Tag Archives: Confidence

Sexual Confidence

Recently, I agreed to answer some questions for a journalist who was looking to find some women between the ages of 25 and 30, who would be willing to answer some questions about their sexual confidence for a supplement in one of the UK’s largest newspaper publications, a free magazine targeted at women. The article came out earlier in the week, and suffice it to say, I was bitterly disappointed at being severely misquoted and having my well thought out, articulate and structured answers butchered and spliced to fit the journalist’s true intentions when writing the article. What I gathered from it is that neither the journalist, nor anyone at the magazine, truly cared about the sexual confidence of young women, but, instead, wanted to marginalise these women into certain categories and from my perspective, none of us were shown in a positive light. In hindsight, I realise that the questions were both vague and worryingly infantile for a grown woman to be asking another and instead of putting my faith in this person, hoping to, eventually, find an article that didn’t discuss sexual discourse from an angle consisting of solely demographics, percentages and charts, but instead, highlighting that sexual confidence is something that we should all be aware of and participating in. Needless to say, I was wrong about the journalist and wrong about the publication; instead of championing women who are confident in their sex lives, the article seemingly chastised us for daring to speak so brazenly about our sexual pasts. Shame on us, eh? So, in today’s blog post I am going to write about what I would have chosen, had I, as a decent writer and person, been given the opportunity to do so:

 

Typically, the concept of being sexually confident is something that is, by and large, considered a taboo topic, even in today’s society. To discuss being sexually confident, perhaps conjures images of that rare breed of woman who has the body to pull off matching lingerie, teamed with suspenders and high heels; Victoria’s Secret models and porn stars, maybe, but not your average English woman, whose underwear drawer consists mostly of comfortable, practical pants, with the odd pair of Spanx in there for when we truly need it; the idea of wearing high heels and underwear and lounging seductively anywhere bringing us out in hot sweats, panic attacks looming above us like death. For a long time, I was part of this demographic; I was ashamed of the way I looked and frightened that I wouldn’t only not look like other women, but that I wouldn’t perform correctly, or that I’d do something that the other women didn’t do, and it hasn’t been until very, very recently that I realised that none of it matters: The concept of sexual confidence is a myth, yet another demographic and percentile mark that we are forced into, in the aid of yet another boring article about sex, that doesn’t help normal people with sex worries at all.

 

I think part of the reason that articles like this can exist and highlight sexual insecurities is because we all have them; even porn stars, even women so perfect it looks like there is someone photo shopping them in real life: Everyone has insecurities and this is why articles like this thrive, especially amongst British people who suffered the indignity of sex education classes as children. I’m sure I’m not the only person who thought those awkward sex education classes were entirely counter-productive and not at all insightful or helpful when coming to terms with the concept of sex overall. In hindsight, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it seemed less about providing people with sexual education and more an instructional manual of contraceptives and how to put them on; more intent on stopping diseases and unplanned, teenaged pregnancies, from spreading within their school (how embarrassing would that OfSted report be?). But, it didn’t truly educate people as young as fourteen and it didn’t stop them from having sex; it was demonstrably unhelpful in discussing sex in real terms: The emotional implications, the concept of self-respect and not doing anything you are uncomfortable with, or even consent. As a result, I found that a lot of my class mates were incredibly well versed  in the Karma Sutra and that none of them truly had any idea what they were participating in: They were just pumping away until the male ejaculated… from what I was informed. Admittedly, a lot of my sex education came from the internet; I would hear terms and Google them, or look up an array of different sexual practices just for the sake of soaking up knowledge, but sex education at school taught me nothing. I didn’t even know that females could orgasm from sex; all we learned is that we need to wear protection so that when our male partner ejaculates; we won’t get pregnant, which is very, very sad.

Even as adult women, which the article I’m discussing proves (I think), is that not a lot of people truly understand sex: To have an article that uses percentages and graphs to outline their target demographic or discuss topics that might not be considered normal within general sexual discourse is entirely infantile to a worrying extent, as I’ve already discussed. It just proves that we’re a society that thrives on these ridiculous articles to feel, I guess, the opposite of validation, to a certain extent, like sex is some kind of secret that none of us are truly a part of and that we’re still not quite there when having sex; we’re ultimately marginalising ourselves and stopping ourselves from experiencing good sex, because we’re too busy concentrating on being like the percentages in the piss-poor articles we’re reading, rather than our partners or our own enjoyment. I think the first question I was asked, do you think you’re good in bed, only highlights the infantile nature of the article and the general childish attitudes that people perceive others to have about sex; there is no such thing as being good in bed – you either enjoy yourself or you don’t and that bares absolutely no relevance on the manner of performance that either you or your partner exude; you simply either have or haven’t enjoyed that particular moment. In the article, sexual confidence implied a sense of superiority over other people, which simply isn’t the point of being confident at all: Sex isn’t a public display for us all to participate in, if you enjoy the things that you partake in sexually and have an enjoyable sex life, then you are confident, there is no in-between.

