I have recently been extremely annoyed by the pervasive narrative of sex and sexuality in USian mainstream culture, particularly as represented by romance novels. Lest people think I am bashing romance novels, I suspect much of this narrative is in a lot of USian mainstream culture, particularly mainstream porn; I focus on romances since that's where I get the bulk of my sex narratives as of the past few years.
Thanks to the OKCupid experiment, I looked up dating advice on the Internet, which brought up site after site after site on how men can tell if a woman will hook up with him, how women can secretly signal their willingness to have sex without ever saying so, how having sex or not having sex after date #[x] means [y] about you or your partner, how to flirt, how to dress, and etc. All the advice basically seems aimed toward cis het monogamous 20- to 30-somethings, and the most annoying thing is that all the advice is the same. I'm not actually surprised by this; I've read enough Cosmopolitan and GQ magazine to have seen all the advice before, but it was disappointing to realize that despite all my qualms with romance novels, they actually model better sexual relationships than these stupid articles. At least in romances, there are different characters who like different things and do different things for different reasons.
Even so, I hate the dominant narrative of non-communication, the assumption that your perfect sex partner (or partners, although usually it's singular) will magically know exactly how to get you off and bring you to orgasm. I've seen very few examples of negotiation in the romances I've read, and very few examples of sex that deviate from the kissing -> touching breasts -> touching vagina/clitoris -> oral sex performed on the woman -> penis-in-vagina sex. Not only is there nearly no acknowledgement of trans people, gender fluidity, queerness, kink, poly, disabled people, people of different ages and orientations, or different levels of sexuality, there isn't even a lot of room for het cis couples to deviate. I've literally seen one heroine in a romance novel saying having her nipples touched did nil for her (Lydia Joyce, The Veil of Night, for the record).
I haven't read fic for a long time, so I don't know how much the narrative changes there. What I do remember from fic is a greater openness to OT#, male and female slash, some gender fluidity, and a fair amount of kink, but I still get frustrated that it often goes from kissing to touching to oral sex to some sort of penile penetration. I haven't read as much femslash, so I don't know if a lot of it ends with vaginal penetration? And the sex is almost always magically mind blowing, orgasms happen regularly, and people don't suddenly get hand cramps or lose their arousal or accidentally elbow someone or get hair stuck in awkward places. I think there is actually more of that in the fic I've read, but the focus on amazing sex and orgasms still annoys me. I do think the fantasy sex is a nice fantasy, where everything goes off perfectly and is awesome and there are spouting geysers and fireworks and whatnot, and believe me, I am especially grateful to have that type of narrative by and for the female gaze. So while I don't want to reduce that type of sexual narrative, I also want alternatives, because I've found that while sites like Scarleteen have great advice, it's still really hard to implement said advice unless you've seen and read and ingested many many many permutations of said advice. And a lot of how I personally do that is via fiction. (I could also talk about how taboos of talking about sex result in getting more of this from fiction than from friends and family.)
And even though I am feminist and firmly believe in consent and saying "no" and figuring out boundaries, it was scary realizing how difficult it was putting theory into practice. A friend linked me to No and no and no and yes
(non-explicit descriptions of kink, consent boundaries, and restraints), and I was just, "YES. YES THAT."
So if anyone else has recommendations, either fictional or non-fictional, for sexual narratives that involve negotiating consent and boundaries and figuring out what you like and don't like and are kind of meh about but will try or hate the idea of and awkwardness during sex, I will love you forever! I've been going through The Pervocracy
, but really, I'd love more to read, especially real-life applications of the above. As in, Scarleteen and Our Bodies Ourselves are helpful, but I think what I really want are ways to see theory put into practice, fictional or non-fictional, to get a better idea of ranges and methods and just... options. I am a cis het Asian woman in a monogamous relationship that isn't particularly kinky, but honestly, anything that has the negotiation and learning about sexuality especially would be great. Double plus bonus points for things that reference mental illness and dealing with heteronormative gender expectations and being girly and feminist. Also, normally in these cases, I am all "Who cares about the mens?!" but in this case, if there is stuff for cis het men who read as more stereotypically feminine than masculine, that would be awesome. (FWIW, aforementioned guy is Asian.)