People must let go of the misconception that female sexual experiences can be neatly categorized by philosophies surrounding love, trauma and duty. The episodes within our sex lives are not always noble or romantic or steadfast even meaningful. Sometimes they’re just manifestations of whatever raw, unsavory, immoral thoughts we’re having in the moment.
On Saturday morning, I made love to two men at once. I could hardly tell the difference between them; heavy drapes casted out the sun and their skin appeared like rich shadows writhing inside my beige and caramel sheets. My chest tightened and my stomach ached when I looked into their eyes. It almost hurt to graze my thighs against the glistening mounds of their manhood. “Tense and quake, tense and quake” whispered my limbs in response to the overwhelming sensations of pleasure and guilt.
Only one man deserved to be in my bed. This man had claimed me, spent months holding my hand down quiet, leafy boulevards and through even quieter museum halls. I obediently memorized his food preferences and squared away weekly nights alone with him for HBO reruns and picking stray fibers out of his unruly, nappy hair. I grew into a generous, loving and mediocre cook.
The other man was not invited. He simply emerged among the sheets, his body oscillating into that of my lover’s after every other kiss. I should have shied away from him. I did not. I should have been surprised by his presence; I had met him in person before but I had never lain with him nor gotten close to it. Still, I was neither shocked nor disappointed that he had come. For a long time he tempted me, appearing in my thoughts like a ghost without a home. His audacity and his persistence tickled me, and his leaner build aroused me. I kissed his eyelids to reward him for his grand efforts to please. Then I writhed along with him in the bed until my lover slumped over on his side from exhaustion.
I am ashamed to be writing this. I have written about this strange man before, I’ve been published because of this man, garnered hits and likes and followers and comments. There is nothing else to write or to say, I told myself, often piecing together his beautiful, distant face in my head. But now I sit here at my laptop slowly stringing together the words on a glossy screen after failing to string them on pieces of paper. My conscionable mind is irritated with my emotional and aroused one. My conscience can’t perceive of why I hold onto my fantasies of this man. Let him go, it screams at me, embarrassed by the strength of my grip and tired of arguing with my feelings. My conscience loses most of the time.
Yesterday, a friend of mine asked me for my opinion on a piece someone submitted to his magazine. The piece consisted of a brief series of vignettes recounted by a female protagonist who casually describes the various writers she has slept with. The story ends with her picking out baby names and inventing lies she will tell people about the father of her unborn child. The protagonist is detached, matter-of-fact, humored by her own disappointing and borderline dysfunctional sexual activity.
I was humored by another reviewer’s response. He/she outrightly rejected the submission, turned off by the character’s supposed subversion to shallow male perceptions of women’s so-called “difficult” relationships to casual sex. He admonished the writer for using pussy and female voices as a “literary playground” and suggested that the piece would be more acceptable if it were actually written by a woman.
I couldn’t have disagreed more. In fact, I marveled at the fact that I couldn’t tell that the author was male, not female. It underscored the point that the socioeconomic status of a person writing fiction is irrelevant as long as its message reaches its audience in a way that is significant, accessible and validating.
I liked the protagonist because she made me laugh at my own dysfunction without laying out my past misfortunes for me. There was something familiar in her habit of making fun of her past lovers to downplay any intimate feelings she may have had for them. Her story wasn’t “boring” or “trite” from my accounts at all. I felt as though the critic was so uncomfortable with the main character’s perspective that he/she started assigning it misogynistic characteristics that weren’t already there.
The protagonist’s detachment from her partners reminded me of a character in a short story I once read whom was unfaithful to her husband. She initially started an affair because she was tempted by another man. She then held onto that affair as a cruel punishment to her husband for loving her in a way that was suffocating, holding her to live a life that was bound by patriarchal norms of the Western family structure. Her motives for her sexual indiscretions weren’t sensible but they didn’t have to be to make them real, either.
I originally sat down to write this essay as an ode to Kendrick Lamar. I’ve been listening to his latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, in deep rotation since its surprise release late Sunday night/early Monday morning. With each song I am in awe of his ability to create elaborate, inspired concept albums that speak to his joys and pains while still voicing the experiences of so many of the black men I’ve befriended in my young life. When I hear his song, “Complexion” featuring Rapsody, I envision a music video reenacting my most treasured moments in past romantic relationships with black men. My eyes grew misty as I saw shots of me with each boyfriend holding their hands, tasting their lips, savoring their embraces, holding their soft and loving gazes. In the video credit, Dream Hampton would be listed as the director.
But I stopped short of trying to paint that music video in essay form because it wouldn’t be a truthful recounting of my time with them. I had disappointed each of them in some way or another. To some, I was too clingy and sure of our future together. To others, I was too distracted and ungrateful, uncommitted to their long-term dreams. Some I’d cut ties with out of fear. Some I’d cut ties with out of sheer boredom. Some I’d fucked out of spite, irritated with another boyfriend’s actions or with my dissatisfactions with myself. I would like to say that I’ve healed from my past misfortunes but that wouldn’t be truthful, either. I’m sure I will continue to cheat on my boyfriend as long as I am warm-blooded woman, hallucinating about other men I find sexually attractive as my lover rides me like a horse.
As you can see, I am not a credit to my race.
We are all literary playgrounds, playgrounds for sexual experimentation. Subjectively, men are pawns in our intimate relations just like everyone else is. Just because this notion is not part of the master narrative in how our society depicts and discusses sexual activity, that doesn’t make it any less true.