I find that the gym is a great place to think.
Perhaps it’s because I’m competitive – if I can’t run faster or longer than the sweaty guy two treadmills away, I could be more productive listening to podcasts, which were either recorded graduate-level critical theory lectures, or Dan Savage. That’s right, marathon runner, I’m just as awesome. I may have just fallen off the Stairmaster and given myself a horrible bruise while dropping both the f-bomb and my ipod, but I’m thinking really freaking hard!
The gym I went to in DC provided copies of popular women’s magazines, the Yale University Alumni Magazine, and the Sunday New York Times. Three days after attending my first entirely female play party in February, I picked up Cosmo at the gym, read it cover to cover while listening to Dan Savage’s podcast on the eliptical, and wrote the following in an email to Q, a friend and lover, upon arriving home:
… So I’m there, on the elliptical, listening to Dan Savage talk about cheating husbands, swingers, open marriages, and closeted gay men in Texas while thumbing through pages of cheese puffs, souffles made easy, the joys of the tunic, and really horrifically bad articles about sex, and thought ‘I am a nice girl. I am a nice girl, with a nice family, with a nice BA in English from a nice, wholesome woman’s college.’ I live with my 2 cats in a nice, wholesome DC neighborhood with aging hippies, lesbian haircuts, cute old houses, and vegetarian college students. And yet somehow in the midst of this, I could easily be classified as a sexual deviant.
Saturday was a wonderful experience, perhaps because it was one of the most sexually gratifying evenings I’ve ever had. I’ve mostly had vanilla relationships; the occasional dalliance in college, one serious relationship with kind of kinky sex that ended because of infidelity, the girlfriend I dated for 8 months but with only 3 orgasms total during sex, and a fling or two. Always with female bodied people, always with the idea that at some point in my life there would be a ring, a wedding, babies, and parenthood. It still might happen, but I’m not as attached to that idea as I was a week ago. Saturday was different, and it was truly the first time I’ve felt comfortable, accepted, attractive, and satisfied with what I was doing and with whom. Is it hedonism if my feminist sensibilities say it’s more than that?
It bothers me that somehow the most exquisite contentment and feelings of sexual safety are entangled with social taboo, and I do draw a deliberate distinction between what is regarded as taboo in our society and my own feelings surrounding the morality of sexual pleasure. At the moment, I’m talking about the former — the social taboo surrounding age difference, female masculinity, same sex relationships, women of size, consensual non-monogamy, kink, and the deliciously perverse symbiotic relationship of the exhibitionist and the voyeur.
Dan Savage gives advice to a closeted gay man in Texas who wants to date, to a man who wants to buy a woman’s dirty panties, to a woman whose open marriage caused problems once she slept with her neighbor, while I skim inane articles. Savage Love is labeled as “explicit” and Cosmo is being SO DARING talking about everything that could possibly happen before or after sex, as long as the two (only two) people involved are vanilla, heterosexual, monogamous, and privileged. And pretty much every bit of media to which I expose myself makes my own experiences seem that much more out of the ordinary.
Personally, my own Catholic guilt makes me feel dirty about what I like, but that’s without the media. The media (used here not in the Palin-esque way to describe a liberal conglomerate conspiring against Joe the Plumber, but in reference to the print and audio pieces mentioned previously) makes me truly question why we’re still so Victorian. So much repression, so much stigmatizing discourse in the name of purity to the extent that all we do is talk about sex. I pity these women, many of whom must be unsatisfied. I wish that at least once, everyone could experience what I did two nights ago, of wanting, being wanted, safety, and fulfillment.
I’m torn between being surprised by the possibility of being out of the ordinary, and sadness that I may be. How much safer I feel now, as a satisfied, happy “deviant.” How sad it is that I could ever be labeled as such.
I still agree with myself.