I have a love-hate relationship with the act of grinding with my ass all up on some fine-looking dude. Let me tell you a story to provide some context.
A few steps into the basement, and my friend’s glasses fogged up. It was dark, it was hot, and it felt like exactly what I needed.
Some part of the chaste little nun that I was through high school was guiltily excited about the whole situation. I made eye contact with a cute boy and that was all it took for him to come over and put his hands on my hips. He was a good dancer, to say the least. I found myself enjoying that sensation that I had always panicked upon feeling before I found feminism: sexual pleasure. It kinda rocks, and I let myself try to maximize that feeling as I danced.
However, there was another force at play: it was as if the ghost of bullshit sexist standards was standing right there, judging my booty-winding technique. The ghost was approving that I had secured male affirmation, though it was the thoroughly unsatisfying kind of approval that leaves one more afraid of losing it than happy to have it. I knew I wasn’t the best dancer, so I tried desperately to appease ghostie by doing whatever I could to make this dude stay with me. All the “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Happily Ever Afters” I grew up with seemed to be on the line. In that moment, I was wanted. A boy was attracted to me, and wasn’t that what mattered? Isn’t that how you get your happy ending? Even such feminist role models as Beyoncé and Elle Woods of Legally Blonde had boys trailing after them. Would they be as powerful and valuable if they didn’t have sex appeal? It felt, in that moment and at too many other points in my life, like the path to worth was being sexually desirable.
Aforementioned sexist ghost (who I imagine looks something like a combination between Phyllis Schlafly in a wool suit and whoever writes those girl-seductively-eating-hamburger Sonic commercials) then helpfully reminded me of another critical standard I needed to meet. Was my promiscuous dancing too much, too slutty? Were there enough people really goin’ at it? “No one wants to be that hoe everyone else is judging,” said Sonic Phyllis. “What would your parents think of you being here?” I had internalized that idea that I needed to be simultaneously desirable and pure: it was imperative that I garner male affirmation, but doing anything beyond holding hands would mean contaminating myself. Any attempt I have ever made to fulfill this paradoxical expectation of female perfection has been an absolutely, undeniably miserable process.
In the meantime, my grinding buddy’s hands kept creeping up towards my chest even though I pushed them down. I flashed back to hook-ups past when guys had done things that made me feel gross and that I didn’t stop, partially out of anxiety to not make things awkward and lose the male attention that felt so affirming.
So, I thus have a love-hate relationship with the act of grinding with my ass all up on some fine-looking dude.
Part of me loves this expression of my right as a woman to feel sexual pleasure, something that I think needs to be reclaimed from a world that has censored it. I’m titillated by the opportunity to stick up a fat middle finger at the voices telling me I’m not meant to sully myself with scandalous interactions.*
*Side note: One word that encapsulates this stigma is the word “horny.” I don’t think I’ve ever been so afraid of a set of letters in my life as I was of those five from the moment I learned their meaning until very recently. Maybe “Gollum” or “pustules”, but “horny” was definitely up there. I’d always thought that for a woman to be horny suggested something absolutely disgusting, an idea I don’t think I’m alone in having held. In reality, all “horny” means is a desire to use our bodies to enjoy ourselves in a particular way.
On the flip side, I have no love for the way grinding and hook-ups can feel like an expression of the compulsive need to confirm that I am valued by men, a need that I believe is a function of the expectations and standards of the societies I’ve grown up in. When I look at which women most people pay attention to, what I see is that is that my body is meant to be capable of pleasing men, that desirability means power and my body is my way to become desirable. I’m paid 77 cents to a white man’s dollar, so being attractive enough to catch myself a wealthy man can seem like the most economically promising option. This option probably seemed an even more reasonable goal, if not the only reasonable goal, for my great-grandmother and her mother before her. Their perspectives have been passed down generation to generation, and I still feel the effects of that. Thus, without thinking, I devote my body to the cause of drawing some guy’s attention. I let my stomach growl as I nibble on a petite salad while my guy friends dig into ice cream. I frown at my protruding stomach in the mirror and decide to skip out on time with friends in order to go to the gym again. I go farther with a boy than I want to because I can’t imagine losing their approval.
I am asked to surrender my body to the pursuit of desirability and ignore its ability to feel sexual pleasure. However, I am done with that.
I felt a wonderful joy the first time I realized that I have a right to control this incredible set of atoms and cells and systems that contain a lifetime of memories. I get to write the story of whether I care for this body or treat it like trash – where I walk and who I touch and who touches me. I’m the one who reaps the consequences and benefits of these actions, and I have agency over which path I follow.
This body of mine can be a tool for acquiring male affirmation, beaten into shape as I ignore what it wants. On the other hand, I can choose to walk away from that and use my body to laugh and run and eat oatmeal cookies and maybe even dirty dance if I so desire ;);) In a reciprocal exchange, I can use it to bring pleasure to a partner and enjoy the way its biology and hormones allow me to feel pleasure of my own. I can choose to take back my body from those who have said that women aren’t supposed to ask for guys to do things that make us feel good.
I own this body. From now on, I choose to live like that’s true.