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(sex)uality: performance anxiety

You know the feeling. They look your way; maybe they wink or smile. Maybe they’re on the other end of the bar, or across the table from you at dinner, or cuddling you on a couch. You bite your lip, knowing that you’re thinking the same thing. Your muscles relax slightly, in anticipation of the spasms of pleasure that are ahead of you.

But then your thought process catches up. What will they think of me? Are they going to like seeing me naked? Am I too big, too small? Am I too hairy? When was the last time I showered? What did their last partner look like? Feel like?

You pointedly move your gaze away from them. Sex barely seems worth the effort anymore.

Performance anxiety has typically been relegated to the domain of males, particularly as we’ve all been indoctrinated with the notion that women “naturally” have lower sex drives than men and so nothing could be lowering our desire to engage in sexual activity other than just being female. Men have suffered from this perception as well, and it has resulted in an onslaught of articles in women’s magazines, explaining that a guy not wanting to have sex doesn’t mean that you’re not attractive but that, god forbid, he might be tired or stressed (and if that never happens, the man in question is probably under the age of 17). But although women have been exempt from feeling penis paranoia, there is a veritable deluge of things in our culture whose only apparent purpose is to make us feel less sexy.

I’d always been under the impression that with age would come an increase in my sexual confidence. And in some ways that might be true; when I was in my (late) teens, I certainly didn’t have such precise knowledge of what tickles my fancy as I do now, much less the willingness to give directions. But this lack of knowledge also meant that I hadn’t been exposed to all the comments and complaints about women’s bodies that I have now.

It was a simpler time. I didn’t imagine that labiaplasty would enter our collective consciousness as a genuine cosmetic enhancement, I hadn’t realised that mainstream porn predominantly featured waxed, woodstain-tanned, ‘oooohfuckmewithyourbigcock’ squealing, Barbie-proportioned blondes to whom my own sexual performance may well be compared, nor had I found out that women’s vulvas were photoshopped in magazines to look less “offensive”. I hadn’t yet heard a multitude of conversations amongst my male friends in which they were criticising the most minute and ridiculous physical features in their partners, and I didn’t know that men as vile as Tucker Max existed (I don’t wish ill on many people, but the fact that the movie based on his stupid book crashed, burned, bombed, and completely flew under my life radar until I saw it in the ‘weekly’ section of my video store a few weeks ago [without me previously realising that the thing had even been made] showed me that there might be some karmic justice in the universe after all).

See, I don’t think the problem is women’s sex drives (at least not in most clinically-normal cases). I think the problem is that there are entire industries devoted to making people feel like shit, so that they’ll buy products to make them feel better; make-up, clothing, beauty and weight loss industries (amongst others) rely on low self-esteem to survive and thrive. So when we spend our days bombarded with unrealistic images and body shapes, is there any wonder that we go home at the end of it and don’t feel like ripping our clothes off?

Who is all of this helping exactly? Is making women as paranoid about their entire bodies as men are about their penises helping anyone get laid? (And I should point out that I’m not in favour of instilling paranoia and self-doubt in anyone…except for maybe Tucker Max).

To paraphrase a Mr. Hank Moody (or, more likely, Tom Kapinos), why are we so hell bent on destroying our female population?

(Image credit: 1.)

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