The last thing a woman wants to be worrying about while in the heat of the moment is whether her arousal is an expression of her own eroticism or a symptom of patriarchal oppression. Yet, in the #MeToo landscape, many 30-and-younger women and men — including me — are finding it harder to untease the two as we navigate dating and fledgling relationships. In a surprising twist, what began as a very public airing of powerful men’s sexual misconduct has come to cast a sinister pall over private intimacies that once seemed OK to enjoy.
“After being exposed to so many accounts of different women’s sexual abuse or harassment, I was hyperaware and hypersensitive about it,” said Jessica Tallarico, 30, of Toronto, a newly engaged friend. “So on one occasion, playing around affectionately in bed, my fiancé got the tiniest bit rough and I had such an adverse reaction to what would normally be playful. Adverse as in, I became defensive, flooded with a bit of fear.
“This felt so strange to me because it happened with my partner who I love and trust immensely, and he did nothing wrong or really that out of the ordinary.”
This winter, around the time that The New Yorker published “Cat Person” and Babe.net published the Aziz Ansari takedown, #MeToo grew to include a conversation on good sex: what it is; who, historically, has been allowed to have it (hint: not the people with vaginas); and how we can have more of it. It’s an important, albeit privileged, conversation, but it’s also one that tends to ignore certain messy truths about sex — the fickleness and wide variability of female desire, for instance, or the inconvenient fact that good sex often defies logic, political values and social mores.
Hayley Phelan, “The #MeToo Effect on Sex”, The New York Times (18 March 2018), ST2.