i wrote about virginity and purity culture and body shaming.
also, i said i was going to change my substack name, didn't i?
i don’t typically send out a new substack so soon (though i do hope one day to be able to send out a new substack every week), but i have a new essay out today and thought i’d send a short missive along as well.
i wrote about being a virgin (still! in my thirties! i haven’t even been kissed!) and growing up in purity culture and being body shamed, and the essay is up on buzzfeed reader now if you’re interested. i’m both excited and terrified to have this piece out in the world — my family is still very christian, fairly conservative, and they’ll be angry to know i wrote so openly about sex and masturbation. if it makes them feel any better, i don’t really plan to do so again, not any time soon.
shame is a big part of korean culture, and shame is something i know intimately because my body is one that has never been acceptable. shame, of a different nature, is twisting up my gut right now because i can’t shake the implicit teachings of my youth — desire is shameful. sex is shameful. to talk about sex is shameful. part of me feels deeply that i am doing wrong by writing about sex and masturbation so publicly, but that same discomfort is something i have been leaning into for years, specifically when it comes to talking about living with a suicidal, depressive brain.
we need to talk about sex. we also need to talk about pleasure, and we really need to do so with and for girls. maybe i’m not the right person to say this (virgin, remember?), but i firmly believe that sex, whether it occurs within marriage or not, with one partner or many, etcetera, should always be a positive, affirming experience. it should feel good. it should feel safe. no one should ever feel like they have to be having sex or performing whatever sex acts, just like no one should ever be guilted or shamed into not having sex. there also shouldn’t be so much goddamn mystery around sex — that only feeds into the current power dynamic where (i’m really sorry, but i’m going to use the gender binary now because our current power dynamic is very much built on the gender binary) boys/men hold the power and girls/women are meant to service them, which, in turn, means that the pleasure of girls/women is sidelined and stigmatized. girls/women should give sex, and they should never withhold it, but they shouldn’t enjoy it.
one of the problems with stigma is that it eradicates nuance. it makes things black and white, like a girl is either a slut or a virgin. she should be shamed and broken down, or she should be placed on an unrealistic pedestal. there’s no room in either position for a girl to be human, to feel, to be complex and messy and alive. both positions are ways to dominate girls/women and control them.
i don’t believe in any of these imbalances of power that do so much harm. i don’t believe in stigmatizing what is a huge part of the human experience, and i sure as hell don’t believe in shaming people. and i believe that the first thing we need to do to dismantle this power system is to start talking about it. we need to talk about sex across the range of sexual experience because there is no one way to be a sexual being. we cannot just feed girls the bullshit of purity culture and shame them into being “pure” and, thus, teach them that their desire and pleasure are dirty and shameful. we cannot let boys off the hook by saying “boys will be boys” and letting them believe their pleasure is priority number one, no matter what. we cannot accept things as they currently are because this stigma and taboo reinforce the belief systems that allow rape, sexual assault/harassment, and domestic violence to flourish, and the people who pay the price are those who are not cis straight men.
so, yeah. let’s talk about sex. let’s normalize all sexual experiences — because the body shaming may have weirdly protected me from the shame around sex and the worst of purity culture, but it took me years to work past the shame of not having had sex. i felt so embarrassed by that for so long, like it was some kind of indictment of me, and it’s only in the last five years that i was able to break free of that thinking because fuck it — shaming says more about the people shaming you and trying to exert power over you, and, if i haven’t met someone i want to sleep with yet, that’s fine, and no one gets to make me feel otherwise.
i said i was going to change the name of my substack, so here it is — i love you, egg.
i love eggs. like, i! love! eggs! #iloveyouegg is a hashtag i’ve been using for years, long before i read clarice lispector’s “the egg and the chicken” for crit last year. “the egg and the chicken” is easily the weirdest thing i’ve ever read, and i can’t say i really understand it (and i don’t think lispector fully did either), but the story, for better or for worse, resonated with me. the story includes the sentences, “to have a shell is to surrender. i love you, egg.”
so here we are, new name, new URL, and i feel like it fits me so much better.