What do you want?
I opened my eyes and gasped after he asked the question. In my entire 22 years of life, no one had ever asked me what I wanted while we were actually having sex. When it comes to talking dirty while sexting, I’m a pro. I can tell you what, where, and how I want it. But when it comes time to actually talk my shit, that’s where the stage fright comes into play.
This was the first time I was having sex with *Jaden, an old friend who I ran into at a bar out with my sorority sisters. What started out as us catching up, quickly escalated when he swooped his arm around me and started kissing my neck in the middle of the bar. I was completely taken aback by his desire to understand what turns my body on and off—the shit that makes my body whisper and scream—that I could only smile, briefly, before getting back to business. I kissed him passionately, I grinded my body against his, but left his question unanswered.
The morning after, I was satisfied and confused all at once.
The morning after, I was satisfied and confused all at once. As raunchy and sexually liberated as I thought I was, why couldn’t I simply say what I desired in the moment? While Jaden was the first person to ask, there were plenty of times when I should have spoken up for my pleasure but didn’t.
With a little self-reflection (and daydreaming about past encounters), the answers started to become clearer. Yes, I’m open about embracing my sexuality and I make no apology for that. However, my personal relationship to the act of fucking is still pretty complicated. While loving sex isn’t something that I keep a secret, I’m equally honest about the fact that I’m not getting laid as often as people might believe. Just because I’m willing to tell you about how good the head was this one time in Wisconsin, doesn’t take away from the fact that I haven’t gotten it in months. I’m incredibly vulnerable (and choosy) when it comes to picking a person to be intimate with. If I don’t feel I can trust you, you have no business being between my legs — it’s as simple as that.
And just because I like to be fucked real good (by the right person, at the right time) doesn’t mean it’s easy to explain how I want you to do that. Sigh.
As an Afro-Latina, I occupy a body that has been subject to hypersexual gazes since my pre-pubescent days. When I was 14, a car full of grown men catcalled and followed me in East Harlem. I still recall the fear and sickness I felt as I ran down the block, praying they didn’t trail me the entire way home. I blurted out what happened the second I got through the door. Before I could even catch my breath, the words tumbled out of my mouth through my panting and tears. My mom responded, with a straight face, that I shouldn’t have been wearing a tight shirt.
Both of my parents would continue to shame me for the way I dressed and imply that situations like these were my fault. While it hurt to some extent, I let the pain carve me into someone who would never shame another person for loving their body however they saw fit.
The negative messages I got at home and beyond only made me more committed to owning my sexuality: I wear what I want, date who I want, and yes, fuck the people that I want to fuck. To my friends, co-workers, and even my Twitter followers, I’m super confident about being this “queer brown princess savage,” the one who might make out with a stranger at a bar, who supports sex workers and knows her way around a sex shop.
However, I’m still human. Jaden’s question, one that should be so common during sex, forced me to confront something: Maybe I have internalized some of those negative ideas about female sexuality that I thought I was too bad ass to be bothered by. I didn’t feel comfortable opening up to my partners about what makes me feel good because I thought I was too difficult, too much to ask. I’d just get them off and worry about getting myself off later. I loved the high I’d get from being in full control of my partner’s pleasure while doing it (and doing it, and doing it) well. While I’d get off from hearing their praises, I never felt the need to use my own voice for anything. If you asked me in broad daylight if I was worth the orgasm, I’d say, “Hell yeah” in a heartbeat. But as soon as the lights went down, my voice and self-agency dimmed along with them.
Being a savage isn’t about simply having tons of sex.
It’s one thing to tout myself as a sexually liberated woman, but actually bringing that attitude with me between the sheets is another. Being a savage isn’t about simply having tons of sex. For me, it’s having pleasurable sex with whom I want and when I want. It’s taking time out to prioritize not just my ability to be nasty with someone else, but to be honest enough to make sure I’m satisfied too. It’s acknowledging the fear that comes with embracing my sexuality and remembering that I am worthy of being fucked right.
A reminder to myself, and anyone else who wants to be about this sex positive life: be sure that you don’t forget your own needs as you flex your bedroom skills for your partners. Being sexually free means figuring out how to enjoy yourself as much as you can, on your own terms. My pro-hoe politics don’t mean that I’m an expert or having the best sex life ever, but that I’m committed to my own satisfaction. I’m proud to report that each encounter gets better and better as I get more comfortable telling my partners what I want.
I understand now that when it comes to true sexual liberation, issa process—and it’s up to me to make sure it’s a pleasurable one.