The questions the journalist asked also involved perceptions of society and that if I, as someone sexually confident, felt restricted by the perceptions society had about female sexuality and, if this would change in the near future. Overall, I think it was an excellent question, but I don’t see it featured anywhere in the article; the idea of encroaching on society’s ideals of how women should behave sexually, still, seemingly too taboo to post, which is so unfortunate and upsetting. I thought I was writing something that would assist the general struggle a lot of women are feeling, that is evidenced on Twitter and within movements such as Everyday Sexism or even my best friend Em over at Any Girl Friday; that women are sexual beings and that it’s okay that we enjoy masturbating or have a right to say ‘no’ when approached by a man regarding sex, but that wasn’t featured in the article at all. Instead, the fact that I had a partner who was into male chastity was featured as though I was some kind of aggressive dominatrix type woman, which wasn’t what I wrote at all. In fact, quite surprisingly to some, I wrote quite nice things about that person and looked at the psychology behind why he might have been into male chastity, which stemmed from his inherent, uncontrollable, somewhat oedipal maternal issues. But I guess the journalist took ‘I don’t do things by halves’ (written in the first paragraph) and the ‘My ex was into male chastity’ (fifth paragraph) and spliced them together to make me sound like I was a heartless, cruel dominatrix, because that’s what sexual confidence is all about, isn’t it?

 

If you’re a woman and you have worries about sex, or if you’re a man and panic about this too, then heed my advice: Speak to your partner. Sexual confidence isn’t about being able to perform alongside some archaic ideals of what good sex is supposed to be. If your woman isn’t screaming the walls down, that doesn’t mean you’re not doing a stellar job. If your man isn’t ejaculating into your mouth within five minutes of sucking his dick, that doesn’t mean you aren’t awesome at sucking cock. But that’s not for me, or anyone at all to tell you, especially not some piss-poor article written in a magazine.

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Anxieties About Blogging & The Future.

As a writer and blogger who allows literally the entirety of the internet a stark, honest and unabashed insight into her life, hopefully using smidgeons of comedy and interesting, bold content, I feel that I might be, somehow, holding myself back. As proud as I am of the content I discuss on my blog, I still write under a pseudonym and nothing about my online presence, or manner in which I market my blog could be described as personal; other than my boyfriend, no one I know in real life reads my blog and no one, other than close friends and family, know of its existence. Those who do know of its existence have never seen it and wouldn’t know what to search for, even if they wanted to read it. Its instances like this, which I feel assist to my feelings of general despondence when it comes to my blog and my plans.

To speak of my goals, of the things I would like to accomplish by habitually providing my blog with content is something I have never done. It’s something I feel that I am not talented enough for, that I am not someone whom people would regard as ‘serious’ enough to write on a professional level – which is a ridiculous concept. There are countless female comedians, females who write for excellent newspaper outlets, magazines, businesses, television networks who are unashamedly themselves; silly, rude, confident, hilarious and this comes across in their writing too. So why do I feel that I’m not good enough? Is it something that could have an element of truth or something that I’m being entirely paranoid about?

Recently, I have been asked to write for a rather large UK publication and also asked to become a paid writer for a large establishment in the North East and whilst these are enormous accomplishments, part of me thinks that it’s all a joke – that someone will eventually jump out from behind a wall, point at me and laugh at me for ever thinking anyone would want me to write for them professionally, let alone get paid for it. Which is an entirely foolish concept. I am so lucky to have wilfully left a job that offered  me no real – right within my grasp attainable and financially viable goals – with no jobs lined up for me and have had these amazing opportunities, essentially handed to me on a platter. In two months, I have dabbled in the waters that will, hopefully, if I’m very lucky, lead me to my dream career: Published & modestly paid writer.

I think it’s a confidence thing, but I’m not sure if it’s something other bloggers face. To me, it seems that the only concept that people can employ and consider when speaking to/about female bloggers is that we all write about clothes and make up – things that employers, particularly male employers, find non-threatening and just a bit of fun. I feel that when I tell people that I write about feminism, mental health, confidence, sex and pop culture in a stark, honest and hopefully witty/funny manner, their eyes darken and I can almost see their mind working away, wondering what I am doing, daring to interview with them, or leave my house without a big neon sign pointing: INTELLIGENT, OPINIONATED, PROBABLY A BITCH, STEER CLEAR at my head.

It may be paranoia that is sifting through my unconscious mind, causing me to cast doubt upon my passions and evident talents, or it might be something that is true: Everything I do, everything I use in order to market my blog and share it with people is foolhardy and that I won’t be taken seriously as a writer due to my attempts at comedy or somewhat self-deprecating manner in which I write.

This blog doesn’t really make too much sense, but I had some concerns and having spent the day not feeling rooted in reality and that I am not real today, I have also been incredibly anxious and panicky about my future. I’m hoping that I’ll read this tomorrow and some worries will be put to rest, but if you’re reading this and would like to help or share some words of wisdom, they would be much appreciated.

Thank you. Lots of love x

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A Series of Lamentations: Body Confidence

In a society obsessed and unable to take the attention and (male) gaze away from women’s appearance, whether it be their body shape, clothes, hair styles, make up, legs, arms, body hair, fingernails, cuticles, pores, inner thighs, vaginas, phantom limbs… you name it, we’ve been scrutinised on it, so I thought this episode of A Series of Lamentations (said dramatically like I’m narrating Days of Our Lives) should cover the topic of body confidence. It’s something I’ve never written about, but write about sexual confidence freely and confidently. For me, the two are synonymous, but for so many women, the idea of being sexy is nonsensical; you can only be sexy if you look like the girls in the lad’s mags, right? Wrong… So very, very wrong, ladies!

As soon as I was catapulted out of the warm embrace of childhood and puberty rolled in like a thick, black cloud, catapulting my idea of self into a state of perpetual doubt, my beanpole limbs suddenly bending and stretching, pimples exploding onto my face like a surprise hailstorm in summer, I would cry and for years, enormous, fat tears would roll down my cheeks and sobs would escape my mouth as I looked on in horror at my naked self in front of a mirror. In spite of being born gloriously tall, I had a perpetual hunch in my shoulders, forced as a result of trying valiantly to appear small, petite and perfect like all of my friends were. I would take one of my long, bony (elegant, maybe?) fingers and prod at the almost non-existent pot belly that I had and wail that I was enormous, cursing my hips and size fourteen jeans that hung off my hips and perpetually retreated down my legs, as though wanting to rest around my ankles, a non-existent arse unable to keep them upright. My breasts, a reasonable D cup from the moment I hit puberty and further growing to the exponentially larger cupsize they are today, were far too small, too strange, too saggy and unappealing. I didn’t look like the girls in the films, or the magazines or the music videos; I wasn’t, as my mother described perfect and she was a proven god damn liar, if only she knew what I saw when I looked in that mirror…

As I got older, my metabolism abandoned me and all those nights I would order takeaways or eat convenient packets of party size crisps, huddled over a laptop writing essays, my body shape changed; it became softer, more round, my hip bones lost their definition altogether, replaced by rolls of extra skin that stretched violently, erupting in marks that highlighted my new body shape with sickening candour; my dress size soared through the roof and I looked at my jeans mournfully, longing to be able to get those size fourteen skinnies beyond my fat knees. Elasticated waistlines and baggy, loose fitting dresses became my staples. Jeggings were my saviour. When I went out, I wore black, thick tights, multiple pairs of spanx, anything that would slim me and make me look like the other girls in their crop tops, bare arms flung in the air, moving to the sound of the music; mine, shoved inside a cardigan, sleeves pulled over my sleeves, shuffling from side to side, hating them, hating me.

I fought with my body for so long, I became resolute that I was too fat, too unattractive, too boring to be anything other than the person that I was; I hated myself and it was a recurrent, constant theme in my life. I struggled with my body confidence until this year, twenty five years into my life. But it took me a while. When I first became single, my dad, bless him would say things like ‘lose a few stone, get your high heels on and go down to the rugby club and bag yourself someone who can throw you round the bedroom, even if you’re still a bit heavy!’ thinking that I would laugh and agree, which of course I did, he meant well and thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world even with an extra three stone strapped to my body, but it didn’t make me feel great. I didn’t want to be the person who people would look at for her body and then decide whether or not to have sex with me; I wanted someone to engage with me on an intellectual level, someone who would drink wine with me and stay up until the early hours of the morning talking about a stupid piece of music we both obsess over. I wanted someone to wrap their arms around my stomach and not be revolted that I don’t feel like a model, or someone who goes to the gym. I didn’t want to be someone who relied on their appearance to feel beautiful, I wanted to feel beautiful inside and out and be with someone who agreed.

