But it seems that in 2016 it is something that we should all be reading about.
I want to preface this by saying that I started this piece before Mel released her YouTube video. What Mel has read about herself is horrifying and such a vivid picture of the current reality of being a woman online in 2016. I don’t know of one woman; myself included who has not had to deal with the deluge of comments that come with occupying any space online. The first time it happened to me I was devastated, consumed by this overwhelming grief- like cloud. It was isolating – everyone I tried to talk about it with told me to get over it, it’s only online. Confronting – those words are in your face and not things you hear in your normal day to day. Humiliating – other people are reading these things about me and I’ve got nothing that can stop them from believing every single one of them.
When I watched Mel’s video this morning I seriously considered deleting this piece, not because I think there is anything wrong with what I’ve written. I was just concerned that it would come across as another piece attacking Mel and her post. I’ve sat with this for a few hours weighing up my choices and decided that, while sticking to the overall premise of my piece, I will change the tone of it.
Mel more than likely will not read what I’ve written, and that’s okay. But someone who has something that she wants to say will. Someone who thinks, at best, that what she has to say couldn’t be important or at worst, who is afraid that the words she uses will become the next play thing for trolls. Please write it! Write the things that come to you, the things that you want said and heard. It’s tough and there is nothing you can do to stop those who choose to troll from doing what they do. But there will be someone, somewhere who will read what you have to say and it will be exactly what they needed to hear – just as so many women connected with what Mel had originally written.
I don’t usually pay attention to what goes viral. Sure some of it is funny and my teenager is always showing me the next must watch video. But when the post by Mel Watts; blogger at The Modern Mumma titled “Did we just have a quickie?” popped up for the fourth time in my Facebook feed I stopped and read it. I got a laugh and could sympathise with Mel about the perils of balancing motherhood with some sort of intimate relationship with your partner/spouse. I filed it the “remember to write something about motherhood and sex” and got on with everything else I needed to do for the day. But there was something that just kept coming back to me about her piece, specifically her line
“I’m not normally your day time quickie kinda person but today I thought the amount of effort he has put into every sexual advance it would just be plain mean of me.”
I was struck by this image of a woman who, after what seemed like days, of badgering and passive aggressive attempts at seduction, was motivated by obligation, guilt and the thought of being able to sleep “without dick jabbed in my back” was having, well pity sex with her husband.
We often think of pity sex as something that happens to younger men and teenagers. Those who are deemed of little sexual currency but who, for some reason outside of genuine sexual motivation, deserve to be fucked.
I’m not saying that this is the case with Mel, she writes her experience as something very different from what I’ve imagined. But it’s very hard for me to see this and not think about some of my first steps into sex as a teenager and young woman. Where I believed that if he (whoever he was) played this flirtation game or put time into me then I was somehow (I still don’t know why) I was obligated to have sex otherwise I’d be mean. I now see it for what it really was – sexual harassment and manipulation, but as a 19-year-old who thought she was in love for the first time, it seemed funny, cute, sexy even romantic!
What made me think about this part of my sexual history was the assumption that Mel’s husband brought into their sex life. That his arousal, his charm, his dad sex jokes were the only things necessary to have sex. There was nothing about her arousal, her sexual charm nor did she use any words – jokes or otherwise, to communicate her desire or intentions. In fact, she’s just the vessel that accepts all of this, addresses his sexual need and then goes on with her day grateful that his hardon won’t be pressed into her back that night.
Don’t get me wrong I love spontaneous sex with my husband. We both look for any excuse to connect on that sexual level, heck we’ve given our teenage daughter money to go clothes shopping just so we can have the house to ourselves. But it’s something that we both desire. Those quick found moments are something that satisfies the both of us equally.
But there are times where sex is the last thing that I have wanted, and sure, he will ask (we don’t do passive hinting here) but no is just as much an acceptable answer as yes please. Sex, regardless of our dynamic, is not for him, and I have no obligation to have sex with him in order to fend off cheesy dad jokes and his hardon. I won’t have pity sex with my husband!
Rape culture is rape culture. Please do not for a second think I am accusing this man of raping his wife. While the narrative created around this has got me thinking, this is nothing more than consensual sex. Those cultural messages of female availability rather than agency exist within our own intimate relationships, even in marriage.
Mutuality is not a constant and this has to change! Women, yes even us married ones, are entitled to genuine body and sexual autonomy and sexual pleasure free from obligation and coercion.
Wouldn’t it be great if one day soon, while I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed, drinking my morning coffee and I come across a viral post about a woman having a mutually desired and pleasurable quickie with her husband while to kids were sleeping and with the neighbours?