When I tweeted about orgasm equality last month, it knew it wouldn’t be long before the inevitable creepy message arrived in my DM box. This time, it was from someone who “could see I liked to be pleased” and wanted to make me “shake like the Energizer bunny.”

Sadly, I’ve gotten used to reactions like this ever since a friend in college said he could see my cleavage when I bent down and “was enjoying it.” He seemed surprised that I didn’t appreciate this comment, probably because I often talked to him about sex. Then, there was the guy I met on vacation who started telling me what he’d like to do to me after I said I was a sex and relationships writer. And the one on Twitter who responded to a recent tweet about our society’s neglect for the clitoris by proclaiming that I “must have exploded” when I “finally found” mine. 


There are also the less creepy reactions — the people who are merely surprised that I don’t have multiple sexual partners, have not had anal, have only had intercourse with four people I was in love with, or haven’t done something else included in their image of a woman who is open about sex. 

These reactions come from a few different misconceptions. One is that by implying she is a sexual being, a woman is inviting sexual attention — particularly from men, since we’re taught they can’t help themselves. 

Society's (very) limited views of female sexuality 

They also come from the limited way our society views female sexuality. Over the past few years, feminists have reclaimed the word “slut.” Thankfully, women who are openly sexual are more often celebrated and less often denigrated than they used to be. But there’s still no nuance in our idea of how these women can express their sexuality. In fact, those who fit the patriarchal stereotype of a “slut” — conventionally attractive, submissive, always sexually available to men — are celebrated disproportionately. 

As women’s sexuality has become destigmatized, we’ve collectively developed an image of what a highly sexual woman looks like. When we learn someone is a sex writer, a sex educator, the founder of a sex toy company, or just an openly sexual person, we expect her to wear tight clothing, heels, and lipstick, to flirt with every guy she talks to, and to have lots of sexual partners. 

There’s nothing wrong with wearing lingerie or flirting or having lots of one-night stands. But the fact that this is the way sexual women are expected to act speaks volumes. This is the expression of female sexuality that best pleases the male gaze. Our predominant idea of a sexual woman is of one who responds to every man’s desire (such woman are usually assumed to be straight). 

Being sexual has nothing to do with the sex you have 

That’s not how it is for me. The great majority of the sex I’ve had has been by myself, and I’m still sexual. I’m sexual just for having sexual thoughts. Even if I never had sex with anyone else, I’d still be extremely sexual. 

And my sexuality has nothing to do with my looks. I feel just as sexual in ragged jeans and a T-shirt as I would in lingerie — which, by the way, I don’t wear. I have sex with no makeup, no part of my body shaved, and nothing done to my hair, and I’m still extremely sexual in these moments. 

Society has a different idea of what it means to be a sexual man. Teenage boys are often considered the world’s most sexual beings for frequently getting erections and masturbating, whether or not they actually have sex with anyone. In fact, men are assumed to be sexual just for existing. They’re not expected to look or act any particular way to be sexual. 


But women’s sexuality is still stereotyped as more passive and more receptive. We’re supposed to feel desire in response to men’s desires, to feel pleasure in response to their actions, to have sex because they’ve initiated it. Too many people believe that, as the oft-quoted saying by Anne Louise Germaine de Staël goes, “the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.” And so, even when we picture a woman who is full of desire, we picture one who is full of desire for men’s desire — and consequently does everything men desire. 

Once we afford women the right to feel their own desire independently of men, we’ll realize that there are endless ways they can be sexual. Always being DTF is just one of them. And no matter what our sexuality looks like, expressing it is not an invitation.