The other day I found myself with perked ears, keenly eavesdropping on a private conversation in a crowded subway car.
The dialogue was between two young women who, to the naked eye, appeared to be somewhere between 20 and 22.
The two women were dressed in practically identical fashion, clad in the typical "summer-in-the-city," comfortable-yet-provocative July uniform: denim cut-offs, scuffed black converse, hair clumsily pulled into calculatedly "effortless" top-knots, round mega sunnies with mirrored lenses.
Authentic confidence seemed to ooze from their pores. They enthusiastically talked about their thriving artistic careers. They discussed which cool Brooklyn party they should attend later in the evening. They debated SoulCycle vs. barre class.
It wasn't long until they began to discuss my favorite topic in the great sea of topics: SEX.
As per usual, I made a big show at pretending to be lost in the music that was surely "pulsating" through my oversized headphones, but really, that sh*t was on silent. I was hanging on to every word that flew out of their lip-gloss adorned lips.
"I want him to f*ck me, but I don't want him to think I'm a whore," said one of the girls.
Her throat sounded dry, and her voice was like a deflated balloon.
She sighed and tugged at the distressed frayed ends of her denim shorts in a saddened resignation.
"Yeah, you better hold out. No matter how bad you want it. Guys don't want to be with girls who f*ck like guys."
First, my heart skipped a beat. Then a tiny piece of it broke.
There was so much sorely wrong about this misguided exchange between two seemingly modern, strong young women.
Then, cold reality quickly reared its ugly head in my warm idealist brain: The truth is, regardless of how far women's rights have come in the last decade -- society still stigmatizes a woman who has sex "like a man.”
I know it sounds like a sweeping generalization, and it is, but generalizations are often rooted in truth, regardless of how much we hate them. And the only way to generate change is by looking at the world through an honest lens.
So, for the purpose of this article, when I refer to a woman who has sex "like a man,” I mean a woman who has sex with zero guilt attached to it. A woman who has sex when she feels like it.
With whomever she feels like having it with. Without excuses. Without slut-shaming herself into the ground.
And, most importantly, without apology.
Why is it such a shock to the system when a girl openly enjoys sex and seeks it out with a great frequency?
We are applauded and celebrated for being fiercely outspoken, hyper-ambitious, impressively academic girl bosses -- but no one seems to know what to do with our sexuality.
Why is it still overlooked and deemed "okay" for men to be unapologetically sexual creatures, yet we girls are shamed, condemned and labeled unworthy of love the moment we own our sexual prowess?
Why is society so threatened by a woman who has sex "like a man"?
Because she's creating the "Female Gaze."
My razor-sharp friend and coworker, Elite Daily writer Alexia LaFata introduced me to the term the "male gaze" in a brilliant article of hers.
The male gaze is the idea that all media are (in the wise words of Ms. Alexia) "specifically created to satisfy a straight, male audience."
While you might be unfamiliar with the term "male gaze," one would have to be blindfolded to really be unfamiliar with this concept. It's everywhere, and there is no escape.
The media function and generate money on the objectification of women in order to please the "gaze" of men. Think about it: How many times do you see a woman in a bikini selling a product that has nothing to do with bikinis or anything bikini-related?
Advertisers use the sexy female body to intrigue the male consumer.
The male gaze emphasizes the importance of a man's sex drive, while blatantly ignoring that a woman's even exists.
When a woman decides she wants to have sex for her own enjoyment and pleasure, she is actively challenging the "male gaze." She's the one doing the gazing, not just being gazed at.
The tables dramatically turn, and it makes men uncomfortable.
Because she becomes a subject rather than an object.
When we talk about sex, we always talk about a girl "getting f*cked."
It's never the girl doing the f*cking. It's as if sex is something that happens to her, rather than a collaborative act that she's an equal participant in.
The girl is the object, never the subject. When a girl decides she wants to f*ck someone rather than just be f*cked, she's no longer in a position of vulnerability. She's taking control. She's in power.
Nothing scares our society like a woman in power.
Because she challenges the notion that women have lower sex drives than men.
Society is comfortable with the idea that men have sky-high, irrepressible sex drives while it's thought that women simply have sex in order to manipulate men into being in committed relationships with them.
Our culture makes it easier for guys to have openly higher sex drives than women: When you've been made to feel ashamed for your sexuality, you're going to repress it. When you're celebrated for your sexuality, you're going to embrace it.
The girl who has sex like a man dismisses the idea that women don't have massive, teeming sex drives on par with men's. She hasn't allowed herself to be socialized into having a low sex drive.
Because she's unaffected by "slut-shaming."
Let's take a minute to discuss "slut-shaming." Our trusted Urban Dictionary defines slut-shaming as the following:
An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity.
The worst part is girls slut shame other girls just as vehemently as boys slut shame girls. So what's it all about ladies? Aren't we in this fight together?
Isn't bullying usually derived from repressed jealousy? Are girls inherently jealous of the girl who does what she wants and is seemingly unaffected by slut-shaming? Do we shame her because we want to be her?
Come on girls! Let's join forces with this fearless girl and actively participate in the movement rather than allow our jealousy to steer the ship.
Because when a women can f*ck without feelings, people don't know how to feel about it.
The gendered stereotype is as follows: Girl staves off from having sex with guy in order to keep guy. Guy wants it so bad he sticks around until he gets it.
So basically, girl uses her sexuality as a way to corner guy into sticking around. She traps him and uses sex not for her own enjoyment but to get something.
Think back to when mother dearest used to strike the fear of God into us by reciting the cliché: "No one wants to buy the cow that gives her milk for free."
From the time we are little girls, we are told our sexuality is something we need to preserve in order to receive love. That if we are expressive and open about our sweeping desires, we are nothing but common trollops who will never find everlasting commitment.
The girl who has sex like a "man" refuses to be a pawn in society's mind f*ck. She's too confident and too aware of her self-worth to use her sexuality as some kind of a cheap prize for another person to win.
The goal isn't to sleep with as many people as possible in order to prove a point to society.
The goal is for us to have sex only for the sole purpose of our own enjoyment -- not to please a guy, not to prove a point, not to seek affection, not for validation, not to get something.
Our sexuality is at the core of who we are. How can we be empowered, fulfilled and happy women if we attach something as ugly as shame to something as natural and as beautiful as sex?