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Forget beauty standards, let’s talk sex standards

WORDS BY MARY MADIGAN

“I feel like these new sexual standards have been thrust upon me, and it’s my job to live up to them or be seen as boring or a ‘dud root’.”

There’s a constant conversation surrounding beauty standards but it’s rare we delve into sex standards. Yet in my experience, just like there are unrealistic beauty standards, the sex world is filled with unrealistic expectations. In my experience, men have new desires when it comes to sex. These days, it seems that many of them want to slap and choke you and call you mean names during intercourse and frankly it just feels like another standard I can’t live up to.

I’m not prepared to live out men’s porn fantasies, just for their pleasure (and while forgoing my own), just like I’m not willing to lose weight and starve myself in order to be considered conventionally attractive.  Still, sometimes it leaves me feeling like I’m not living up to expectations. I want to be seen as sexy, cool, and up for anything, but the reality is being up for anything is quite confronting, particularly when a man wants to call me a ‘slut’.


For more sex-related stories, head to our Life section.


Of course, before anyone gets upset with me, this isn’t all men, but you only need to download a dating app to realise there are a lot of them. It’s kind of like how not all men expect women to be hairless but enough of them do, so it’s easy to become self-conscious about it. Not all men have to do something for it to be an issue. 

The expectations around sex have changed, and now men seem to assume that women will be up for anything. Maybe it’s because of the popularity of online porn, books like Fifty Shades of Grey or the sexual choking memes that go viral from time to time, but suddenly it’s assumed that if you’re a woman, you are into rougher sex.

Obviously, some women are into rougher sex, and that is fabulous! Go for it. But what happens to the rest of us? When I’ve experienced it, it’s left me feeling not good enough. I feel like these new sexual standards have been thrust upon me, and it’s my job to live up to them or be seen as boring or a ‘dud root’ (a phrase I’ve heard so many men say about women they’ve slept with). 

This isn’t based on insecurities; I’m not sitting around watching graphic sex scenes from Game of Thrones and feeling dull. It’s based on my experiences. I slept with a guy once who told me I needed to be more, “adventurous!”. He really meant I needed to be more prepared to lay there while he did whatever he wanted. And yes, ultimately, I told him I wasn’t interested and broke things off, after he was offended by my boundaries. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was a failure. 

It’s an interesting feeling because it’s a feeling I can only equate to how I feel when I’m feeling sad that my body isn’t quite up to the beauty standard. It’s the sort of sadness that I know is based on a lie I’m being sold, but it leaves me feeling upset that my stomach isn’t flat or that my thighs jiggle. 

I know I’m not alone in this because whenever I speak to other women, they always have similar stories. In this hyper-sexualised world, we are all worried we are falling short. ‘Am I enough?’ is the question we are all constantly asking ourselves. 

Many of us are struggling in our relationships with men because they’re demanding more from us sexually. Similarly, many of us are struggling to feel happy with our appearance living in a society that’s telling us we need to wear tighter clothes or lose weight or be curvier or be quieter. These men – and porn – are telling us we need to want to be slapped, choked or name called, and it’s a lot to deal with.  

I don’t have the answers to these dilemmas; wanting to be good at sex is like wanting to be considered pretty. It’s something you want for the affirmation, but once you separate it from that you can ask yourself more critical questions, like ‘Do I feel pretty?’, ‘Am I enjoying the sex I am having?’, and those are the answers that really matter. 

There’s always going to be a new sex trend, just like there’s always going to be a new body shape that’s seen as the ideal. You can’t control that. So how do we cope with all these standards? Well, there’s no easy answer. The only remedy I’ve found is that with age, you become more confident in who you are and you are less likely to let other people’s opinions and expectations define you. Oh, and lots of therapy always helps.

For more on the rise of rough sex, try this.

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