It might seem like the idea of women enjoying, demanding and taking the lead in sex is hardly a revolutionary concept in 2017, but it could be argued that the advent of online pornography has turned back the clock on the sexual revolution, at least from a feminist perspective.
Sexual empowerment and feminism remain closely linked in a world in which women are expected to perform sexually but not necessarily to make their own demands. The idea of the personal space as political remains deeply relevant while we still battle to extend the popular understanding of rape beyond the mythical shadowy stranger in a dark alleyway, despite the fact that over 90% of victims already know their rapists.
As we debate consent and contend with the deliberately obtuse who suggest it is unfair to expect a man to explain how he knew a woman consented, the notion of consensual, empowered female pleasure is one we need to shout about.
The reclamation of sexual control is complex, particularly in light of the centuries-old exotification and colonisation of the bodies of women of colour, the erasure of sexual orientations and gender identities that fall outside the heteronormative, gender essentialist mainstream, and the prejudice and violence faced by sex workers and trans women.
What feels like sexual empowerment to one woman doesn’t necessarily look the same to another. For example, the idea of a woman instructing a partner in the specifics of how to turn her on might feel different for women who are already battling sexual stereotypes associated with their race, profession, sexuality or gender identity. But it is important that spaces are opening up for women to speak out in their own words, publicly (and sometimes anonymously), about what was once considered stigmatised and taboo.
We still desperately need to shout about the importance of female pleasure and sexual agency in a world where our hyper-sexualised media equates ‘sexy’ with one young, thin, white, large-breasted, long-legged, submissive, heterosexual stereotype.
For some women, taking back the narrative of sex is a crucial part of regaining control.
We live in a world in which the ubiquity of the male gaze constantly packages women for sexualised consumption, yet the notion of women enjoying their own sexuality remains startling to some. The victim-blaming responses to some of the hacked nude photographs of celebrities demonstrated the extent to which our society is still unwilling to allow women sexual agency, even as it projects acceptable ‘sexiness’ on to them.
The fact that so many women have disclosed their sexual desires to various apps doesn’t necessarily mean that they feel similarly confident relaying them to their sexual partners – in fact, their reported dissatisfaction might suggest otherwise.
In the age of online porn, which shows women going from 0 to panting with next to no foreplay and having suspiciously regular screaming simultaneous orgasms with very little apparent effort from their partners, for women to share their stories about sex and climax isn’t just powerful. It’s a public service.