Vagendistas: I must apologise about our relative quietness over the weekend, but unfortunately I was struck temporarily dumb by a revolutionary article that appeared in The Independent on Saturday. Under the promising title ‘Sex and the modern girl: Are we witnessing a new age of female sexual assertiveness?’, one of the nation’s best-selling broadsheets breaks the news first that in the ‘new age’ of female liberation, it’s OK to enjoy orgasms, buy vibrators, like sex, and be assertive. As soon as I got that memo, courtesy of Charlotte Philby, I dropped the sandwich I was making for my husband in horror and it was all I could do to not drop his penis from my left hand as well.
‘Darling – we can have reciprocative sex now!’ I cried, as bread and cheese scattered across the floor. ‘And the truth is – I ENJOY ORGASMS!’
Tears cascading down his joyful face, he replied: ‘Even though they’re awfully dirty, and not about cupcakes or kittens or washing the dishes, or any of those things you love to do?’
‘Even so, darling, even so!’ I said, as we dumped the copy of the newspaper and made our way upstairs. ‘How frightfully liberated I suddenly feel!’
After reading this completely true report of my completely real marital life, you may reasonably stop to ask: why on earth do we talk like period drama characters to each other? And I would answer you that it’s because I believe that this weekend’s Independent was accidentally reported from a time warp.
Is The Independent truly telling us that it’s only just become OK to buy a vibrator, more than a decade after Sex and the City dedicated an entire episode to the Rampant Rabbit in its very first series? Yes, it really fucking is. And it really does end in the supposedly hard-hitting quote: ‘some people insist on making women feel like social pariahs if they admit to enjoying an orgasm. I think it’s about time we faced up to the fact that some women just enjoy sex. Is that really so hard to believe?’
What’s so bizarre about this quote is that it actually implies most women are continuing to merely lie back and think of England while their husbands (not boyfriends – that’s a little too ‘out there’) perform their rights by marriage, a little regretfully. Who are these people who walk blindfolded past the double-dip vibrators, tingling lube, and chocolate body-paint in their nearest high street store, casually averting their eyes from the magazine rack in every newsagent that promises to improve your next one night stand with some handy tips on the logistics of the ‘doggy-in-a-wheelbarrow’ position, and then cautiously read The Independent in the hope of some tame inspiration on window boxes and conducting oneself like a Proper Lady? Whoever they are: BAM! Charlotte Philby is in there like a diamond-studded plastic member, jabbing insistently at their insides with the message that feminism has happened. Women have libidos! They can even have multiple sexual partners, or masturbate!
It’s only fair to point out that Philby’s article is mainly reporting on so-called ‘Killing Kittens’ parties – basically pre-arranged orgies, where the men who turn up are chosen for various sexual encounters by the women. Or, as The Independent puts it, ‘this is where men constitute the submissive gender.’ Gee golly gosh, and there I was thinking the idea of a ‘submissive gender’ died out with dowries and the feudal system! My, aren’t these Killing Kittens parties a right larf, turning the tables like that for just one night!
During the reporting of the Killing Kittens encounter (summary: everyone has sex), the girls ‘coo’ and ‘purr’, and their ‘preening’ is mentioned three times in 1,000 words. Are they kittens, are they birds, are they strange hybrid creatures that tempt wayward sailors away from their ships? It’s hard to know. We even hear that one of the central brazen hussies has a college degree – in Economic History, no less! – which is apparently entirely at odds with her engagement in semi-alternative sexual activity. And yet the beginning of the party has left Charlotte feeling blasé later on, where she states that ‘apart from a few topless women, who could be escapees from a frisky college party, the vibe is low-key.’
These frisky, preening, purring, cooing, preening women who even have an education have left The Independent clearly scandalised. And they’ve left me wondering why I have to read a load of weirdly worded bullshit about infantilised and animalised women while being told that this is the latest frontier in feminism. Can we all get a grip and stop pretending that sex, with however many partners you like, is still taboo? Orgies were happening in The Canterbury Tales, for God’s sake.
All of it just seems to fit in to this tiresome culture of reiterating past successes so we don’t have to push feminism any further. Recycled tips on ‘pleasing your man’ in Cosmopolitan that pretend it’s just so naughty to initiate sex, facile little reports of women doing anything vaguely assertive and lauding it as a new achievement – all this strange, false self-congratulation stops us from addressing anything real. And I guess that’s my beef with The Independent this Saturday, pretty much entirely condensed. It felt like it came from a reality entirely removed from my own.