Heterosexual sex has a patriarchy problem. I’m not talking about sexual violence or rape culture here, although those are inherently related issues. I’m talking about how heterosexual sex by default occurs along a basically patriarchal narrative- even when consensual- even when negotiated- even when it is “good” for everyone involved.
When we begin to question what we have previously known to be true, we can either expand on the existing framework, or we can dismantle and rebuild a new framework entirely. If we truly want to shift the status quo, we must realize that adding more pieces to an already existing puzzle is not actually creating a new picture. It might be more complicated, but it still perpetuates the same overall pattern.
Taking the same narrative of patriarchal norms in sex and adding to it, or switching it around, does not make it revolutionary. Performing a lot of cunnilingus before having penis-in-vagina intercourse does not make is feminist. Men who make their female partner orgasm once or twice before they stick their dick in does not automatically make them sexual revolutionaries. Adding more plot twists onto the same old story is not a meaningful method of deconstruction.
Many men trying to unlearn patriarchal socialization have recognized that sex has been to taught to them as an act of conquest and domination. It was not presented to them as a mutual act in which all parties engage enthusiastically, rather they were taught that it is a tool for asserting power over another. This is deeply ingrained for many men, and often a long, difficult process to unlearn. And the reality is, it’s easier to expand on a schema that has been programmed into our brains as “normal”, then to totally dismantle it and rebuild a new schema.
So we have gotten a lot of “feminist” men having “feminist sex”- which often looks like men being engaged in consent culture, men being attentive to women’s pleasure, men letting women orgasm first, and increased amounts of time for foreplay before penises get inserted into vaginas, etc. These are all great starting points- but it does not actually change the status quo. It does not pull the problem out from the roots- it is simply trimming the most problematic parts around the top.
So what would it look like to actually get rid of the path we have all been conditioned into accepting, and re write a totally new one?
Imagine sex with no set script. Imagine sex with no end goal. Imagine sex which was based purely on profound pleasure, which had no preoccupation with performance, which had no need for feelings of “achievement”. Imagine sex that was fluid, that was endlessly experimental, that was based purely on in-the-moment desires and negotiations.
Because the reality is, not only would this revolutionize cisgender, heterosexual sex, but it would shift the nature of all types of queer sex as well. We are so conditioned to see sex as perfomance, as conquest, as a standardized list we can check off from lest we be seen as “weird”, lest we do anything “unexpected”. Although this conditioning affects cisgender men the most severely, we all suffer from the same programming. And all sex could be radically shifted if we let go of these norms.
Sex doesn’t have to be “A, B, then C”. It doesn’t have to be “step 1, step 2, step 3”. What might happen if we throw out the standard? It’s hard to do- it’s a continuous journey towards unlearning and relearning. It can be so easy to find ourselves falling back into the patterns we have been habituated to. But how fulfilling it could be to step back from the things we assume and write our own sexual stories- whatever they might look like.