Nov 2 • 13M

#25: Authenticity Arena – No. 10

‘L’, 29, pansexual, white British, woman (cis), partnered, Glasgow

 
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Privilege. Proximity. Parity.
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[Image description: Text: ‘Authenticity Arena No. 10’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]

Almaz note: Please do listen to the audio extract, while simultaneously following the text transcription, as it makes for a richer experience.

The audio recording (above) and transcript (below) are 13 minutes from a 50-minute chat I had with ‘L’, who’s a pansexual, white British woman (cis), who, at the time of interview in June 2022 was 29, partnered, and living in Glasgow.

‘L’ and I talked about just how ubiquitous misogyny is in mainstream cultures; from the behavior of upper-middle-class males peer a university to the marketing of female pop singers. The extract I’m sharing picks up a thread where ‘L’ describes some of the feelings she had when she developed an unexpected crush on an older girl and the dynamics at play in her formative sexual experiences.

Almaz – 15:21mins

Right, okay. Let’s move on to question 14: “Is there anything you can remember that sparked your sexual, slash, intimate desires?” And you put: “an older teenage girl at a campsite.” Would you be able to describe to me a bit more about that and how it made you feel?

‘L’ – 15:41mins
Yeah, so I think it was the first time I felt, like, a full body infatuation, d’you know what I mean? Like, because at primary school, some kids would, like, form little couples as kids and I was always just like, “Ew, eugghh,” I’ve never had the feeling… I’d never had the inclination really.

Yeah, I remember seeing, like, an older girl at a campsite and just having this, like, overwhelming… and my whole body was like pffhfff with a really strong pull. I had no understanding of what that meant. And I don’t think I realised that… Like, I genuinely don’t think I realised that girls could be attracted to girls in a way that was real.

Almaz – 16:29mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 16:29mins
I think I thought it was, like, a ‘fake’ feeling.

Almaz – 16:31mins
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

‘L’ – 16:22mins
Do you know what I mean? So I was, like, I treated as in, like, “whuu”, It’s like having a nightmare. As in like, “whuu, that was weird.” Ha. Y’know?

Almaz – 16:41mins
Yeah. Yeah.

‘L’ – 16:42mins
“Let’s put that away.” But that was my first ever feeling, like, full, kind of… And I remember being like, “Oh, I feel I want to touch this person.”

Almaz – 16:54mins
Mmmm.

‘L’ – 16:54mins
You know, I actually want to, like, get up in their, y’know, general body. And I’d never ever had that feeling before.

Almaz – 17:03mins
Yeah, yeah. And did you share those thoughts or feelings with any peers or anything? Or was that just something you kept to yourself?

‘L’ – 17:10mins
No way! No, that was shared with nobody. And I still, you know, I still find it difficult to say. ‘Cause I think there’s a lot….

I think there’s a lot of internalised… I don’t even know what the word for it is, but I think I’ve still got some work to do to recognise that my attraction to women is just as valid as my attraction to other people. Because there’s so much internalised and discrediting and repressing of that.

So, it’s not something that I shared with anyone at the time. And I don’t think I’ve really… I don’t think I’ve shared it, generally. Maybe to two people in my life that that was my first feeling of attraction; serious attraction.

Almaz – 17:59mins
Yeah.  And have you had that similar feeling towards boys as well?

‘L’ – 18:04mins
Er, no. No, never. And I did go on to, you know, I have had, like, many lovely relations with men, cis men. And, you know, yeah. So that did go on to happen, but, yeah.

Almaz – 18:26mins
And was there a difference in the feelings that you had in your body, when you then started to fancy boys in that way?

‘L’ –  18:38mins
Oh, that’s such a good question! I think that the feeling when I was attracted to boys, was genuine.

Almaz – 18:56mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 18:56mins
And, you know, could equally be quite overwhelming. But I could also, in my head, imagine where the feeling was going to go. Because, you know, you’ve seen it and you understand what it’s supposed to look like…

Almaz – 19:08mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 19:08mins
… you understand what a kiss should be like and, like, you kind of get what sex is like. And you’ve had all this… Like, understand there’s a penis and a vagina; one goes in the other. So there was feeling, but then there was, like, a little roadmap in my mind of, like, this might be what happens next.

Almaz – 19:22mins
Yeah.

‘L’– 19:22mins
Whereas with girls, there was the feeling and then it was, like, who knows? Y’know?

Almaz – 19:30mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 19:30mins
So that’s maybe the main difference. Obviously, I think, like, now in retrospect, I think that those models that we’re given for what, like, affection and sex should be like with men, aren’t actually representative of desire. So they can be quite numbing and paralysing.

Almaz – 19:52mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 19:52mins
But at the time, when you were, like, a teenage girl, you don’t know that.

Almaz – 19:56mins
Yeah. Yeah, I’m doing lots of writing and thinking about sexual scripts. And the social scripts that we’re taught that we should follow to have a pleasurable experience. And if it doesn't follow X, Y and Z steps, then it’s invalid.

‘L’ – 20:20mins
Yes, yeah.

Almaz – 20:21mins
I think it’s really interesting how pervasive all of these scripts are [scoffs].

‘L’ – 20:32mins
Yeah, hugely, like, hugely so. And it’s something that, like, I have, like I have quite… I’m quite angry about, like, how much really toxic sexual scripts were fed to, particularly, like, my age group, by pop. Like, I think pop was toxic as fuck.

And this is not a very, like, popular take, d’you know what I mean, like? Because I know there’s now this culture of being like, “Wooo!” like, celebrating particularly that female pop icons from that era.

