Saying sorry is never easy. But it’s especially difficult when it means revealing something that has become such a normal part of life, something we do almost naturally. If I tell you the truth, will you still love me? If I tell the truth, will it encourage others to step forward and say, ‘Yeah, me too - I’d prefer to live in a more authentic world’? Or will I be marginalized and denied? Who knows. All I know is that there are times when we end up being the one who steps forward to speak out.
So here goes the first apology of several, although my voice is far from steady and my legs aren’t exactly solid as I step forward.
I’m sorry… that we women use our sexuality as a weapon.
Yes, you heard me right. Please be patient with me while I try to explain.
I’m sorry that we have taken something which is inherently so powerful, so beautiful, so magical and we continue to use it as a tool for manipulation and control.
I could try to defend our actions by laying the blame at someone else’s door. That would certainly make me feel less vulnerable. I could say we use our feminine sexuality in the way we do as a result of centuries of unenlightened male oppression and objectification. Or I could explain it away by saying there’s no problem with how we express our sexuality - it’s you guys who aren’t mature enough to handle female empowerment.
But what’s the point in apologizing if it’s not going to go all the way if I’m going to add a whole load of caveats to it? And, anyway, although both of these are also true, and have contributed to the creation of a society where we all treat female sexuality as a commodity, it doesn’t mean we can’t choose to treat it differently. When we either conform to or react against the way society portrays sexuality, we are still caught within the dominant paradigm and allowing it to dictate how we act. It takes a lot of strength and independence to step completely away and to act from a place of integrity, from a place of allowing our actions to be directed from the heart of who we are.
Am I brave enough to live that way, to put aside the bad habit of using my sexuality as a tool in my armament? I don’t know. But I’m willing to try because I’m getting a little fed up of the energy we are wasting on the silly games we play and of the pressure to join in. It also has a habit of backfiring - creating a dynamic where we all end up wearing masks that conceal who we really are and deprive us of the opportunity for real intimacy.
I’m still not being very clear, though, am I? I’m still beating around the bush in the hope that you’ll guess what I mean without me having to spell it out in a way that makes me cringe. But I guess cringing just goes with the territory, so let me be blunt.
We use our sexuality to lure you in. We act as if you can be easily led by the balls into giving us what we want by shoving cleavage or thigh - or more - in your face. I mean, sure, when my self-esteem needs a quick boost, it’s tempting to post a revealing selfie or wag my tail in your face to get you to pay attention. But it doesn’t feel quite so good when my sisters do likewise and my man is the audience. Nor does it feel so good when my sisters flaunt their sexuality to compete with me in business and I feel under pressure to do the same. It mixes up the message, too, for men, as if we’re saying on the one hand ‘how dare you treat me as nothing but a sex object’ and on the other hand, ‘hey, I know you can’t resist my boobs’. So for all the times I’ve displayed my body or acted provocatively with every intention of manipulating you into giving me what I want, emotionally and physically, I’m truly sorry.
And the manipulation doesn’t stop once you’ve been lured in. We also use our sexuality for emotional blackmail - to get you, and keep you, where we want you. Like when I’m angry at you and hold back sexually when you want to get close. I feel hurt by something you’ve said or done and I hurt you back by hitting below the belt. Do you want sex? Well, you’d better be a good boy and do what mommy wants or you won’t get any treats. Isn’t that what my behaviour amounts to? Or when you are unsure of how you feel and I dial up the sex appeal, hoping to tempt you into giving me something you may not really want to give. It can be attention, maybe, or more commitment. Ouch! What a thing to do to someone I love. I’m so sorry. Maybe I need to grow up a little too and find more mature ways of handling my fears and fluctuating self-esteem.
If I had an heirloom - an antique string of pearls, maybe, or gold chain - would I use it to tie the dog up with? Absolutely no way! So what does it say of me when I use my sexuality to manipulate and control both the men and situations in my life? Where is my respect? And where is my confidence in being able to navigate life without treating it like a battleground where sexuality is the weapon of choice?
I’m hoping that by apologizing and by showing you some of the behaviour that I am less proud of, it may set both of us free from the patterns that have been playing out between us. Maybe, in the future, if I slip back into them again from a place of fear or hurt, you might call me on it and not automatically react. Do you think you could do that?
And I have some promises I want to make both of us, to show I mean it.
I promise from now on to be more direct, honest and open in asking for what I want. After all, we live in an age of equality and the time when women needed to use sexuality as a way of getting what they wanted in an unequal society is now over.
I promise to work on my self-esteem if I’m feeling low rather than flaunting my body in your face to extract attention that will give me a temporary boost.
I promise to let you know directly if I feel angry or hurt.
I promise to respect your integrity as a fellow human being.
I promise to respect your freedom to say no.
And, most of all, I promise to respect my sexuality as a powerful gift to be cherished.
Thank you for hearing me out, my dear friend and lover.