There are many things that spring to mind when I think of the generational gap between myself and my mother, but the most prominent one is our candour and openness in conversations about bodies and sex. I remember being coming home from school when I was 12 years old and telling her that all my friends had started shaving their legs and wearing padded bras and that I definitely should have been too and she was shocked. Shocked that young and impressionable girls were discussing such personal and intimate things, and stated that she had never had such conversations with any of her girlfriends. Of course we talk to each other a lot about periods and minor body issues and I know I can happily talk to her if I ever had an issue, but it’s not something we often discuss and compare.
As I have grown up however, I have seen remarkable likenesses between my group of friends and the girls from Sex and the City, and it has never been something any of us ever considered a problem. Last week I met up with an old school friend for dinner, we went to Wagamamas and spent a wonderful couple of hours catching up on work and family life and discussing our steadfast feminist views, before we inevitably moved on to the subject of sex. We have known each other for over half our lives, we grew up together, we were there when the other experienced their first (and second and third and fourth) heartbreaks. We told each other in gleefully hushed tones when we had first started our periods and discussed them at length, feeling as though were part of a special, exciting Women’s Club that men just didn’t understand. We knew all about each other’s breast pains as they grew, weird body hairs (pubes, especially) and liquids of varying consistencies coming from our vaginas. We grew up comparing the pros and cons of pads vs. tampons and, even from such a young age, experiencing our initial encounters of sexual harassment; boys in our class asking if the “carpets matched the drapes” when we were too young to even have a carpet. Boys flicking up our skirts as we walked down the school corridors and attempting to undo our prepubescent bras as we queued to go into a classroom. We grew up pretending that we did not fart or smell and that female masturbation was a myth and not something we would admit to even our closest friends until years later. We spent our teenage years defending our delicate and fragile natures and allowing our self worth to be defined by the way boys saw us and if they found us as unattractive as we let ourselves to believe we were. We allowed ourselves to be told that if gave our consent to let a boy see us naked, we were sluts and that meant that our worth was significantly decreased, but if we did not grant them that right, or even the right to touch or kiss us when we didn’t want them too, we were a prudes – and no boy would ever want a prude who refused to show her breasts. We allowed ourselves to be controlled and regulated by these totally contrasting rules that were put forward to us by men.
Due to this mindset that has been drilled into us for the entirety of our lives, it really is no surprise that we told our best friends about when we had our first dates, first kisses, the first time we saw penis and the loss of our viriginities, all the while because we were inwardly questioning if it was the right thing to do. I have spoken to girls whose first times were utterly underwhelming (myself included), and I have spoken to girls who claim their first time was magical and mind blowing (who later told me they were lying), but it all comes back to the comforting feeling of reassurance that someone else is in the same situation you are, and that you are not alone.
Talking openly about our sex lives over dinner was completely liberating. We laughed over stories of partners falling out of beds and the mood killer we all know as The Queef (they happen and they’re funny – you just gotta laugh and move on) before we realised something wonderful. For the first time, we were both in good, loving relationships with unselfish and considerate partners – in and out of the bedroom. When she broached the subject of the possibility of us staying longer than necessary in bad, toxic relationships just because we enjoyed the sexual aspect of them, I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing without even realising it. She then asked me if my current boyfriend was terrible in bed (which, for the record, he is definitely not), would I want to stay with him? I did not even have to think about it before answering with a definitive and concrete yes, and that was when it was cemented in my mind as fact rather than an idea, that I am in the right relationship with the right person. And that is a feeling that can not get better.
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