poetry

The Virgin Or The Whore — Sexual Expression On My Terms. {book preview}

 

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By Shasta Townsend
Excerpt from Happy, Sexy, Shameless – What Our Mothers Didn’t Know About the Birds and the Bees which rose to #1 in its category and became an international best seller. Get your copy today on Amazon.com.

 

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Have you or a woman in your life grown weary of the myth, confusion and shame that continue to swirl around female sexuality? I know I was.

A couple years ago, I was just feeling angry, confused and plain disconnected from my self and my sexual identity. I had a deep spiritual practice but many of the classical traditions inferred that sex was a distraction and desire was a sign you were off the path. This just did not feel right to me. It felt like a denial of what seemed natural and delightful.

It seemed to me that sex could be a celebration of life, and even the Divine.

I was also fed up with the projections I was hanging onto that also felt really old. Some of these had come from my own upbringing, experiences, and beliefs. I wanted to let go of my hang-ups about my body, about intimacy, and about men. I was also ready to release my feeling that I was a bad-girl and maybe a bad feminist because I really liked sex.

I wanted to heal the trauma of my past and step into a more powerful relationship with my own sense of happiness, sexiness, and shamelessness.

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For women, embracing sexuality on our terms offers a great way to step into power and freedom. But few of us were taught how to feel good in our own skin, never mind feeling good sexually. We may have fumbled our way to ecstasy, but there is still a covert code that controls sexual behavior and dictates acceptable good girl behavior. We limit ourselves and judge each other based on these codes, yet we long for something more authentic, more fulfilling, and more sensual.

We long to know ourselves as a whole being — that is one who has passion, desire, beauty and even wildness at the same time we want to feel safe, loved, appreciated and powerful. We wish to no longer hold it all back. Yet, what does no longer holding it all back look like?

Though we have blatant displays of women flaunting sexuality, such as Miley Cyrus’s twerking (I know — a slightly outdated example now but remember the stir it caused!) we must consider if this is truly an empowered form of sexuality for young women or women at any age. I am not making a value judgment here. On the one hand, I celebrate women who express sexuality in ways that are truly meaningful for them, whatever that may be; but on the other hand I am aware that there is a form of female sexuality that is the hyper-sexual, in-your-face and titillating caricature otherwise known as the bad girl.

Let’s admit that the bad girl, the slut or the whore, is one of the oldest expressions of female sexuality on the planet and has served male desire — literally for a long time so it may not be a radical or empowered expression of female sexuality. We may relegate whores as outcasts and their behavior may still cause a reaction, but the whore archetype feeds a long-standing paternalistic projection of women, as sexual objects whose value is determined by their body and sexual availability so shaking your ass may not really be a revolutionary expression of female sexuality. The whore persona also feeds a certain fetish in our often mean, judgmental, and voyeuristic society — that is we love to watch, consume, and criticize women.

We are enamored with their bodies and their behavior, and even more enamored with our value judgments about them. Not to state the obvious, but female bodies, female sexual choices and women’s relationship status are far more fiercely judged and talked about than any man’s — and often discussed by women. Perhaps, it feels good to judge another when we ourselves feel judged. It also means that if the fingers are pointed at another, then at least they are not pointed at us. We want to ensure we are not lumped in with the bad girls even though we may crave more freedom in own our sexual expression. These harsh value judgments on women’s behavior keep us all trapped in an outdated, harmful, and unrealistic duality that pit women against each other as we judge, condemn, and control each other often based on comparison, competition and self-loathing. Who the hell do you think you are — to feel good, alive, sexual? Whore! may be an unconscious thought for many of us. Or, conversely we may applaud the classy girls and project limited stereotypes by doing this too.

I read a quote on Facebook recently that stated a classy woman did not feel the need to show her body or seek the approval of men. Not only is this a narrow definition of classy behavior, but it also gives the implicit message that classy woman are acceptable and what we should strive to become. I remember thinking, “I love my body. I enjoy the attention of men and that does not make me a whore so stop telling me what my sexuality should look like!” Clearly, we do not want to take our sense of self from our appearance or the adorations of others but why can’t we derive pleasure in our own body, our own sexuality and even from the attention of men?

We may try to feel more acceptable by settling into our classy, conservative, or reserved sexuality, but we are just keeping the arrested presentation of female sexuality alive and tightening the chains. Classy or slutty, perhaps, we just need to stop telling women what they should look like, be like, or fuck like.

Perhaps we could just allow women to find an expression of them that feels authentic and meaningful. I had an unexpected but insightful conversation in Spain with an Argentine vineyard owner who had some specific but telling insight about this very topic. “I think women dress for other women. They worry about other women and value themselves based on what they think other women are thinking about them. Men usually are not thinking all the things women think we are thinking — like we all want skinny, quiet and well-behaved women — that is a story women created. I know men buy into it sometimes but men — real men like women with a little ‘go-go’ — that is just doing their own thing that’s real for them,” he said.

There is a whole range of sexual feminine expression missing from our psyches and our culture so it is challenging to know what our own thing is never mind having the courage to express it. Obviously, we are more than just the clichéd expressions of either the Virgin or the Whore and we must create opportunities and communities that allow women to explore and express a fuller range of sexuality without fear.

We must also support our daughters, sisters, and friends who are trying on various aspects of their sexual self as they discover what’s good for them without judgment while at the same time calling them to their truth and beauty. I don’t condemn or judge Myley Cyrus but I ask, “Was that a meaningful sexual express for you? Are you examining sexuality and your own power from a place of wildness, joy, freedom and longing or are you responding to the acceptable sexual expectation of women?” I support you either way sister, but hope you feel truly free to shake your ass because it feels great for you and not because it is what you learned you should do. If so, then, go, go, go!

 

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In Happy, Sexy, Shameless — What Our Mothers Didn’t Know About the Birds and the Bees, Shasta mixes personal experiences, interviews, storytelling and research in a genuine style that emboldens women to celebrate their sexuality as an essential part of living a great life. The discussions are candid, straightforward and to the point.

It’s female sexuality communicated in a voice that women have been waiting to hear, and Shasta Townsend delivers. Learn more about Happy, Sexy, Shameless — What Our Mothers Didn’t Know About the Birds and the Bees here.

 

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