Obviously, it’s not their fault, but as, like, a kid I would, like, obsessively process the, kind of, sexual scripts I was given by pop music, particularly. And the main lessons that I learned from them was, like, you have to look a certain way and you’re passive. If you can be, like, consumed by men or appreciated by men, you’ll, kind of, be alright. Like, you'll be safe. Which is so fucked up [scoffs]. That’s really fucked up.

So I think, like, we don’t talk enough about how, like, disgusting the sexual scripts were that we were getting from the music we were listening to, to be honest. It doesn’t quite go with the, like, “Woo”, you know, “let’s celebrate up pop artists, like, the two things are a bit in conflict.

Almaz – 22:00mins
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. One of the chapters in the book is going to be called… Well, working title, ‘The Music Video as a Vehicle of Sexual Desire’.

‘L’ – 22:15mins
Wow, great, right.

Almaz – 22:16mins
Music videos are soooo influential to, especially our millennial generation, of what to look like, how to behave, and how to move your body…

‘L’ – 22:28mins
Yes!

Almaz – 22:28mins
… in space where you think there are going to be guys. And things like that.

‘L’ – 22:36mins
Yeah, no, it’s quite… like I remember. We used to do crazy things. Like, when we were 15,16. We would go out, try and get into nightclubs. And try and make ourselves available for men who were, like, in their 20s, early 30s. And all sorts of, you know, outcomes unfolded from that many of which were not the best. But that was, like, me doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. You know. And that was it. It was as simple as that. I was like “no, this is what we do” [laughs].

Almaz – 23:15mins
Yeah, yeah. Yeah: “This is what we do.”

[both chuckle]

Absolutely. Okay, so, “How old were you when you first had sex with someone for the first time?” You’ve put 16. The circumstances of that? Did you feel like you had agency in the situation, and it was the choice of both of you? Or did you feel like it was a societal pressure to do the sex?

‘L’ – 23:50mins
So there’s, kind of, like, there’s the honest answer to this. Then there’s the edit answer…

Almaz – 23:56mins
Mmm-mm.

‘L’ – 23:56mins
… which I don’t always share. But the honest answer is the first time I had sex I was 16. And it was with a man who was probably his 30s. And I was probably too drunk to string a sentence together. Erm, so I wouldn’t describe that as consensual, you know, agency-filled, sex. That being said, and this is the nuance of it, I do remember in that sexual encounter, being very passive up to a point when he asked me to do something and I didn’t want to, I didn’t.

Almaz – 24:32mins
Mmm.

‘L’ – 24:32mins
And then it ended. So in a very, like, messed-up sexual encounter, I do remember actually having a moment where I do feel I did exercise a small bit of agency. And I think that's why it’s not as traumatic as it could have been.

Almaz – 24:49mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 24:49mins
But no, that was definitely me going along with something because I thought… the societal pressure. I remember there was this, like, terrible idea that if you hadn’t had sex, by time, you were like, 17, 18, there was something really wrong with you.

Almaz – 25:07mins
Yeah.

‘L’ – 25:07mins
So yeah, I think I was like, “Oof, I’ve gotta get this done. Let’s just get this done.”

Almaz – 25:14mins
Yeah, yeah. And then was that someone that you were seeing… that you saw a couple of times, or it was a one-time thing?

‘L’ – 25:21mins
No, just a one-time thing. And then, thankfully, I was quite lucky, really, that the first relationship I had was with, like, a really caring, you know, we were teenagers, young adults, I guess, but very caring. Like, and so the first time that we had sex, I didn’t feel at all pressured. He, you know, he was incredibly gentle. And I had no idea what to do with my body. And I thought I just had to, like, lay there completely still. Like had no idea you could, like, move around.

Almaz – 25:54mins
That’s really, really, really interesting! So okay, let’s get into this. So at that time, had you seen various sex scenes in TV and film? Or not really?

‘L’ –  25:54mins
In film? Definitely. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The classic, kind of, like… I used to watch a lot of action movies and Westerns and that kind of thing. And it’s always the same. It’s a guy hitches a woman’s dress up. Has her against the wall. It’s over like that.

Almaz – 26:25mins
Oh yeah!

‘L’ – 26:26mins
She doesn’t really move that much…

Almaz – 26:27mins
Oh yeah!

‘L’ – 26:27mins
… arms around the back of his head.

Almaz – 26:28mins
Oh yeah!

‘L’ – 26:28mins
I honestly had no idea that I could, like, be seriously moving my limbs and actually, like, doing stuff.

Almaz – 26:38mins
Yeah!

‘L’ – 26:38mins
And they get the guy that I was with at the time was like, “Are you okay? Because you just… you’re, kind of, very still.” And I was like “No, no. I was having a great time. Like can I…  do you want me to move more?” He was like, “Yeah, you can if you want!” [laughs]

Almaz – 26:56mins
That’s really interesting because… so I’m just trying to remember… so I don’t think I’ve actually seen any full Westerns. But I had started seeing sex scenes in film and TV from, like, seven. I’m trying to think… Like ‘Titanic’ and, like, I don’t even know what I was watching but, yeah, lots of romcoms. And in romcoms, like, the women, kind of, move around. I mean, it’s still very according to a specific script.

‘L’ – 27:35mins
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Almaz – 27:37mins
But women weren’t passive in that kind of way. So it had never occurred to me to be still!

[both laugh]

[CONVERATION CONTINUES FOR ANOTHER 20 MINUTES]

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I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative CopywriterFreelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
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This content is free, but it takes time to create and upload each piece. If you enjoy this project would like to support it, please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’.

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