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  • Writer's pictureAnna Mould


TW - mention of sexual assault and rape.

I find myself considering a dichotomy.

I am a 47 year old woman who has lived her life in a society where women and girls are conditioned to be sexual objects, and I have battled for years to shift this monkey off my back. I have accepted my body as she is, which exists as a contradiction to the societal expectations of a woman’s body. I have rejected diet culture. I am embracing ageing, my inner Crone, which again flies in the face of Western society.

Yet, I am desperate to feel wanted, to feel that my body is still sexually desirable, even though I know I so much more than my body.

Laurie Penny writes about the conditioning of girls and women so brilliantly in her book, Unspeakable Things - we are told from a young age not to “distract” classmates by showing too much flesh or our bra strap. We are taught to stay small, to not upset anyone, look after everyone else first. We are taught to be Good Girls. We are taught it is our responsibility to keep ourselves safe, and that if we dress, walk, dance, smile, speak, eat, [insert any other fathomable daily activity here] in a certain way that lures a man to find us desirable - and they can’t control themselves and act on that desire - well, we shouldn’t have [insert activity], what else did we expect really? We can be behaving as Good Girls, and still be bad.

I learnt through my teens, through magazines mainly, what men wanted in a girl (I remember a teen magazine had an article about how to give good blow jobs, for crying out loud!). I remember at that young age that I didn’t want to be seen in that way, but equally, I wanted to be part of the group. At age 16, I was raped by the man (yes, man) I was seeing at the time. At age 17, when at college and out at a nightclub, I was sexually assaulted by a man I didn’t know, I never even saw his face. He assaulted me, yet I was so ashamed that I never told anyone until a few years ago. I was underage in a club, I was drinking alcohol, I was wearing a short skirt, I was dancing. What did I expect?

Laurie also talks about women’s “erotic currency” in the world, and how women are expected to use this wisely - to become sexy career women, fully engaged with the capitalist machine. We can have it all if we use it wisely, including a career, a partner and motherhood (but only if we remain sexy). If we use it carelessly and - heaven forbid! - become a single mother, for example, well, we are the ultimate drain on society apparently. We used our erotic currency to lure a man, but we couldn’t keep him.

I am probably bastardising her words here.

Through my twenties, I went from relationship to relationship. I had my career, I had children, and by keeping myself slim, I still had my currency - I managed to lure more than one man, after all! But I felt that was all that really mattered. When I felt that loss of connection in a relationship, or I felt that another man was making that connection, and I felt desirable and wanted, I moved on. And I am starting to see that this was easier for me than having to have difficult conversations with the man I was with at the time about why the connection was breaking between us, why I was finding it elsewhere… but that’s another story.

Through my thirties and forties, where work and motherhood became the priority, I found I still had some erotic currency within my marriage. And I started to learn that I was more than just my body, I have far more worth - I have explored and grown into other interests, I have become an author, I have developed in my career beyond where I thought I would or could. I have developed friendships which mean the world to me.

And yet…

I am approaching fifty, perimenopause is in full swing, and I still yearn for that approval under the male gaze. I never thought I would be back here.

Why do I need that external validation?

Is it just about sex? (Here she goes again…) Or is it about a longing for deeper connection, a regaining of intimacy. I want to feel desired, but not just for the sake of sex. As a person, a full human being, I want to feel wanted. Accepted. At peace. At home.

I need to find that within myself.

And here the real work begins…

Does any of this resonate with you? I would love to hear your thoughts...

With much love, as always,

Anna x x

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