I don’t feel too self conscious anymore; I have my moments and I sometimes ask my boyfriend to close his eyes if I’m leaving the room naked or with my stomach on display. For months I didn’t let his hands wander anywhere near my stomach and now his hands will wander and touch the ridges of my stretch marks; nonplussed that i was once a significantly larger human. I guess it’s a bit ass-backwards to say that Brain gave me body confidence, because he didn’t. I think it was the moment that I realised he liked me and I wasn’t a stick thin model I thought hmm, so to be attractive, I don’t have to be wearing matching underwear or look like an on-screen siren? I can just look like me? Okay… and I guess he helped, but to me that isn’t really the problem; if you have someone who helps you feel body confident that’s so great. But what about if you don’t?

When you’re single and reading articles on how to be great in bed or how to dress to impress, there’s the overwhelming, choking feeling of expectation and I think that’s what prompts so many fits of self-doubt and loathing within female society and if you’re reading this and thinking ‘I feel so unconfident in my appearance!’ then nothing I say will make you feel any better, it’s one of those things that creeps up on you like old age, or ill-fitting underwear; it’ll happen one day and you’ll just feel and act differently to the way you did before. When I realised that I was funny, smart and that my words had prompted someone to fall in love with me, I realised that no one actually gave a fuck about my stomach or the fact that I have a severe aversion to running or sit ups but me. I stopped caring what other people thought of me and started focusing on what I like about me. So what do I like about me? I like everything. I like my hair, I like my overly large eyes, I like my teeth that look like pegs and my nose that is slightly upturned at the bottom so that it looks like, as my dad lovingly describes, a ski jump. I like my sticky out ears and my hair that has no style other than the fact that I own it and no one else does. I like my breasts and my legs and my flat, long feet. I like everything about me and that’s something I never thought I’d feel. I stopped giving a shit about what society deemed sexually attractive or acceptable and I just embraced myself for being exactly who I am.

Now, thinking back to how unconfident I was, I feel sad that I spent so many years restricting myself and not doing things out of fear of being the fat one, that people would realise that I was fat… as though people didn’t already know… I wish I’d gone with my friends to Greece and finished my application for Camp America and went to New York to study when given the opportunity, but didn’t because I thought my appearance wouldn’t win me any friends. I regret that, I’m sorry about that and I lament it, as expected.

moi

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A Series of Lamentations: Self-Love and Being a Woman

If you are here because you read the title and thought that I was going to embark on an intricate journey of self-discovery and ultimately, public discussion of an internalised regret at having spent the majority of my twenties attempting to perfect my masturbatory habits, then you are, unfortunately, very much mistaken. If you are here for anything that may potentially resemble masturbation, or the desire to read one girl’s tale of sexual awakening, then you should leave, right now. This is a series of lamentations and I, admittedly, have nothing to lament about regarding that particular element of self-love: I’m awesome and I get shit DONE. No, this is a little bit of an insight into the life of someone who was given all of the opportunities to become a self-involved, worshipper of one’s self, but someone who, through life experiences, hasn’t taken those steps and has suffered exponentially as a result.

There is no real method of denial for anyone to exercise when I say that, as a woman, we are not taught to love ourselves at all. From the moment we are catapulted from the warm bosom of childhood into the cruel and harsh world of puberty, with tiny lumps growing out of our previously flat chests and hair where we never thought hair would grow (which we are then immediately taught to shave, wax or make deals with the devil to keep it off, right there and then), and blood torturing our crotches on a monthly basis, all in the name of eventual reproduction, (because, there’s not even a choice in the matter, we all just have to suffer regardless of what our life choices end up being. Lesbian? I don’t care, PERIOD. Double period, because you may eventually live with a woman and you’ll have them at the same time and not only will your crotch be bleeding, but you’ll be attempting valiantly not to enter into some kind of Hunger Games style lifestyle for the entirety of your period which only lasts about seven days, but seems to last lifetimes in your pants. I mean, we never even got the opportunity to ask Mother Nature about periods, you know? Like, I would have appreciated sitting down with her and being like ‘so, here’s the situation – I’m eleven and I’m not really sure where my life is going to take me, I might not want children in the future, they are small and the idea of housing a tiny human in my uterus for nine months seems an unnecessary downfall of my gender, especially seen as how I will then have to shove it out of a hole that doesn’t look big enough to push a giant head out of and I am sure older me would agree, that I could probably not fit a giant head IN there, so where’s the logic, sister? WHERE?’), we have had no real control over our bodies or states of mind; it has all been done for us via the over-arching glue of the media – keeping women in a state of perpetual self-doubt since its inception. YAY!

Admittedly, growing up, I was given all the fodder to potentially become someone who promoted love of herself in every possible form; my parents were my perpetual cheerleaders and there wasn’t a concept of ‘no’ or ‘this isn’t possible’ within our family. My sister decided when she was little she wanted to learn origami, leaned towards my mother one lunch time and stated, “I want to learn pornography!” and kudos to my mother, she didn’t say that she couldn’t, only asked where she’d learned such a grown up word. The only time I ever really heard ‘no’ was when I decided I wanted to be a pop star and actress, but that’s something I’ve covered and generally have come to terms with (weeps). It wasn’t until we became teenagers and allowed external factors to govern our opinions of ourselves, did our family dynamic really change. Whilst we were never told that we couldn’t do something, I remember our parents’ perception of what others thought of us was greater than it had been before, which I blame entirely on the fact that my parents were raising two females of a very similar age – if my parents had sons, there wouldn’t have been any issues over what they were wearing, or who they were hanging out with. The general adage, boys will be boys would have meant that any sons of my parents wouldn’t have hit the barriers my sister and I did when we were teenagers. I guess it’s the same notion as society teaching girls how not to get sexually assaulted, rather than teaching boys not to sexually assault; my parents taught us how to adhere to gender stereotypes and behave in a manner that one would deem as ladylike, thus hoping to potentially decrease the potential of anything terrible happening to us, so I totally get it and I’m not trying to say that my parents did anything wrong at all – because they didn’t and I thank them every day for giving me the best life I could have wished for – but, their actions were only symptomatic of the society we were all born into: That women need to behave in a certain way in order to ascertain their true meanings in life… marriage and babies. And that is pushed onto us as much as it possibly can as soon as puberty rears its bitch of a head; we need to find a man and keep him in order for us to fulfil our biological duty. They were taught by society and the media on how to appropriately parent as much as we’re taught how to dress and how to truly satisfy our man in Cosmopolitan magazine.

Granted, my sister and I never bought into any of that shit. I decided that I wouldn’t rush the marriage and baby thing, because there is SO much do in life before I have to settle down and have kids and whilst there is always the tick tock of my biological clock, that the media is always telling me to listen to, it’s not something that bothers me. My sister decided straight up NO WAY I AM NOT HAVING KIDS I HATE THEM THEY ARE SO SMALL AND NEEDY I JUST DON’T WANT THEM and has only in the past year or so slightly changed her mind (as long as she never has girls) because she fell in love, but before that we all pictured her as some kind of spinster, living somewhere covered in televisions, game consoles and random Legend of Zelda merchandise. She would be the auntie to my children and they’d be the only kids she ever liked, but they’d be scared of her because she is a little foreboding. But, I was still the weaker one of the two and fell victim to a lot of aggression because of my independent nature… so much so that I entirely changed for a long period of time.

I’m not going to go into that element of my life in too much detail, but I did get to the point where I genuinely thought I was deserving of all the aggression, of all the ‘why aren’t you pregnant, what is wrong with you’ type conversations and a lifestyle that really didn’t cater to my needs or desires at all – my passion for writing was non-existent, because it wasn’t supported, I couldn’t even watch what I wanted to on television and my happiness hinged on the happiness of another woman; if she wasn’t happy, or if she decided I was in her bad books, then my boyfriend would act accordingly and it was usually to the detriment of my state of mind, my happiness and my emotional well-being. So, this is what I lament most out of all of my series of lamentations; I grieve for the woman who was given every opportunity in life; who did so well at school, college and university and could have explored the world, but instead ended up in a relationship that she wasn’t enjoying as it was happening, forced into being with someone who put her down at every opportunity, who’s opinion of women was so fucked up because he was raised by someone who kept him sucking at the teat of motherhood well into his adult life and who’s only real goal in life was to get to the pub; he was raised to be a misogynist and any woman who exercised any form of opinion that differed from mammy dearest’s, was punished. It was your typical, run of the mill, Norman Bates style relationship between mammy dearest and her little boy. In hindsight, I was clearly a mentalist and I am genuinely ashamed to have been a part of that misogynistic lifestyle that allowed me to become stuck and think that there was something wrong with me for not wanting to have his babies at the age of twenty one (or, ever, just to be clear).

I have learned some valuable lessons from this relationship, though and have since become a self-sufficient, adult woman who has learned from those mistakes and become someone who is pursuing her passions and living a life that I choose to lead. I have a boyfriend who isn’t necessarily a feminist, but someone who believes my passions and interests are just as important as his own and deserving of pursuing, so I get to write in abundance and be in a relationship where I’m not pressured to be anything other than myself. And that’s definitely something worth celebrating and definitely something I intend to keep up in my late twenties, because what is the point in a series of lamentations, without attempting to either celebrate my future, or make plans involving handsome beards?

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