When I Was Your Age….!

This is a recent article I wrote for the upcoming gutterbird NEST zine (an awesome publication that promotes artists in Toronto). They will be having their next issue release party on May 1st. You should be there. I will be there.

When I was eight I was having sex dreams. I also humped my teddy bears. Yeah. I said it. No shame. BUT I WAS EIGHT.

Our current understanding of anything to with children and sex is that, to them, it is explained in a manner that is all very mechanical and logical and maybe connected to this distant non-understandable concept of ‘love’ that our parents talk about, blushing and stuttering all the while.

The dreams I had were comprised of rather obvious symbols and images that would depict what the subconscious of a hypersexual eight year old might resemble; enlarged genitalia that you traveled through to get to other realms – but needed a password before entering – and strange naked games in which there were always boys, naked, jumping on top of me.

BAW

To be frank – I have no idea if I understood any of this. I knew it made me feel all tingly and happy and excitingly naughty, so I didn’t complain, because, why WOULD you complain about something that made you feel all those things… Not that I could control what I dreamt about anyhow… Sex was just running rampant in my randy, young subconscious mind.

What also happened when I was 8: I found my mother and her boyfriend’s underwear on the couch one Saturday morning when I went to go watch the Weekenders and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It was mind-boggling. What on earth would they be doing taking their underpants off in the living room? Let alone taking them off TOGETHER?!

I knew this likely meant that I should recognize my mother and her boyfriend as sexual entities in their own selves (as they seemed to be reenacting the naked games I was having in my dreams) – but quite like how my mother did not want to imagine her young, innocent daughter as a being with a libido, I was in denial about every adult having a libido.

When my parents divorced, my grandmother bought my father about 200 different types of condoms for Christmas. I looked away and chose to ignore the fact that my father may have been a sexual creature.

Which is hilarious, because I was eight.

What is sexuality to an eight year old?

I remember watching a girl very gently, softly and carefully focus on braiding another girl’s hair and feeling ‘funny’. I remember doing ‘back tickles’ late at night with my female cousins, extracting pleasure from the sensitivity of light fingernails on the skin from our necks down to the waistline of our pajama pants. I remember seeing a flash of testicles in grade one when a fellow classmate was doing sommersaults and again, feeling ever so ‘funny’. I remember trading candy hearts with a boy named Luke and thinking we would get married.

This is not dangerous stuff. This is nothing that we need to be terrified of for our offspring. To me, these instances strike me as moments of intense sensuality that derive not from genital stimulation, but an ability to appreciate and experience pleasure.

I feel the need to paint you a picture: I was the quietest, shyest girl in my class. No boys had crushes on me. I became a flaming red ball of blushing embarrassment if ever asked to speak in front of more than one person at a time. I didn’t keep up with the latest fashions – at ten, I tip-toed around the schoolyard in purple velvet pants and an over-sized pink teddy bear sweater to hide the swollen nipples mother nature hatefully handed over to me.

What I am hoping this characterization of myself as a child will do is to negate that image of a half-naked, extroverted tomboy who went around asking if she could see down every 9-year-old boys pants, and her hand always between her legs regardless of the fanciness of the restaurant.

Something is okay to recognize: children are sexual beings. Not just the flagrantly obvious horny little boys – but also the quiet, shy timid girl in the corner.

SHOCK GASP APPALLING DISGRACE HOW DARE YOU SAY THIS CAITLIN?!

Now I’m not saying we should toss away all thought patterns we have on the subject matter. Throwing in the towel and just letting our kids masturbate all over the place likely won’t solve any of their internal sexual reservations that most of them will have when they reach adulthood.

However, it would solve a lot of our future generations psychological turmoil if we acknowledge that children are already pre-programmed for sex long before we even have a chance to explain to them that it has to do with a bed, two individuals who look at each other longingly and lovingly, and with mushing our genitals together.

MOST ADORABLE COUPLE IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION

I Can’t Take Your Sexy Away

For this I feel the need to use a Diagram. A Venn Diagram.

Look how pretty!

Remember these bad boys? They were a teachers best friend in elementary school. This triangle is red, so it goes in one circle, this square is blue so it goes in another circle. BUT THIS BLUE TRIANGLE?! It has no place so it goes in between, as the genetic spawn of the Red Triangle and the Blue Circle. So many kinds of awesome.

This is going to be a two portion post. And like the Venn Diagram, they will have a connecting trait.

PART ONE – AROUSAL

Now, in regards to Venn Diagraming it up, take yourself. Are you a powerful, aggressive person who takes charge of situations and is often leading people – but frequently enjoys the concept of the rape fantasy?
Are you a shy wallflower that usually just goes with the flow of the crowd – but frequently likes to tie people to bed posts and whip them a little?

