There is nothing inherently “vulnerable” or “passive” about having sex as a woman.
Tom Ford thinks he’s knows what it’s like to be a woman—or rather to have sex like a woman. Because, ya know, he’s had butt sex and that tells him all he needs to know.
In the December issue of swaggy men’s-mag GQ, the fashion icon offers male readers what may at first seem like edgy advice: That all men should experience penetration at some point in their lives. OK, I’m cool with that. People being open to sexual experiences? Trying new things? Having fun in the bedroom? Sounds like good advice.
However, Tom’s not advocating adventure but rather empathy—namely, “understanding” what it’s like to be a woman:
“I think it would help them understand women,” he argues. “It’s such a vulnerable position to be in, and it’s such a passive position to be in. And there’s such an invasion, in a way, that even if it’s consensual, it’s just very personal.”
Hang on, STOP THERE.
An “invasion”?! “Even if it’s consensual”?
Tom talks about the female sexual experience like it’s either straight rape or innately rapey. I mean, he goes on to clarify, sort of:
“And I think there’s a psyche that happens because of it that makes you understand and appreciate what women go through their whole life, because it’s not just sexual, it’s a complete setup of the way the world works, that one sex has the ability to literally—and is expected to and is wanted to—but also there’s an invasion. And I think that that’s something most men do not understand at all.”
Ford’s description of “what it’s like to be a woman” is painful for me. I am honestly wincing as I re-read and write his words. They remind of the time a good guy friend of mine told me about his first time “bottoming.” How he cried. How he was humiliated. “Now I know what it feels like for a woman,” he told me.
Then I felt humiliated. Is this what men think it means to be a woman? I wondered. That it is inherently shameful?
Tom’s right in one way—gendered sex roles are part of “a complete setup of the way the world works.” Take, for example, the whole concept of “tops and bottoms.” While I have no more desire to speak for the gay male community than I do for gay men to speak for all women, I recognize that the language used is firmly rooted in male heteronormativity and rape culture. Plainly speaking, dividing sex “roles” by gender and then assigning dominance to one and submission to the other is a bunch of sexist bullshit.
There is nothing inherently “vulnerable” or “passive” about having sex as a woman. If the roles/parts were reversed, men would most assuredly be bragging about how strong and tough their vaginas were and how they totally “engulfed” this chick’s dick. Like Betty White pointed out flipping the script, “Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”
The point is, language and culture frame how we view and talk about “sex as a woman” versus “sex as a man.” And I for one am sick and tired of men controlling the goddamn dictionary.
Jessica Schreindl is a campaign director and freelance writer in Seattle, Washington. She is a contributing writer for Mic.com and has been published on Feministing.com. She graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University where she studied film history and documentary filmmaking.