“Our bodies talk to us, ya know.”
My gynecologist stares back at me. She can tell I’m hiding something. Here I am for the second time in a month, the bottom half of me is exposed, and I’m about to start my fifth round of treatment for a reoccurring yeast infection. I never get yeast infections. Something is definitely off, although it is not only in my body, it is in my heart.
I start to sob. I’ve been holding all this in for so long. I have so much shame, so much self-judgment. I have not been honest with myself, and it is literally making me sick.
Through my tears, I tell her I know why it keeps happening—and it is far from physical. I know it’s because I am not honoring myself through the current sexual relationship I am having and, as a result, my body has shown me who is boss. As I spill my guts about my confusion, pain, and discomfort, she holds a beautiful space for me to grieve.
And then she says something that makes me feel better: “You are not alone.”
As a heterosexual woman, I have been dealt a complicated hand. Men and women have very different evolutionary musculature, which when not understood, creates a lot of hurt feelings and confusion. These evolutionary differences must be respected by both sexes.
A woman’s main evolutionary road map is all about nesting and having babies, with the main goal being to keep the species going and cared for. I like to think of it as “creating the hearth.” Even if a woman does not consciously desire these things when she chooses a sexual partner, it doesn’t matter. Her body has thousands and thousands of years of evolutionary coding built in.
A man’s main evolutionary road map is also to keep the species going, but in a very different way—by spreading his seed. Even if a man has no desire to have children with multiple women, it doesn’t matter. His wiring is in control.
When a woman has sex, she releases oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone.” Her body does not know if her partner is a casual fling or the love of her life. Men produce this as well, just not as much of it. Because the cuddle hormone lowers our defenses and creates bonding, a woman is more likely to attach after sex—this is not because she is needy or crazy, it is because her evolutionary makeup is at work.
When a man has sex, he also releases oxytocin, but he releases more of the pleasure hormone, dopamine. Dopamine is addictive.
Furthermore, women have limited time to have a baby. Men do not.
The free love movement of the 1960s was necessary to free women from lots and lots of sexual repression. We have been told for thousands of years that our bodies are the property of men and that we should be so lucky to have a shot at our own sexual needs, desires, and expressions. To add insult to injury, men have made billions off our bodies in all forms.
The free love movement made a fatal error though. We gave the power of sex back to women, but we forgot a big part of the equation: the sacredness and weight of sex was forgotten.
I believe that women should be able to explore their bodies and sexuality in any way they choose. But I think we also have to start being honest with ourselves—that casualizing sex hurts us. Even when we don’t want it to, it hurts us. Even when we don’t mean it to, it hurts us. It hurts us because women have to compartmentalize the most sacred parts of ourselves if we choose a casual partner.
There is no way around our biology—which is what I am discovering. It is arrogant for women to think they can separate it—they can’t and they shouldn’t. We have been told to think and act like men for so long, we have forgotten ourselves.
Women are not men. We need to stop thinking that how we feel about these things is wrong. It isn’t. It is our makeup. It is who we are. And who we are is beautiful.
I am not a stupid person. I know these things. But a lot of times, what we know goes out the window when someone we are uncontrollably attracted to (and we know is uncontrollably attracted to us) is standing right in front of us, usually telling us something we long to hear. Our mind says, “Run!” but our body says, “Stay.”
I thought I was such a forward-thinking woman. I thought this because I believed that locking away parts of myself to have casual sex was a strong and modern thing to do. It isn’t. I know this because it feels like absolute sh*t. And feelings don’t lie.
This is not a judgment on casual sex—rather it is an opening for women to re-examine why we are doing it and what we think we are going to get out of it. Women long for companionship and closeness. It is how we are built—it is not wrong or weak. Humans are a tribal people. We seek togetherness.
I have asked my body for forgiveness because I failed it. That is the part that hurts the most. I gave away my sacredness, my strength, and on a level, my soul. I didn’t cherish myself. I feel I not only turned against my own body, I turned against my womanhood—the very thing that makes me powerful, beautiful, strong, and gentle. I will never do that again.
There is another reason why this is all so heavy—in not honoring myself, I didn’t honor how I do wish to experience a man—as a partner, best friend, confidant, and lover. For me, my thinking that casual sex was all I deserved blocked me from seeing how much I do want to love and connect with a good man.
If that is my lesson, then it was worth it.
Author: Elizabeth Gordon
Image: The National Archives UK/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis