On Penetration

I kind of squealed when I read Max Levant’s article, “How I Learned to Get Pegged and Like It,” on Jezebel. I have to admit, I went into it with low expectations. The title seemed to connote the idea that this was some “dude, brah” fist-pumping type who was absolutely amazed that something so “homo” could be enjoyable, and I fully expected to write an angry diatribe about it after reading. Instead, I got this: “I never realized the incredible amount of bravery it takes to let someone inside you. It’s asking someone to stab you in the back, but lovingly. Masculine courage is throwing yourself headfirst into danger, like jumping out of a plane, but feminine courage is letting danger throw itself headfirst into YOU. It’s even more badass.”

Aside from some problematic assumptions about what constitutes “masculine” vs “feminine” strength, and a comment about how he sees older women as “retired” generals (what, they have to stop being actively brave in bed when they get older?), Max’s sentiments made me sigh and go, “Thank GOD someone else sees this!” It’s a very simple idea, so basic that I haven’t even bothered writing it down before because it seems inevitable that some feminist writer already wrote The Book on the topic. But it’s worth mentioning now that someone else has reminded me about it.

I mean, look, we’re a little past the “men are strong and women are weak” days, but when it comes to overwhelming generalizations about female vs. male and penetratee vs. penetrator sexuality, there’s still a trend toward the idea that as the receivers, penetratees are the passive ones. The meeker ones. Given that penetratees are overwhelmingly women, it’s safe to say that this has expanded into an idea about women being the weaker ones. And, though there are too many examples of how women don’t really deserve that classification much of the time, the idea is still out there, informing many about how women “are” about sex. After all, the logic might go, penetrating someone is a masculine tendency: the desire to push oneself into another person is a mark of power. The ability to passively receive makes women the less active, the less powerful sex. And there’s a certain weird truth in that: the penetrating man is the “adventurer,” seeking out new territory. He’s the British Empire of the sex world, whereas the woman (or, duh, anyone else who’s penetrated) is the pillaged New World. Or something. But enough trying to explain a reasoning process I don’t fully understand. Because I don’t get it.

And I don’t get it because it makes sense to me to appreciate the power inherent in penetration, but to equally value the strength it takes to open oneself up to being penetrated. As Max said, it takes courage. And to those who have never been penetrated (except of course in prostate exams) sometimes I’m afraid it seems like the easiest thing in the world. Of course, anal sex, which Max is talking about, does take a measure more courage for most; it is, in reality, an “out” hole that the body has to be coaxed into relaxing enough to become an “in” hole, and that’s a very conscious battle one must pit between mind and sphincter. Vaginal penetration is a more natural bodily function, one that, for most women, doesn’t require as much concentration or determination. But at the same time, especially for the many of us who have undergone sexual trauma, letting someone into either hole can be difficult, even terrifying. Not only must one be prepared to get close to someone on an emotional level, but one must actually open one’s body to another human being. Our most private parts. Our most vulnerable, pink, tender, squishy parts. The ones that are so easily hurt, so often abused, so sadly un-understood by so many. And not only must the penetratee open up, but he/she must also expand inside. Make room for not just him/herself, but for another person’s body. Another person’s penetration. Expand, grow, accommodate to become not just one body, but two. Sex does bring people together on many levels for both partners, but the one being penetrated is literally making this combination of two in one happen in his or her own body. In the dark, secret places inside us. And that takes, well… balls. Heh. Women have balls. Hehehe…

And… it appears that little middle-school level joke is the end of my brains ability to make anything like a decent point, so, it’s also the end of that little tirade. But hey, worth thinking about, no?

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