Each of your separate qualities go into different circles on the Venn Diagram. What’s connecting them is the stable and steady, physically unchanging You (and by this I mean that you are going to be YOU until you die – you might get a scrape on your knee or go from being ‘Bob’ to ‘Barbara’ – but you are still you. Just to clarify).

Your personality will change. Your ideals, values and morals might change. Your sexuality might change. This is without question as you barge into the world to experience the board game called Life (except this board game is way more fun because the actual spin-the-wheel game doesn’t involve sex: You give your partner a mind-altering orgasm – move ten places ahead!).

People change. People are versatile, multi-layered creatures with color, depth and symbolic meaning.

And this is ever more present in regards to sexuality.

There is a two-fold that really needs to be understood. How does arousal work?

The approach I find to be the most beneficial to all of humanity stems from Michael J. Bader’s “Arousal; The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies”.

“[…] my theoretical and clinical approach to sexuality is an affirmative one, viewing sexual fantasy and arousal as resulting from an unconscious attempt to solve problems, and not, as many psychoanalysts would have, recreate them.”

Bader argues that our sexuality offers us an opportunity to transform the helplessness we felt as children into a powerhouse. If Sophie was abused in childhood, she may take pleasure in being a dominant sexual partner – to take the helplessness she felt as a child, not being able to fight back, and alter it into a pleasurable power.

If Adam had an alcoholic mother who he always had to take care of and babysit, he may find comfort in playing a more submissive role in the bedroom. Always HAVING to be the support and leader without any option might have been a painful experience. Releasing the chains of his childhood to let go of being in charge and take PLEASURE in being the one told what to do.

Everything we do is to alter the way we feel – either to turn pain into pleasure or to enhance the pleasure we already have.

This view of sexuality offers a safe way experience resolutions to your pain. So when Sophie and Adam engage in sexual activity, they are using each other objectively to reach their own place of pleasure. Sophie knows that her handcuffing Adam to the bed is not an reaction to him as a human with a kind, warm personality (the subjective), but as a means for him, as well as her to safely experience pleasure (the objective).

PART TWO – WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BODY PRIDE?

I cannot make nudity non-sexual. Ever. Fact.

Even a goofy picture of me being silly whilst naked will not take away the sexuality of my body. For this, I am proud. I am proud and happy and gleeful to be a voracious sexual creature.

What I can do, is change the object into a subject.

There is much too much weight on young girls (and boys) to always see themselves in the objective lighting of the ‘other’.

(You can watch the documentary “Sext-Up Kids” by CBC to learn more about the pressures put on girls to look ‘sexy’.)

toddlers in Vogue Magazine
French Vogue

We are priming these young children to believe that they should be constantly aware that their appearance (body, hair, makeup, personality) should be appealing to the opposite sex. We are teaching them that they are, and always will be, the object of someone else’s needs and desires.

But this is nothing new, and I put strong emphasis on how not new this is – even the significant youth of the toddlers in the vogue magazine. In Ancient China, many girls became ‘mooi-jais’ – slaves abandoned or by destitute parents and often recruited into brothels or street prostitution before being trained and sold as concubines (“A History of Mistresses”, E. Abbott). They were displayed as merchandise: required to parade in front of potential buyers in the nude, to speak, to show her unbound feet and allow the men to explore her body scent (teeth, armpits, and sometimes, vaginal odor).

Of course, with the waves of feminism, this is happening much less often (and child slavery/prostitution is a different post).

The main point here is that this is the generation where girls get to decide when they want to become objects and when they want to become subjects. This is the generation when girls can experience pleasure and power in the same way men have been doing so for years. This is the generation when women can safely explore the carnality of their sexuality, and turn men into sexual objects, without feeling shame or guilt.

I was on the streetcar a few days ago when I was thinking about Shannon Bell (author of Fast Feminism) and how she described the vagina not as a receptacle for a penis, but as an inverted penis in its very nature – containing the ability to get hard, grow, and ejaculate. And I thought back to my adolescence and my first boyfriend, and the only way I understood sex was that I had something that boys wanted– I was a receptacle for their sexuality. Which, is still true, in a sense. But NOW, the first thing that comes to mind is that boys have something I want. Rawr.

I cannot de-sexualize the intense voluptuous sensuality of a naked women, but I can reclaim my body as my own. And hopefully, aid other women in reclaiming theirs.

YOU'RE ALL MINE?!?!

“Historically, women’s sexuality and intellect have never been integrated. Women’s bodies were controlled, and their sexuality was contained in order to avert their corrupting impact on men’s virtue. Femininity, associated with purity, sacrifice, and frailty, was a characteristic of the morally successful woman. Her evil twin, the succubus (whore, slut, concubine, witch) was the earthy, sensual, and frankly lusty woman who had traded respectability for sexual exuberance. Vigorous sexuality was the exclusive domain of men. Women have continuously sought to disentangle themselves from the patriarchal split between virtue and lust, and are still fighting this injustice.”

– Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity