My Sexploration

 

Sex can be great. Really, really great. Some could ask their grandmothers just how important it is with their past involvement in the feminist movement or the sexual revolution of the ‘60s. Women were fighting for equality, including sexual empowerment. We women still are today. I went as far as asking my mother about her first time and body count to gain some perspective. My body count is currently 10; 10 vastly different men, a numerous amount of individual experiences and an infinite string of emotions that followed. Before sitting down to write this article, I was going to make the title “My Hoe Phase” and sum up what I learned from these experiences in the past year. It would be published anonymously, and I would go on hypocritically asking women not to feel ashamed about openly discussing the topic of sex, expecting my peers to chip away at the taboo shell surrounding all of the gooey details. I figured out that this article is not actually about the men or my body count. Rather, it is a glance at my recent sexploration and revelation on why the term “hoe phase” doesn’t come close to describing any of it. Hoe phase refers to a period in which it is socially acceptable for women to explore their sexual desires and interests with no-strings-attached partners. If you had asked me about a year ago “so are you seeing anyone?” I would have confidently stated I was actively in this phase. Unfortunately, the term I used to describe sexual exploration actually limits and degrades women.

The ongoing, sexual pursuit started with empowerment and liberation. To have or not to have sex was my choice, without any sense of shame. The fear of hurting guys that fell too fast was removed as long as my intentions were clear. It wasn’t until a handful of months ago that all of the sweet turned sour, almost in an instant, and I began to see all of the double standards, labels and expectations that society generously offers us. It took some time to reclaim my enjoyment of sex. This recount of sexual experiences is only one of some million, and I urge you not to take my word for any of it. Explore your sexual interests as you wish, or don’t.

 

Part 1: Liberation

The beginning, after ending my two-year relationship with The High School Sweetheart, was marked by an expanding liberation. No longer was I willingly stuck in a relationship due to fear of causing pain or heartbreak. I welcomed a thrill of independence and an unapologetic wave of confidence. It nearly knocked me off my feet. Single, in a new town, I was ready to draw up a second draft of myself. I strutted to class wearing thrifted outfits, bold and outdated. My emotions were electric, and for the first time I felt attractive. The possibility of exploring sex was profoundly exciting. My freshman year friends knew of my dedication to singlehood – I was very vocal about it. The only person I wanted to fall in love with was me.

Taking large, dramatic strides into this exploration, I shamelessly pursued sexual experiences with new people and openly discussed the situations with my close friends. The taboo shell was cracked open and all of the details spilled out. There was the guy from my psychology class, let’s call him Buzz Lightyear, and The Sexpert from work. With each hook up, I left my comfort zone with the hope that it would widen to join me. I also started to find my voice, something I hadn’t realized was missing before. I felt comfortable stating what I wanted, how I wanted it and when I wanted it. In doing so, I tried new things (some things don’t need to be tried twice) and started to learn the do’s and don’ts for my own body. Communication with sex is so important and without my level of confidence, that voice would have remained silent.

Eventually, I met Prof. T (relax, he was a TA) – the drunk dance partner, shot taker, in-the-morning coffee maker. It was guaranteed that I wouldn’t be alone at the end of the night and that there would be no obligations the morning after. This was convenient and just enough. I had access to sex whenever I wanted with someone who respected me, with absolutely no strings attached.

I had it all figured out.

 

Part 2: Expectations

        Until I didn’t. I have learned that there is power in anticipation. As a woman in this perceived hoe phase, people had expectations on how I ought to behave. Hell, I had expectations. My sexual liberation began to crumble into sexual obligation. I am a sexual being, therefore I should be eager to sleep with A or B, right? I vocalized my intentions and people were aware that I don’t date. Why of course The Hook Up, practically a stranger, would find his way to my room with an armful of assumptions. Eventually The Oops x2, a part of the friend group, did the same. The Best Friend from home, too, saw me as something different and I don’t think we will ever come back from that. Expectations, when we give them life, have a way of poisoning the purest things. Suddenly I had a deficiency of intimacy and a surplus of shame. I did not sleep with these men because I wanted to, I did so because I felt like I should.

        The sex was all consensual. No guy had to convince me to spend the night – I was the one trying to convince myself. My closest friends and I have found ourselves saying time and time again “might as well,” in situations that we didn’t want to partake in, but we did. I felt dirty, weak and disconnected. I began associating sex with resentment and regret. Expectations eagerly hold the guns we load.

 

Part 3: Reclamation

I took a break from having sex. There was never an additional “oops,” nor any hook ups to follow. I sat down with my girls and tried to find the words to explain how ashamed I felt. I was reminded that having sex, a lot or a little, or not having sex at all does not make me a hoe, a slut, a whore or a bitch. It does make me human. Their support helped me recognize that my problem was not my participation in sex, but my neglect in comfortably making choices for myself. They brought up my confidence and my independence, the pride in my voice. Without their companionship, it would have taken me much longer to wash the shame off my skin. I was able to recognize my sexual liberation, enabling me to open up again. I welcomed the passion, intimacy and most importantly the trust within myself.

I also started to pay attention to the words I used to define this ongoing experience. Language can either combat or reinforce expectations and double standards. It is something to think about when your good guy friends crack rape jokes, when your little sister calls a peer a slut or when your boyfriend sings lyrics that make a woman an object of sexual pleasure. Let us put an end to demeaning labels and phrases like “hoe phase.” Not only does this term degrade women, it inclines that sexual experiences are only acceptable for a period time among women.

 

This is the time and social climate to have open discussions about the complex topic of sex. The feminist movement brought greater attention surrounding the importance of sexual empowerment, but that did not just start in the ‘60s and end in the ‘80s. Instead it has been passed down from the lineage of women before us, and there is work to be done. Women should not have to fight to explore their sexuality, yet we do every day. Justifications are not needed, and shame should never result from any choice that is made. This may be an age-old problem, but we can look at it as a new opportunity to do something differently. I encourage you to explore your own sexual interests. Talk about sex with your friends. Support one another and don’t reinforce these expectations – this is vital. Pay attention to the language that you use. If you’re close to your female role models like I am, talk to your mom, your aunt. I encourage you to discuss this empowerment, or the struggle to seize it, without an overwhelming sensation of shame or embarrassment, despite society’s lifted brows.

As for the expectations, you can tell them to go to hell.