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The Myth of the “Nice Girl” & Women’s Sexuality

Cathy Reed lives in Bali and will be offering dance workshops that let women explore self-acceptance and their sexuality through dance. You can find out more about her offering on her facebook page Her.Barenaked.Soul

To All My Wild Ones: This is for You.

Last night I downloaded the book, Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies by Nancy Friday.

I was looking for some fun smut, but after only a few minutes of reading, I was absolutely floored to find that the entire forward was about the influence that our mothers have on shaping women’s sexuality. It shared that within the mother-daughter relationship, we as women learn from, and merge with, not only our mother’s conditioned response to her own sexuality but also with the patriarchal beliefs that surround women’s sexuality in society:

  • Keep your legs closed.
  • Nice girls don’t have sex with whomever they choose, when they want, how they want.
  • Nice girls wait for marriage.
  • Nice girls don’t put out.

Nice girls…blah blah blah.

I had been questioning this exact paradigm just days before as I reflected on the strange feeling I get when I’m in a group of women. It’s the feeling that my teeth are just a bit longer, my claws a bit sharper—and there’s that insatiable urge to hunt that I’ve always stuffed into a pair of pantyhose and masked behind a placid smile. I’ve always had the unsettling feeling I have to hide something ferocious about myself when in the company of other women in order to be accepted.

It was an eye-opening moment. I guess you don’t throw a question out to the universe and not expect an answer. But the response was unreal quick.

women's sexuality

The Paradigm of Patriarchy and Religion & Women’s Sexuality

Missing Pieces

It turns out I’m not one bit ferocious, and my teeth are the same as every other girls’ who I went to Sunday school with and sat next to in high school. And, they are the same as every other woman alive! The only difference is that the paradigm of patriarchy and religion that I was raised with belonged to my adoptive family. They were not mine and when I tried to wear them as though they were, they fit like a jacket that was so small that it restricted and confined me until I had to take it off.

My view of my sexuality was born from the unique way the chess pieces of my life were set from the beginning. Without my mother, I was without a “queen” in my life to impress upon me the rules of women’s sexuality. So I became my own queen. Free to move in any direction I so desired. And I certainly did.

My adopted mother (and sometimes female friends) often confronted me with the patriarchal and religious doctrine that had failed to concretely set inside me. It was served up with a lot of screaming and crying and,‘how could you(s)!’directed at my amoral and unladylike behavior. (Especially after my adopted mother read my diary which included an actual chart detailing the sexual rankings of the boys I biblically knew instead of which wedding dress I desperately hoped to wear someday. I faked like I was sorry.)

Regardless, I wanted to be accepted by my adopted mother and by other women. I didn’t want to be the odd one out. But, no matter how hard I tried to gulp down the juice of guilt and shame, it kept coming back up.

I wasn’t sorry.

Maybe a little scared and lonely, and in need of healthy guidance. But was I sorry? No. That had to be manufactured.

The Earliest Permissions of Sexual Expression: Boys vs. Girls

Not having merged my identity (and therefore my beliefs) with my adopted mother, my system reset itself to its natural stasis of being a fully sexual young woman who was exploring and trying to figure out (sometimes quite messily) what that looked like to me.

What I needed was guidance, not judgment. And, I’m quite sure my older brother’s sexuality wasn’t as much of concern because it didn’t cause the uproar mine did. But, I saw no difference between his sexuality and my own. Deep down I recognized the dichotomy in both my adopted parents’ and society’s responses to men and women’s sexuality.

It was especially frustrating at home, growing up with a brother close in age. Why wasn’t his virginity a big fucking deal? Just thinking about it, my jaw sets little tighter. I still feel the slight, as though I am seeing my sibling get more than his fair share of ice cream. (Our adopted mom literally had to buy a little food scale to prove we were getting equal shares, so bad was our rivalry!)

But nothing is as it seems. And the rabid sibling rivalry I had with my brother somehow set a precedent and became a beautiful gift for me to unwrap later in life when I was ready to own and admit what I already knew deep down: I deserve equal respect in every way, including my sexuality. Not just with the damn ice cream, or taking turns with who gets to ride shotgun up front with mom.

Who knew a budding feminist was being raised in a conservative, Christian home? Oh God, you are hilarious! Such a jokester.

Fairness was and still is of the utmost importance to me. I wanted the same freedom my brother had. So when puberty firmly planted curves in my body, I simply could not understand why my parents (and society) put caution tape around my private parts but not his. It was total bullshit.

Even though my sexuality was not “given permission” to be expressed before marriage—or even offered a blind eye the way my brother’s sexuality was—I stealthily took it anyway. But always under the cover of darkness. As if I had something bad, wrong, and oh-so-naughty to hide.

I had gloriously failed to unconsciously merge with my adopted mother’s patriarchal, sexual ideals. And somehow this strange arrangement of fate

set. me. free.

So I roamed outside the normal confines of the religious and patriarchal standard of accepted female sexual behavior.  

Women's sexuality

A Reclamation: Rediscovering My Wild One

Now I understand.

Balanced with my own sorrow, and at times belligerent self-pity for being without my “real” mother, is a gift of awesome proportion. The freedom society usually reserves for males is mine for the taking.

If I can, like a child, release the howling sorrow that sleeps uneasily inside me…If I can allow myself to set free the immense loss and grief of losing my own mother by expressing it fully, letting it roar through my entire body so I can finally let it go; I can lick my wounds and jump right back onto the merry go round of life. Bringing with me, of course, my own unique perspective on “fair play” to share.

All my life—all these years—the poetry, prose, musings, the vivid dreams I’ve had; they have all been evidence of a most beautiful healing process. And, I have finally decided to allow myself, with the help of a wonderful Sha-woman, to release a huge chunk of the sorrow that plagued me my entire life.

The little girl inside of me is no longer looking through the window at all the other kids playing nicely. I’m now playing too. Albeit a little wilder, and maybe with more passion and freedom, but I’m not hiding or pretending to be sorry for jack shit anymore.

And with all the grand possibilities life has before us all at each and every given moment, it’s so good to be back.


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