Last month I went to Mooseheads for the first time and, aptly enough, spent a lot of enjoyable time making out with someone. It was great! They were cute, it was actively consensual, and I still managed to get a good night’s sleep. Talk about a dream come true.
And yet, I felt a certain unease, some internalised shame about what had happened. The next day I was debriefing this with a friend and I realised that I had hang ups about hookups: despite everything, I hadn’t entirely moved on from the idea of sexual pleasure as something retrograde.
This idea is taught. It’s cultural. ‘Sex negativity’ is the idea that sex is somehow shameful our primitive and that sexual desire should be repressed and ignored. It feeds into the very gendered concept of ‘slut shaming’, that something is wrong with women who enjoy abundant sex. Vestiges of sex-negativity were with me there at Mooseheads. They were there too in a memorable conversation with a former girlfriend in which she encrypted masturbation as “eggplant”. ( Orgasm, naturally, was then baba ghanoush ).
Yet sex is glorious! (NB: so is baba ghanoush). It’s possible to enjoy what sex has to offer without hang ups or shame. We can feel good about doing with ourselves and others what makes ourselves and others feel good.
So, shortly after my first visit to Mooseheads, I was in bed and I decided enough is enough. It’s time to take matters into my own hand. So I dimmed the lights, lit a candle, purchased the ‘Girl Sex 101’ ebook and started reading.
‘Girl Sex 101’, written by Allison Moon, designed and illustrated by kd diamond, is a pleasantly thorough and thoroughly pleasant primer on the wonderful world of girl sex. It ranges from broad principles (“Your job is to make choices you can feel good about”) to hands on guidance (“…your face plays the stabilising factor while your tongue goes to town. That right there is the basic philosophy of cunnilingus”). It covers flirting, consent, sex, toys, communication, labels, and identity. And woven through it all is the narrative of Layla and Jamie, two women whose road trip through North America illustrates much of what the book is describing.
Naturally, it’s unambiguously sex-positive. It takes the attitude that we should enjoy what sex can offer, gleefully and joyously, without a hint of shame. Writes Moon: “You get to have consensual sex when you want, as often as you want, with whomever you want.” This is a principle, as I found, that is easier to agree with than it is to internalise – so Moon has lots of handy ideas. Her advice around flirting, attraction and chemistry is built on the idea that it’s OK to want to jump somebody else’s bones (just don’t be creepy about it). The narrative of Layla and Jamie shows us two women comfortable with their own sexual desires, having a (presumably somewhat implausible) amount of transparent, free sex with a wondrous variety of women. While “sex positivity” is one thing, to see this principle applied to naturally is another thing altogether. (And the chapter on masturbation is a hands-down winner. Pun intended.)
‘Girl Sex 101’ is also awesomely inclusive. “Not all girls have vulvas, and not all vulvas have girls,” Moon notes in the introduction, “Girl Sex 101 is about honoring the sexuality of the girl you were, the girl you are, or the girl you are becoming.” Accordingly, it covers a diversity of flavors of sex: hand sex, cunnilingus, strap-on play, and more. And it does this while appreciating that every girl has unique tastes and a unique body, and providing advice accordingly. This inclusiveness doesn’t just make the book more useful – and presumably safer – for trans people and their partners. It also makes it a vivid example of how possible and worthwhile it can be to make sure everyone feels safe and welcomed. As the binaries of gender-identity and sexual orientation continue to wear down, ‘Girl Sex 101’ demonstrates how we should, and how we readily can, be more inclusive of each other.
The book gets another thumbs up for its progressiveness: it’s encouragement to trial change and new things in pursuit of improvement. Moon wants her readers to aim for more and better in their girl sex, from being more confident in making a move to asking a partner exactly what to do with your left hand. While I think it’s ok to just take it easy and smell the roses (or whatever else), I also think it’s delightfully sex-positive to be continually seeking more pleasure from sex.
For as long as I’ve been getting sexy with others, I’ve been hindered by a whole range of myths. Sorry, Patriarchy, but it turns out that many women do love sex, that guys don’t always want sex, and that it’s not necessarily all about the clitoris.*
Disabusing myself of these myths and internalising more constructive attitudes and practises is a life-long journey. Thanks to Allison Moon’s and kd diamond’s ‘Girl Sex 101’, I feel more informed, more sex-positive, and more open to the diverse realities and bodies out there. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Now, Mooseheads on the other hand….
*Having read ‘Girl Sex 101’ I can confirm that you should instead check-in with your partner and listen to what they want. Oh, who am I kidding, it is all about the clitoris.
Joel is a writer and campaigner based in Canberra. His background is in community organising and collaborative management. He likes to write about books, relationships, and social change. You can find more of his writing at http://scitnecessitas.com/