Where does sexuality fit in all this talk about consent? A dominatrix explains
In setting the new standard for consent, how do we avoid inadvertently destroying seduction?
Art by Angela Reimer
Amy Boyajian thinks women should masturbate more.
Working as a dominatrix in New York City, she learned a lot about consent. “Having people explain their boundaries down to the tiniest details, I started to be like ‘wait, what am I into?’” This led to masturbation, something she says helped foster her own sexuality as she explored her desires. Amy has since left sex work to start Wild Flower — an alternative sex shop that aims to destigmatize pleasure and promote sexual well-being.
For too long, women have accepted sexual encounters that don’t feel good — whether they're unfulfilling, uncomfortable, or overtly aggressive — as “just how it is.” Part of changing this is by not settling for sex that doesn’t also suit us. We need to get in touch with ourselves so we can ask for what we want — and don’t. We need to do this even in a culture that often asks us to be ashamed.
If we’re clear about what we want from others by knowing and articulating our own desires and boundaries, not those imposed on us — and are equally as enthusiastic about discussing our partner’s experience, then gender stereotypes — such as that women are passive and men are aggressive — begin to break down.
“Women are taught not to speak up. Working as a domme, I needed to speak up and be loud and aggressive. It was unusual, and I kept thinking, ‘why are men paying me to be like this?’ It’s because so many women are taught not to speak up and communicate. There is a misconception that if you ask for things or tell someone something you don’t like, it’s unsexy. You know what’s unsexy? Bad sex.”
Navigating the ebb and flow of an initial interaction, where sexually-charged communication ultimately begins long before sex, is one that Amy knows well from the BDSM world. In that world, there are boundaries and safe words down to the most minuscule detail (touch my left ear but not my right ear, for instance) often discussed ahead of time. She sees heteronormative sex as the most convoluted because actions are presumed, so questions aren’t being asked.
But that part of the story is starting to change, and if men are beginning to unlearn the insidious ways they’ve been taught to be sexually appropriate and asking women what turns them on, what are the answers? In order to have them, we need to prioritize discussions about the intricacies of female sexuality and actively champion putting female pleasure in the middle of the conversation about consent. To point out that sexual norms have changed — and should continue to — is necessary. Our concern is that sexual encounters will become so rigid for fear of misinterpretation that we will stunt our own sexual growth, exploration and individuality. Even more so, that we’re going to become afraid to talk to one another. The only thing worse than everyone yelling at once, is scaring people into silence.