only information our culture has provided for how to deal with this important part of our being.
It usually starts small, seemingly innocent, and we pick it up really early. You learn that if you lock eyes with someone a little longer than average, you can draw them to you, or make them feel self-conscious. You realise that leaning against someone while dancing or showing a bit more skin usually results in extra attention and whatever benefits come with that.
The behavior in itself can be quite harmless, but the intention behind it makes a huge difference. Do you flirt because you find someone truly attractive and want to get to know them better? Or is your teasing a way to make yourself feel good?
Do you use your sensuality to put yourself above someone you might feel jealous of? Or is it simply an honest expression of feeling good in your own body?
I’ve known amazing women who dance burlesque without any other intent than to express who they are. And I’ve been the girl who wore a causal t-shirt that was just a tad too short to (subconsciously) attract the attention and desire of men around me.
When we use sex in this way, as a tool for power, for leverage, it becomes tainted over time. This is the part of our sexuality that lives in the shadow, that can make us feel powerful but also cold, dominant and aggressive. For me, this experience (among other experiences) led to the perception of sex as something dirty, a desire that corrupted instead of the beautiful expression of love and intimacy I had heard it should be.
Not only did I harm myself by ignoring my own boundaries for the sake of power and influence (and being liked), I also hurt others. I toyed with the feelings of boys, and later men, who did not deserve this. I may have seemed heartless at times, because my heart truly wasn’t part of the deal. I had no idea of how to make that happen.
The first changes came when I started seeing my own patterns and questioning my own behavior. Why did I dress that way? Was I really interested in this person? How had I used seduction in my youth and what needs had it fulfilled?
Becoming aware made me want to do things differently. I wanted to lose the shame around my sexuality. I wanted to make love with joy, authenticity and integrity. I wanted to feel sensual and comfortable in my own body despite the way I looked, and despite who else was looking.
This meant taking a step back, step by step learning how to discern my own motives and being brutally honest with myself. I learned to respect the integrity of my own body, and my own emotions. I learned to say ‘no‘ or ‘stop‘ at any time, in any moment, and I learned that it was this respect for myself that translated in a new respect for the emotional experience of others. I learned that expressing my own sexuality in an honest way is vulnerable (using sex for power isn’t), and delicate and beautiful. It requires trust and it’s a gift.
Sex, then, becomes a tool for self-expression and intimate, deep connection.
Knowing both sides and how it feels to be on the one or the other, makes it easier to feel which parts of the sexual experience I want to make part of my own experience. Some things I’ve cut out completely, because they feel inauthentic or come at cost to other people, other aspects I’ve started exploring instead. Having someone I trust 100% to do this with, has been key in this journey. ❤