The Myth Of The Sex-Crazy Nympho Dream Girl

There's this cultural image of what it means to be female, and good in bed. The image includes a lot of behavioral stuff: the way you squirm, the way you moan, being Super Excited about everything the guy wants to do, and Always Being Up for It — whatever "It" is. When people think about "good in bed," for a woman, that's often what they think.

This image also includes being young and thin and cisgendered of course, and that can be problematic.

Here's a short list of some things I think are totally awesome:

  • Squirming and moaning during sex in a genuine way, out of genuine pleasure!
  • Acting Super Excited when your partner wants to do something you're actually Super Excited about!
  • Being up for sexual experimentation and trying new things, while keeping track of your boundaries and saying no (or calling your safe word) to sexual things you really don't like!

Those things are great. They're great when they happen in all kinds of sex, and I have no problem with how people experience or deal with with those things — whether people get them from vanilla or S&M sex, or porn, or sex with multiple people, or queer sex, or whatever. All consensual sex is fine with me. (In particular, in pieces like the one you're about to read, I often have to make it really clear that I'm not anti-porn. OK? I'm not anti-porn. Got that? Say it with me now: Clarisse Thorn is not anti-porn. Yay, it rhymes!)

What scares me, however — what continuously gets my goat, what still occasionally makes me feel weird about sex — is how easy it is to perform those three things I listed above. Because I have always, since before I even started having sex, known exactly what I was supposed to look like while I had sex. I don't even know how I internalized those images: some of them through porn, I suppose, or art or erotica or what have you; some of them by reading sex tips on the Internet or hearing the ones whispered to me by friends. But I can definitely assure you that before I had any actual sexual partners, I knew how to give a good blowjob. I also knew how to tilt my head back and moan, and I knew how to twist my body, and I knew what my reactions and expressions were supposed to look and sound like — I knew all those things much better than I knew what would make me react.

There was a while there, where my sexuality was mostly performance: an image, an act, a shell that I created because I knew it was hot for my partners. I'm not saying I was performing 100 percent of the time — but certainly, when I was just starting to have sex, that's mostly what it was. And, scarily, I can put the shell back on at any time. Sometimes it's hard to resist, because I know men will reward me for it, emotionally, with affection and praise. It's much, much more difficult to get what I actually want out of a sexual interaction than it is for me to create that sexy dreamgirl shell: hard for me to communicate my desires, hard for me to know what I'm thinking, hard for me to set boundaries.

And hard to believe that a guy will like me as much, if I try to be honest about what I want. Honesty means that sometimes I'm confused, and sometimes we have to Talk About It; honesty means that sometimes I say no, it means that sometimes I'm not Up for It. Something in me is always asking: Surely he'd prefer the sexy, fake, plastic dreamgirl shell? It's not true, I know it's not true, I swear it's not true — I don't have such a low opinion of men as that. I know this is just a stereotype, the idea that men are emotionally stunted horndogs with no interest in how their partners feel.

So sometimes, I have to fight myself not to perform. But it's worth it — because the hardest thing of all is feeling locked into an inauthentic sexuality. I tell myself, I try to force myself to believe it: even if a guy would like me more for faking and holding back and being so-called "low-maintenance" — I tell myself it's a stereotype, but even if that stereotype is true of some men — no man is worth doing that to myself. No man is worth that trapped, false, sick feeling.

***

Being a sex and S&M writer sometimes increases my performance anxiety. Occasionally I'll meet guys who seem to think I am equipped to give any man the Night of His Life-and that this is my goal at all times. Sometimes I feel like I should grab certain guys by the shoulders and shake them and say, "I am not your sex-crazy nympho dreamgirl! I'm a real person and I have real preferences, I do not exist just as your fantasy fodder!" But if I really like a guy and he's read some of my work, then I feel less irritation than concern that I won't stack up. It increases the urge to go all Sexy Dreamgirl Shell, rather than attempting to communicate.

Being a sex-positive feminist, I also sometimes worry that other women will read my work and it will increase their performance anxiety. I worry that writing about some stuff I like will be misinterpreted — that it will lead other women to feel like, gosh, is this something liberated sex-positive women do? Is this something I "should" be doing? With some things I write, I get afraid that I've contributed to a nightmare world where women are "liberated" only in the sense that we can better perform for men.

I once read a blog post by a radical feminist writer in which she claimed that women always hate fellatio because it's always degrading and disgusting. She wrote something along the lines of, "I say this for the women and girls who believe that they have to do it." Part of me felt frustrated by the way she refused to acknowledge that some women really do like performing fellatio (and many other women don't love it, but don't mind doing it as long as they have great sex otherwise). In some ways, it felt like that writer was policing sexuality. But I empathized with her goal: She wanted women who don't like fellatio to relax; she wanted to help them recognize what they don't like. She wanted to decrease their performance anxiety.

I'd like to do the same thing, but I generally prefer to speak from personal experience rather than making claims about others' experience. Accordingly, I've often thought that it would be great if more sex-positive feminists would make lists of Things We, Personally, Don't Like. It's not the easiest project to sell, because one of the big goals of being sex-positive is to destigmatize sexuality and decrease shame. But if we destigmatize sexuality without encouraging good boundaries, then we're not moving forward; we're just creating more bad standards.

So hey, here's an example of a common sexual thing that I don't like: swallowing after giving oral sex. I love fellatio most of the time, and I like it when partners come in my mouth, but I really hate swallowing. In the past I've found a variety of creative ways to deal with this problem, some of which were hot (according to me, anyway) — but usually I just spit it out in the closest sink.

A more complicated example would be facials. As a sex-crazy nympho dreamgirl, I am supposed to love all facials all the time, to which I say: Bah. I'm occasionally into degradation scenes, and facials feel really degrading to me, so there are circumstances in which a guy can come on my face and it'll be hot — but those circumstances are rare. I've got to really respect him and really trust him, and I've got to be really turned on and excited about whatever scene we're playing out. And if a guy were to give me a facial without clearing it with me at some point ahead of time? Serious boundary violation. Not cool.

Have I destroyed your image of me as your sex-crazy nympho dreamgirl? Good.

I think that people of all genders receive a lot of unconscious training about how we can damage ourselves in exchange for the attention of the opposite sex. By writing about my own experience, I don't mean to discount the experiences of others. I get that many guys feel locked into acting confident and dominant, and that lots of guys hate that role as much as I hate my Sexy Dreamgirl Shell. I get that many women genuinely enjoy reclaiming the Sexy Dreamgirl image, and making it their own; hell, I do it myself sometimes. (Yes, I do it myself sometimes. Sex is complicated.)

People of all genders have a hard time figuring out what turns them on. Authenticity is hard — and sexual authenticity gets harder when you're feeling low, or you really like someone and really want him or her to like you, or when you feel bombarded with messages about how you've got to "compete" in a harsh sexual "marketplace." I believe that one of the best ways to authenticity is to seek understanding of the pressures on everyone, and to grasp that everyone's got their own nightmare of the Sexy Dreamgirl Shell.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project. Republished with permission.

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More from the Good Men Project:

The Dan Savage Interview
Male Self-Pleasure Myths
What Women Don't Tell You
10 Secrets to Satisfying Sex
A Billion Wicked Assumptions
Why I Hate My Giant Dong
Does Size Matter?
Multiple Inches Of Love
Do Gay Men Fear Intimacy?
Mythbusting Bisexual Men

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